Immigration Impasse: Guangzhou's Harlem
Bear Poaching: Paws for Thought SPORTS
2012 Olympiad: London Calling
With its national pension fund faced with a looming deficit, how will China continue to care for its burgeoning gray population as its labor pool continues to shrink?
Volume No. 049 September 2012
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Directors: Liu Beixian, Zhou Jianming Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Yang Yi Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Alex Taggart Lead Writer: Yu Xiaodong Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Li Jia First Reader: Lisa Gay Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Marketing Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: Suite 1101, 15 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: email@example.com Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Jing Xiaolin, Sun Yuting, Li Yang Washington Office: Wu Qingcai, De Yongjian Los Angeles Office: Zhang Wei San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Wei Qun Tokyo Office: Sun Ran Paris Office: Wu Weizhong Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Zhao Shengyu Moscow Office: Tian Bing Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
New House Rules
ccording to a housing price index re- ment over the past three decades. leased by the China Index Academy, Politically, disproportionately high house the average house price in 100 Chinese prices have drastically increased China’s wealth cities increased by 0.05 percent in June, the first gap and become a major cause of public unrest. increase following a nine While proceeds from land month drop due to central grabs have become a magovernment-orchestrated jor source of government With public faith in tightening in the indusrevenue, the vast majorthe authorities fragile, try. Although small, this ity of citizens have been loosening control of this increase has fueled fears locked out of the housing unpopular industry at of a new round of price market. The fact that the this critical moment could rises, especially as it comes central government failed lead to a total collapse in alongside liberalization of to rein in speculators in China’s financial policy, its earlier attempts despite credibility. including lowering interrepeatedly pledging to do est and deposit reserve so has damaged its credrates. ibility. With public faith A ten-year real estate in the authorities fragile, boom has made the housing loosening control over this industry a pillar of China’s unpopular industry at this economy. As growth slowed critical moment could lead substantially in 2012, many to a total collapse in credlocal governments were ibility. tempted to loosen controls Given the economic, soon home purchasing. The authorities cannot af- cial and political risks, the central authorities must ford to allow this temptation to be acted upon. refrain from liberalizing the real estate industry As the real estate industry is perhaps the most even if it serves to boost economic growth in the profitable industry thanks to soaring prices, the short term. The government must realize that perceived profitability of real estate has drawn keeping house prices down will likely become the capital away from other sectors, particularly man- cornerstone of China’s long-term housing policy. ufacturing, creating an asset bubble which nine Unless it can make housing accessible to the months of meager price falls has done little to majority, as it has always pledged to do, and lessen dissipate. Loosening control over home purchases its reliance on real estate deals as a source of revwill not only lead to a resurgence and eventual enue, the government will only have to face much bursting of this bubble, but also undermine the greater social, economic and political crises down very foundations of China’s economic develop- the road.
With the national pension fund already running low, a rapidly aging population and falling fertility rates could precipitate an unprecedented demographic crisis before China has had a chance to grow rich. What are the governmentâ€™s options?
01 New House Rules politics
10 Police Abuses : Flip-flop Cops
12 SENIORITY COMPLEX : Unbearable Burden/Gray Dawn
22 24 27
Home Schooling : United, Divided Post-earthquake Charity : Art Relief Wildlife Protection : Hunting the Hunters
P44 NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by CFP
P27 30 33 36
Job-Hunting Program : Ridiculed for Ratings Extreme Weather : Riders on the Storm Buddhist Practice : Who Let the Snakes Out?
38 Destination London special report
44 Immigration : Out of Africa/Trader Trouble economy
50 Interest Rate Reform : New Products,Same Clients culture
54 Industrial Prints : Engraved in History
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
58 Soccer : Goal Rush
60 Interview : The Muslim General 64 67
Suzhouâ€™s Bonsai Garden : World in Miniature Flavor of the Month : Summer Sweets
04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 53 China by numbers 66 real chinese 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS 72 Commentary
NewsChina Chinese Edition
Southern Metropolis Weekly
July 26, 2012
July 2, 2012
More Open to Religious Charities
IT Enters Agriculture
Although China is home to 178,000 NGOs, less than 0.2 percent of them are operated by religious organizations, compared to 75 percent in the US. According to Chinese law, a religious organization cannot register a charity until it gains approval from both religious and civil affairs authorities. Even after registration, their charitable activities are limited to places of worship only, since local governments worry that events in public places might lead to evangelism. In early July, the Chinese government issued a new regulation, believed to be an official permit for religious charities. But due to a lack of clarity, experts predict that the implementation of the new regulation will still depend heavily on the whims of local government.
Attracted by large profit margins in the agriculture industry, a growing number of Chinese IT companies, such as Web portal 163.com and computer manufacturer Lenovo, are investing in poultry and livestock, aiming to produce high-end meat products for sale on their Internet platforms. Consumers have been generally receptive, believing that IT companies, with their strong customer service and technological backgrounds, are well placed to combat China’s chronic food safety problems. The government, however, is unimpressed. Experts have said that IT companies lack the necessary expertise to manage a fully-integrated industrial chain from breeding to processing and sales. More importantly, centralized production requires large plots of land, but offers few employment opportunities – bad news for China’s large rural population.
Century Weekly July 2, 2012
Huge Cost, Little Return China has been hot on high-speed rail development since 2006, when then railway minister Liu Zhijun ordered a switch from the development of homegrown technology to “importing technology with big deals.” Yet, despite several trillions of yuan (hundreds of millions of US dollars) in investment, the country has not yet mastered several core technologies. Insiders revealed that the Ministry alone has the power to bid for imports, but deals are largely based on financial gain, rather than real technological benefit. Worse still, most cities, especially poorer ones, cannot afford the huge cost of high-speed railways. By 2010, the Ministry was 1.72 trillion yuan (US$253bn) in debt due to high-speed rail development.
July 4, 2012
Marriage for Sale Threatened by the growing popularity of social networking sites, China’s romantic matchmaking services are shifting their focus towards a more profitable line of business – playing Cupid to the ultra-rich. Nationwide auditions are common – in a recent case, a Shenzhen-based matchmaking company organized a “wife recruitment drive” for 25 billionaires, in which several hundred girls competed on appearance, IQ, EQ, and housework abilities, for the chance to meet their potential husband. Such eyecatching activities have raised the success rate of matchmaking, but critics worry that they reinforce the idea that marriage should be based on money.
Oriental Outlook June 25, 2012
Carving Up the Jinsha River The controversial Three Gorges reservoir seems to have done little to quench Chinese hydropower companies’ notorious thirst for water resources. The Jinsha River, in the upper reaches of the Yangtze, is now lined with thousands of hydroelectricity stations in various stages of completion – media have revealed that most of these projects were initiated before gaining official approval, displacing swathes of the local population in the process. Experts warned that this unregulated construction has left the Three Gorges reservoir unable to maintain its minimum water level. Much worse, the long chain of stations is expected to have a destructive impact on the river’s ecosystem. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
“We shouldn’t just focus on the scores of the Chinese athletes at the Olympics. This way, we can all enjoy it more.” Illustration by Wu Shangwen
Bai Yansong, a popular anchor on State broadcaster CCTV, giving tips on how to appreciate this summer’s London Olympics.
“We can be slutty, but you can’t touch us.” Two feminist protestors demonstrating against the Shanghai subway authority’s advice that women cover up to avoid sexual harassment. “Most charity organizations in China are owned by the government. We have to beg them to accept our donations – I don’t trust any of them.”
“Chinese education is better than that of the US, because those who don’t perform well in Chinese schools can become outstanding in American schools. It proves that the Chinese education system, though high-pressure, is effective.” Yang Zhenning, a Chinese-American scientist who received the 1957 Nobel prize in physics, in an interview with Guangming Daily.
Huang Nubo, chairman of Zhongkun Group, a large Chinese investment company, explaining why he decided to donate half his fortune to Peking University rather than to charity.
“It’s all over buses and billboards on main roads. You see it everywhere. Are the men in Dongguan really that weak?”
“My only fear is that you no longer believe that real rules are stronger than unwritten rules, that academia is separate from officialdom, and that righteousness is more powerful than flattery.”
“Being an economist is just a job. Don’t make a big deal of it, or bestow it with too much social function.”
Lu Xinning, head of the commentary department at the People’s Daily, delivering a commencement speech at Peking University.
“Mainland food exports to Hong Kong have reached almost 100 percent safety, a rate that few other countries have accomplished. If this standard could be applied to domestic sales on the mainland, it would help the food security problem there.”
Liang Jufeng, a CPPCC member of Dongguan, Guangdong Province, complaining that his city is full of ads for impotence clinics.
Well-known economist Xu Xiaonian on his microblog.
“Fortunately, at least we’re allowed to measure temperature and humidity, and use home pregnancy tests.” Li Chengpeng, a popular critic, mocking China’s draft legislation to ban any company or individual from publicizing air quality data, a move widely believed to target the American Embassy’s hourly pollution data feed.
York Chow, director of the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau, in an interview with the Guangzhou Daily. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
China’s Sovereignty “Not For Sale” A Sino-Japanese sovereignty dispute over an island chain in the East China Sea has heated up since Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda admitted on July 7 that his government was negotiating with a “private owner” to “nationalize” part of the chain, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China. The idea of purchasing the disputed islands was first raised by Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, a right-wing politician, in April. Since then, Japanese activists have staged a number of symbolic “landings” on the islands, actions which have infuriated China. On July 9, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency cited a senior US State Department official, who claimed that the disputed archipelago falls within the scope of a 1960 US-Japan security treaty, meaning Japan should have assumed control of the entire chain at the same time as the territory of Okinawa was officially
returned to Japan in 1972. Beijing, also under mounting pressure over a separate territorial dispute in the South China Sea, strongly denies the claim. “Private deals made between the US and Japan after World War II concerning the Diaoyu Islands are illegal and invalid…” said government press spokesman Liu Weimin. “The USJapan Security Treaty should not undermine the interests of third parties, including China.” “We hope that relevant countries can contribute more to regional peace and stability.” The US State Department quickly responded with a refutation of the claims made by the unnamed official cited in the Kyodo report, adding that the Diaoyu/Senkaku issue had no connection with the return of Okinawa to Japanese jurisdiction. The same day, however, China’s Xinhua
Diaoyu Islands News Agency ran an editorial criticizing Japan for “playing with fire” over the issue. “China’s sacred territory is not allowed to be bought or sold by anyone. The Chinese government will continue to take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty.” On July 12, China sent three “fisheries administration” boats into the territorial waters of the islands and confronted a Japanese patrol vessel.
China Adds New Visa Category
When Piranhas Attack
China plans to add one more visa category with the ambiguous name of “talent introduction,” according to Xinhua News Agency. According to the country’s latest draft of immigration regulations, approved on June 30 by the National People’s Congress (NPC), the new addition will be classed as an “ordinary visa,” giving it a status equivalent to existing visas for work, study, family visitation, tourism and business. China has seen 10 percent annual growth in the number of foreign workers since 2000. By the end of 2011, the world’s number two economy was home to 220,000 locally-employed legal immigrants, most of whom are concentrated in major urban areas and whose presence has occasionally been a source of tension in a country which lacks a longstanding tradition of immigration. The new visa will come into use as of July 1, 2013. The government has so far given no indication as to the criteria which will be used when processing a “talent introduction” visa request.
A shoal of piranha allegedly attacked two men in southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, leaving both with lacerated hands. Both incidents occurred in a tributary of the Pearl River. The local government attempted to mobilize villagers to catch the remaining fish, providing free bait and posting a reward of 1,000 yuan (US$167) for each piranha caught. The result saw the river trawled and its resident fish stocks depleted, without a single piranha being caught. Other locals attempted to claim the reward after purchasing cheap piranha on Taobao, China’s eBay equivalent. This led netizens to claim the whole incident was a publicity stunt. Piranha, native to South America, are frequently smuggled into China and sold as ornamental fish. The illegal pet trade has become a major source of China’s invasive species.
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Housing Market Under Control?
Traders Against IPOs 3972
Average Housing Price in Beijing (August 2011 to July 2012, US$/square meter) Source: www.soufun.com The Chinese government recently emphasized that they would not loosen State controls on house prices as the domestic real estate market is once again overheating. According to official statistics, 25 Chinese cities saw an average six percent rise in housing prices since June, with analysts blaming the recent introduction of State subsidies for loan interest payments and three cuts in the deposit reserve ratio designed to stimulate the country’s flagging economic growth. In order to ease popular doubts that the real estate market was being hijacked for use as a stimulus-byproxy, Premier Wen Jiabao made a public pledge July 7 claiming that the government would “resolutely implement regulation of the real estate market” and make curbing speculation “a long-term task.”
Shenzhen Outlaws For-Profit Prescriptions Shenzhen’s municipal authorities have become the first to ban for-profit pharmacies in city hospitals. The reform, which comes into effect on July 1, requires all public hospitals to cease selling pharmaceuticals at a profit. The same reform, however, has raised all treatment charges to offset potential losses incurred by the new policy. Since the 1950s, the Chinese government has allowed hospitals to sell medicine at a markup up to 15 percent to compensate for a huge reduction in government funding. However, this led to incremental increases in the cost of treatment, with hospitals deliberately choosing to sell only the most expensive medicines to maximize profits. However, with hospitals remaining the principal market for pharmaceuticals as well as the country’s primary retailers, experts believe this reform is unlikely to make a dent in China’s widespread problem of medical profiteering.
Thousands of Chinese stock traders have signed a petition calling for a temporary suspension of IPOs. The petition came in the wake of eight new IPOs issued in a single week in July. A post on a popular Chinese bulletin board, tianya. cn, subsequently claimed that an overissuance of IPOs was the reason behind China’s depressed stock market. The post soon attracted over 60,000 clicks, with 3,000 more investors voicing their support for a suspension of IPOs. China’s security authorities responded by refusing to “interfere.” China’s stock market suffered a sharp fall in June, with the Shanghai and Shenzhen indexes down by 6.19 percent and 6.32 percent respectively, wiping 200 billion yuan (US$30bn) off the value of Chinese stocks. Many analysts have accused the government of failing to act in the interests of business by refusing to answer calls to rein in the IPO craze.
Antivirus Software Pays for Customers Kingsoft Network Technology, a Chinese antivirus software developer, has launched China’s first program designed to protect users from online fraud. According to a company statement issued July 12, Kingsoft will compensate users up to 8,000 yuan (US$1,177) for losses incurred through online fraud each year. Users can get advance compensation within seven working days without paying any fees. Kingsoft’s move triggered a knee-jerk response from competitors, with Qihoo360, another leading developer, the first to issue a copycat program promising maximum annual compensation of 36,000 yuan (US$5,294). Analysts believe the Kingsoft example could kick-start an overhaul of China’s antivirus software developers. Since 2010, most of the country’s antivirus providers have gone from charging users to offering free software. Could they even start paying people to use their products? NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photos by CFP
What’s Making China Angry? In late June, a woman from Linyi, Shandong Province, stripped naked and lay down on the ground to block an ambulance that had come to rescue a mother and her four-year-old daughter that the woman had run down with her car. The young girl later died from her injuries, though her mother survived.
Poll the People What do you think of the Shanghai metro authority’s assertion that women should dress more modestly to prevent harassment on the subway? Respondents:
It is discrimination – it is a woman’s right to stay cool in the summer 16,324 (31.1%)
What’s Making China Sad? Four years ago, Fu Daxin, a 73-year-old farmer from Hunan, robbed a woman with the intention of being caught. He was eventually sentenced to two years in prison, but begged for a longer sentence. A year and a half after being discharged, Fu explained that he received better treatment and food behind bars than he did on the outside.
What’s Amusing China?
Most Circulated Post Retweeted 288,917 times
The post tells how Liao Dan, a man from Beijing, forged an official stamp to save his sick wife: The Municipal Party School in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province locked up the basketball hoops on its campus. A local netizen tweeted a picture of a locked hoop, and claimed that the school had locked them up to prevent local residents from using them. School officials claimed that it was because the noise of locals playing basketball was distracting its workers.
Women should keep perverts at bay by not dressing provocatively 36,100 (68.9%)
“He is poor, and she has no job, but they love each other. She has kidney failure, and they long ago ran out of money for treatment. He forged the hospital’s official stamp, and got her treated free of charge for four years. He was eventually caught after conning the hospital out of 172,000 yuan (US$26,000). He said he did it to keep her alive.”
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Top Five Search Queries On
Over the week ending July 19 Most bad-ass resignation letter 475,027 A young man quit his job because the factory “was too small, with barely any girls to chase,” according to his letter of resignation. Murder on the Nanjing Subway 307,100 A rumor that a man had stabbed multiple passengers turned out to have stemmed from an accident where an epilepsy sufferer fell over drunk. 50 percent off for short skirts 296,695 A park in Guilin, Guangxi, was offering 50 percent off the entry fee for women wearing miniskirts. The Voice of China 204,271 The reality TV singing contest is the talk of the Web. Chongqing’s Top Three Beauties 192,971 The top three in a pageant in Chongqing were jeered by netizens for their “plain looks.”
HOT? WHO’S Shi Junrong The Xi’an Evening News journalist was forced to resign after reporting that the local party secretary had enjoyed luxury cigarettes at an official event.
Top Blogger Profile Uncle Ou Followers: 39,092 Better known as “Uncle Ou,” Ou Shaokun, a 60-year-old from Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, shot to fame by tweeting photos, taken with his cell phone, of officials using their government vehicles for private affairs. Ou has so far reported 100 such cases, and is now a public hero in his city. Though he has occasionally been assaulted and blackmailed by officials, Ou has no plan to desist from his civil supervision campaign. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Foreign City Inspectors Three international students from Afghanistan, South Africa and the Central African Republic were recruited as urban management volunteers in Hefei, Anhui Province.
NOT? Want Want Foods Sensitive security guards at food manufacturer Want Want Foods assaulted reporters and damaged their cameras and cell phones when they attempted to report a factory fire in Changsha, Hunan Province. Zhao Huizhong The chief of the Taxation Bureau of Fu’an, Fujian Province, was fired after being accused of raping a female intern after getting her drunk. 9
Faced with public anger at widespread abuses of police power, China’s top authorities are stepping up to promote the concept of rule of law amongst its supposed enforcers By Min Jie and Yu Xiaodong
he 2011 uprising in Wukan village, Guangdong Province, where villagers ousted a corrupt Party leadership committee and forced higher authorities to allow open elections, was perhaps China’s most significant political event in 2011. After days of violent confrontation between villagers and the local police force, provincial leaders finally stepped in to negotiate. After agreeing to officially remove the ousted officials involved in illegal land appropriation, nullify the land deal that had sparked the ouster, and allow villagers to elect their leaders, tensions quickly eased. Wukan effectively became the first village in the country to hold an open election after the intervention of higher Party authorities. On July 4, more than half a year later, the incident again made headlines as Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, openly praised the Guangdong provincial leadership for their handling of the case, encouraging the provincial authorities to continue exploring “innovative and creative ways to maintain social stability.” The endorsement of Zhou Yongkang, chief of China’s law enforcement authorities and
a man perceived as a Party hardliner, could mean a new, more conciliatory approach to dealing with social unrest.
As with any top leadership figure, Zhou’s official remarks were intended to be heard across the nation. Since the Wukan incident, major reshuffles of police chiefs at the provincial and local levels have been seen as a bid to shake up the balance of power at the local level, and reduce the risk of abuses. For example, in many provinces, newly appointed police chiefs no longer hold the position of the head of the local politics and law committee, a powerful Party body that supervises the police, the judiciary and the procuratorate - an intermediary body which decides which cases will go to court. It is believed that the move is meant to grant the court system more independence, softening its image as a tool of the police. According to Mei Jianming, associate professor from China People’s Public Security University (CPPSU), the widespread abuse of police power is a sign of the conflict between the interests of local governments and national policy. “Abuse of police power, as we can see,
is manifested in forced land acquisition and evictions, as many local officials use their police force to silence public criticism,” Mei told NewsChina. The reshuffle is likely to strengthen the central government’s control over local police authorities. For example, among the five provincial police chiefs appointed in 2012, four have been reassigned to other provinces, with the exception of Sichuan Province, where the government selected a local for the top job. As a provincial police chief wields power over county-level personnel, it is believed that these changes will greatly strengthen central leverage over local police authorities.
