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Why Is It So Hard to Remove Our People’s Blood from the GDP?

Since October 2006, the frequency of mining accidents in China has been inordinately high. In October and November alone, there were 22 mining accidents, with 322 deaths. [1] Ironically, the six ministries, including the State Administration of Work Safety and the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection, had just announced in September that the investigation of illegal deals between power and coalmine businesses had made some preliminary headway.

Two factors suggest that it is questionable whether the Chinese government’s pledge of "Cleansing the bloody coal and bloody GDP," has been truly effective. One is the frequent mining accidents; the second is the central government’s issuance in June 2006 of the "Draft Law on Emergency Response," in which it ordered a tight control of the media’s reporting of major disastrous incidents.

Behind the Pledge to Cleanse the Bloody GDP

China’s notoriously fatal mining accidents in the past few years, with the numerous resultant deaths, prompted the authorities to investigate. Even according to the highly underestimated official numbers, during the period of 2001 to October 2005, there had been 188 major coalmining accidents in which 10 or more people died, or an average of one such accident every 7.4 days. There were 28 mining accidents involving 30 or more deaths during that period, or one every 50 days. [2] The media has frequently criticized the miner’s dire living conditions, where they lead slave-like lives, and hover between life and death. Due to the continuous appeals for a change in the miners’ working conditions, the authorities were forced to investigate the ever more serious issue of mine owners colluding with local government officials. In April 2005, Li Yi, the Director of the State Administration of Work Safety, led a nation-wide effort to "cleanse and correct the situation in which government staff and executives of state-owned enterprises invested in the coal mining industry." In September 29, Li Yi made a bold statement in front of the 36 major local officials in charge of work safety, "We must have the determination to enter this ‘hell’ (the coalmine industry) before anyone else (to inspect work safety)," and "(referring to those who are accountable) if they are the CCP members or government officials, we must penalize them and remove them from their posts; if they are professional managers, we must fire them and disqualify them from this profession; if they are rogue mine owners, we must bankrupt them and force them to lose money." [3] The pledges to "clean up the bloody GDP" remind the audience of the famous pledge made by the former Premier Zhu Rongji, "I’ve prepared 300 coffins, 299 of them are for corrupt officials, and the remaining one is for myself." Unfortunately Zhu’s anti-corruption determination in exchange for his life failed miserably. Today if the determination of Li, who is lower in rank and in power than yesterday’s Zhu, falls through, no one will be surprised, either.
In the one plus year of investigation, the original deadline has been postponed again and again. The central government directly dispatched two groups of investigators. These groups have been stationed in 14 major coal-producing provinces, declaring their goal to be figuring out who owns the coalmine’s stock. Even with such a hardline approach, the investigation could not conclude until September 2006, when the six government departments, including the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection and the State Administration of Work Safety, collectively called a news conference to announce the "victory of the first war" in the investigation. According to the announcement, the verification and process of identifying the people to be disciplined have been completed. Nationally 5,357 people were reported to the higher government bodies, including 4,023 government staff members and 1,334 state-owned enterprise executives. A total of 755 million yuan (US$94 million) as their investment in the coalmines were reported, and of which 709 million yuan (US$89 million) or 93.9 percent had been divested from the coal mines. [4] From July 2006 to December 2006, the authorities halted the production of 12,990 coalmines as a result of their problems. As of April 7, 2006, 5,931 mines had been closed. The 26 provinces, autonomous regions, and cities all accomplished or surpassed the goal of closing the problem mines. [5]

Nevertheless mining accidents have not stopped embarrassing the Chinese communist government. As soon as the celebration conference ended, in less than one month after the government declared victory in the coalmine investigation, mining accidents, like a ghost, occurred one after another.

The Biological Chain of Coalmine Corruption Spreads Across the Country

As a matter of fact, while the authorities declared victory in its fight against coalmine problems, they reluctantly acknowledged that the work of rectifying the coalmine industry was incomplete. The issue of "one certificate for multiple mines" persisted; the coalmines that were suppose to be closed were retained in the name of resource consolidation; and that in some areas, many small coalmines were consolidated into a large enterprise in the name of mine consolidation. The root cause for the rectification’s inadequacy is very clear. It is because wherever there are coalmines there is corruption in the form of coalmine owners colluding with government officials.

In China, mineral resources belong to the state. Under China’s current system, wherever there is a shortage or a monopoly, there will be a biological chain of corruption. Due to China’s severe shortage of energy resources in the past few years, numerous gigantic biological chains of corruption have formed around coalmines.
Such a corruption chain involves the following types of people: the top level officials who have the power to issue coalmining rights, all the local government officials who can insert their hands into the industry, coalmine owners (a.k.a. coal bosses), and miners. Unlike the energy development system in nations that have a market economy and democracy, the coalmine industry in China has two additional parties [local and higher level officials]. That is why we see all the Chinese-style stories.