‘Rule of Law’
In addition to personnel reshuffles, the central government seems to be promoting a new strategy on social unrest, a growing problem in the provinces. Between June 26 and July 31, more than 1,400 newly appointed city and county-level police chiefs received training at China’s People’s Public Security University (CPPSU), the national police academy. One of the most important courses, taught by Meng Jianzhu, minister for Public Security, NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by CFP
Newly appointed city and county-level police chiefs receive training in Beijing on June 26, 2012
was titled “How to use police power in accordance with the rule of law.” According to Professor Mei, promotion of the concept of “using force in accordance with the rule of law” marks a major shift in strategy among law enforcement authorities. He told our reporter that the authorities have realized that abuse of police power, violent and heavyhanded responses to incidents involving mass protest and social unrest, ambiguously termed “mass incidents” in official literature, will ultimately “lead nowhere but towards an all-out confrontation with, and resistance from, the people,” he said. Professor Ying Xing, president of the Social Sciences School of the China University of Political Science and Law, points out that a fallacy in the traditional mentality of Chinese officials is habitually deeming “mass incidents” a challenge to the authority of the government. As a result, the specific causes that have touched off these protests are often ignored, either intentionally or unintentionally. Ying warns that this approach has proven to be counterproductive in the information age. “The masses” are increasingly rights-conscious, armed with social media accounts and camera NEWSCHINA I September 2012
phones, and are proving adept at organizing and staging protests. “In most cases, protest leaders are very rational and try to steer clear of doing anything provocative,” said Professor Ying. For example, in 2009, residents in Shanghai resorted to a peaceful method of protest called “collective walking” to protest against a local maglev project. The Shanghai authorities refrained from using police force and eventually dropped the project. Wukan villagers unfurled banners proclaiming “Long Live the Party!” to show their support for the central authorities, a tactic that has been embraced by protesters nationwide. However, police and local authorities have proven less adaptable, given to random arrests and raids, forced disappearances, beatings, torture and other dubious methods when called upon to deal with unrest. This, says Professor Ying, only serves to further alienate the police from the public they supposedly protect. For him, the Wukan incident is a case in point. “The authorities’ handling of the Wukan incident can be divided into two phases in which different approaches yielded sharply contrasting results,” notes Professor Shan Guangnai from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“In the first phase, the local government denounced the villagers’ appeals as a conspiracy instigated by ‘offshore hostile forces’ [foreign agents], a typical response among local officials,” he told our reporter. “However, this failed to intimidate the villagers. Instead, it further escalated the tension.” Later, when Zhu Minguo, deputy Party secretary of Guangdong Province, chose to meet with village representatives and address their concerns, he successfully put an end to the crisis. According to Professor Shan, the authorities have learned an important lesson from the Wukan incident – by listening to protestors and addressing their grievances, the authorities can maintain and even strengthen popular support. “What is unprecedented about the Wukan incident is that the so-called ‘ringleaders’ were not punished after the situation calmed down. Instead, they were later elected as Party chiefs of the village,” said Professor Ying. “A common cause for a ‘mass incident’ like this is that local governments have ignored the public in the pursuit of economic growth,” commented Mao Shoulong, a professor from Renmin University. “If local governments keep disregarding the people’s opinion, incidents like this will continue to take place.” Despite the success of the Wukan example, more recent events suggest that local police are still following the old song sheet when it comes to dealing with mass protests. On July 2 and 3, 2012, just two days prior to Zhou Yongkang’s speech on the Wukan incident, thousands of residents in Shifang County, Sichuan Province took to the streets to protest a heavy-metal refinery project involving an investment of 10.4 billion yuan (US$1.6bn), fearing environmental damage and a threat to public health. Although the local government announced the “indefinite” cessation of the project a day after the protest, which served to cool the situation, this was only after the same leaders had sent riot police to disperse the peaceful protesters, leading to more than a dozen injuries. This incident served as a microcosm of the transition being attempted by China’s police – going from political enforcement to law enforcement.
As Chinaâ€™s population ages, the fragmented and underdeveloped national pension fund is expected to run up a huge deficit. Will policymakers take action before itâ€™s too late? By Yu Xiaodong and Wu Fan
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by CFP
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
ntil recently, China has been preoccupied with China’ pension fund is expected to face an accumulated feeding, housing and, above all, restricting the deficit of 18.3 trillion yuan (US$2.8tn based on 2012 valgrowth of its huge population of 1.3 billion ues) in the next 70 years, twice the World Bank estimate. people. With three decades of rapid economic growth in According to another report released by the China tandem with the enforceAcademy of Social Sciment of its strict One Child ences, pension funds in 14 Policy, China has achieved provinces were already in its aim of maintaining a debt in 2011, with a total China’s population structure by age in 2011 largely well-nourished and shortfall of 67.9 billion housed population. But yuan (US$10.7bn). These now, as the baby boomreports are fueling public ers age and a generation anxiety over the long-term 60of only children become viability of China’s entire 0-14 13.7% adults, China is bracing welfare system. 16.5% itself for the fallout of this The Ministry of Human unprecedented attempt at Resources and Social Secusocial engineering. rity attempted to reassure In recent months, pubthe public, announcing lic outcry over the state that the pension fund had a 15-59 of China’s pension fund, surplus of 1.9 trillion yuan 69.8% which is expected to run (US$300bn) by the end of at a huge deficit in the 2011, recording 1.69 trilnext few years, has fueled lion yuan (US$267bn) in panic about a looming derevenue and 1.27 trillion mographic crisis. Instead yuan (US$201bn) in exof the absolute number penditure. of China’s huge populaSuch claims have done 65tion, for decades the main little to calm fears that the 9.1% concern of economic planstrain of caring for China’s ners, the new challenge for elders could wipe out the China seems to be who will windfall from three detake care of China’s vast cades of economic growth. gray population. Cao estimates that the pension fund will start to run 0-64 Deficit up a major deficit in 2017 90.9% Back in 2005, the World amounting to 0.2 percent Bank warned that without of national GDP. a major policy change, the deficit in China’s soGuaranteed? cial security system would To ease people’s conamount to 9.15 trillion cerns over their pension Source: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences yuan (US$1.43tn) bepayments, several officials tween 2001 and 2075. have attempted to play Since then, estimates have the exceptionalism card, risen even higher. Accordclaiming that, unlike a ing to a recent report reself-sustaining system leased by a research team (such as that in the US), headed by Cao Yuanzheng, China’s social security syschief economist of the Bank of China, and Ma Jun, chief tem is a State-guaranteed fund, and thus has no risk of economist of Deutsche Bank’s Greater China branch, default. On July 1, Chen Wenhui, vice-chairman of the
Change in population structure in China (1950-2100)
100 80 60 40 20 0
1950 1960 1980 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 2040 2060 2080 2100 Child dependency ratio (0-19 age group to the 20-64 age group) Old-age dependency ratio (65+ age group to the 20-64 age group)
Source: United Nations
China Insurance Regulatory Commission, told the media that the government has added 1 trillion yuan (US$15bn) in subsidies to the pension fund in the past 10 years. Established in the 1990s when the planned economy collapsed after China launched economic reforms, leading to the mass bankruptcy of inefficient State-owned enterprises, the pension system has continued to support millions of these employers’ former workers, even though they never paid any premiums. The government has underwritten pension funds at every turn, aware that social welfare provision is a hot-button issue for the general public. However, the sheer size of the potential deficit leaves even China’s flush State coffers looking vulnerable. In 2010, when the national median age was 34, State subsidies to the pension fund stood at 195.4 billion yuan (US$30.9bn), about 0.5 percent of GDP and 2.3 percent of that year’s government revenue. In 2050, when the median age is expected to reach 50 (at the current fertility rate), the deficit will reach 5.5 percent of GDP and 20 percent of total government expenditure, about 10 times its current level, according to Cao’s estimates. The fact that pension funds are frequently misappropriated by local governments does not help boost public confidence. Under China’s current pension system, the pension fund is composed of two accounts, the “social pooling” account, a pay-as-you-go fund paid by employers at the rate of 20 percent of an employee’s salary, and the “individual account,” to which each employee is entitled to upon
retirement, which is paid for by an 8 percent deduction from each paycheck. In many provinces, when the social pooling account fails to meet demand, the fund in the individual account is appropriated to make up for the shortfall. By the end of 2010, the total balance of the individual accounts on paper was 1.96 trillion yuan (US$300bn). But the actual fund in these accounts was only 203.9 billion yuan (US$31bn), with almost 90 percent removed to the pooling account. Many are concerned that this practice will snowball as pressure builds on the State pension fund, with individuals paying the same amount into a greatly reduced eventual payout.
Many are already claiming that the opportunity to avert this financing crisis has already passed. With pension premiums taking 28 percent of the average Chinese person’s annual income, a much bigger share than in most developed countries, the 2009 pension replacement ratio (the percentage of pre-retirement income one receives as a pension) was 52.4 percent. According to the estimates of Gao Peiyong and Wang Dehua, two economists from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), to maintain the 2009 ratio, the Chinese pension system would need to run a deficit of as much as 95 percent of national GDP by 2050. This problem will only get worse as wages rise and living standards improve. Employers are also struggling to meet their end of the welfare bargain. In order to reduce expenditure on employee pension costs, a common practice among Chinese employers is to divide an employee’s salary into two parts, a low “basic salary” upon which social security payments are based, and a “bonus salary,” their actual take-home pay. This practice, while allowing employers to offer competitive pay, also contributes to lowering the de facto replacement ratio. By contrast, millions of public servants who pay no pension premiums and have other benefits such as a job for life and housing subsidies, enjoy an 80 percent replacement ratio after retirement. This discrepancy has increasingly become a source of public anger and NEWSCHINA I September 2012
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by CFP
An old lady returns to her room after lunch at a senior care center in Beijing, March 20, 2012
Photo by xinhua
poses a political threat to the government as the “This [raising retirement aging population strains age] is the only reliable the social security system. The vast majority of Chisolution to avoid long-term nese people are employed financial risk to the national in small or mediumsized private enterprises. pension scheme.” Should this majority be forced into an impoverished retirement while their peers in the civil service continue to live in comfort, they could pose a major challenge to State authority. Besides the risk of default, another major problem in China’s social security system is its limited coverage. In 2011, the pension system covered half of the urban population, about 280 million people. In rural areas, there are often no significant social safety nets for elders. As large numbers of rural residents, mostly young people, migrate to work in cities, they have left an army of seniors in the villages, many of whom have been charged with the additional burden of caring for their grandchildren. In response, the government has been trying to promote a lowcost and low-benefit cooperative rural pension system, which theoretically extended welfare provision to cover 364 million people in rural and urban areas by the end of 2011, about 30 percent of the total population. However, some were only receiving pensions as low as 1,800 yuan (US$284) a year under the cooperative rural pension scheme, making this “full coverage” purely symbolic, as such a paltry amount wouldn’t be sufficient to feed a single resident for a year, even in China’s poorest regions. In the same period, 103 million people were claiming a State pension, making the worker to pensioner ratio about 3.5:1, a sharp decline from 13:1 in the 1980s and 10:1 in the 1990s. If no major policy changes are enacted, China will follow the developed world into wrangling with an aging society before achieving its widely-publicized target of “moderate prosperity.” A demographic crisis of such a huge scale could derail the country’s economic growth, undermine social order and even pose a threat to the State’s very existence.
A child runs by a group of old people at a community center in a village in Guangxi, May 31,2012
Gray Dawn Designing a fair and effective pension system has become a major test for the homeland of the world’s largest aging population By Li Jia
ne of the most lively features of urban nightlife in China is the country’s active gray population. Crowds of seniors gather in just about any public space to dance under street lamps to loud pop music, play mahjongg or just chat to neighbors. Many will have led this sedate, socialized life for decades, having retired in their mid to late 50s. Their children and grandchildren, however, will likely have to wait longer to enjoy their golden years. The average statutory retirement age in China is 56 to 57, one of the lowest worldwide. The government has pledged to increase it, to considerable grumbling from the country’s working population. In reality, the average is estimated at 53. This is ten years earlier than the average statutory pensionable age in the Organization of Economic Cooperative Development (OECD) of industrialized economies. Life expectancy in China, however, is 73.5 years on average, according to the State Council’s 12th Five Year Plan for population growth. On June 5, 2012, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) said on its website for the first time that upping the national retirement age was “an inevitable trend.” On July 1, He Ping, head of a think tank on social security affiliated with MOHRSS reportedly urged incremental increases in the national retirement age beginning in 2016, with a view to fixing the retirement age at 65 by 2045.
An Alzheimer’s sufferer at a privately-owned senior housing project in Daxing District, Beijing, March 22, 2012
As has been amply demonstrated in European welfare states, increasing the retirement age is never a popular decision. State mouthpiece Xinhua was the first to admit that the MOHRSS announcement had “garnered wide criticism and objections from the general public.” Several online surveys, including one by the Stateowned People’s Daily Online, claimed that a majority of Chinese were against the policy. The national government is running out of alternatives to offset the potential demographic catastrophe that may result from a rapidly aging society that lacks the resources to care for its elderly. By international standards, China became an aging society in 2000, with 10.5 percent of the total population aged over 60, and 7 percent over 65. This figure is expected to increase to 16 percent by 2015 and to peak at one-third of the population by 2050. At the same time, China’s working-age population will begin to decline in 2016 as the first generation born under the One Child Policy begin to enter middle age. This will “lead to a decreasing working-age to elderly support ratio,” according to a World Bank report in April. It will further strain the national welfare system, put pressure on families and likely widen the country’s already massive wealth gap. Proposals such as relaxing the One Child Policy and broadening market access to welfare provision have all gathered momentum as NEWSCHINA I September 2012
China’s income ranking in 2011 GDP per capita:
US$5430, 81st in 177 economies
GNI per capita on purchasing power parity:
US$8430, 76th in
Photo by CFP
Source: World Bank
long-standing concerns about the social impact of China’s graying population begin to be borne out. However, attempts to respond to the crisis have been met with hostility, largely because, as with the bid to raise the retirement age, they are seen as unfair to an already overburdened working population.
More Contributions, Fewer Withdrawals
China’s current pension system is operated on a pay-as-you-go basis, leaving it vulnerable to demographic change. Only when the national labor force and economic growth rate are sufficiently robust enough to support pension funds can such a system be workable. This is the main reason why the government is attempting to keep people working for longer. Zheng Bingwen, a prominent social security expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, estimated that every year added to the national retirement age adds an annual US$635 million to the national pension fund while reducing US$2.5 billion in welfare spending. Research led by economists from the Bank of China and Deutsche Bank predicts that by raising the statutory pensionable age by seven years from 2020, China’s working population will be boosted by 25 percent, and the number of State pension claimants reduced by 28 percent.
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Yang Yiyong, director of the Institute of Social Development Research, a think tank under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), urged the prohibition of the widespread practice of retiring earlier than the statutory retirement age and called for an increase in the official cut-off age. “This is the only reliable solution to avoid long-term financial risk to the national pension scheme,” he told NewsChina. Public objections to a higher retirement age are driven by the resentment of the perks enjoyed by public employees, who in turn are reluctant to give up their generous State-financed pension funds to subsidize non-State employees. “Without a uniform pension system, any proposal of raising the retirement age will be criticized as an attempt by the public sector to cream off more benefits for themselves,” Zheng told The Beijing News in an interview in June. So far, civil servants have successfully resisted any serious efforts to cut their benefits. For example, in 2009, the State Council decided to undergo trial reform of a universal pension scheme in some provinces, but to no avail. The Shenzhen government recently declared its own action plan which included requiring civil servants to contribute to their own pension accounts, but also struggled with implementation.
Total fertility rate (children per woman) in China (1950 -2100) 8 7 6
“Without a uniform pension system, any proposal of raising the retirement age will be criticized as an attempt by the public sector to cream off more benefits for themselves,”
5 4 3 2 1 1950-1955 1960-1965 1980-1985 2000-2005 2005-2010 2010-2015 2015-2020 2020-2025 2040-2045 2060-2065 2080-2085 2095-2100
China’s fertility rate, the number of live births per woman, is between 1.5 and 1.6, alLife expectancy at birth in China (1950 - 2100) ready below 1.8, the goal set by the Chinese government to maintain current population growth targets. This low birth rate comes along100 side ever-increasing life expectancies thanks to improvements in the general standard of living. The result, according to Wang Feng of Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Bei80 jing, is that two workers between the ages of 20 and 59 have to support one citizen over 60. In 2010, there were five workers to every senior in urban areas. Three research fellows of the State Council 60 Development Research Center openly called for an end to the One Child Policy recently to address the “severe new challenges of… the accelerating aging society and potential future 40 shortage of labor.” This proposal immediately 1950-1955 1960-1965 1980-1985 2000-2005 2005-2010 2010-2015 2015-2020 2020-2025 2040-2045 2060-2065 2080-2085 2095-2100 grabbed headlines nationwide, as it seemed to attack one of China’s most controversial naSource: United Nations tional policies. Professor Ji Baocheng, former president of the Renmin University of China, has long been Professor Wang Zhanyang of China’s Central Institute of Socialism an advocate for change to the One Child Policy. While he remains recently told the Southern People magazine that unfair wealth distri- broadly supportive of government intervention in population conbution and the apparent profligacy of government spending is the trol, he argues that a more sustainable approach would be to encourreason for the current shortfall in the national pension fund. If these age couples to have one child, permit a second, and prohibit a third. far more long-term problems were addressed, he argues, raising the The rapid urbanization of China’s citizenry, and improvements in statutory retirement age would not be such an urgent priority. education since the early days of the policy, he believes, would prevent
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Multi-pillar pension systems involving the individual, their employer and government are the norm in developed economies worldwide, and have been referred to by Chinese analysts as good examples to follow. It is also widely accepted that personal savings are the only major source of retirement funds that individuals have direct control over. Despite China’s strong saving culture, failure of wage increases to keep pace with inflation, prohibitively expensive real estate and the skyrocketing cost of living have left the average Chinese citizen without much money to put aside for their twilight years. A joint survey by Southwestern University of Finance and Economics and the central bank issued in May shows that 75 percent of Chinese household bank deposits come from the richest 10 percent. An employer-sponsored pension plan has been promoted, but few employers seem keen to adopt any measure that could eat into their profits. According to an annual report issued in July by the China National Committee on Aging, only 5.5 percent of urban employees covered by the national pension insurance scheme had joined the annuity system by the end of 2011. The US$5.7 million gleaned from this source is negligible, compared with the US$268 billion pension insurance fund. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo byZhou Gangfeng/ CFP
an instantaneous baby boom from tipping the scales back towards overpopulation. Under the current policy, an urban couple can have a second child when both husband and wife are from one-child families. Rural couples can have a second child if their first is a girl. For ethnic minorities, the policy is barely enforced. Over the past few years, there have been reports about possible further relaxation in big cities like Shanghai and Guangdong Province, where fertility rates are even lower than the national average. There were rumors that a “Two Child Policy” would be implemented, or that bettereducated (Master’s or higher) couples would be encouraged to have more children. All these reports were denied by local governments. One particularly unpopular loophole of the One Child Policy is the clause allowing parents to have more children if they pay a fine for each subsequent birth above their allowance. This has allowed the wealthy to circumvent the policy entirely, an unfair provision which, Professor Ji argues, seems to unfairly favor the wealthy. However, adding eugenics into the mix, like, for example, allowing parents with Master’s degrees to have multiple children, is equally dubious. While multiple counterarguments have been put forward, all seem to stem from a sense of indignation that a nominally socialist country might bestow additional benefits and freedoms on a demographic already perceived as unfairly privileged.
Fang Zhenqing, 82, sharpens knives for customers on a Beijing street, November 3, 2011. He has been in this business since he retired from being a carpenter in 1989
A trial program for individual tax deferral on annuity accounts is reportedly going to be launched in Shanghai within the year. Calls have been growing to allow annuity funds greater access to investment opportunities to further boost revenue. That may not be enough. World Bank data shows that nearly 50 percent of Chinese companies’ profits go to taxes and mandatory labor contributions, compared with only 10 percent in the US. Only the most profitable companies can afford extra pension plans which, in China, means State-owned enterprises. Unsurprisingly, then, the country’s existing annuity scheme has already been dismissed as “a club for the rich.” Moreover, improved welfare provision, even when it is realized, remains restricted to affluent urban areas. Meanwhile, the population of China’s rural areas is aging even faster than the national average. “Low-income rural elderly face the risk that transfers from adult children may not be sufficient to keep them out of poverty,” according to a World Bank report released in April. The average pension income of rural seniors is only 5 percent of that in urban areas, a further example of the inherent inequality of China’s urban-rural dual-track State. “We need an open discussion on how to reduce the excessive pensions paid by taxpayers and use the savings to help those on the lowest rung,” said Yang of the NDRC.
United, Divided Nanjing’s parent-owned and operated Magic School brings home-schooled kids together in an attempt to bolster a liberal curriculum with the social environment of a conventional school. However, is putting parents in control of a school a good idea? By Chen Wei
ix-year-old Tommy sidles up to his teacher with a partially-drawn steel tape measure in his hand. “You want to see what is inside?” asks Tian Zhiming, or Uncle Xiaoming as he is called by his students at the Magic School, a tiny, independent educational cooperative in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. “I can help you,” he continues. “Just remember to put everything back where it belongs after seeing what’s inside.” Tian snaps open the tape measure’s casing, and talks Tommy through some of the basic mechanical principles behind the function of this everyday object. The Magic School is but one of the “mutual-aid” schools that have been springing up across China in recent years, which claim to offer children a nurturing learning environment free from the “coercion” and rote learning mandated in the country’s public schools. Tian Zhiming is the school’s sole full-time faculty member.
Independent schooling is a controversial
topic in China, where State-approved standardized testing is often viewed as the sole litmus test for individual ability. However, many parents who have chosen to homeschool their children have discovered that, particularly in China’s ubiquitous singlechild families, the oppression of a competitive public schoolroom was simply replaced with the oppression of learning in isolation, with their offspring deprived of social contact with their peers. In response to this perceived problem, like-minded parents have formed educational collectives like the Magic School, which currently has a roll of five students: Tommy and Lao Lao, two six-year-old boys, Qing Ru and You You, two 13-yearold girls, and Tian Zhiming’s two-year-old daughter. The curriculum includes a number of activities unlikely to have ever been witnessed in a State schoolroom, including dismantling complex objects, playing video games and painting T-shirts. Every school day begins with a morning
of Chinese and English lessons, though the students are encouraged to study on their own with a teacher on hand to provide assistance, rather than simply copy a recited lesson out verbatim as is common in Chinese public schools. The afternoon is given over to activities organized by Tian Xiaoming, including field botany and zoology, theater, documentary film analysis, computing and Internet classes, gardening and baking. Magic School was founded in May 2012 and has just moved into an apartment near Nanjing’s Olympic Sports Center. Each student’s family paid 10,000 yuan (US$1,563) as an initial investment, as well as sharing the school’s monthly operating costs of 3,500 yuan. The children themselves took part in decorating their new school, measuring the area of the rooms and even laying carpet. Books, stationery and other additional expenses are also paid for by the students’ families. Tian Zhiming, who holds a Master’s degree in technology as well as being a passionNEWSCHINA I September 2012
operational duties at the school. More students would necessitate more faculty and possibly additional support staff, and possibly a larger building and a comprehensive ethical code. The parents question how far they could pursue expansion without compromising the school’s founding principles of academic and operational freedom.
Courtesy of Tian Zhiming
Blame the Parents?
Tian Zhiming and the children of the Magic School play by the Xuanwu Lake in Nanjing
ate lover of the liberal arts, is paid a modest salary of 3,000 yuan (US$470) each month. “The parents are helping me financially so that I can pursue what I love to do,” Tian told NewsChina. The Magic School, and other initiatives like it, is now a feature of life in China’s big, affluent cities and other areas with a concentration of higher-income families. Beijing has its Ririxin School; Foshan, Guangzhou has its June Elementary School, and the tourist haven of Dali, Yunnan Province recently saw the opening of the Cangshan School. According to estimates from China’s fledgling Learning At Home Alliance, founded by two Nanjing mothers whose website currently has 7,000 members, roughly 1,000 children in China are homeschooled. There are no current figures on the number of educational collectives currently active in China, but it is generally believed to be small. Parents choosing to home-school their children have, however, struggled to cooperNEWSCHINA I September 2012
ate with one another due to the distances between them and, more frequently, divergent educational priorities. Some insist that their children are taught English through Bible study. Others want a return to the learning of Chinese literary classics by rote. Securing a consensus on what students should learn was one of the greatest achievements of the Magic School’s founders. Now, however, they face a new challenge – whether or not to enroll more students.
Tian and the parents in charge of the collective hope more children will join the school. “[The school] has a very unstable structure,” Tommy’s mother told our reporter, explaining that, currently, the two 13-year-old girls pair up for learning and play, as do the two six-year-old boys. This fine balance would be disrupted if a child were to leave. On the other hand, however, expanded enrollment would increase the burden on the parents who currently shoulder some
Tian Zhiming is in no doubt as to what is the main obstacle to creating a successful independent school system in China – it’s the parents. “Except for caring about their children’s education and being disillusioned with the traditional school system, these people have virtually nothing in common,” he told NewsChina. Conflict between parents are a major reason why some educational collectives shut down once they attempt to expand. Liberal parents familiar with Summerhill, Montessori, Sudbury Valley or Waldorf schools often wish to replicate these environments in their own home, and then subsequently attempt to impose them on any collective institution involving their child. Similarly, parents wedded to the perceived universal wisdom of the Chinese classics, which were the central canon of Chinese education for 3,000 years, may push for a return to pre-Revolutionary curricula, complete with the rote learning other parents believe has ruined the existing State system. Some want to turn home-schooling into a process of hot-housing geniuses, while others wish to allow their children complete creative freedom. Some parents prioritize teaching science and mathematics, others computing and technology, others music and art. All the while, children are pulled this way and that, from one curriculum to another, without settling into an educational routine. It is impossible to predict the impact this well-meaning but often haphazard education will have upon home-schooled children. But it seems unlikely that China’s independent school system, in its present state at least, is likely to offer up a challenge to the country’s much-maligned but almost universally accepted State system.
Art Relief A private fund initiated by an artist has helped more than 100 children left disabled after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Now, the fundâ€™s first cohort of students take their first steps back into society By Liu Yanxu in Chengdu
Tang Yijunâ€™s painting, titled Effortless
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Li Dan’s painting Scars
ainter Li Dan and model Tang Yijun are both survivors of the devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan Province four years ago. At the time, they were seniors at Dongqi Middle School, the site of the deaths of 249 students. The lives of the surviving students were turned completely upside down. After spending a few months in a hospital receiving treatment, they began to worry about their ability to re-adapt into society. Now, four years later, they sit in a studio, preparing their new artworks in a vocational school in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. Were it not for the Multicolored Fund, they said, they might never have dared to face their future.
Another Meaning of Art
The founder of the fund, Zhou Chunya, is an artist based in Chengdu. Back in January 2008, there was a little girl in the city who suffered leukemia but whose family could
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
not afford the heavy medical fees. Since she had a talent for drawing, local media came to Zhou seeking help, and Zhou organized an event to help the girl sell her works for charity. The project turned out to be a big success which drew the support of over 100 artists, and raised over 1 million yuan. The girl underwent her operation and her life was saved. Zhou Chunya was happy to find that art could indeed play an important role in society. When the earthquake struck, Zhou knew he could not be of very much financial help to the earthquake survivors, but he went to the hospital to visit children, and gave them picture books and other art materials in an effort to cheer them up. He also began to think about the children’s futures. The first thing that occurred to him was to teach them how to paint, so as to encourage them to develop artistic ability. He hoped that art could help them to face their future with a positive attitude, or at least give them a skill with which they could potentially make a living. The first time Zhou went to see Li Dan, Li was still in her hospital bed, with tubes all over her body, unable to move. But when Zhou told her she could learn to paint, her eyes lit up. Quite often, Zhou would take books of painting collections with him to the hospital, and tell them stories of famous disabled artists. In March 2009, he launched the Multicolored Fund, China’s first artist-led charity, and has helped over 100 disabled children undertake art training. 13 of his former students have now gained admission to university.
Initially, due to the children’s physical limitations, volunteer art teachers from the Multicolored Fund Art School went to students’ homes, sometimes more than 50 kilometers away from Chengdu, to teach art lessons. Students would begin learning line drawing, and then progress to more complicated techniques. For students who had lost limbs, things were even more challenging. Li Dan had lost her right hand during the earthquake, and had to practice using her left hand before she
Photo by Liu Yanxun
Left to right: Song Linlin, Li Dan, Zhao Dan, Tang Yijun. The portrait in front is of Song Linlin, painted by Tang Yijun.
could begin to learn. She had to spend over ten hours each day to get used to holding the brush. However, her teacher Geng Bo kept giving her strict instructions. Geng tried to avoid looking especially sympathetic to the children, in the hope that they would gain confidence, and realize that they were no different from able-bodied children. Tang Yijun, who had lost both his legs, had to struggle to lean his upper-body forward to reach the canvas when drawing. Wei Ling suffered serious paraplegia after the earthquake, and for quite some time, she was bad-tempered and easily agitated. She once quarreled with the doctors and her art teachers. But her teachers did not give up, and Wei gradually started to create vivid sketches, becoming absorbed in the pleasure of painting. She calmed down, and her drawing skills began to mature. Wei Ling still lives in Deyang Recovery Hospital, and this March she gathered with other members to attend an art exhibition held in Shenzhen. On the day NewsChina met Wei, she had just finished making a large pumpkin sculpture with thin, tangled vines, dotted with golden peanuts. She named it Life. She seems more optimistic than before, and is even thinking of opening an online shop to sell her handicrafts.
More than Emotional Relief
For most children, the paintings were initially a reflection of their self-image. The majority of Tang Yijun’s art is related to amputation, for example, a tall, folded walking stick, and a human-sized statue that Tang named Stand Up. Kou Juan, who also underwent an am-
putation following injuries in the earthquake, painted a piece called Face to Face, which shows a mirror reflecting a blurry image of a girl’s face, hidden partially behind her hair. The painting is gray and dark, but Kou herself likes it, and believes the painting reflects her attitude towards life during a previous period of time. “At that time I was at loss, unable to figure out the reason for my existence,” she told NewsChina. How does art help them? “It is hard to say precisely. But undoubtedly art can make someone’s heart more colorful, and help one to understand more about oneself, fostering the capability to discover the beauty of life,” said Zhou Chunya to our reporter. “On the canvas, one can integrate oneself absolutely into the painting, with the adaptation of different colors or design. The achievements of finishing a work are a kind of spiritual relief more effective than any other means.” But for Zhou and the fund, the purpose of teaching the children art is to help them to “walk out of the shadows.” The first step is to hold events like fundraisers and art exhibitions. In Zhou’s opinion, it is crucial to find a way to help the children regain confidence and re-enter society. One year after he set up the fund, Zhou clarified his goal: to help the first nine students, including Li Dan and Tang Yijun, get a college education. In order to pass the art school entrance exams, the students practiced day and night. Teacher Geng Bo remembers many memorable moments. The disabled students helped each other to sharpen pencils, and those who could walk helped those who could not to climb the five stories to the studio. However, even after admission to college, it is not easy for them to fulfill their dreams of studying. The biggest challenge is that colleges remain ill-equipped to handle the needs of disabled students. Zhou Chunya said that disabled-accessible facilities in urban China are insufficient to accommodate the daily needs of China’s disabled, who number over 75 million. “In China, we rarely see disabled people in public places. Why? Because it is inconvenient for them to leave their homes. Despite the fact that some new constructions have improved facilities, getting between different buildings is difficult,” said Zhou. When the fellow students gained admission to the Sichuan Huaxin Vocational Art School, the fund donated 70,000 yuan (US$10,998) for the school to upgrade its disabled facilities. Next year, the students are due to graduate. Most of them have chosen their future professions. Tang Yijun said he will work as an advertising designer, Song Linlin will be a landscape architect, and Li Dan hopes she can work as a web designer in the coastal city of Shenzhen. “They need to face the post-earthquake world directly, and we cannot help them forever,” Zhou said. “They are young, and have learned some life skills. They have successfully made the first step of accepting themselves, and have been revitalized through art. Now, they hold great expectations for their future. This is all that we could help them to fulfill.” NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Hunting the Hunters
Photo by Hu Donglin
Black bear paws traded in the Changbai Mountains
The battle between poachers and conservationists continues in the Changbai Mountains, where black bears and other protected species fetch a high price By Li Guang and Yuan Ye
n June 24, a set of shocking photos appeared on the Internet, showing the mutilated carcasses of five wild black bears, a protected species, killed either by explosives or poison. Hu Donglin, a wildlife writer, took the photos on June 12, deep in the Changbai Mountains Nature Reserve (CMNR) in the northeastern province of Jilin. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
The photos caused a wide public outcry. Many pressed for severe punishment of the culprits, widely assumed to be poachers, and more effective wild-animal protection on the part of the government.
In the past five years since Hu moved to
the reserve area to facilitate his wildlife writing and research, killing of wild black bears has been a constant problem. On the local black market, prices of wild animal products (chiefly meat and various body parts) have risen in step with increasing demand, causing a steep decline in animal populations. This was the first time that Hu had ever
seen five bears killed in a single attack. Usually, poachers would kill one bear, or two at most. Founded in 1960, the CMNR was one of the first nature reserves in China, covering more than 196,000 hectares of forested mountainous area, a haven for more than 360 species of wildlife. For some locals in the region, hunting is a centuries-old tradition and a way of life. However, traditional hunters had long observed an unwritten law: no killing of young, female or pregnant animals, or those in heat. However, of the five bears killed, one was female, and three were cubs. In early June, Hu learned of the death of the five bears from a local villager who went into the forest to collect pine cones. The scene of the attack was on the beat of the Baishan Reserve Station, one of the nine reserve management stations in the CMNR. Hu took it upon himself to investigate. On June 12, Hu, accompanied by a guide, set off into the depths of the forest. At a point 22 miles in, they left a narrow highway for the mountain trails. Trekking for two hours, they began to notice a putrid smell, which led them to an explosive-ravaged area 50 meters wide and 200 meters long. “Traces suggesting the bears’ desperate struggle for their lives were found everywhere,” said Hu Donglin, “They had died about a month earlier.” Without exception, the bears’ gall bladders, paws, hearts and heads had all been removed. The flesh had also been picked from their bones.
The reasons behind the rampant bear poaching also find their roots in cultural tradition. In traditional Chinese medicine, bear bile is a valuable ingredient believed to “relieve inflammation and aid detoxification,” and some Chinese people still see bear paw as a prized culinary delicacy. Hu Donglin was deeply upset by what he saw, especially when he considered that the female may have been a bear he had been tracking for several years. Hu began his ecological research in the CMNR in 2005. He told NewsChina that on September 15 that year he had spotted nine bears rutting by the riverside, yet only
one of them was female. Supposing the female must have been particularly attractive to be pursued by eight males, he nicknamed her “Good Wife.” After the bears left the riverside, Hu measured Good Wife’s paw prints for future tracking. “They were 5.1 inches in width, which means she weighed around 220 pounds,” he said. In 2007, Hu moved to Erdaobaihe, a small town in the CMNR region. He went into the forest frequently, and carefully recorded Good Wife’s activity. He found her territory covered around 17 square miles, and in April 2011, she gave birth to two cubs. “I even saved her life twice,” Hu said. “The first time, I helped her escape from a noose trap. The second, I interrupted a poacher who was chasing her. However, since June 12 [this year], I’ve found no trace of her in her territory.” Hu Donglin said that since the poachers cut off the dead bears’ paws, he was unable to identify whether the dead female bear was Good Wife or not.
Hu Donglin has a special affection for bears. He is a member of the Hezhe people, an ethnic minority in northeast China who traditionally rely on hunting and fishing for survival. Since Hu moved to Erdaobaihe, he has kept a close eye on bear poachers. “On average, 10 bears are killed by poachers each year,” he sighed. Hu’s friend Wang Xin, 50, was a hunter until 1996. The two met seven years ago and became close friends. Despite Hu’s disapproval of Wang’s former occupation, Wang keeps good relations with old hunters, and is well informed on the situation in the mountains. “Since the 1980s, populations of Stateprotected species, like the black bear, the red deer and the sable, have been dropping in the CMNR,” said Wang. “As for the Manchurian [Siberian] tiger, we haven’t seen one for more than 20 years.” In the CMNR, Korean pines are one of the dominant botanical species. When the ripe pine nuts fall to the ground in autumn, early-falling tree leaves have already formed a protective layer on the forest floor, prevent-
Hu Donglin visits the site where the black bears were killed
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
ing the pine nuts from reaching the soil. One out of roughly 200,000 pine seeds will grow into a pine tree. And bears and wild boars, pawing and nosing through the layer of fallen leaves looking for food, help the seeds get through to the soil. Hu worries that in several generations’ time, the pine forest may disappear as the black bear vanishes from its midst. At the local mountain produce stores, there exists a steady illegal trade in bear parts. The price of bear paw, an open secret in the area, has risen from 1,320 yuan (US$207) per kilogram in 2008, to 2,400 yuan (US$377) in 2012.
Photo by Li Guang
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Raising his pant legs, Zhang Congfeng revealed his heavily scarred shins, calves and knees. 49-year-old Zhang is the chief inspector of the CMNR Inspection Team, and has been working in the mountains for more than 30 years. His scars are proof of countless bumps and bruises sustained while patrolling the forest over the years. When the CMNR was established in 1960, a mere eight patrol stations were set up to keep watch over 200,000 hectares of forest. In 2006, only one more station was added. “In total, there are no more than 200 patrolmen working at nine stations,” said Zhang Congfeng. “It’s nearly impossible for so few people to guard such a large area.” According to Zhang, even the smallest station is responsible for an area of more than 10,000 hectares. Usually, one patrol team consists of three to five people, and it takes them two days to finish one patrol. To make matters worse, many poachers are hardened hunters, posing not only an impediment to the patrol teams, but a very real threat to their lives. In recent years, Zhang has on more than one occasion come within inches of being hit by a poacher’s bullet. Moreover, the Inspection Team has no power of criminal-law enforcement over those who flout the forest rules. In 2006, the patrolmen’s firearms were replaced with rubber batons, and while they sometimes manage to catch poachers and illegal loggers, charges can only be pressed if the suspects are caught red-handed. After the photos of the five dead bears were
exposed, Hu Donglin received several threatening phone calls. Yet fortunately, local police reacted quickly to the incident. On June 27, the police dispatched more than 100 people to search for the black bears’ bodies and obtain DNA samples. Meanwhile, they also conducted a thorough search of local stores selling mountain produce, resulting in the discovery of more than 20 tiny home-made bombs, and a number of bear paws. Hu Donglin told our reporter that one home-made bomb, or zhazi in Chinese, can generate 500 kilograms of explosive power. The explosive material is made by mixing three readily available chemicals, and its surface is covered with a layer of steel ball-bearings and shards of glass. Bound up with thin rope, the device is then coated with butter to attract bears, and conspicuously placed in bear country. If a bear is unfortunate enough to bite one, the explosion is powerful enough to blow the animal’s jaw off. Only a handful of people in the area are believed to know the chemical formula for the explosive. According to Hu, a man named Su San is one of them. However, Su remains a mysterious figure. Thought to be a fast-moving and highly knowledgeable woodsman, he has been caught poaching only twice in the past 20 years. The first time, he managed to escape. The second time, due to a lack of concrete proof, the inspection team had no choice but to release him. “No one knows exactly how many wild animals he has killed,” said Zhang Congfeng. After his release, Su disappeared for several years. But in April this year, Hu Donglin was aggrieved to learn that Su had returned to one of the forests in the CMNR. With the discovery of the five dead bears, Hu’s worries may have been vindicated. Six suspects were apprehended in early July, one of whom, according to local police, is Su San. Police are currently carrying out DNA testing to verify whether or not the bear paws and meat seized from stores match the carcasses found on the mountain. But while Hu Donglin waits for the results of the investigation, he fears that it may have taken the loss of Good Wife to bring Su to justice.
Ridiculed for Ratings Only You, a Chinese reality TV show where contestants compete for jobs, has touched a nerve with its harsh treatment of contestants. But while critics debate the show’s creative interpretation of the real-life job market, ratings continue to soar By Wu Ziru and Xie Ying
tanding before an intimidating panel of 12 powerful businesspeople, Guo Jie, a 33-year-old jobseeker, appears nervous, his forehead moist with sweat. “How could you get a sociology diploma in France in only one year?” “You also have a degree in film, why can’t you tell us the name of France’s most important director?” “I think your Master’s degree is from a technical college.” Bombarded with harsh questioning from the judges, who apparently had doubts about his three French university diplomas, Guo Jie stood dumbfounded on the stage. Suddenly, his knees began to buckle. “You’re play-acting, right?” asked Zhang Shaogang, the show’s host, holding Guo’s collar as he collapsed. “No…” Guo murmured.