In the world’s market economies, the business owners first obtain the ownership of a mine. Then they hire workers to mine it. The energy price in the market and the business costs (including the labor cost) together with the supply and demand relationship determine the profitability of the business. In addition, the labor cost depends on the average standard of living, the minimum wage stipulated by law, the labor supply and demand, and the power of labor union, etc.

Mining rights in China, however, belong to the state, which is an abstract entity. Government officials represent the power of the state. As a result, mining rights become a bargaining chip in their money-power deals. There are numerous government departments and government officials in China. Knowing that they may get into trouble by gaining the interest alone, the officials usually distribute the fat they get equally by making deals among themselves. Anyone who is even remotely related to the mines will attach himself to the biological chain of corruption, sometimes including those from the powerful government departments that can control the mine developer or the franchiser. As a journalist familiar with the coalmine industry in Shanxi Province put it, "There are 27 government departments and organizations that can have their hands in the coalmines. Since it is relatively easy to discover naked cash bribery, those officials then creatively reflect their interest in "stock ownership" of the mines. The creative varieties of ownership structures make it difficult for outsiders to straighten out the maze.

How Government Officials Eat the Coalmines

The his speech of November 1, 2005, Li Yi, Director of State Administration of Work Safety, openly acknowledged, based on his staff’s research, that the root cause of the coalmine owners colluding with officials is the money-for-power deal, which takes the following forms: [6]

1.The government officials and state-enterprise leaders make illegal profits in the form of stock ownership. Case study: while investigating the July 11 (2005) coalmine accident in Fukang, Shenlong of Xinjiang Province, the investigators discovered that a vice mayor and some executives in the state-owned Hami Coalmining Group had a vested interest in the mine in the form of stock ownership. Some of them received free stock, and others received dividends.
2.Some government officials illegally own the mining businesses themselves or hide their ownership by vesting it in relatives’ names. For example, the owner of the Xinfu (New Rich) mine in Qitai River City of Helongjiang Province, where a major accident occurred on March 14, 2005, turned out to be Peng Guocai, who was the associate director of the Administration of Work Safety in Taoshan District of the city. Peng owned the mine along with his brother who was the Vice President of the Quality Coal Group of Qitai River City.

3.Government officials abuse their mining approval power and take bribes from mine owners. Case study: a preliminary investigation showed that the Daxin Mine, where the fatal August 7 (2005) accident killed 123 miners, obtained a safe production certificate on June 5, 2005, by bribing Hu Jianchang, the associate director of the Administration of Work Safety of Guangdong Province.

4.Sheltering and winking at illegal coalmining businesses and operations. A case study: On March 17, 2005, a gas explosion at the Sulongsi Mine of Fengjie County, Chongqing City, killed 19 people. Despite an order that the Administration of Work Safety of Chongqing City and the Bureau of County Coalmine Industry issued in February to halt the coal mining in order to rectify the mine’s safety problems, Huang Xing, the mayor of Xinzhen Township, allowed the mine to resume production after taking the mine owner’s bribes, causing the catastrophe.

5.Officials are directly involved in covering up the incidents after they occur. Case study: In July 2, 2005, 36 people died in a gas explosion at the Jiajiabao Mine of Ningwu County, Xinzhou, Shanxi Province. The director of the Ningwu County Bureau of Coalmine Industry conspired with the heads of the Mine Rescue Brigade to report only 19 of the deaths while covering up the remaining 17 deaths. Li Tianeng, the Vice CCP Secretary of Ningwu County, and Li Deshen, the Vice County Mayor approved the cover-up. They even shipped the 17 corpses to Inner Mongolia.

Why Do the Government Officials Protect the Coalmine Owners?

The reason that officials protect the coalmine owners is because they have a tremendous vested interest in the mines.

Despite the campaign-like investigation that the four state ministries launched and the State Administration of Work Safety led, and despite the severe warning of "withdrawing your investment or get fired," many officials tried hard to fight back because of their tremendous ownership interest in the mines. Some shifted their stock ownership to their family members or relatives, while others pledged to withdraw but never actually acted on their pledge. Even with such a tremendous political hurricane, none of the government officials in Inner Mongolia pledged to give up their stock ownership in the mines.
As a mine boss revealed privately to a journalist, the local government officials swore that they would rather get fired than give up their stock ownership (in the mines). According to him, an investment of 200,000 yuan (US$25,000) into the mines could yield at least the same amount as dividends each year.

Such a high return is certainly not achievable from the normal coalmine operation. In fact, local coalmine bosses are willing to feed the officials with so much fat because they need the officials to form a common interest group. The officials provide the shelter for the mines while the mines become the money cows for the officials. The local officials stock ownership mostly comes from free stock shares (as special dividend). The officials’ names do not appear on the list of the stockowners. As long as there is no whistle blower, these officials are safe.

At the Expense of Miners’ Lives

While the officials can hide in the dark while they receive a high return from administering the mines, the coalmine bosses’ wealth is not easy to hide. Hu Run, a young man who compiled a list of the Wealthiest, mentioned in his new book, China’s Energy Riches, that one third of the wealth in the field of energy belongs to Shanxi mine owners. This reflects how much profit there is in the coalmining industry. There is even a saying in the coalmining provinces, "Opening a small mine is like getting a money-printing machine." [7]

Of course, the mine owners cannot pocket all the cash this machine prints out. In particular, for franchisers, they have to keep the enterprise profitable and hand in the franchise fees. They also have to pay enough dividends (or bribery) to the officials. As some mine bosses estimate, for every dollar they make, they have to use nearly half for "networking" (guanxi in Chinese), including the officials, and journalists who extort the money from them in exchange for not exposing the problems in their mines. There are only two ways remaining to squeeze more profit. One is the miners’ working environment; the other is the cost of labor itself. Consequently, Chinese miners are notorious for being in the most dangerous and most miserable profession in the world. Firstly, they work in an extremely poor environment, lacking almost all safety measures. Secondly they make a very low income. The following provides an estimate of the mining cost allocation in different forms of businesses. In 2004, one ton of average coal initially sold for 270 yuan (US$35). By the end of the year, the price increased to 400 yuan (US$50). The mining cost at some state-owned mines was estimated to be 133 yuan (US$17) per ton, while that number shrank to merely 40 yuan (US$5) in the private mines. The cost savings came from miners’ wages and benefits; that is, these savings were closely related to the miners’ lives. The bribery that mine bosses gave to government officials and other parties, who appeared in the books as "stockholders," came right from the reduced "life expenses" of the miners. [8]
The Ice-Cold Death Tolls

Since the Chinese communist government does not allow labor unions to exist, as the supervisor, the government should assume responsibility for the protection of the laborers and for inspecting all of the mines for safety. Because the officials-in-charge all own stock in the mining businesses, such an inspection has become a mere formality. As a result, China has naturally become the country with the most mine accidents. The annual number of deaths and injuries in China exceeds every other country in the world.

Deaths in China’s Mines

 Year  Mining Deaths
 1990  10,315
 1991  9,777
 1992  9,683
 1995  10,572
 1996  9,974
 1997  7,083
 2000  5,798
 2001  5,670
 2002  6,995
 2003  6,702
 2004  6,027
 2005  5,491

The above death totals come from official statistics, but they are much lower than the true number of deaths. A government department reportedly claimed at the beginning of 2004 that the number of deaths in China’s coalmines in 2003 was 6,702, which was 293 fewer deaths than, or a 4.2 percent reduction from the number for 2002. They tried to establish a 4.0 percent reduction rate for the number of deaths in 2004. The death rate per million tons of coal was 4.17 in 2003, a 16.6 percent decrease from the prior year. They planned to control the number to make it within 3.8 in 2004. Since the numbers are under strict government control, their authenticity is apparently questionable. ANSA, the Italian new agency, reported on August 29, 2006, that there were 16,000 accidental deaths due to work safety problems in China annually, [9] approximately eight times the official number of just over 2,000 deaths from accidents.
Even the deaths and the death rate from the government-controlled report are horrifying. While 35 percent of the world’s coal production in 2004 came from China, the number mine deaths was 80 percent of the world’s total. On average 15 deaths occur in China every day. Its death rate per million tons of coal production is 30 times that of South Africa, and 100 times of the United States. In contrast, one miner in China produces 321 tons of coal, or 8.1 percent of the per-miner production in South Africa, or 2.2 percent of that of a U.S. miners. [10]

It is a grave situation because it is not only China’s coalminers who face such miserable work conditions; the workers in other mining industries face the same problem. In 2000, the death toll in China’s mining industries totaled 11,681, which was 252.4 times Japan’s deaths in that same year.

The Chinese Regime’s Indifference to Life

There have been many discussions about the cause of China’s frequent mining accidents.

The first important reason is the lax rules against mining where there is gas. Nationwide, the high risk from gas in mines in the mid to large state-owned mines is very grave. China has nearly 10,000 mines with high-levels of gas; that’s 30 percent of all the coalmines in China. Take the Zhenzhou Coalmine Group as an example. It is a subsidiary of the Daping Mine Institute of Henan Province, where an accident with the enormous death toll of 148 occurred last year. 40 percent of the mines this company owns have high levels of gas. Niu Shenying, President of Zhenzhou Coalmine Group, once told a CCTV journalist that nearly half of their mines have gas outbursts, and 40 percent of its coal production comes from these mines. "If we shut down all of these mines, China’s current shortage of coal, electricity, and oil will get much worse. As a matter of fact, many mines with high levels of gas have long since been gas outburst mines. In order for them to be available for mining, these gas outburst mines are instead labeled as high gas mines. For example, the Daping Coalmine in Henan Province had not been labeled as a "gas outburst mine" until the severe mine accident last year." [11]