This clip from Only You, a popular show on satellite station Tianjin TV (TJTV) in which contestants face harsh questioning in the hope of landing a job, has become one of the most memorable TV moments of the year so far. It touched off a nationwide outcry, with a total of 410,000 Chinese Web users voting to boycott the program in an online poll. “How could a host be so rude to a contestant? When someone is about to faint, shouldn’t we give him a helping hand, rather than accusing them of faking?” asked Kai-Fu Lee, former head of Google China and founder of venture capital fund Innovation Works. It was Lee himself who initiated the boycott. Protests were fueled by the French embassy’s affirmation that Guo Jie’s Master’s diploma was authentic. “The host and judges showed NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by CFP
their ignorance of the French education system, disrespecting students studying overseas. Worse still, they are advocating inequality between employers and employees,” read an open letter from a group of overseas-educated Chinese students. By the time the letter was delivered, a total of 21,852 people had signed up in support.
Reality or Show?
This was not the first time that Only You had upset its viewership. In February this year, the program came under fire for its treatment of Liu Lili, a 23-year-old female who returned to China for her bachelor’s degree after graduating from high school in New Zealand. The show’s judges pounced on Liu, criticizing her “affected posture,” the
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Host Zhang Shaogang questions a fainting Guo Jie
“ferocious twinkle” in her eye, and her “contemptuous expression.” Perhaps most ludicrously, host Zhang Shaogang questioned why she referred to her home country as “China,” as opposed to “home.” “They said I was too aggressive and too sensitive to criticism, but they were attacking me,” Liu told the media following the episode’s broadcast.
TJTV was quick to fight back against media criticism. “Only You is designed to mirror the real-world job market as closely as possible, by revealing real problems and showing the real relationship between employers and employees,” Kong Lingquan, TJTV’s general director, told NewsChina. He claimed that the real-world job market is sometimes even more testing for jobseekers. “The online community has magnified negative cases like Liu Lili and Guo Jie, which do not represent the whole picture of Only You,” argued Liu Shuang, the program’s producer. “We have successfully helped many disadvantaged people land jobs. The panel tries its best to explore the contestants’ strong points,” he continued. According to Liu Shuang, of more than 400 contestants who have so far appeared on Only You, 156 went on to sign long-term employment contracts with the employers who chose them on the program. “The program forbids any pre-communication between the judges and the contestants. It is like a large recruitment fair, where job hunters don’t know what companies they will meet until they arrive,” Liu said. “The first impressions are real, and anything can happen. That is why we need a host who is smart and astute enough to control any unexpected situations, and guide the show to a smooth ending.” However, according to Kai-Fu Lee, “The host plays too big a role in the program.” With Liu Lili, for example, all the key questions were asked by host Zhang Shaogang, and at one point, when one of the panel was about to give Liu some advice, Zhang interrupted him and urged the panel to vote immediately on whether or not to hire her. In Guo Jie’s case, Zhang urged the panel to check the authenticity of Guo’s qualifications, calling the process an act of “fighting fake diplomas.” “Diploma checks should be carried out in advance. Putting it in the program makes it more like an entertainment show,” said Lee. Although Zhang Shaogang and TJTV have stuck to their assertion that the Guo Jie incident was not intentional, critics remain unconvinced. “Why did TJTV not edit out the shot of Guo fainting? It was a recorded program, not a live broadcast,” wrote the open letter. “TJTV maintains that the program is made professionally, and is entirely serious about the real job market. But in fact, it is an entertainment program that pursues ratings by humiliating contestants,” the letter continued.
Ratings Don’t Lie
In recent years, with the advent of online video sharing websites, which offer more diverse content, are easily accessible and have less advertising, TV viewer numbers have seen a sharp decline. A report issued by Beijing Business Today in May this year, for example, showed that the HUT (Homes Using TV) rate in Beijing had fallen from 70 percent in 2008, to 30 percent today. “Traditional TV programs are outdated and unattractive, causing many, especially young people, to switch off,” read the report. Facing the slump, some stations have opted to shift their focus from traditional TV series to original programs which place more emphasis on interaction with audiences. A successful example is If You Are the One, a romantic matchmaking program produced by
Jiangsu Television (JSTV). Although the weekly program was criticized by the State media Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily for glorifying money, it soon took second place in nationwide TV ratings in 2010, the year of its debut. Only You, launched in November 2010, was inspired by If You Are the One, according to Kong Lingquan, general director of TJTV. “For half a year, we had been planning a new program that was expected to get high ratings, hoping to attract more attention,” Kong told NewsChina. “Like marriage, employment is a hot issue concerning millions of people in China, and it also touches on concerns like educational background and social security insurance,” he added. However, while gaining popularity, the program is increasingly being accused of engineering “storylines,” and pre-selecting contestants. Jin Pujun, a singer who became well known in a singing-oriented reality show produced by Hunan TV, China’s top entertainment station, admitted to NewsChina that he participated in Only You at the invitation of the program’s production team. “Maybe they wanted me to help make the program better known,” Jin said. On the show, he was hired on the spot as a male model. All he got from his “employer” after the show ended, however, was a business card. “I have stayed an independent singer. No company has ever contacted me since the program,” he told our reporter. The show also brought in a popular judge, Huang Huan, who achieved notoriety for her radical and offensive comments in a variety of other reality shows. During an episode of Only You in April last year, she once again stirred things up by saying a female contestant’s beauty would likely cause her to end up on someone’s casting couch. Despite criticism from the show’s viewership, Huang argued to the media, “It was me that made the episode jump to second place in the nationwide ratings.” Huang is not wrong – the controversial scenes were a hefty boost for the program’s ratings, and placed the TV station directly in the limelight. According to official statistics, Only You in July placed fourth in rankings across 35 major cities nationwide, beaten only by Hunan TV, Dragon TV (in Shanghai) and Jiangsu TV. Online, the program was watched more than 50 million times, the third most popular reality show following If You Are the One and One Out of 100, another matchmaking program. The Liu Lili episode topped ratings across the country, and Guo Jie came in third. In the wake of Guo’s faint, TJTV jumped from fifth place to second in the overall ratings ranking, literally overnight. While critics may argue over the validity of TJTV’s defence that the show “reflects reality” in the job market, viewership figures remain the lifeblood of TV stations, and TJTV is unlikely to pull the plug. In the meantime, viewers will be left to draw their own distinctions between entertainment and reality. “I didn’t watch Only You until the Guo Jie episode,” Li Chun, an editor at a publishing house in Hangzhou, told NewsChina. “Who would believe someone could get employed in just 15 minutes in real life? We just watch it for fun.” NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Riders on the Storm
An adventurous camera crew is gaining popularity in Chinaâ€™s typhoon-prone coastal areas
A typhoon approaches Qionghai City in Hainan Province NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by CNS
By Yang Di and Yuan Ye
Photo by Song Xiaopu
Bian Yun reports from the scene of a typhoon
Photo by Song Xiaopu
Urgent weather report: At 2:30 AM, June 30, Typhoon Doksuri hit Nanshui Town, Jinwan District, Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province” read a text message from the Guangdong Meteorological Bureau delivered to Bian Yun’s cell phone. A member of the “storm team” from China Weather TV, a TV station sponsored by the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), Bian is among a handful of professional “storm chasers” in China. While most are hurrying away from an approaching storm, Bian and his team are most likely heading full-speed in the opposite direction. One day earlier, Bian and his team had arrived in Taishan City in the southern coastal province of Guangdong. They were expecting the first typhoon to land in China this year – Doksuri, meaning “velociraptor,” a name contributed by South Korean meteorolgical authorities. The crew were itching to kick off their first storm-chase of 2012. After a whole night of waiting, Doksuri – the sixth typhoon of 2012 in the western Pacific – landed on China’s shores. Bian’s eyes were red from lack of sleep. Yet when he looked out of the window, he saw only drizzle. He began to wonder whether or not
Cameraman Song Yong
Doksuri was a false alarm.
Nonetheless, the team packed their equipment and prepared to meet the typhoon head-on. Song Yong and Song Xiaopu were the team’s cameramen. Usually, a team has only one, but Song Yong, fresh from college, was
still on his apprenticeship, and needed the guidance of veteran Song Xiaopu. Another team member, Chen Di, was tasked with carrying the maritime satellite receiver for communications with headquarters, and team leader Bian Yun, a meteorology major who had graduated three years previously, was responsible for communicating with the local meteorological agencies for weather updates, selecting shooting locations and ensuring the safety of the team members. The four-member team set out after receiving the text message alert. Local TV channels and radio had warned residents about the coming typhoon, leaving the streets completely empty, with no sign of anyone except the storm-chasers. The message from the local meteorological agency indicated that Doksuri had arrived at the northeastern part of Taishan. Normally, when a typhoon comes ashore, the weather immediately turns violent. “Judging from the forecast, the typhoon was sure to pass through Taishan,” said Bian. He couldn’t figure out why the skies were so eerily quiet. Since taking shape, Doksuri had steadily moved northwest toward Guangdong Province at a speed of 15.5 miles per hour. The NEWSCHINA I September 2012
CMA’s typhoon alert system is divided into four levels according to strength – yellow, blue, orange and red, in ascending order. When the warning level reaches orange, the storm-chasers perk up. On June 28, after two days of gathering airflow and water vapor on the ocean, Doksuri had intensified to force 10-11. “A force-10 storm can instantly snap a tree as thick as a man’s forearm in half,” said Bian Yun. On June 29, Bian received an orange warning about Doksuri. He and his team immediately flew from Beijing to Guangdong.
Wearing light clothes – T-shirts, shorts, sandals and thin raincoats, Bian’s team walked down the empty streets. “Rain boots are too cumbersome,” said Bian. In a storm, boots would fill up like buckets. “Shooting a storm is like heavy manual labor,” he added. For each member of the team, the most important piece of equipment is their safety tether – it can mean the difference between life and death. Though storm-chasers began to appear in western countries as early as the 1950s, they were unheard of in China until the early 2000s. In 2001, the first storm chasing team was founded by Huafeng Group of Meteorological Audio & Video Information, another enterprise owned by the CMA. According to Han Jiangang, chief engineer of Huafeng Group, not a single video documenting a typhoon had previously existed in China. Initially, the team’s goal was to record typhoons first-hand. Yet with increasing demand for footage of extreme weather conditions in China, the storm-chasers evolved from “recorders” into “weather reporters.” In 2006, China Weather TV was established. The team’s status was also upgraded to the “severe weather report team” whose area of responsibility now covered other types of severe weather, such as sandstorms. “The storm team are the eyes of both viewers and meteorologists,” said Zhu Dingzhen, vice general manager of Huafeng Group. “Natural disasters are not reproducible. The video material the storm team shoots are very rare and valuable.” While the storm-chasers are used to diffiNEWSCHINA I September 2012
cult working conditions, they can sometimes meet with surprising situations, especially when they stumble into the eye of a typhoon. However, in three years of storm-chasing, Bian Yun has not yet been lucky enough to see the eye of a storm. However, Liu Qingyang, a female storm-chaser, has. Her first typhoon eye experience came in July 2005 when the team was following Typhoon Terry, the twelfth typhoon of that year. Liu told NewsChina that her crew was driving their specially-made “storm-chasing vehicle” in the typhoon zone, when the downpour suddenly stopped and disappeared completely. They found themselves in quiet surroundings, with the sun shining brilliantly overhead. None of the team members had ever experienced anything like it, and no-one could figure out what had happened. When they realized they might be in the eye of the typhoon, the cameraman sprang into action. “The ‘eye’ is the key to pinpointing the landing site of a typhoon,” Liu Qingyang told NewsChina. The first encounter with the eye of a typhoon is an exciting experience for any storm-chaser. The quiet does not last long, though – in scarcely 20 minutes, another round arrives, usually with even heavier rain. “At the second encounter [with the eye of a storm], we felt scared, and the third time we just took to our heels,” said Liu.
At 3 AM on June 30, Bian Yun and his team arrived at their pre-selected live-broadcast spot – Taishan’s Jugang Dock. The air was clammy and hot, and volleys of large raindrops pelted the surface of the dock – all signs of a strong tropical storm. Cameraman Song Xiaopu has been shooting storms since 2006, and his first assignment was shooting Typhoon Saomai, the strongest typhoon recorded in China in 63 years. A “super typhoon,” Saomai’s central wind velocity reached force 18, the highest typhoon force on the scale. “It could send you into mid-air like a kite, if a rope was fastened to your waist,” said Song Xiaopu. However, when they first arrived at Saomai’s anticipated landing point, it was quiet, sunny and cloudless. But while Song was
waiting in his room, the storm struck. The team immediately packed up their gear and rushed outside. “The moment I got out of the door, I was thrown to the ground by the overwhelming force of the storm,” said Song. To shoot Typhoon Saomai, three teams were dispatched to different potential landing sites, but it was Song Xiaopu’s team who were lucky (or unlucky) enough to encounter the super typhoon. The downpour confronted the camera crew from all directions, like huge walls of water. Giant billboards were blown into the sky, and wire pylons were snapped back and forth like rubber bands. When outdoor shooting became impossible, the team had to move to the local hydrological monitoring station to continue shooting from indoors. Saomai lasted for more than 10 hours, and Song’s team ran out of tape before it abated. Song was wondering whether Doksuri could turn into a small-scale Saomai. The forecast indicated that its central wind velocity would reach force 10-11 – a strong tropical storm. However, when it “arrived,” there was no sign of a typhoon. After consulting the local meteorological bureau, the team finally pulled back from the dock. On the second day, they learned that Doksuri was a “streaking” typhoon, where wind and rain come separately. “It was caused by an eccentric structure that separated the cyclone center and the convective clouds. The rain fell in the western part of Guangdong. Meanwhile, Doksuri moved so fast that it didn’t accumulate enough power to impact the local weather,” explained Liu Jinluan, director of the Climate Center of Guangdong Meteorological Bureau. In fact, it was the first time in 11 years that the storm chasing team had chased a “streaking typhoon.” Rookie cameraman Song Yong was disappointed, but Bian Yun assured him that an encounter with the first “streaking storm” was also something special. Desperate for adventure, increasingly in demand, and with no shortage of epic weather to shoot, these storm-chasers have the potential to become stars of China’s meteorological world. For Bian Yun and his team though, the goal is simply to keep their feet on the ground.
Who Let the
The Chinese Buddhist practice of releasing captive animals into the wild has come under fire after a group of overzealous practitioners caused a snake infestation in a small village in Hebei Province
Yang Huiqin, who lives roughly 65 feet from the spot where the snakes were released, told NewsChina, “I saw snakes of various colors and sizes disappear into the grass.”
Fangsheng groups have ballooned across the country in recent years, according to Yu Fengqin, a senior member of the China Wildlife Protection Association. These groups organize regular fangsheng activities, especially on important festivals, such as the Buddha’s birthday. Yu explained that the “captive animals,” normally small creatures like fish, birds and turtles, are often bought
By Li Guang and Yang Di
n May 31, eight cars and vans left Beijing, headed for Miao’erdong village, some 90 miles away in Xinglong County, Hebei Province. The convoy, organized by the “Let Blessings and Wisdom Grow” Buddhist group, was on a mission of benevolence – to release more than 1,000 “captive snakes,” recently purchased from various markets in the capital, back into the wild. Releasing captive animals, or fangsheng in Chinese, has long been regarded in the Chinese Buddhist tradition as a merciful act, and one that can improve one’s karmic balance. A Buddhist saying holds that: “There is greater merit in saving one life than in building a seven-storeyed pagoda.” In recent years, along with a resurgence in the popularity of Buddhism in China, fangsheng has become an increasingly common practice.
Unfortunately, the fangsheng ceremony on May 31 left Miao’erdong village rather off-kilter. The 40 members of the convoy got out of their vehicles, crossed a small river into a walnut orchard, and let loose roughly 1,000 snakes. Yang Huiqin, a local villager whose 18-year-old daughter has Down’s syndrome, was attacked by a large yellow snake in her courtyard home on June 5. Eventually, Yang managed to beat the snake to death. When the NewsChina reporter interviewed Yang on June 9, she said she had been having trouble sleeping since the incident, and became anxious at the slightest sound in the night. Every evening before bed, she would patrol her courtyard, armed with a large stick. “I worry that a snake will slip into our courtyard through the cracks in the walls,” she said. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
(US$5.60) per kilogram, small fish for 30 yuan per kilogram and small turtles 56 yuan. In Beijing’s popular Shilihe market, a vendor told the reporter that of all the “captive animals,” demand was highest for sparrows, which sold for 3 yuan (47 US cents) each. Usually, hundreds are purchased for a single fangsheng event. Another stall displayed turtles, snakes and chameleons. The owner told NewsChina that his biggest customers were those planning to fangsheng, and that orders of 1,000 small animals were not uncommon.
Photo by Zhang Jian
from pet markets. The group involved in the May 31 snakereleasing activity in Miao’erdong village was relatively large. As the number of fangsheng enthusiasts grows, more and more pet vendors and even fishmongers are engaged in the business of selling captive animals specifically for fangsheng purposes. On June 2, at a fish counter in a food market in east Beijing, our reporter heard a salesman tell a customer: “These animals were destined to meet you. It’s very kind of you to free them.” At this particular counter, piety came at a premium. Small crabs sold for 36 yuan
Locals bury snakes killed around their village NEWSCHINA I September 2012
On June 1, the day after the fangsheng event in Miao’erdong, eight locals went on a snake-hunt, and killed a total of 300 snakes. 24-year-old Jia Meng claims to have killed 100 himself. “These snakes look very scary. I don’t know whether they are poisonous or not. The biggest one I saw was as thick as my arm,” Jia told the reporter. Soon, a 40-strong snake-hunting posse was organized, but after a week, only 500 snakes were estimated to have been killed, just half the total released. Worse still, villagers had begun to find snake eggs. “We depend on the income from the fruit in our orchards. But now, we don’t dare to go up in the hills to tend to the trees. If things continue this way, we’ll be hard up next year,” said villager Yang Huiqin. Now, children in the village have stopped going to school for fear of snake attacks on the way, and those working and studying outside the village dare not return home. For adults in Miao’erdong, every free moment is spent hunting snakes. Meanwhile, quite contrary to the intentions of the fangsheng enthusiasts, the lives of the “freed” snakes are in grave danger, and not just from stick-wielding villagers – most snake species in China are native to the south, and many have difficulty adapting when set free in the north, according to Song Huigang, chief scientist with the China Wildlife Protection Association. To make matters worse, some animals popular with fangsheng practitioners, such as the Brazilian turtle, are invasive species. After being released, they may threaten the survival of native wildlife. Highly adaptable, quick to reproduce, and with no natural predators, these reptiles leave scant resources for native turtles. Ill-advised snake-releasing incidents are causing an increasingly large problem across the country. While no serious snake-related injuries have yet occurred in Miao’erdong, a death was reported in one case in Liaoning Province. Reverend Monk Shenyan, head of the Chinese Institute for Buddhist Studies, has stated that buying animals to set them free is a sin, and that the Buddhist faithful should pay more attention to the essence of benevolence, not its form.
Li Yanfeng Discus
In August 2011, Li claimed China’s first world discus title and the country’s 10th gold medal since 1983 at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.. Li’s gold medal at the IAAF Continental Cup was the first world discus title gained by an Asian athlete. Li is one of only four hopefuls from China competing for three track and field gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics.
Ren Cancan Boxing
The 2012 London Olympics’ new event, women’s boxing, has given Ren Cancan a chance at glory. Seeded first among the Asian players, Ren Cancan made her debut at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, where she defeated Indian boxing star Mary Kom, holder of five World Championships. According to Ren’s coach Chen Tao, Ren is aiming to clinch a grand slam with a London gold.
Liu Zige Swimming
Liu Zige won gold for China in the 200m butterfly at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a new world record time, supplanting Australian Jessicah Schipper’s previous world record by more than one second, making her China’s only gold medalist in swimming during that Olympics. Her victory was a spectacular turnaround, with Liu placing a maximum of 20th in the world league prior to Beijing. In 2009, Liu again broke the 200m butterfly world record at the Chinese National Games, and again at the next international meet in Berlin.
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
he 621-member Chinese Olympic delegation, including 396 athletes and 33 former Olympic champions, was announced in Beijing on July 10. Chinese players are set to compete in 23 sports (all except football, handball and equestrian) and 212 events at the Games. A recordbreaking 639 Chinese athletes participated in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where China topped the medals table with 51 golds. Thirty-eight of these came in table tennis, badminton, diving, shooting, gymnastics and weightlifting, six Olympic sports in which China has traditionally dominated. In London, China will be looking to stake its claim in swimming and track and field.