The second reason is the low investment in safety in China’s coalmining industry. According to a survey by the State Administration of Work Safety, as of 2004, there was a 50 billion yuan (US$6.3 billion) shortage of safety funds among the main state-owned coalmines. The accumulated safety shortfalls undoubtedly became a serious risk for many coalmine companies. According to inspection results, however, even in the state-owned mid to large mines that had major accidents, the safety protection facility is superior to the mines at the county or township level and to the private mines. It has been reported that there are about 28,000 mines in China, 25,000 of which are small-scale mines. Seventy percent of China’s major accidents in the past few years occurred in these small mines. [12] {mospagebreak}
Exchanging Life for Food

Every day of his life, a coalminer faces darkness, dampness, noise, coal dust, impending dangers, and a heavy workload. As the coalminers describe their own lives: "miners are the meat squashed between rocks." With the lack of proper safety measures and facilities, the five major life-threatening causes for mining accident—water (flooding), fire, gas, coal dust, and cave-ins may happen at any time.

Yet the miners have no other choice, because the problem of starvation is more pressing than the risk from entering the mines. Coalminers almost exclusively come from the poor countryside. To survive, they have to work where there are risks. They exchange their lives for foods. Before they become miners, they have to sign a life-or-death contract with their mine bosses. A couple of years ago, China Youth Daily disclosed the contents of such a contract for the Chener Gold Mine of Luonan County, Sanxi Province:

"While in production, Party B (the miner) must protect his own life. In case of death, injuries, or any other accidents, Party B must be fully responsible for himself, while Party A (the Mine’s Administration Side) is not responsible for any consequences." "Any safety related accident, fire, human error related accidents caused by Party B, or illnesses during work in Party A’s work site, or any other abnormal death, is all Party B’s responsibility." [13]

This is truly a life-or-death contract. However, in a country where job opportunities are scarce, 90 percent of the farmers have to choose between poverty and starvation on the one hand and risk and a short life on the other. For example, since the main source of GDP in Guangdong Province is not from coalmining, Guangdong’s government decided a few months ago to close all of its small coalmines in order to eliminate the complex administrative work. Not only did the coal bosses worry about the consequences; so did the miners who lost their jobs. Before they can live better, they have to survive.

While claiming to be No.2 in the world in terms of its GDP, China is "drinking poison to quench the thirst," in order to support its resource industry for its economic development. Can such a bloody GDP bring its people prosperity, or world peace?

Most important of all is that China’s corruption has itself become a systematic and fatal disease. While the political elite are widely accumulating their private wealth by taking advantage of their power, how can the Chinese people, with no power, expect their local government officials to give up the resources that are already in their hands for the good of all?

1., December 4, 2006
3., July 11, 2006
4, China Economic Times, September 29, 2006
5., December 4, 2006
6. "Section level official withdrew seven million Yuan of investment – giving up money cow and becoming the assistant District Chief," China Energy Net,, November 3, 2005.
7., November 3, 2005
8. Southern People Weekly, "The Truth of Coal Bosses in Shanxi Province,", October 27, 2005
9., September 2, 2006
10. Xinhua: "Li Yizhong: Four Major Safety Criteria will be implemented and inspected soon," Shanghai Equities, April 1, 2006,
11. "Visiting the mining life in Daping Mine in Henan," China Energy Net, News Investigation, June 23, 2005,
10. "Visiting the mining life in Daping Mine in Henan," China Energy Net, News Investigation, June 23, 2005,
12. Same as above
13. "The Politics of Mine Accidents in China" Politicians, February 17, 2005,

Qinglian He is a renowned econpmist/journalist from mainland China.

China Requires College Students to Study Its “Human Rights Record of the United States”

On March 6, 2007, the U..S.. Department of State released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. The report said that China’s already poor human rights record deteriorated in 2006, with officials harassing and arresting reporters, activists, and defense lawyers seeking to exercise their lawful rights. This year’s version singled out China for "increased harassment, detention, and imprisonment" of people seen as threats to the government.

On March 8, 2007, China blasted the United States for trampling on Iraq’s sovereignty, using its campaign against terrorism as an excuse to carry out torture and violate the rights of its citizens.

For the eighth year, through the state-run Xinhua news agency, China’s State Council answered the State Department’s annual report on human rights around the world by releasing its Human Rights Record of the United States for 2006.

"As in previous years, the State Department pointed the finger at human rights conditions in more than 190 countries and regions, including China, but avoided touching on the human rights situation in the United States," the report said. [1]

The report consists of seven parts:

I. On Life, Property, and Security of Person
II. On Human Rights Violations by Law Enforcement and Judicial Departments
III. On Civil and Political Rights
IV. On Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
V. On Racial Discrimination
VI. On the Rights of Women, Children, the Elderly, and the Disabled
VII. On the United States’ Violation of Human Rights in Other Countries

The U.S. State Department report, has issued annually its Country Report on Human Rights Practices since 1977. It covers all the countries in the world except for the United States.