Women’s Quadruple Sculls Rowing
Despite competing in an extremely niche sport in their home country, China’s women’s quadruple sculls team won China’s first Olympic rowing gold medal in Beijing. With three of the original four women remaining, hopes are high for a repeat success in London, though home advantage was seen as a major factor in their 2008 success.
As China’s first and only Olympic gold medalist and world champion in men’s track and field, 28-year-old Liu Xiang remains the superstar of the Chinese delegation. After winning the gold medal in Athens and setting a world record in 2006, Liu’s star took a tumble when a series of injuries resulted in him walking off the track in Beijing, leaving his home crowd stunned into silence. After a 13-month absence, Liu returned to compete at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in 2009, coming second behind the US’ Terrence Trammell. Liu again pulled out in front on May 19, 2012, winning the Shanghai Diamond League with a seasonal best. Now he will be hoping to bury the disappointment of Beijing with a gold in London. Shortly after arriving, Liu caused controversy by abandoning London’s Olympic village for Dusseldorf, with his trainers claiming the cold weather in Britain was affecting his ability to train, leading to speculation that China’s star athlete may still be nursing longstanding injuries that could affect his final performance at the Games.
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Li Na Tennis
One of China’s most popular sportswomen, Li Na claimed 20 women’s titles and ITF titles between 1999 and 2004– including one at WTA Tour, the first ever won by a Chinese woman. After placing in the top four at the Beijing Olympics, Li quit the national team and China’s State-run sports system, which was seen as her most prudent career move. Since then, Li has won the 2011 French Open singles title, becoming the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title and was ranked world No. 4. Despite being knocked out of the fourth round of the French Open and the second round of Wimbledon in 2012, Li is still China’s best-placed tennis player, and many predict a medal in London.
Zhu Qinan Air Rifle
China’s gold medal marksman at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Zhu Qinan is considered one of the best sports shooters in the world, despite unexpectedly failing to win a gold medal in Beijing. Zhu has, however, won every subsequent world championship, making him a strong contender for the top spot on the London medals table.
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Diving Dream Team Diving
China has dominated the international professional diving scene as decisively as it has other core sports like ping pong, weightlifting and badminton. Chinese divers pocketed seven out of the eight gold medals up for grabs in Beijing, and while the British media are upping the pressure on homegrown star Tom Daley in the individual event, most pundits at home and abroad expect the Chinese to walk away with a full set of gold medals, having proven unbeatable in every world championship since Beijing.
Synchronized Swimming Team Aquatics
Synchronized swimming is far from becoming a popular sport in China, but the national team has gone from strength to strength since Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting unseated longtime Asian champions Japan at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. In 2008, China won the country’s first bronze medal in synchronized swimming. At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China managed to claim every gold medal in the discipline, and are riding high into London.
Women’s Epee Squad Fencing
On the world ranking of the Federation Internationale D’escrime (FIE), female Chinese fencer Sun Yujie is first, with her teammates Li Na and Luo Xiaojuan in second and eighth respectively. Born in 1992, Sun Yujie is a shooting star of women’s epee in the FIE’s 2010/2011 season. She won the silver medal in the individual event at the World Championships in Catania, Italy and has achieved two podium positions during the 2010/2011 season. Both Li Na and Luo Xiaojuan were born in the early 1980s, and are very experienced fencers. The combination of a prodigious youth and two skilled veterans makes the Chinese trio a force to be reckoned with. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Boxing In 2008, light flyweight boxer Zou Shiming became China’s first-ever Olympic boxing champion, and currently has three world titles (2005, 2007 and 2011) under his belt. This slight 31-year-old man is known for his unorthodox “kung fu” style, and has become a key figure in popularizing a sport that had previously failed to supplant more traditional Chinese martial arts. However, Zou may have outgrown his homeland, and many are speculating that a London gold will be the boost he needs to secure a pro-boxing career Stateside.
Sun Yang Swimming
At the 2011 World Championships, Sun Yang broke the world record for the men’s 1,500 meter freestyle which had been held for a decade by Australian swimmer Grant Hackett. Born on December 1 1991, Sun made his debut at the 2008 Beijing Games, though he didn’t achieve podium glory until winning gold at the 2010 Asian Games. A breakout star in an event China has traditionally failed to dominate, Sun was named in early 2012 by China Central Television as the country’s best athlete in 2011.
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Wu Penggen & Xu Linyin Men’s Beach Volleyball
China’s male beach volleyball players have yet to impress internationally, despite representing one of the more popular team sports played in China. Wu and Xu, 2010 Asian Games champions and the country’s top male beach volleyball duo, are ranked in sixth place internationally and are regarded as strong contenders for medals in 2012.
Lin Dan, 29, has topped the Badminton World Federation’s leaderboard for a record-breaking total of 231 weeks. Lin’s first Olympic gold medal was received in Beijing in 2008, claimed on the back of a string of world championship titles. This May, Lin Dan won the Thomas Cup, bringing his total number of world championships to 16. Nicknamed “Super Dan” and as popular for his chiseled features and habit of appearing shirtless as for his deft style of play, Lin is one of China’s best-known sportsmen and a popular spokesman.
Wei won her first world championship in 2001 at age 19. She went on to win six world titles, however her performance at the Olympics has been less impressive, winning a solitary silver medal in Athens, but after qualifying for first place for this year’s Games, Wei will be hoping to take home her first gold.
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Out of Africa
The large African community in Guangzhou was recently in an uproar over the death of a young Nigerian man in police custody. With frequent clashes and crackdowns, is the China dream still alive for African immigrants? By Wang Yan in Guangzhou
eated at a secluded corner booth in a McDonalds in Guangzhou’s Sanyuanli District, Goodluck Udeh, a 28-year-old Nigerian, told our reporter about his four years as a trader in the southern Chinese metropolis of 12.8 million people. “I like living in Guangzhou for its wealth of business opportunities, but I dislike the uneasy life here as an illegal immigrant.” Throughout the hour-long interview, he remained visibly anxious, constantly on the lookout for police on patrol. Goodluck’s visa, like those of many Africans in the city, expired long ago. “The police have calmed down recently since that boy died. Normally, you wouldn’t see so many Africans wandering around here – you’d see them running from visa inspection police,” said Goodluck. “I could not walk freely on the street either, the police would hassle me, and ask me to show my passport.” The young man that Goodluck referred to was a young Nigerian from Goodluck’s native province of Enugu, who died in Chinese police custody on June 18.
According to a press release from the Guangzhou authorities, “A foreigner and a local motorcycle-taxi driver quarreled and fought in Sanyuanli around 1 PM on June 18, and both sides were later summoned to Kuangquan police station for further interrogation. Around 5 PM, the foreigner suddenly lost consciousness and died.” The deceased man was later found to be Nigerian. The following day, hundreds of Nigerians, mostly traders from the nearby markets, gathered outside the police station to protest, blocking traffic for more than two hours, demanding that the police release the body. The issue was settled between the Nigerian embassy and the Chinese government, yet most Africans remain unsatisfied with the of-
ficial explanation. They believe that the death of their countryman was caused by police brutality. “Everybody is very angry,” Goodluck told our reporter. This is not the first time the local police station has been the site of an angry protest by local Africans. On July 15, 2009, Kuangquan police station was surrounded by more than 100 protesters when an illegal African immigrant was severely injured after jumping from a second floor window to escape a police raid. Some members of the African community carried the bleeding man to the police station in protest against the incessant raids. The event brought immediate worldwide media attention to the large African population in southern China, living on the edge of the law. In the past decade, hundreds of thousands of Africans have taken up residence in Guangzhou. They tend to gather around several major wholesale markets near the city’s old railway station and purchase Chinese-manufactured goods in bulk for export to Africa. Many traders have opened their own stores. Due to the large African population, districts such as Sanyuanli and Xiaobei have become known locally as “Chocolate City,” “Little Africa,” and “Guangzhou’s Harlem.” In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and then the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, the city’s municipal government began to implement a series of measures aimed at cracking down on illegal African immigrants. A new regime targeting migrants who enter, live, and work illegally (“the three illegals,” or san fei in Chinese) was established. African businessmen in Guangzhou were worried about the tightened restrictions, which greatly affected their business activities. Over the past few years, passport and visa inspections have become a regular experience for all Africans in the city. Like many African businessmen, NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by getty images
On Sunday afternoons, African and Chinese Catholics attend Mass at Guangzhou’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ
Goodluck, owner of BBC Logistics Air Cargo, a shipping company, complains about visa problems and police disdain for Africans. “In any other place in China, I can walk freely and nobody would stop me. But not here in Guangzhou.” Goodluck estimated that around 50 to 60 percent of Africans in Guangzhou are there illegally. “Many African traders have been returning home or leaving for other Chinese trade destinations such as Yiwu,” Goodluck admits there is a possibility that he might move out of Guangzhou.
Building a Market
Since 1997, following the Asian Financial Crisis, African traders in heavily-affected neighboring countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia began to move into relatively unaffected cities such as Guangzhou to continue trading. The trend was intensified with China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, and increased engagement with Africa after the turn of the century, as China looked to Africa’s vast reserves of natural resources. As government-to-government co-operation increased in the areas of politics and economics, so did two-way migration, both legal and illegal. Chinese in Africa are now estimated to number about two million, while there are roughly 250,000 Africans in China. As one of China’s major manufacturing and commodities hubs since the late 1990s onwards, Guangzhou has become a popular destination for Africans in search of cheap manufactured goods for export. In an area spread over 10 square kilometers in Guangzhou’s northwestern downtown region, storefronts in the mushrooming market districts are all rented by either African or Chinese traders, all of whom target African customers. For example, in Tianxiu Plaza, one can find all kinds of products, ranging from clothes and shoes to NEWSCHINA I September 2012
mobile phones and electronics. Commodities run the gamut from the stunningly cheap, such as bras costing only 2 yuan (30 US cents), to highend, such as solar panels designed specifically for the African market. According to Wu Caiding, owner of Boladino Clothes, a store in Tangqi Market, many Chinese clothes factories produce suits purely for the African market. Customers favor knock-offs of high-end brands such as Hugo Boss and Armani. “We have African-style clothes produced, and they are well-received by our customers,” said Wu to NewsChina, “African consumers cannot afford high prices, so Africa has become China’s major outlet for low-end manufactured products.” However, Wu also admits that the tightening of visa restrictions and the revaluation of the Chinese currency have left her significantly worse off. In Tangqi Clothes Market, over 60 percent of the stores are Africanowned, mostly Nigerians selling jeans or T-shirts. It is common to see African shopkeepers sitting on piles of clothes in the market’s corridors, chatting while they wait for their shipments. “China is developed, but in our country, we do not even have a stable power supply, so we’re not able to run production lines. That’s why we have to come here,” said Ben Besty, a 30-year-old jeans merchant in Tangqi Market. Alongside the import-export trade, other businesses have sprung up to serve the community itself. Advertising firms design storefront signage, restaurants sell African food, and barber shops and hair salons cater to African hairstyles.
Integration or Separation
Not only do Africans work and trade alongside their Chinese counterparts, most also live in Chinese apartment complexes. Chichi, 31, a Nigerian mother of four, has been in Guangzhou for
Photo by Wang Yan
An African takes a scooter taxi in Sanyuanli district
8 years. The owner of a womenswear store in Baile Trade Market, she is fluent in Chinese. Her husband is also Nigerian. Her oldest daughter is 7 years old and goes to a local school with Chinese children. She told the reporter she lives in Panyu District and maintains good relations with her Chinese neighbors. “Guangzhou is my home, and I am not planning on going anywhere else.” Many of Guangzhou’s Africans go to church every Sunday, and some work as church volunteers. According to a woman surnamed Zhang, an elderly Chinese volunteer in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in central Guangzhou, every Sunday afternoon at 3:30, thousands of Africans come from all over Guangzhou to attend mass. “There is no divide between us, and we Chinese believers often try to help our African brothers and sisters,” said Zhang to the reporter. “We have just donated money to an African couple to help them treat their baby’s congenital heart disease.” While Africans are gradually merging into the local community, for most, the frustrating realities of discrimination and prejudice remain prominent. “Some Chinese still hold the view that skin color matters, so when I walk with my Nigerian boyfriend on the street, some people give us disapproving looks,” said Fei Fei, a Chinese woman in her twenties, to NewsChina. “Worse still, some Chinese call Africans heiguizi [‘black devils’], which is very derogatory.” Local media often portray a negative image of Africans in Guangzhou. “In the media, African people are often depicted as violent people who carry HIV,” said Li Zhigang, an associate professor at Sun Yat-sen University and an expert on the African enclave in Guangzhou. “This widens the gap between Chinese and Africans in the city.”
Of the estimated 250,000 Africans in China, some 100,000 are believed to be in Guangzhou, and the rest distributed in Hong Kong and Macau, other coastal cities like Yiwu and Shanghai, and also in Beijing and other northern cities. Official statistics released in 2006 indicated that there were around 20,000 long-term and 60,000 shortterm African residents in Guangzhou, and an even greater number of
Africans categorized as “san fei.” On June 30, China’s top legislature passed a new entry-and-exit law that stipulates harsher punishments for foreigners who illegally enter, live or work in China. Africans interviewed by our reporter in Guangzhou said that many have resorted to buying forged passports or remaining illegal and trying to dodge the police. The management of the African community poses a large problem for the local government. Some illegal Africans cause serious social problems, sometimes implicated in drug-dealing, robbery and rape. In a recent case in mid-June in Foshan, near Guangzhou, two Africans robbed six local cab drivers in five days. According to the Guangzhou Daily, one of the suspects, a Nigerian named Onwuatu, was later apprehended by police. A local policeman in Sanyuanli told the reporter that the city government had set up a network connecting the local police with community management offices, giving police access to information on the whereabouts of registered foreigners. “Some African communities have established their own residents’ associations, and we sometimes communicate with their leaders,” said the policeman. He also admitted the difficulty faced by local police: “Some Africans run away very fast when we try to check their papers.” The ensuing chases sometimes result in violent clashes. “[Clashes in Guangzhou] are between mostly illegal African residents and harsh law enforcement authorities,” Adams B. Bodomo, associate professor of Linguistics & African Studies from the University of Hong Kong, told NewsChina during a recent telephone interview, “not between the African migrant community and the Chinese community.” Dr Li Zhigang shares the same view. In his opinion, there is no way for China to close its doors to the outside world, and it is time for the country to reform its immigration law to regulate and manage the large number of African migrants. “China is not a nation of immigrants, and the country does not have its own immigration law even today, making it very hard for foreigners to get permanent residence permits,” said Li Zhigang. “So far there are only six foreigners who have obtained permanent residency in Guangdong Province, and most of them got it because they have made ‘outstanding contributions’ or are of ‘special importance’ to China.” With strengthened Sino-African ties and intensified globalization, the future will surely see more foreigners, from Africa and elsewhere, coming to China for more and more diverse reasons. But while the control continues to tighten over Guangzhou’s African community, a long-term policy dealing with China’s increasing numbers of illegal immigrants still seems a long way off. “Since our country can export nothing else apart from oil, we depend on China and we hope that we can seek opportunities, and a way to make our own country develop,” said Goodluck. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by CFP
Tens of thousands of Africans live in downtown Guangzhou and its neighboring suburbs
As African communities grow within the market city of Guangzhou, the municipal government is under pressure to take more action on proper management. NewsChina spoke to two experts on Sino-African relations, to find out what the future holds for Guangzhouâ€™s African businesspeople By Wang Yan
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by david Hogsholt/Getty images
Photo by Wang yan
An African mother crosses a Guangzhou pedestrian bridge
Photo by CFP
Emmanuel, a women’s clothing retailer, has run his business out of the Baile Trade Market for three months. Despite a sluggish season, he remains optimistic about his future prospects
Ojukwu Emma, President of the Nigerian Community in China, sits in his office in Guangzhou. Since there is no Nigerian consulate in Guangzhou, Emma’s office plays a key role as an intermediary between the Guangzhou government and the city’s Nigerian community
n Dr Adams Bodomo’s 2010 research paper “The African Trading Community in Guangzhou: An Emerging Bridge for Africa-China Relations,” he states that: “Given the current rate and dynamics of the establishment of communities in China by Africans…it is not far-fetched to foresee that in 100 years’ time, an African-Chinese ethnic minority group could be demanding self-identity and full citizenship rights in the heart of Guangzhou, and in other major cities.” However, because of the tightening of passport and visa controls for African traders in Guangzhou, particularly since the 2010 Asian Games held in the city, many Africans have been leaving their once- “The real integration favored city of opportunity. News- of Africans into China interviewed Dr Li Zhigang, associate professor in the School of Chinese communities Geography and Planning at Sun will take a long time.” Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, and Adams B. Bodomo, associate professor of Linguistics and African Studies with the University of Hong Kong, seeking their opinions on the past, present and future of African migrants in Guangzhou. Both are experts on African studies, and have conducted years of research on African communities living in Guangzhou. NewsChina: What is the composition of the African community in Guangzhou? Prof Li: In general, African traders come from most countries in Africa, and include speakers of French, English, Arabic and Portuguese. Our 2010 surveys indicate that Africans from over thirty different countries were doing business in Guangzhou, and the largest group is from West Africa, including the francophone countries of Guinea, Benin, Mali, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and the anglophone countries of Nigeria and Ghana. NewsChina: Have you seen any change in living standards in the African community over the past few years? Li: In my view, since 2008, their living situation has deteriorated. First of all, the unfavorable economic environment, such as the economic crisis and the constant reevaluation of Chinese currency, has reduced their already small profit margins. Secondly, the strict passport controls and constant visa inspections have brought them trouble. Worse still, newcomers have poorer financial and educational backgrounds than their predecessors, causing more social problems and posing more challenges for the local Guangzhou government. Among the African community, people from Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, are known as the hardest for local police to manage and regulate. NewsChina: What is your perspective on the presence of African traders in the city of Guangzhou? Li: Trade between Guangzhou and Africa has continued to increase. For example, there are over 100 export companies registered in the NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Xiaobeilu district, each of which Since Hong Kong enjoys a makes over 50 million yuan per different legal system from the Sino-African Trade 1999-2011 (US$bn) year. Statistics indicate that the mainland, an African in Hong importance of Africa and Latin Kong can get permanent residen200 America in China’s export marcy, and ultimately even a Hong ket has increased in recent years, Kong passport. If someone is Total trade volume in contrast to the decrease of the 200 150 resident in Hong Kong for seven Chinese imports from Africa European market. China has beyears, with legal permits and a Chinese exports to Africa come one of Africa’s largest tradjob, then they qualify for perma100 ing partners. nent residence. 150 From a geopolitical perspective, Guangzhou is unique in NewsChina: Will Guangzhou 50 connecting Asia and Africa. Since 100 remain attractive to African tradit is close to Southeast Asia and is ers in the future? China’s hub for air freight to AfAdams Bodomo: While the 0 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 rica, it can, together with Hong 50 major commodities exchanges Kong, act as a trade center beamong African communities in Source: China Customs Statistics tween China and Africa. From Hong Kong and Guangzhou are a positive standpoint, if Guangsimilar, prices in Guangzhou are 0 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 zhou can make good use of its cheaper than in Hong Kong. China’s Major Export Markets in Africa, 2011 (US$m) unique geopolitical role, there Thus, for residence, Africans will be a very good future for its prefer Hong Kong, but for busiSouth Africa trade and economic developness, they prefer Guangzhou. Nigeria Egypt ment. Guangzhou is a market city, Liberia Yet the reality of cultural inand no policy can change that, Algeria Benin compatibility between Chinese so Guangzhou will always atAngola 0 3000 6000 9000 12000 15000 and Africans does exist, and I still tract Africans in the future. But Kenya Tanzania feel it is a very difficult obstacle to if Guangzhou police remain as Ethiopia overcome. The real integration of disrespectful and draconian as Cameroon Libya Africans into Chinese communithey are now, other places in Botswana ties will take a long time. From a China, such as Yiwu in Zhejiang 0 3000 6000 9000 12000 15000 long term perspective, I am worProvince, the commodities trade ried about the possibility that the center of China, would replace Source: UN Comtrade 2011 African community in GuangGuangzhou. zhou will become like the isolated African–American districts in US NewsChina: Do you have any cities such as Detroit. When educated local residents and taxpayers all suggestions for the Guangzhou government on the handling of the move out of the African-dominated areas, those areas may deteriorate African community? economically and in terms of social public order. Adams Bodomo: The mainland has a lot to learn from Hong Kong I used to think that Guangzhou should be more hospitable to Afri- and other parts of the world in addressing the treatment of African cans, but now I feel that this danger should not be overlooked. migrants. While the Chinese mainland has a 21st century economy, it holds a 20th century immigration policy. It needs to develop a clear NewsChina: What is the African community like in Hong Kong, immigration policy, and there should be a pathway for foreigners to and what are its similarities and differences with the African com- get permanent residency. munity in Guangzhou? Along with China’s growing economy, more foreigners will be arrivAdams Bodomo: The number of Africans in Hong Kong is between ing. The Chinese government must take immigration seriously. 20,000 and 30,000. Some of them come and go regularly. Not all are There are “Africa towns” in cities around the world, and it would be permanent residents. a good thing for the city to set up a place where local people can buy Africans on the mainland work as businessmen, but here in Hong African goods. I know there will be African centers established this Kong, there are quite a number of Africans who work for the public year in Shanghai and Yiwu. Guangzhou should take this opportunity sector, holding government positions. to develop an African marketplace. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Interest Rate Reform
iu Yu’e, a staff member at the Shanghai and Hong Kong-listed Ping An financial services provider, is happy to hear that some of her clients are considering moving their deposits to Ping An’s banking wing. “We offer more attractive interest rates,” she told NewsChina. Until now, Chinese depositors didn’t have much to choose from when it came to where to place their money. With interest rates set by the country’s central bank, uniform returns on deposits with similar maturities, often priced below the rate of inflation, effectively made one bank as good as another. In June and July 2012, China’s central bank cut benchmark deposit and lending interest rates twice to counter the country’s economic slowdown – a move few had failed to predict. What did come as a surprise, however, was the decision to allow all banks to offer depositors up to 1.1 times the benchmark interest rate, removing the rigid price ceiling that had been the hallmark of Chinese banking since the early days of economic reform. At the same time, the central bank ap-
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by CFP
Products, Same Clients 2% 3%
Chinese banks are finally learning how to price money, but will a relaxation of central control over interest rates really help diversify and revive the struggling economy?