China’s report deals only with the United States. Obviously it’s a measure to counter the U..S.. report ofon China’s poor human right records since itChina has no interest in the human rights of the people in other countries.

"It is tit-for-tat," said Prof. Dong Yunhu, Vice President and Secretary-general of the China Human Rights Research Society. Publishing the U..S.. human rights records with details of how the United States violates the human rights of its own people is a "payback" tofor the State Department’s Country Report.
China always tells its people that the U..S.. State Department Country Report deliberately twists the facts and makes irresponsible accusations. An extensive search of China media using top Chinese search engines online has not produced any web page containing a full text of the U..S.. State Department Country Report. Not the full text of the Iintroduction. Not even a quote. Until now, Chinese citizens can have no idea what facts were twisted and how irresponsible the accusations were.

What we found in abundance awere web pages of Chinese media containing full texts of the Human Rights Record of the United States for 2006. For exampleIn fact, before its March 8 release, the China Ministry of Education issued a directive on March 6 to its local counterparts ordering universities and colleges to re-publish the full text aton their respective official websites and making it mandatory theat students study of the report for students. [2] One such notice read as follows:

"Liaoning Province Education Department is transmitting this Notice issued by the Ministry of Education Administrative Office on Mandating all Higher Education Institutions to Publish Online, in Full, the Text of the Human Rights Record of the United States for 2006." [3]

"You are required to timely post, in full, text aton your school official website the Human Rights Record of the United States for 2006. The State Council’s Press Office will issue the Human Rights Record of the United States for 2006 on March 8, 2007, in order to support our country’s struggle against external elements at the United Nations Human Rights Conference this year, and to rebut the attack toon our human rights situation launched by the United States’ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006.

"In accordance with the spirit of the instructions from the leaders of the Central Committee of the Chinaese Communist Party to expand the domestic propaganda (would this word really be in a government directive?] coverage of Human Rights Record of the United States for 2006, higher education institutions throughout the country are hereby requested [ordered? Expected? Responsible for carrying?] to carry the report in full text aton their official web sites as well in addition to the reporting and publishing of the report by the media directly under the Central Committee of Chinese Communist Party.

"All higher education institutions, please take this as priority and do well in re-publishing the report.

"Ministry of Education Administrative Office

March 6, 2007"

Xiao Tian is a correspondent for Chinascope.

NTDTV Sets the Trend A Chinese Cultural Renaissance?

When the independent, New York-based network New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) hosted its inaugural Chinese New Year Global Gala in Manhattan Theater four years ago, nobody could have expected it to evolve into what people are now calling a Chinese cultural renaissance. 

Billboard magazine ranked the February 2006 production among the top 10 shows of the month. This year, the Chinese New Year Spectacular (as the show is now called) began its season with Holiday Wonders, which was a Broadway production in the Beacon Theatre, and concluded after a half-year worldwide tour—including April’ s highly successful run in Asia.

On the show’s website, the organizers say they hope to "bring back to life the genuine traditional Chinese culture through world-class artistic presentations." Judging by the packed theaters around the globe, audiences are loving it. As Chinese language learning becomes more and more popular today, and as NTDTV moves promptly to host the first International Chinese Classic Dance Competition in July 2007, both East and West have actually begun contemplating: Are we in the midst of a real Chinese cultural renaissance?

New Tang Dynasty’s Chinese New Year Spectacular Growth from 2004 to 2008

Shows Worldwide

2004: 6 cities: New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, San Francisco, Paris, Taipei
2005: 7 cities: New York, London, Hong Kong, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Toronto, Taipei
2006: 17 cities: Boston, New York, Wilmington, Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Houston, Paris, Seoul, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung
2007: More than 30 cities with more than 80 separate performances
2008: At least 60 cities worldwide

New York City Performances

2004: Manhattan Theater, 1 show
2005: Madison Square Garden, 1 show, over 5,000 in attendance, full house
2006: Radio City Music Hall, 3 shows*
2007: Radio City Music Hall, 7 shows, over 40,000 in attendance

*Also in December 2006, NTDTV added a Chinese celebration for the American holiday season to their calendar called Holiday Wonders at the Beacon Theatre, 9 shows


Classic Beauty with Modern Presentation

Divinely Imparted Culture 

When the famous gold curtain at Radio City Music Hall first lifted at the beginning of the Chinese New Year Spectacular, the crowd was immediately captivated. The stage was aglow with a scene straight from heaven. Angels, Buddhas, Daos, and other celestial beings filled the cloud-covered stage. Behind them, the enormous LED screen merged beautifully with the staging, displaying a backdrop that looked like something Raphael would have designed if he knew how to use 3-D animation software. The audience simply burst into applause within seconds.

The bold opening act was "Creation," which told a legend about the beginning of time when gods first set the course of Chinese history. It lifted the expectations of the audience for the rest of the show, and they were not disappointed. What followed were artistic performances that inspired their very souls.