One-year deposit rates after central bank’s 0.25% rate cut on July 6, 2012
2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0 Central bank benchmark: 3%
By Li Jia
Five State-owned commercial banks: 3.25% Other 12 listed commercial banks: 3.3%
proved new flexibility in the base lending rate, with the minimum rate lowered from 90 to 70 percent of the benchmark loan rate. The national lending rate ceiling was abolished in 2004. As China’s one-year benchmark lending rate currently stands at 6 percent, the new regulation means the lowest possible rate that a lender can secure is 4.2 percent. Chinese banks are beginning to price their assets according to the market, rather than the whims of the sole regulator. These reforms mark one of the most sweeping changes in China’s banking sector since the inauguration of Deng Xiaoping’s Reform and Opening-up policies. Along with these new freedoms comes greater competition. The fact that no bank has chosen to cut deposit rates shows the growing influences of market forces on China’s financial sector. Now, banks will have to work harder to maintain and increase their market share as customers are offered a greater range of choice than ever before. It is hoped that the relaxation of regulations will motivate banks to diversify their clientele and business structures, thus allowing more productive sectors greater access to NEWSCHINA I September 2012
credit and expanding into more sophisticated non-credit-based business. In this way, they hope to revive both China’s banking sector and the country’s flagging economic growth. A recent report by Standard and Poor’s was titled “China’s small step to relax its bank de3.5 posit rate ceiling is a giant leap for financial sector reforms.”
Data: Various Sources
Financing sources of real economy, JanJune, 2012
From Turkey to Phoenix
global impact of these changes to China’s banking sector is likely to be vast. In 2011, China’s banks accounted for one-third 2.0 of the profits of the world banking sector. In % most profitable banks fact, the 2 world’s 1.5 % 3three are Chinese State giants, according to a survey released on July 3 by the British magazine 1.0 The Banker. Just nine years ago, China’s banks were 0.5 struggling with a bad-performing loan ratio averaging 18 percent. Since then, however, 0.0 these vast institutions have enjoyed almost uninterrupted 30 to 40 percent annual profit growth. In a recent speech, Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, claimed that the country’s
Loans: US$1041bn, 84% Corporate bonds: US$131bn, 11% Stock market: US$24bn, 2% Other: US$37bn, 3%
3.5 Source: People's Bank of3China .25% 3.0
banking sector provided some 80 percent of China’s corporate financing, with Chinese banks collectively holding 90 percent of the national financial system’s total assets. The message was clear: China’s banks had underwritten the greater part of the country’s economic miracle. This means that the signs of weakness that have recently begun to emerge in the sector are keeping Beijing’s economic planners awake at night. Badly performing bank stocks have been a drain on the profitability of China’s stock market as they comprise 20 percent of the market’s total tradable shares. Market confidence in the sector is so low that even the Party’s mouthpiece the People’s Daily has resorted to reassuring investors that the market is “unnecessarily preoccupied with negative factors in the banking sector.” Unfortunately for the People’s Daily, editorializing has had little effect on China’s pragmatic investors. One of the “negative factors” clearly referred to in the above editorial and analysis by financial media is the profit model of China’s banks. With a government-mandated deposit rate ceiling and base lending rate, only a minimal profit margin can be secured by any one bank. As a result, banks are only interested in doing business with large, typically State-owned enterprises and projects implicitly or explicitly backed by governments, and are becoming reliant on granting cheap loans to government monopolies, who in turn guarantee large, if low-value, returns. This has allowed the national banking center to grow almost perfectly in sync with the country’s State-owned enterprise (SOE)driven economy. Nearly 80 percent of their profits have been drawn from the differential rates between deposit and lending. Public anger at the country’s banks is already growing, with accusations of favorable treatment of SOEs, with continued snubs to the private sector a particular bugbear to those in favor of greater economic liberalization. The concentration of risk in the spending sprees of often inefficient local governments seen as the Achilles heel that could potentially derail growth and reverse the eco-
nomic gains of the past two decades. China’s banks now appear to be in the process of reforming along neoliberal lines by tentatively relaxing interest rate controls. This also means ceding control of China’s financial industry to the markets, in turn reducing the power of the central bank. Banks will need to learn how to price money on the basis of supply and demand, with the central bank only providing a reference point, rather than simply giving orders. Instead of offering potential customers what regulators call “stealth interest rate hikes” such as store coupons, gifts or oneoff cash payments with a new account, banks will have to compete through their respective deposit and lending rates. One thing seems certain – this marks the beginning of the end of China’s time-honored fixed-rate profit model.
The cost to Chinese banks could be huge. Standard and Poor’s estimates that rate cuts and liberalization could hit the banking sector’s return on average assets by 30-35 base points in 2013, with Chinese banks’ ability to correctly price risks “put to the test.” In its annual report released in early July, the China Banking Association stated that partly because of the narrowing discrepancy between the country’s deposit and lending rates, profit growth in the banking sector will fall to 16 percent in 2012 from 39 percent in 2011. Tighter regulation and increased competition is coming at a bad time for China’s State banks, already struggling with the country’s economic slowdown. “Even without rate liberalization, China’s banking sector has to prioritize changing its development pattern,” said Jeoffrey Choi, banking and capital markets leader for Ernst & Young Greater China. China’s financial pundits seem to believe that the country’s banks should put up and shut up. Shang Fulin, Chairman of the CBRC, recently urged banks to “adapt to interest rate liberalization by offering better services for depositors and lenders, and exploring other business not based on interest rate income.” In its recent report, Standard & Poor’s
stated that the new policies could “encourage banks to provide more loans to small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) and individuals.” Many Chinese analysts echoed this stance. With such businesses now taking center stage as the State sector reaches capacity, financial reform is coming at exactly the right time. Domestic analysts have warned that perceiving these rate liberalizations as a fanfare heralding a new era of private sector dominance is wishful thinking. Chinese banks, big or small, have barely any room to negotiate with their biggest clients, all of whom are likely to be either SOEs or local governments. “Their orders are much safer and larger,” said Mr He, manager of a mid-sized Beijing-based bank. With national economic policy still heavily geared in favor of the government, banks will likely continue to play hardball with SMEs while rolling over for State monopolies. “With profit margins already squeezed, we can’t afford even one default in 100 loans, which we think will be more likely to come from SMEs, particularly in the current economic downturn,” one bank manager, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsChina. His bank has stepped up efforts in diversifying into more sophisticated financial services, such as consultancy and wealth management products. Their targeted clients, however, were almost exclusively SOEs.
Indeed, many observers believe that the new rate liberalization will simply derail growth. “[Liberalization] will deprive the central bank of a very direct, effective monetary policy tool which other national banks don’t have,” said Yin Jianfeng, vice director of the Finance and Banking Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “With China’s financial system so heavily reliant on the banking sector, any move undermining banks’ most important profit source could trigger systematic market risk,” he added. Yin believes that the government should instead try to develop the domestic stock and bond markets, providing more financing and investment opportunities to a NEWSCHINA I September 2012
bynumbers more diverse range of businesses. This kind of competition, he believes, will give greater incentives to banks in attracting individual depositors and SMEs. Diluting the immense financial risk inherent in the country’s allimportant banking center, he added, would make future interest rate liberalization “natural and quiet.” Corporate bonds and shares are still subjected to rigorous government approval procedures, leaving these markets both underdeveloped and segmented. Chinese companies issue three kinds of bonds approved by three different agencies and traded in two different markets. Treasury bills are also traded in two separate markets. Only vast, asset-rich companies, the majority of which are likely to be SOEs and State banks, can operate in such an environment. Even for them, the capital flow is severely restricted among different markets. Choi at Ernst & Young welcomes the rate reform, but also argues that it should go side by side with relaxation of other financial restrictions as central bank rates, inter-bank rates and bond yield curves combine to affect financial pricing. In China, government controls systematically hinder the possibility of financial players to diversify their services and product ranges by imposing too many artificial restrictions, undermining the ability of banks to adapt to market conditions, in turn stifling economic rebalancing. When State monopolies continue to receive privileged access to the market, it makes financial sense for banks to neglect other sectors, regardless of the long-term effects on the rest of the economy. When investment opportunities are limited, depositors may as well pick their bank out of a hat. When government agencies prefer to tilt the rules of the game entirely in their favor despite snowballing risk, even market-based interest rates have little real impact. While everyone seems to agree that only diversification can prevent China’s economy and banking sector from stagnation and potential collapse, the people with the power to change the status quo are also those who stand to lose the most. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
China’s GDP growth for the first half of 2012. It is the first time that China’s GDP growth has fallen below 8% since 2009. Source: National Bureau of Statistics
US14.5bn The amount of yuan-denominated foreign direct investment in China in the first half of 2012, accounting for 24.6% of the total of US$59.1bn.
Breakdown of yuan-denominated trade and investment
US$65.6bn The reduction in non-tax fiscal revenue of local governments in the first half of 2012, compared with the same period in 2011, due to the 27.5% decrease in revenue from State-owned land use transfers. Source: Ministry of Finance Cross-border trade in goods: US$138bn
Cross-border trade in services and other current account items: US$61bn
The year-on-year increase in sales revenue of China’s sporting goods manufacturing sector in 2011, whose value has reached US$15bn.
Outbound investment: US$3bn Inbound investment: US$14.5bn
Source: People’s Bank of China / Ministry of Commerce of China
121.2 The Entrepreneur Confidence Index (ECI) for the second quarter of 2012, down by 1.8 points from the first quarter.
ECI by sector IT: 147.9 Hotel and Catering: 125.8 Construction: 124.0 Industry: 121.5 Wholesaling and Retailing: 120.7 Transportation, Warehousing and Logistics: 114.2 Real Estate: 100.0
Source: National Bureau of Statistics
Engraved in History A necessity for propaganda in the 1950s turned a group of manual laborers into artists, spawning a quintessentially Chinese art form By Yuan Ye
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
All photos courtesy of the Hubei Museum of Art
Moving Corncobs by Chen Yanlong
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
n a shadow woven from black and white lines, workers trudge out of a coal mine in heavy, uniform steps. Multicolored pipes entwine to create a dazzling lattice, patches of sunshine creeping through the gaps. Meanwhile, gigantic corncobs with mechanical innards soar overhead, and a rotten metal fish with its mouth wide open is sewn to a broken metal plate. These heavily stylized yet realistic images populate a total of 200 works – a set of striking prints with bold strokes and sharp contrasts. Despite their weird and wonderful themes, they all suggest a world deeply affected by modern industry. Titled “Industrial Narratives,” the exhibition is the first “Triennial of Chinese Industrial Prints.” Held from June to July at the Hubei Museum of Art (HBMOA) in Wuhan, Hubei Province, it showcased a little-known communist throwback art form, homegrown during one of the most turbulent periods in China’s history. Most of the works come from workersturned-artists, many of whom had labored on production lines in large-scale Stateowned factories during China’s planned economy era. A total of more than 140 such artists from some 20 art collectives in many of China’s old industrial bases, such as steel and forestry bases in the northeast, port cities along the east coast, oilfields in the north and petrochemical bases in the south, brought their works to the exhibition. Wuhan, a city famous for its hot summer weather and nicknamed “China’s furnace,” had been one of China’s industrial bases since the infancy of China’s national industry in the late 19th century. In the following halfcentury of war and social turmoil, weapons and machinery made in Wuhan were in use across China. After the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, Wuhan’s strong industrial foundations were used as a base for State-owned factories manufacturing massive quantities of steel, as well as cars, ships and heavy machinery. This industrial tradition and its related art resources inspired the HBMOA, a 5-yearold public museum eager to hammer out a niche in China’s booming modern art scene, to host such a special exhibition on one of the hottest days of the year.
“The exhibition holds special significance for Chinese art,” said Ji Shaofeng, vice-director of the HBMOA and academic director of the exhibition. As a prolific art critic and curator, Ji is responsible for the academic side of the exhibition. “These artists and works deserve a place in China’s modern art history,” he added. In his opinion, while the value of these industrial prints should not be overestimated, their value cannot be ignored either. To Song Enhou, head curator of the exhibition and of one of the leading figures in the genre, the exhibition serves as a milestone to both the summation and development of the art form to which he and many of his contemporaries devoted their lives. As a young worker with little formal education, Song began his art career as a factory propaganda artist, and was influenced by professional painters and printmakers, sent by the Party to learn from the working classes or to do manual labor in factories in the 1950s and 1960s. Song’s story is common to almost every worker-artist at the exhibition. With the abolition of the planned economy and the application of new technologies, many of China’s once-prosperous heavy industrial bases, especially enormous factories, went into decline, a trend that was clearly reflected in the artists’ work. The span of the works in the exhibition, as critics suggest, elucidates the history of China’s industrial and social development.
In the Name of Propaganda
“Initially, these works were called ‘workers’ prints,’” said Fu Zhongwang, another curator of the exhibition, and director of the HBMOA. “In the 1960s and 70s, there were large groups of workers’ printmakers in large-scale State-owned factories and mines.” Born in the mid-1950s, Fu remembered being deeply impressed by the “worker’s prints” he saw in his youth. “However, these artists were ignored and forgotten after Reform and Opening-up .” Song Enhou was one of these artists. Born in 1936 in the war-torn northeastern province of Liaoning, most of Song’s childhood was spent in dire poverty. Raised by his grandmother, Song left home at 13 to work in a factory in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province. In the early 1950s, when the Communist Party launched its takeover of
Industrial Fashion by Song Enhou
private industry, Song became a worker in a State-owned factory. In 1955, he was sent to Wuhan to participate in the construction of the Wuhan Iron and Steel Group (WISG), one of the oldest and largest State-owned steel factories in China, where he became leader of one of the welding teams. Despite his lack of schooling, Song was clever and diligent, and was appointed propaganda cadre of the factory’s workers union, whose main propaganda channels were the blackboards and bulletin boards in the factories. Song began to teach himself to draw
with colored chalk. He also worked on his calligraphy, and drew cartoons for posters. “We were learning by doing, in accordance with the necessary propaganda work,” he recalled. “Most of the contents were about encouraging production, saving energy, or propagating government policy.” In 1957, Song began to learn engraving from other amateur printmakers. That year, he met Zhou Shaohua, a famous painter who was working at the Association of Artists of Wuhan, and who visited WISG frequently. Zhou gave Song his first set of engraving tools, and guided his work. Song was fascinated by the art form and devoted much of his time to practicing it. Song’s big break came two years later, when the government mobilized the masses to celebrate the success of Cuba’s communist revolution and protest against the United States. As more than a million people took to the streets of Beijing, the WISG organized an anti-US demonstration of its own, with turnout in the tens of thousands. The protest plan came with a tall order for Song’s propaganda team – they were given just one day to produce more than ten large portraits of Fidel Castro. Song organized more than ten workerpainters to carry out the task, yet was disappointed with the huge variation between the finished works. Very luckily, two visiting painting teachers from the China Academy of Art came to the rescue, and quickly engraved a very lively and powerful portrait of Castro. Working overnight, the team produced some forty prints. The next day, during the demonstration, the portraits went down a storm with the zealous revolutionary crowds. Following the demonstration, Song’s engraving received strong support from the factory leaders. In the following years, even during widespread national poverty, he was never short of engraving materials.
With printing technology relatively backward at the time, engraving was a convenient propaganda tool. Song began actively organizing printmaking training and other activities among the workers. Under his influence, a printmaking group, with dozens of members, was formed in the WISG.
Many other large factories and mines in other parts of China followed suit, encouraging and supporting the development of printmaking among their worker-artists. Among these groups, one branch achieved particular success, due to its unique natural environment and social background. From the 1950s to the 1970s, tens of thousands of soldiers, workers and urban youth (“educated youth,” in the propaganda lexicon) were sent to the Great Northern Wilderness, the vast, partially wetland plain in the middle of the northeast China, to “reclaim the land.” A group of professional painters were also sent to support the development of the reclamation. Several painters, including Chao Mei, Zhang Ruoyi, Du Hongnian and Hao Boyi, most of whom were born in the late 1920s and early 1930s, formed a close artistic circle. Influenced by the socialist realism of Soviet art and the wild environment of the plain, these artists formed their own imaginative yet realistic style to depict the work and life of the new “wasteland people.” The style later became known as “Great Northern Wilderness painting.” Chen Yanlong, born in 1963 in Fujing, northeastern Heilongjiang Province, was deeply influenced by these printmakers. “I went to elementary school in 1971, when half of the local residents were ‘educated youth’ from major cities,” Chen told NewsChina. He was inspired by the young people teaching painting at his school. In 1985, Chen moved to Daqing in Heilongjiang, one of China’s largest oilfields and petrochemical bases, to work in a post office. In Daqing, he met some of the leading artists of the Great Northern Wilderness movement, including Chao Mei and Hao Boyi, and studied under them for quite some time. Inspired by the industrial landscape in Daqing and the agriculture in the Wilderness, Chen Yanlong developed his “corncob series,” featuring gigantic corncobs with mechanical insides. The series received wide praise from critics and one of them pictured above was awarded second prize at the Industrial Narratives exhibition. Also influenced by Great Northern Wilderness painting, a group of younger workerprintmakers became active in the 1980s in Daqing, many of their works focusing on NEWSCHINA I September 2012
the industrial development of their city, and attracted nationwide attention. In 1990, the municipal government founded the Daqing Printmaking Institute. One year later, Chen Yanlong was transferred to work at the institute, and began his life as a professional artist. Besides Wuhan and Daqing, groups of printmakers focusing on industrial themes began to appear in other cities like Shanghai, Dalian, Zhanjiang and Tianjin, among others.