"The traditional Chinese culture was imparted by heavenly beings, and the Tang Dynasty culture is the most representative Chinese culture with the highest achievement. The show reproduces many precious historical facts which can inspire the audience to ponder: Where do human beings come from and where does human culture come from? They may find the answers from the show," said Vina Lee, lead dancer and choreographer with Divine Performing Arts in an interview with The Epoch Times.

The divine theme of the Spectacular continued throughout the show.

The dance "A Dunhuang Dream" portrayed a sculptor who is visited in a dream by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that he thought were merely stone. With this inspiration, he then goes on to craft thousands of Buddha statues in the Dunhuang Caves—a real man-made wonder and the most renowned Buddhist cave temple along the Silk Road.

Ms. Rachel Wang of New York once visited these caves in Shaanxi Province. She said she was amazed by the magnificent traditional culture and at the same time was wondering how ancient people could have the wisdom to craft so many life-like Buddha statues. "After seeing this program, I now understand how the statues were crafted and have a new understanding of why China is known as ‘The Divine Land.’"

Harmony Among Heaven, Earth, and Human Beings

All the performances were rooted in the Chinese value of promoting harmony among heaven, earth, and human beings:
"Forsythia in Spring" portrayed the blooming forsythia flowers with frolicking movements and bright costumes that expressed feelings of hope and renewal. The melody and the use of spinning handkerchiefs to symbolize the brilliantly colored blossoms were both distinctive of China’s northeastern region.

"Ladies of the Manchu Court" presented an imperial dance of elegant ladies who danced the audience into a trance as they swayed gently in their traditional Manchurian high-heeled shoes. Manchurian women have always been known for their grace, refinement, and virtuous demeanor.

"Rainbows" was a colorful ribbon dance set to the tune of a northeastern Chinese folksong called "A Night with a Crescent Moon."

"Mulan." Wow! This dance version of the legend of Mulan followed the classic narrative poem "Ballad of Mulan," which dates back to China’s Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 A.D.). Mulan is said to have disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the army in place of her elderly father. Only after she returned from triumphant battle was her true identity discovered.

These intricately choreographed, large-scale dances were interspersed with musical soloists, each accentuated by stunning digital backdrops. There were snowy mountain scenes, quaint Chinese villages with little puffing chimneys, country landscapes, and glorious palaces. The lyrics for all the songs were projected in both Chinese characters and English lettering, which enriched the experience for everyone.

Authentic Chinese Culture Without the Influence of the Communist Culture

One person who attended the show was a Ph.D. student in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. Matt Kutolowski told NTDTV in fluent Mandarin, "Chinese culture proper has nothing to do with that of the communists. The NTDTV programs tonight were really something—just incredible. I would dare say we’re witnessing nothing short of a renewal of Chinese culture… A show like this is really something precious."

Ever since China’s cultural revolution in the 1960s, the traditional Chinese culture has been lost at the hands of the Communist Party. Now, the Chinese New Year Spectacular is reviving it by bringing those ancient values into a modern setting with performances that draw on very timely themes.

Perspective from the West: Discovering A Different China

Discovering the Real China

"Everything left a lasting impression," said Helga Mueller to The Epoch Times after the show in her hometown of Berlin.
"It seemed so Chinese, as if one was living in that country. I was totally captivated! I visited China about eight years ago. I must say, what I saw there can’t be talked about in the same breath than the Spectacular—it is like day and night. This is true art, all of it: The technique, costumes, performance, the dancers and the singers. It was of much deeper content than what I saw in Beijing… The Spectacular was filled with value and was very artistic. I must say that it was fantastic."

Beyond Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu kicks and Yao Ming’s slam dunks, Westerners know very little about genuine Chinese culture, but that didn’t stop the Spectacular from having universal appeal.

According to audience interviews after the performances, an overwhelming majority of the more than 200,000 live-audience attendees during the 2007 tour greatly enjoyed the show. Whether this was their first experience with Chinese culture or just the most recent, many said that it truly earned the name "Spectacular."

Arts Editor of the Canberra Times, Helen Musa, said after watching the show in Canberra, Australia, that, on one level "how could you go past the costumes and the dancing—they were absolutely fantastic and … easy to understand." On the other hand, Ms. Musa said, the show was working on a number of different levels—"not just the eyes, not just the ears, but the heart and soul."

Epoch Times reporter Chowa Choo wrote after the show in Paris: "They came to Paris, they captivated the audiences in Palais des Congress, and they conquered their hearts. Last Saturday on February 24, more than 7,000 people in the art capital of Europe experienced traditional Chinese culture in its purest form."

Therese Nedelec, a contralto in France, said, "I was moved to tears by the song ‘Tiananmen, Please Tell Me’ which was presented by the contralto Yang Jiansheng." Nedelec offered to sing the song if it could be translated into other languages.

"There were no special effects, no psychedelic lights, and no spotlights—just pure art," said Khosro Zabihi, author of an illustrated book on Kurdish people and culture.

"I cannot find words to appreciate…what my family and I experienced this weekend. We will never forget it," he added.

"Best ever! Everything from the original music to the dance numbers, the hosts, and the graphics," said Simon Applebaum from Cable World magazine, of Brooklyn, NY.
Mr. Lester Cohen, founder and chairman of the charity SafeBlood Society in New York City said, "I enjoyed the performance immensely. I came alone, thinking that it would just be a few hours of general entertainment. But it was so inspiring… Most impressive were the words about goodness, about the spirit of life, about truth. That was important to me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this performance … It covered what life is all about."

Paul Catafago, executive director of Movement One: Creative Coalition, praised the high production value. He felt the art of the show was a tool to inform, "The orchestra flowed with the choreography. The music fit the choreography perfectly."

Question from the East: "Are They Really from America?"

The 2007 Chinese New Year Spectacular was performed by the New York-based Divine Performing Arts, and many of its members were born in America—some never even having been to China.

The real test of the show’s genuineness came as they toured Taiwan from April 7 to April 21, giving a total of 15 shows in five cities: Taipei, Tainan, Taichung, Kaoshiung, and Chaiyi.

It passed with flying colors.

In interviews during intermission and after the show, people kept asking, "Are they really from America?" They wondered how this American troupe was actually more Chinese than anything they could find in Taiwan.

Internationally renowned ink and watercolor painter Li Chi-Mao said the show was the best he had seen in 60 years. The president of Chaiyi’s Nanhua University was so inspired by the show that he wanted his university to start a dance program.

In Taipei, the 3,000 tickets sold out in a mere three hours after the box office opened. The organizers had to add three extra performances in the Taipei International Conference Convention Hall later that month.

The Taiwan premiere saw a packed Taipei Cultural Center, and Taiwanese Vice-President Lu Hsiu-lien attended as the guest of honor, giving an opening speech. After the show gained wider and wider publicity, when it came back to Taipei for the added performances, Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian and Premier Su Tseng-chang sent bouquets of flowers to honor the show.

Veteran Painter: The Overall Manifestation of Chinese Classical Beauty
Eighty-seven-year-old veteran painter Mr. Kuo Tao-cheng attended the performance by Divine Performing Arts on April 16, 2007. During intermission, he kept asking NTDTV staff who the organizer of the show in Taiwan was. "Does the Divine Performing Arts troupe really come from the United States?"

Kuo told The Epoch Times that the performance thoroughly manifested Chinese classical beauty and was the best show he had ever seen since he came to Taiwan (about half a century ago). He commented that not only were the costumes well thought out, but the backdrop—including design, color, sound, and lights—were high-class and original, and should be honored with the highest award for stage performance. Such a high standard of performance has rarely been seen in Taiwan. He also thought that a performance with such profound educational meaning should be encouraged and supported by the government.

Cable TV Manager: "I Don’t Know Why I Feel So Moved"

The manager of Nan Kuo CATV, Han Hsu-yuan, was deeply moved. She said that she could not help shedding tears because she had never seen traditional virtues such as honesty, kindness, loyalty, and filial piety interpreted so well.

She said that the world needs inspiring performances like the ones presented by Divine Performing Arts to remind a community to pay attention to these traditional values, which will be of great help for the future of our society.

Impressive Choreography

Renowned Taiwanese choreographer Dr. Liu Feng-hsueh praised Divine Performing Arts’ ability to blend ethnic characteristics with modern features. She was moved by every program, specifically noting that although some of the dancers were quite young, their skills were exceptional and they performed beautifully. "The whole performance combined spirit and dancing with Chinese cultural characteristics. The choreography was very well thought out."

The director and conductor of the Kaohsiung Traditional Chinese Instrument Orchestra Mr. Wu Hong-chang said that he could not hold back his tears during the show. He was amazed by the creativity of the choreographers and wondered how the composers made the music so beautiful; they made him proud to be Chinese.

Cai Mei-ling, former director of the Women’s International Youth Business Association in Taiwan, said, "If there are tickets left for the show tomorrow, I would love to come again."
Ms. Cai said she experienced a warm feeling, as if meeting relatives or old friends, but also a little sadness. After watching the first performance, she said that it was like recalling a deep memory in her heart. She added that she could enjoy other types of performances very much but did not feel the deeper connotations in them as she did in this presentation by Divine Performing Arts. She felt the auspicious and compassionate energy surrounding each person in the whole hall.

Bring Chinese Arts to the World Stage

The 20th century saw a collapse in traditional Chinese arts. All the wars, both civil and international, combined with the destructive rule of the Communist Party nearly destroyed the artistic spirit of the Chinese people. Jai Ben-ray, dean of the Social Science College at Nanhua University in Jiayi County, watched the last show on April 21. Afterward, he felt that Divine Performing Arts has made a great contribution to Chinese culture by bringing their arts back to the world stage.