In With the New
However, times were already changing. After Reform and Opening-up, socialist realism fell out of favor, and was gradually replaced by modern Western styles such as surrealism, abstract expressionism and deconstructionism. Also, with the development of technology, printmaking was becoming increasingly obsolete. Both academic circles and the market were leaving industrial printmaking behind. “There was a time when I thought of giving up printmaking, and taking a new direction,” said Li Yongsheng, a print artist from Jixi, Heilongjiang, and first-prize winner at the Industrial Narratives exhibition. Li said that in the 1990s, the market for prints shrank so dramatically that there remained little economic benefit to making them. Meanwhile, the support these artists received in the planned economy era and the 1980s was also shrinking fast, due to the declining economic efficiency of former State-owned enterprises in the market economy environment. Many of these factories and mines were seeing huge layoffs. “The situation improved in the early 2000s,” said Li Yongsheng. “Small-sized prints became popular on the market.” Li didn’t give up printmaking, yet the break in the 1990s had affected his output. “I didn’t make many new prints. A large number of my works [at the exhibition] are old ones,” he said. This was common at the triennial, leading some critics to question the sustainability of the exhibition. Xiao Feng, a famous painter in his 50s, said that the majority of industrial printmakers featured in the exhibition were around his age, or even older. “What will the next triennial look like?” he asked. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
“Generally speaking, I think that industrial prints are a product of the Chinese revolution and politics,” commented Yuan Xiaofang, a Hubei-based painter. “Industrial prints directly benefited from the social status of the workers, which was very high [in the planned economy era],” he said. “However, times have changed sharply, with the working class at almost the bottom rung of society.” Such a sharp change has built a sizeable barrier between industrial printmaking and the modern environment. Nonetheless, Song Enhou remains optimistic for the art form’s future. “Art is a representation of the times. It should leave a mark,” he said. “Industry is a huge theme of our time. It covers nearly every aspect of society. The development of industrial prints might pause sometimes, but it will advance in the general sense.” While Song has already begun his search for works to exhibit at the next triennial, Ji Shaofeng, Vice Director of the HBMOA, has more practical concerns. In his view, the current exhibition is too time-specific, and somewhat isolated from the mainstream of China’s modern art. He has begun lobbying some top Chinese artists to participate in the exhibition. “The next triennial might include other types of art,” he said, referring to different materials used to create the works, “as long as they reflect the theme of industry.”
Clair de Lune by Liu Jun
State of Survival: Industrialization by Hou Jinli
Thunder by Li Yongsheng
Chinese soccer teams are paying big money for world-class players, but championship glory may not be the main objective
Italy’s World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, now heading up Guangzhou Evergrande, at a press conference
By Sun Zhe
hinese soccer fans are good at consoling themselves with humor. Disappointed by their national team time and time again, some have come to the conclusion that Chinese players only face two obstacles to qualification for the World Cup – one is their left foot, and the other is their right. Recently, fan cynicism has been pushed to new heights, with teams now competing to throw money at new superstar international signings, seemingly mismatched with a chronically unprofessional soccer league. Long-suffering Chinese fans jeer that while it might be difficult to choose 11 quality players out of its population of 1.3 billion, world-class international players seem in ready supply.
Big Money, Big Names
China’s latest big-name imports include former Chelsea forward Didier Drogba, and Italy’s World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi. Last season, Drogba helped his English Premier League club to victory in the UEFA Champions League, the highest honor in European club soccer. Having arrived in Shanghai in mid-July after months of speculation, his new club Shanghai Shenhua will pay him 12 million euros (US$14.7m) annually for the next two and half years, making him one of the highest-paid soccer players in the world.
Lippi’s annual pay from his Chinese team Guangzhou Evergrande, where he took over this May, was reported to be 8 million euros (US$9.8m), second only to José Mourinho, who coaches Spanish giant Real Madrid. Drogba’s former Chelsea strike partner Nicolas Anelka had joined Shenhua late last year, where his annual salary of 10.6 million euros (US$13m) was, before Drogba’s arrival, more than all his other teammates combined. Evergrande’s Argentinean midfielder Darío Leonardo Conca, who joined the team last July, also ranks among the world’s 20 highest-paid soccer players, taking home US$8 million per year. Loose purse strings at Evergrande and Shenhua have triggered a soccer spending-spree among Chinese clubs, with almost all the attention focused on the international market. The China Super League (CSL), the country’s top soccer league, spent around 36 million euros (US$44m) signing international players last year, making it the 15th highest-spending league worldwide, according to the German soccer analysis website transfermarkt.de. The CSL’s activity in the transfer market outstrips tenfold that of both the Japanese “J-League” and Korean “K-League,” two nations who frequently qualify for the World Cup, for which China has qualified only once. More than 80 percent of the transfer fees in the CSL NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photos by CFP
The first appearance of Didier Drogba, former Chelsea forward, at his new club in Shanghai, July 14, 2012
were spent on international players over the five years to 2011, according to a survey by Netease, a major Chinese Web portal. Demand from China has hiked up the prices for soccer players. For instance, Lucas Barrios, the Paraguayan forward and regular benchwarmer for the German club Borussia Dortmund, was signed by Evergrande with a contract worth 6.7 million euros (US$8.2m) per year, three times higher than that of the star forward of his former team. More than 40 percent of total salaries in the CSL, over the last five years, were paid to international players, as clubs aimed to take a short-cut to top performance by signing expensive foreign players, rather than investing time, money and effort in developing the local talent pool, according to the Netease report.
Despite their willingness to spend on big names, however, clubs are apparently less concerned with the ground beneath their feet – no CSL club owns its own stadium, all of them renting public venues that are also leased out for concerts and other large-scale events. For most of these soccer teams, investment is geared towards immediate, eye-catching impact, a strategy also popular with the China Football Association (CFA), the government body that regulates the
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
sport. The CFA is notorious for its enthusiasm for famous coaches and disregard for long-term grassroots cultivation, since quick results are more likely to translate into quick promotions for sports officials. Even in big cities like Beijing, soccer fields are rarely seen in local communities. Only 10,000 children below the age of 12 are signed up to junior soccer leagues in China, while in Japan, with a population only one tenth of China’s, the number is 36 times that. However, it seems that money can indeed buy success – Guangzhou Evergrande won the championship in its first season after promotion into the top league. The strength of its pricey roster, which includes more than half of China’s national starting lineup, is simply unprecedented. In addition to the spending spree in the transfer market, teams are also competing to mark up their match-winning bonuses for players. Evergrande collectively awards its team a staggering 3 million yuan (around US$47,000) per victory, and imposes an equivalent fine for each loss. Other teams have followed suit, and some offer particularly high bonuses for beating Evergrande. With so much money flying around, observers may well question where it is coming from. Certainly not from TV rights – the State owns a monopoly on CSL match broadcasts, and clubs do not see any of the profits. In fact, clubs in the league draw their revenue almost entirely from ticket sales and sponsorship, which totaled only 500 million yuan (US$78m) over the 2011-12 season. Over the same period, their investment added up to 3 billion yuan (US$469m). Drogba’s salary is thought to be close to Shanghai Shenhua’s total annual revenue. While no club has any hope of making ends meet, running a prestigious soccer club can still be a sound business option to enhance brand awareness for its investors – despite the comparatively poor standard of play, soccer remains the most talked-about sport in China. Thus, almost all investors name their soccer team after their company, and clubs are frequently renamed to reflect shifts in their shareholder structure. Evergrande, a major housing developer and the boldest investor in the soccer field with outgoings of more than 700 million yuan (US$109m) last season, claimed that media attention through soccer had brought it a fifteen-fold return on its investment. The signings of Conca and Lippi, together with the club’s extravagant bonus scheme, ensured the company’s name remained in national headlines. State broadcaster CCTV even arranged a live broadcast of Lippi’s contractinking ceremony. Evergrande’s revenue grew sevenfold in the year 2010, the year after it began investing in soccer. In 2011, it doubled that growth. Ironically though, when Shanghai Shenhua signed the China soccer league’s first international player in 1995 with an annual pay of US$6,000, China stood at 40th on the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) rankings. But its current standing, despite millions of dollars spent on transfer fees, is 76th. Big money might win quick victories for clubs and favor for businessmen and officials, but it is unlikely to win respect for the country’s national team, and certainly not the hearts of the nation’s fans.
The Muslim General
A new collection of photographs documenting the life of Kuomintang general Pai Chung-hsi aims to “restore history.” NewsChina talks to author Pai Hsien-yung, Pai’s son and a well-known writer, about his father’s role in some of modern China’s most era-defining military and political conflicts
Photo by CFP
By Ding Chenxin
Pai Hsien-yung NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Impressions of Pai Chung-hsi
espite holding a senior rank in the armies of the Kuomintang regime prior to its flight to Taiwan in 1949, General Pai Chung-hsi, a man who in many ways symbolized the contradictions and culture of early twentieth century China, remained a “famous nobody” on the Chinese mainland until the publication of Impressions of Pai Chung-hsi. Including more than 500 historical photographs, the book presents the trajectory of Pai’s military life, a career which lasted from the 1920s to the end of the 1940s, placing him at the center of the turmoil of the Republican Revolution, the war against Japan, and the Chinese Civil War. “With this book, I hope to restore my father’s position and explain how the Kuomintang ultimately lost the battle for the mainland,” said Pai Hsien-yung, General Pai’s son and the book’s author. Born in 1893 into an ethnic Hui Muslim family in Guilin, Guangxi Province (now Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Pai Chung-hsi began his military career during the Wuchang Uprising, the 1911 coup d’état which officially overthrew the Qing Empire (1644-1911) and led to the founding of the Republic of China. At the time, Pai was a member of the paramilitary Students Dare to Die corps that fought the Qing military. After the Republic of China was founded, Pai received six years of military education before being offered a command role in the Guangxi Pacification Army which brought his native province, which had seceded after the collapse of the Qing, under Republican NEWSCHINA I September 2012
control. His command group later joined the Northern Expedition (1926-1928), at the invitation of Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek, against the warlords controlling former Qing-held territories in northern China. Serving as the chief of staff of the National Revolutionary Army, Pai was credited with defeating larger enemy forces through superior tactics, earning him the nickname “Little Zhuge Liang” in reference to a semi-legendary tactician of the second century AD. However, the growing strength of the Republican army’s Guangxi faction worried Chiang Kai-shek so much that he launched a successful purge, which forced Pai, after suffering a crushing military defeat, into exile in Vietnam. But Chiang never gained full control of ethnically diverse Guangxi, and Pai soon returned in triumph to act as de facto ruler alongside his former comrade-in-arms Li Tsung-jen, implementing a series of political and economic reforms and later supplying over 900,000 troops to fight against the Japanese invasion of World War II. Pai Hsien-yung remarks that Chiang Kaishek both “loved and hated” his father, perceiving him as a disloyal renegade but also prizing his military prowess. Pai’s skill proved invaluable in the Republic’s pursuit of a total war strategy against Japan, a strategy which also led Chiang to collaborate with Pai and Li Tsung-jen as well as Mao Zedong’s communists. Pai, with Li Tsung-jen once again at his side, inflicted one of the only major defeats on the Japanese Imperial Army at the Battle of Tai’erzhuang, fought in Shandong Province.
However, after Japan’s surrender, Pai’s relations with Chiang immediately soured. Pai joined Chiang’s attempt to purge the Communist Party of China, only to see Chiang, under pressure from the US, order a ceasefire in 1946. In his memoirs, Pai blamed Chiang’s decision to sue for peace for the subsequent resurgence of Mao’s communists and the fall of the Republic. Pai’s close friendship with Li Tsung-jen ended up being the final straw that destroyed any semblance of cordial relations with Chiang Kai-shek. Pai supported Li’s vice-presidential bid, with the latter ultimately defeating Chiang’s preferred candidate Sun Ke. As communist victories piled up and Chiang’s embattled regime began to crumble, Pai began to advocate negotiation over military action, joining other senior military and political figures who abandoned Chiang’s hardline camp as defeat loomed. Pai was demoted to a regional post, and refused to re-assume command of the armies when called upon in 1948, claiming that it was “too late to reverse wrong decisions.”
Despite his antagonism towards Chiang, Pai, along with most other senior Kuomintang figures, knew that the communists were unlikely to forgive and forget, and chose to flee with the generalissimo to Taiwan after the communists overran the mainland in 1949. Pai never held another major government or military post, and withdrew from public life, finally dying from heart failure in December 1966. He was buried with full military honors, with Chiang Kai-shek first in line to express his grief at the passing of one of the Kuomintang’s ablest and most influential generals.
Life in Pictures
NewsChina: You have spent years on your father’s biography. Why have you chosen to publish a collection of images instead? Pai: I have always been collecting my father’s pictures from relatives, historical archives in Taiwan and old magazines, especially from Young Companion Pictorial. Many of these images have never been published. Images are descriptive – they will make people feel part of what is depicted. Readers can share in my father’s pride when returning triumphantly from the Northern Expedition at the age of 35, with a poster in the background saying “Welcome Home, Commander Pai.” In another picture, taken when he arrived in Vietnam, he looks like a convict on the run, which he was after losing his 1929 skirmish with Chiang. People can experience the highs and lows of his career through images. NewsChina: What about the details we can’t see in these images? Pai: Those are in the book, especially in the second volume about my father’s life in Taiwan, much of which I saw for myself. But for his earlier life (before 1949), I would rather
have it be presented in a pictorial way so as to avoid speculation that I am trying to “justify” or “explain” my father’s deeds. The pictures also shed light on the relationship between my father and Chiang Kaishek, which defies definition in words. You can see this clearly in pictures – in the early days, they were always shown standing close together, but they move further and further apart as time goes by. Everybody knows what that means. NewsChina: You claim to be trying to “restore history.” What in your book do you feel has been overlooked by official historians? Pai: One key event is the war between Chiang Kai-shek and the Guangxi faction. Though seldom mentioned either in Taiwan or on the mainland, the war had a huge impact on the Kuomintang. My father had proposed to Chiang that the Guangxi faction troops be dispatched to Xinjiang to assert Chinese territorial claims, but Chiang turned him down and tried to intrigue against him. This triggered the Guangxi mutiny and meant the Kuomintang lost the chance for unification, something the Japanese invasion later exploited. Another is the Battle of Siping in 1946. Lin Biao’s retreating communist troops gained breathing space when the Kuomintang abandoned pursuit at the request of US mediator George Marshall. The abandonment of that chance to crush the communists was my father’s biggest regret. A third interesting episode is my father’s refusal to assume the position of commander during the Xubeng Campaign in 1948 [the Kuomintang’s final, failed counteroffensive against the communists]. I believe this was the hardest but wisest decision my father ever made, a decision which further worsened his
relationship with Chiang. Historians later attributed the Kuomintang defeat to my father’s insubordination. NewsChina: Are you planning to write more about the relationship between your father and Chiang Kai-shek in your next book ? Pai: (Laughs) Maybe. Truth be told, Chiang thought very highly of my father’s abilities, always offering him important tasks, but when the task was accomplished...Their relationship was too complicated to be clearly defined. On the one hand, Chiang wanted to make good use of my father’s talents. On the other, he worried my father would grow too powerful. NewsChina: It is said that Chiang asked your father to go to Taiwan in order to rein in Li Tsung-jen, then in exile in the US. Is that true? Pai: No. My father had never contacted Li Tsung-jen after Li relocated to the US in 1949. Actually he felt Li’s absconding from his position as vice president was a betrayal. My father had witnessed and participated in the founding and construction of the Republic of China. Few people could understand his profound affection for the Republic. He chose to stay in Taiwan, rather than go to Hong Kong or other places, because he could simply not tear himself away from the Republic. NewsChina: Did he hate Chiang? Pai: No. Personal enmities are not that important. What my father hated was that Chiang always refused to take his advice on important issues. NewsChina: Did your father, in your eyes, make any mistakes in his life? NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Photo by Young Companion Pictorial Photo by Young Companion Pictorial
Pai Chung-hsi discusses the settlement of the last batch of US aid with Republican Congressman William Knowland, Nanning, December 2,1949
Chiang Kai-shek (Middle), Pai Chung-hsi (Right) and Li Tsung-jen (Left) before the battle of Tai’erzhuang, March 24, 1938
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Pai: He told me the biggest mistake he made was to help Li Tsung-jen with his bid for the vice presidency, which further damaged his relationship with Chiang Kai-shek. It is a tragedy for the Kuomintang and the Republic of China that my father did not maintain a good relationship with Chiang. NewsChina: Apart from the connection to your family, what is it that fascinates you about this period of history? Pai: After we moved to Taiwan, my father often told me stories, but I didn’t think much about history until I began studying overseas. I often wondered what it was that led to the Kuomintang’s defeat. The real focus of my book is not my father, but the history of the Republic of China. My father was marginalized in Taiwan, but isn’t it ridiculous that Taiwanese don’t know exactly why the Kuomintang lost the civil war? NewsChina: Were you surprised that your book was published on the mainland? Pai: (Laughing) Isn’t there a ‘Republican’ craze? Hu Jintao has said that the Kuomintang troops fought the Japanese mostly on the front line while the Chinese communists fought mostly in the rear and the credit for victory should be split 50-50 between the two parties. So, I believe the mainland will be more tolerant of the history of the Republic of China. The book is not specially meant for mainland readers, and it’s been published in Taiwan and Hong Kong. I was quite surprised the mainland version didn’t have any words or images omitted. I want to share the story of the civil war, and the real Pai Chung-hsi, with mainland readers. He was not the savage warlord depicted in mainland movies and TV shows. He was a man of great caliber.
Photo by CFP
n a clear day, the view from atop Tiger Hill is magnificent. Once uninterrupted, the scene now incorporates the shimmering skyline of metropolitan Suzhou, a reminder of China’s recent shift in perspective. Suzhou’s business mantra, in keeping with those of China’s other economic boom towns, can probably best be summarized as bigger is better. But as the city grows outward, so too does its influence, and even here, amid Suzhou’s classical gardens, internationally famed since the era of Marco Polo for their tranquility and splendor, the pull of the city can at times feel indomitable, as crowds of eager tourists scurry from garden to gift shop, producing and consuming at ever greater speeds. Fortunately, of the 69 nationally preserved gardens, of which eight are UNESCO World Heritage sites, there are several that remain, for reasons unknown, comparatively obscure. The diminutive Wanjing Pavilion is one of these.
Photo by Stephen George
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Located in the shadow of the 1000-year old, permanently leaning Yunyan Pagoda on the slopes of Tiger Hill, Wanjing Pavilion is home to one of the world’s largest outdoor collections of bonsai – an art form commonly associated with Japan but, like so many other Japanese traditions, has roots firmly in China. Covering half an acre, the ancient garden recasts visitors as giants amid a delicately arranged world in miniature – a shift in perspective that is as disorientating as it is soothing. Once inside, visitors are invited to sit and ruminate on their relationship with the built environment, a meditative experience that unlike Suzhou’s other walk-through gardens, can take several hours longer than anticipated. My own trip to this enchanting otherworld took up the best part of an entire summer afternoon. With over 700 bonsai on display, some over 400 years old, the garden is a living gallery, and like any good exhibition, demands the luxury of time and contemplation. Each tree is wonderfully unique, having been carefully cultivated by artisans who have honed their craft over hundreds of years, its current form a testimony to the artistry and refinement of generations of expert horticulturists. The delicately twisted limbs that character-
ize Suzhou’s bonsai are the garden’s defining factor. Contrary to received wisdom, just about any variety of tree can be turned into bonsai, though experts maintain that the slower the growth (and smaller the leaf), the easier the process. Such endless diversity is evident throughout Wanjing Pavilion, where each tree appears to be of an entirely differing shade, shape and size.
Roots Before Branches
The tree’s stunted aesthetic and aged form is achieved through planting a sapling in a small pot, restricting its growth from the outset. It is fed with less nitrogen than normal, and pruned daily. Its branches are then fitted with a wire frame in order to achieve the “wild look” favored in traditional Chinese landscape paintings. Numerous myths surround the origins of the ancient art of bonsai. The practice of cultivating and pruning small trees was first begun in China, where it is known as penjing, or literally “tray scenery.” Early legends dating from the 3rd century tell of a great Taoist master said to have had the power to shrink entire landscapes to the size of a small cooking pot. More conclusive evidence can be found three hundred years later, in the form of written descriptions of “knotted dwarf trees,” prized for their wizened appearance, and supposed high levels of concentrated special energy. Penjing morphed into bonsai sometime around the 7th century, when trade envoys spread the still nascent art form across the sea to Japan. Between the years 603 and 839, at least 17 such diplomatic and trade envoys are thought to have traveled between Japan and the ruling Tang court, helping to give rise to bonsai culture in Japan, and its subsequent spread overseas.
The Magnitude of Size
Unlike bonsai, penjing does not adhere to a strictly defined aesthetic, and instead seeks to capture the essence and spirit of nature, by replicating the gnarled woodland profiles found in the wild. Philosophically, the art of penjng is heavily influenced by the principles of Taoism, specifically the central concept of Yin and Yang – the universe as governed by two equal but opposing forces, in this case, man and nature.
In Wanjing Pavilion, this notion is exemplified through the interplay between traditional Chinese architecture and the varying trees. Throughout the garden, rows of potted shrubs are assembled in corresponding lines, centred around a viewing area sheltered by an ornate wooden structure. The overall effect is one of studied reflection, and it is easy to become captivated by certain trees. Characters form from behind dense foliage, and misshapen branches protrude like wizened fingers. Centuries of contorted energy give the park a transcendent quality, that true to the philosophy of penjing, helps refocus the mind. Walking between hundreds of miniature trees, each one diligently sculpted to produce a wild, seemingly untouched aesthetic, can be a strange experience, an unreality made real by the knowledge of what exists beyond it. And that of course, is the most discouraging aspect of any trip to Wanjing Pavilion, as eventually you will be required to leave its calm surroundings, and re-enter the urban jungle.
A Penjing Primer
There are over a dozen traditional styles of penjing, all of which are on display at Wanjing Pavilion. Here’s a run down of the four most dominant styles: Guangdong Style
Also known as the “southern ridge” style, Guangdong penjing are typified by simplicity, smooth trunks and strong affinity with naturalistic forms.
The most famous of traditional penjing schools, the iconic Jiangsu penjing is instantly recognizable due to its complicated “crowns,” or cloud-like clusters of foliage which call to mind ancient Chinese paintings.
Sometimes referred to as the northern Jiangsu style, Yangzhou penjing are discernible through their use of three tree trunks, often twisted or wrapped together as one.
Shanghai penjing share many similarities with the modern Japanese bonsai, and, like its cousin, is known for its well-manicured, densely-packed “turtle shell” foliage.
Getting There: Wanjing Pavilion is located within the grounds of the ancient Tiger Hill garden, in the northwest of Suzhou. Taxis are readily available from the Suzhou central train station and take approximately 15-20 minutes, travelers should expect to pay between 25 to 30 yuan (US$4 – 4.50). Those wishing to use public transport can catch either the number 8 or 949 bus from outside the front of the central train station. Buses run approximately every 20 minutes, and cost 2 yuan (US$0.30). Tickets and Times: Ticket prices are 60 yuan (US$9.50) per person. Tiger Hill is open from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM and Wanjing Pavilion is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Visitors are advised to avoid weekends and holidays, as the park can become overrun with noisy tour groups. Visitors may wish to bring their own refreshments, as there is no reentry to the park, and food sold inside is overpriced and of varying quality. Tiger Hill: Estimated to be over 2500 years old, Tiger Hill, also known locally as Surging Sea Hill, is an area of landscaped parkland covering some three acres. Although at a relatively low elevation, just 118 feet, Tiger Hill can take upwards of several hours to climb due to the abundance of historical sites that align the walk. The hill’s most famous sites include the Tomb of King He Lu, dating back to 496 BC and the 158-foot high Yunyan Pagoda (959-961), the oldest pagoda in Suzhou and China’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, stands at the hill’s summit and is slanted precariously to the northwest.
fenqing angry youth As China confronts its social problems, its online community has become home to the fenqing, an abbreviation for “angry youth,” known for their often less-than-rational expressions of discontent. With fen meaning “angry” and qing meaning “youth,” the term fenqing can be traced back to the Xinhai Revolution (1911) led by Sun Yat-sen, which toppled the Qing Empire (1644-1911). Back then, fenqing was used to describe those whose passionate rage changed the country’s fate by forcing reform. However, in the Internet era, with people much more willing to express their ideas, fenqing has become a pejorative term for jingoism and ultra-
nationalism. A typical Chinese fenqing harbors significant animosity towards Japan, often calling for boycotts of Japanese goods, and whenever ties between the two countries deteriorate, angry youth have been known to take their rage offline, smashing Japanese-made cars parked on Chinese streets. Fenqing generally support a tough stance on international disputes. The latest example is their call for the government to use military force to solve the South China Sea dispute with the Philippines. Another fenqing trait is a tendency to be extremely critical of society and the government. Tired of the propaganda dished out by State-owned
media, they turn to the Internet to expose government scandals and the dark side of the modern society, especially corruption and the rising income gap. Interestingly, when discussing solutions, the fenqing are often divided into two factions: one side supports a communist-style “cleaning up of society and government with an iron fist,” while the other admires western-style democracy. The fenqing have remained controversial in the Chinese media. Critics accuse them of taking a onesided approach to problems and triggering public despair about the country and the government, but most also acknowledge their desire to be involved in the country’s development. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
flavor of the month
Summer Sweets By Stephy Chung
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
snowflake ice. Green tea and condensed milk are first frozen into blocks of ice, and then shaved, creating creamyrich sheets that pile into light, mousse-like layers. Honeymoon Dessert, another popular Beijing franchise, offers up cheery Hong Kong-style desserts in signature yellow bowls. The chain is particularly renowned for its tangshui, or “sugar water.” A must is the black sesame soup, which can be served hot or cold, pureed to form a thick, grainy creamy-rich semolina-like treat. Several doughy tangyuan, glutinous rice balls with sweetened peanut-butter stuffing, bob in the soup, adding a subtle, natural sweetness. Thai black glutinous rice with mango is a Southeast Asian import that is on its way to being a full-blown food craze in China. Two scoops of sticky black rice are drowned in a frigid coconut cream base alongside generous slices of a whole, ripe mango. Honeymoon Dessert also excels at shuangpinai, or double-skin milk. This scrumptious dessert bears a close resemblance to American pudding. Whole milk and sugar is boiled and then left to cool in a bowl, forming a skin on top. One corner of the skin is lifted to drain off the remaining liquid, which is then whipped separately with egg whites. The mixture is poured back into the bowl, keeping the skin intact which then floats to the top before the mixture is delicately steamed, forming a second layer of skin. The resulting custard is absolutely heavenly, with the tastiest variation made with almond milk, topped with caramelized walnuts, and served chilled. Beijing’s heat wave won’t ease off until September, making for the perfect, guiltless excuse to indulge in these irresistible summer eats. Photo by CFP
eijing residents are feeling the summer season’s full wrath. Many remark at just how suffocating the dry heat feels, with the air barely moving and the populace baking in oven-worthy temperatures. Then there’s my favorite analogy, one suggested by a shirtless man with a bulging belly: “Beijing heat feels like dragon’s breath, and it smells like it too.” And yes, the city does indeed reek in summer, with the aromas of rotting garbage, street food, and pollutants sloppily hugging the ground, offending just about everyone. Dessert, anyone? Sitting in the cool, lapping up frozen treats is one of the truly necessary pleasures of the Beijing summer. There’s been a huge surge in the range of ice creams sold in small convenience stores, reflecting China’s growing demand for dairy. But, while some Häagen-Dazs rip-offs are pretty tasty, others, like Coco Crazy Monkey Banana, a popsicle that consists of a chemicallyflavored edible banana peel masking a coconut cream core, leave many, uh, cold. While Chinese cuisine is famous worldwide, its desserts have largely failed to travel as well as the country’s legendary main courses. Belgian chocolate, French patisserie and American apple pie continue to reign supreme. For the record, despite its ubiquitous presence in the world’s Chinatowns, the fortune cookie is most definitely not of Chinese origin. Perhaps then, authentic Chinese desserts are the country’s best-kept secret. The trendy restaurant chain Bellagio serves up popular Taiwanese-inspired food, complete with the inflated price tag. I come for the entirely separate menu dedicated to dozens of desserts – ranging from sticky rice puddings to fruity grass jellies. Bellagio’s real craft is shown
through its shaved ices, which will send you shivering into the stifling summer night. Baobing, shaved ice, is a home-grown speciality of Taiwan cuisine. Some vendors shave huge blocks of ice by hand, but most have turned to more convenient, automated ice crushing machines for a finer, more processed mouthfeel. The Bellagio Breeze is a volcanic version of this popular concoction. A mound of fluffy shaved ice is drizzled with sweetened condensed milk and topped with small, soft and nutritious red and mung beans which are a nutty stalwart of Chinese sweetmeats. Big, carbohydratedense tapioca beads add a chewy texture. It’s necessary to tackle the dish immediately, as it rapidly melts into an unattractive soupy mush. Smart diners ask for extra condensed milk, otherwise the dish can be unpleasantly watery. For those with a real sweet tooth, the Mudslide Smoothie is a goblet of brain-numbing milk chocolate slushie. A more salubrious option is the green tea variant of xuehuabing –
Waiting for Service It was a quiet day at the office. Half of my colleagues were on business trips, so the few of us left decided to spice things up. We had heard the legend of a local hotpot restaurant chain that offered at-home delivery service. Hotpot is usually a lengthy, elaborate meal, requiring a restaurant’s professional-grade equipment and capacity. Raw ingredients are added to boiling soup, then deftly retrieved when cooked, dunked in an array of cold sauces, and eaten. It’s a little like savory fondue, except with upwards of a hundred ingredients. The meals can get epic and the restaurant waiting lines long. The idea of having hotpot for lunch without taking a number seemed too good to be true. In reality, it was even better. Within an hour of calling in my order, two uniformed waiters showed up at the office. Methodically, they set the table – tablecloth, bibs, neat containers filled with raw ingredients for cooking, vacuum-sealed bags of soup, parcels of finely chopped scallions, and more. Out came an electric stove, pot, and ladles. All we had to do was sit down and eat. As we picked up our chopsticks, a waiter announced the damage. Our decadent meal for four came in at just under US$50. The waiters would even come back to clean up. Insanity! As a consumer, I was happy…but is the restaurant covering its costs at this price? And how much are they paying these guys? Since 2009, everyone in China has been talking about its transition to a service economy. The global financial crisis highlighted the perils of relying on exports. The government wants to improve the people’s standard of living. The Chinese people ache to stop acting as the world’s factory floor, and start becoming consumers and service providers. Millions of new college graduates every year are loathe to take the same assembly-line jobs their parents had. But to mobilize nearly a billion and a half people to stop making things for cheap and start thinking about new business models, in-
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
By Qi Zhai
Why can’t my favorite hotpot chain charge what it should for a unique service?
novating on better products, daring to price higher than others because what you make simply can’t be reproduced by the Wangs down the street is pretty tough. “Service” in the Mao years was synonymous with ignominy, and to this day wait staff are as likely to respond to criticism or complaint with fiery and colorful abuse as with apologetic platitudes. Chinese people my age can remember the 1980s when, to buy a blouse, you gingerly asked a cranky State-owned department store saleslady, “Please, Comrade, could I see that?” Most likely, she dismissed you with a threatening “Don’t think about touching it unless you’re going to buy it,” or a heartless “It’s not going to fit, you’re too fat.” There weren’t enough blouses to go around. You both knew too well that someone else would buy it if you didn’t.
In the ensuing decades – China’s manufacturing age – the opposite became true. As people flocked to private enterprise, fierce competition led to ever-lower prices. Nobody could afford to do something new and charge a little more because they couldn’t bear the cost. Innovate, and then watch as copycat versions of your product pop up everywhere. My favorite tailor in Beijing makes bespoke suits starting at US $100 and custom shirts for $15. He can turn an order around in two days. Around the corner from his hole-in-the-wall, there are at least a dozen others. They’re a little cheaper, a little less efficient, and some are a lot less friendly. This is a common phenomenon in China – entire streets populated by a single type of business. Shoppers have to visit each one and haggle in order to secure the lowest possible price for what on the outside appears to be homogenized products. Dozens of tailors, hairstylists, and haberdashers, are all lined up, trying to undercut each other while clinging to paltry profits. Why can’t my Beijing tailor grow his loyal clientele? Why can’t my favorite hotpot chain charge what it should for a unique service? The answer, as with many questions in China, is “It’s complicated.” Lofty political and business circles laud differentiation and innovation, but in practice those who offer something new, no matter how good it is, struggle to succeed. Poor intellectual property law enforcement means that creating something new and popular is an entrepreneur’s own kiss of death. Access to credit and resources is low for small private businesses, especially start-ups. Even renting office space is a nightmare of red tape, monopoly and bribery that would deter all but the most determined and well-connected. Until these hurdles are lowered, the hopedfor transition to a service economy will continue at a snail’s pace. I just hope that the sterling services of my favorite hotpot joint and my delightful tailor survive intact in the meantime. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Bike Minded Beijing can become a claustrophobic place if one does not substitute its concrete boulevards for nature’s green once in a while, and there is no better way to make good one’s escape than by cycling. I was enlightened as to just how delightful this pastime can be thanks to the 2012 Bohai or Bust charity cycle ride, which did its riders the courtesy of providing a large van in which to stow their steeds for the 80 or so kilometers schlep from central Beijing to the picturesque outlying borough of Huairou. I had brought my racing bike over on the plane from England, a once top of the range custom-built speed machine that still drew some admiring glances despite losing some of its luster over the 15 years or so I’ve had it. Still, as I had yet to invest in any Lycra, no-one, least of all myself, was under any illusions as to whether or not I was a “proper” cyclist. I had tentatively signed up for the 36km ride rather than the 76km alternative route out of an awareness of my physical condition and a desire to have enough energy to socialize the same evening. However, it was my misfortune to have invited along an ultra-long-distance running masochist, who over the course of the outward bus journey managed to convince me to have a shot at the longer ride. “It’ll be easy,” he said. “I’ve run further than that.” Once we’d arrived, decamped and hit the road, I immediately developed a gear problem, ensuring I could only use the top two cogs on my rear chain ring. This meant I was incapable of generating any pace on the flat or downhill. Consequently I breezed over the first major incline only to be crushed by the length and gradient of the descent, as I was fully aware I would have to negotiate it on the run home. Still, the clear, sun-kissed views of softly undulating hills, lustrous orchards and rugged farms were breathtaking, and far removed from my previous experiences of Beijing’s encircling countryside. Having a light bike stuck in an easy gear soon proved to be a boon, as the road turned NEWSCHINA I September 2012
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
By David Green
“It’s a bastard, and it gets really steep.”
upwards once more at the bottom of the descent. I began catching riders, sucking them in and spitting them out a la Bradley Wiggins, until I fell into step with a fellow Brit. “I remember this climb,” he said, as we labored on the lower slopes, “it’s a bastard, and it gets really steep.” The man did not lie, and the pain of sharply ascending 700 meters without any training is something I will not forget in a hurry. Conversation dried up and instead we stared down our front wheels, my new companion explaining that if you can build up some miles in your leg muscles, there are a number
of gorgeous rides within hitting distance of Beijing. Unfortunately, accessing these pleasant jaunts means taking the infamous Jingmi Expressway, a primary conduit for heavy-duty vehicles. Naturally, devil-may-care riders bathe in the slipstreams of hulking coal trucks to emulate the speeds of serious cyclists. The outlying district of Shunyi is another haven for the cyclist, including numerous loops that can be undertaken through the Beijing Riviera of ersatz British and French country houses built along the grubby river that flanks the city’s northeast rim. These cycling routes pass the pony clubs, polo fields and golf courses frequented by Beijing’s new elite. Stray too far from this paradise, however, and you soon find yourself in the badlands, amid burning tires, gravel-strewn roads and wide-eyed locals. Beijing’s municipal area is roughly half the size of Belgium, which means that any of these adventures, unless you travel part of the way in a vehicle, will involve a 140km round trip – thus, I deduced, I had a long way to go before I could really enjoy recreational cycling in the suburbs of China’s capital city. My legs aching, I suffered alone on the return climb of the Bohai marathon, only just making it through the remainder of the ride, falling off the bike at the finish and licking my sweat-cracked lips. Some time elapsed before I began to wonder as to the whereabouts of my masochistic running friend. Shortly after, I received a text message, the wording of which cannot be repeated here but that essentially revealed that his bike had fallen to bits and he needed rescuing in a minivan. I set off to collect him, now the last man on the road, and found him pushing his bicycle up the final climb. “I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in my life,” he said, adding that the ride had been one of the hardest things he’d ever done. Needless to say, I was quick to remind him whose idea the whole escapade had been. “Perhaps you can run next time.”
Cultural listings Cinema
Tech Tale After a young woman with terminal cancer is caught on camera refusing to give her bus seat to an elderly woman, the video is broadcast on TV and the Internet, exposing the woman’s identity and making her a pariah. One of the vanguard of China’s so-called “fifth generation” of directors, Chen Kaige’s latest work Caught in the Web attempts to highlight the imbalance between privacy protection and public inquiry brought about by technology, and the power of mass media to twist information. Having gained a reputation with his epic storytelling and visual flair over the past thirty years, Chen is seemingly trying to move away from his traditionally “heavy” style. While realistic, Caught in the Web maintains a quick, light pace throughout. Art Crossover
Slow Travel on the Green Train
A series of performances combining modern dance and art installations was held in mid-July, featuring Chinese modern dancer Shi Xiaojuan and Paris-based Polish artist Ludwika Ogorzelec. An internationally acclaimed artist, Ogorzelec received the National Medal of Honor from the President of Poland in 2007. She brings one of her most famous installations, a set of spiderweb-like cellophane constructions called “Space Crystallization” Cycle, to China. An avant-garde dancer, critics claim Shi’s emotionally powerful movement represents the struggling spirit of freedom in the modern world, and matches perfectly the tangled feeling of Ogorzelec’s “webs.”
Intentionally Blank Yang Tao, a sculptor and multimedia artist most famous for his laughing, distorted sculptures of naked people, is holding a solo exhibition at Beijing’s La Plantation art center from June to September, to review his works over the past decade. Titled Intentionally Blank, the exhibition covers sculptures, experimental oil paintings and installations, which highlight traditional Chinese roots and the impact of modern technology. Yang “flattens out” three-dimensional Buddhist sculptures by adding transverse stripes, while elsewhere, he achieves the opposite effect by turning oil paintings into whitewash reliefs. More than a hundred pieces are showcased at the exhibition, to depict transformations in the artist’s attitude over recent years.
By Qi Dong
While China’s high-speed rail has seen fast growth over the past decade, some railway travelers are trying to preserve their right to keep things languid. Author Qi Dong “searched train schedules for non-air conditioned services” – the old green trains that had been the main railway stock before the late 1990s when China started to replace them with faster trains. Based in Shanghai, Qi Dong is a travel enthusiast and self-confessed railway fan. To him, the green train represents a jocular atmosphere in which low-income travelers often appear frenzied, yet remain amiable and easygoing. From October 2008 to November 2011, the author took 35 “green train” trips across China’s vast expanse. In the book, he tells these slow stories while painting a picture of China’s steadily disappearing green trains. NEWSCHINA I September 2012
NEWSCHINA I September 2012
State enterprises should not be profit-oriented The goal of State-owned enterprises should be the maximization of the public good, not the pursuit of excessive profits By Gao Minghua
n 2012, the profits of major State-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been in decline, sparking concern among officials and economists alike. Most argue that the major reason behind the drop is the shrinking of demand both at home and abroad. This explanation fails to address the fundamental problem with China’s SOEs. In reality, the practice of evaluating the performance of an SOE by its profits is a fallacy, and only necessary because SOEs dominate China’s economy. According to a database compiled by Beijing Normal University, 48.7 percent of China’s 1,218 publicly traded companies are directly controlled by State capital, and another 20.6 percent include an element of State money. Between 2002 and 2011, SOEs enjoyed annual growth of 17.6 percent in revenue, 22 percent in profits, and 17.9 percent in submitted tax income, making them a major source of government revenue. However, SOE dominance has blocked China’s reform, leading to confusion over the real purpose of SOEs. The result is that on one hand, companies which would otherwise be forced to compete in a fair market, such as those in industries like telecommunication, iron and steel, and electricity, are enjoying monopolies under State protection. On the other, those providing basic public services which require protection and subsidy, such as public transport, and medicine and health, have been made into profit-oriented entities. In both cases, profits often come at the price of public welfare. The recent decline in profits has shown that growth based on
the current model is not sustainable. China’s State sector is in need of serious reform. In general, SOEs can be categorized into three groups. The first, those directly providing for basic public needs such as transportation, medicine and health and national defense, should remain in the hands of the State. Rather than profits, their management should be aiming at increasing public welfare, and put under effective supervision. The second group includes those in industries where a natural monopoly exists, such as electricity, gas, and drinking water, all of which should also remain State-owned. However, the government should take effective measures to prevent these companies from steering their monopolies towards excessive profits at the cost of public benefit. The last and largest group includes SOEs that do not provide fundamental public services and are competitive in nature, such as those in the industries of automobile manufacture, electronics, iron and steel, financial services, construction and real estate development. The government should withdraw protection and end favoritism towards these companies, so that they can compete fairly with one another and make the Chinese economy more efficient. The government must bear in mind that the purpose of SOEs should be to increase the overall national welfare, rather than to maximize the profits of individual companies. (The author is an economist from Beijing Normal University.) NEWSCHINA I September 2012