He said, "For a long time, the Chinese had been highly influenced by the Western arts. Once art was mentioned, we would feel that art seems to be Mozart’s music or a Western ballet. Consequently, over the past hundred years, the Chinese have been very limited in their artistic expression. Subconsciously we did not believe the Chinese arts could be developed."

"However," said Jai, "Watching today’s performance, my feeling is that the Chinese arts can be developed in many fields. Today, I saw that the stage settings, backdrops, background music, art expression, vocal singing, art design, as well as the expression of the content can all be different from the Western world. It can all be new and innovative, but it can also return to the values of traditional Chinese culture."

Father Lu Da-cheng: The Divine Performing Arts "Awakens People’s

Desire to Seek for the Root of Culture"

Father Lu Da-cheng is the chair of the Department of Religion at Furen University. He read many reports about the show before he came to see it. He said, "[It is] a superb show that has made such a strong impression and is already at its peak—it would be hard for me to add any more praise." He said that what shook him was how the show awakened a deep feeling of assimilation to Chinese culture in his heart. "It resonated with me throughout all of the songs and dances."

He said, "The show was very creative. I was amazed that the performers, who grew up in America, had such good understandings of the Chinese culture. Such a program awakens people’s desire to seek for the root of culture."
One dance, "To the Rightful Place," depicted the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Father Lu said: "My family members are Catholic. Two brothers of mine were jailed by the communists for 20 years. My uncle was jailed for nine years and died in prison. Although it happened in the 1950s, it still hurts. The Communist Party is not a reasonable regime. They persecute their own members too, not only other groups. If you have a belief or opinion different from the Communist Party, it will persecute you. The persecution of Falun Gong is very brutal. I know about it and am very concerned about it."

Behind the Scenes with the Divine Performing Arts Orchestra

Combining West and East

This year, the Chinese New Year Spectacular incorporated a live orchestra for the first time—the Tianyin Orchestra, translated as the Celestial Melody Orchestra. The conductor, Rutang Chen, said that what the orchestra (now known as the Divine Performing Arts Orchestra) was trying to do was not just repeat ancient Chinese culture but, instead, create a new art form by using "good old" values.

Rutang Chen, a veteran musician and China’s First-Class Cellist, is the former director of the Chinese National Symphony Orchestra and chief artistic director for NTDTV’s Chinese New Year show in 2006.

Chen said, "Audiences will experience both the splendor of Western symphony and the style of Chinese folk instruments." One of the orchestra’s talents, he says, "is the combination of Western and Eastern instruments; we mainly use orchestral instruments, but also include Chinese traditional instruments such as erhu, biwa (pipa), guzheng (Chinese zither), and the Chinese flute."

U.S.-based Taiwanese violinist Chia-chi Lin began to learn violin at three years of age. Lin studied at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music and Johns Hopkins University Peabody Conservatory of Music. She then went on to work in the University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for the past 15 years.

Lin said that although she has had many performance experiences, she can feel a unique harmony of body and spirit while performing with the Divine Performing Arts Orchestra. "Chinese music often has profound inner meanings; its performance comes out from one’s heart. And Western music has a very mature development in skill and technique and is very systematic." She says the orchestra "combines the technique of Western music with the meaning of Chinese music. In other words, China’s musical soul combines with Western skill and technique to create a perfect union."
A Truly Moving Experience

On the second day of the orchestra’s performance at Radio City, conductor Rutang Chen told The Epoch Times newspaper: "During today’s performance, I myself had to try hard not to burst into tears during my conducting—the music was simply moving. This is something quite rare in my whole career."

Guan Guimin, who is commonly called "China’s King of Tenors," echoed the sentiments of Mr. Chen. He said he has seen excited, ecstatic, or wild audiences before, but never so many who were moved to the point of shedding tears, adding that it is something quite rare.

The orchestra had only been playing together for one year. Thus, they not only had to endure the travails of a new orchestra but also work with an entirely new breed of music. Most were trained in Western classical music, and even though all of them came with a certain appreciation for Chinese music, no one had ever played songs like those composed for the Spectacular. In fact, no one had ever heard songs like that before.

Original, Through and Through

Ningfang Chen, wife of conductor Rutang Chen, composed many of the pieces for the Spectacular. She said that all the music in the show was original.

"To compose music that helps the dancers and choreographers tell a story is particularly important. The first step is that the choreographer conceives an idea then approaches me. We work back and forth. It’s a very collaborative process, and new ideas emerge."

Some of the pieces, however, began with Chen herself. She composed "Candlelight Vigil" after being "deeply moved by a candlelight vigil under the Washington Monument in memory of people who were persecuted for practicing Falun Gong."

Falun Gong is a form of Chinese cultivation practice, rooted in traditional Chinese culture based on philosophies like Buddhism and Daoism, with the core principles being "truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance." Chen said that the song and its underlying message of tolerance then inspired one of the choreographers to create the accompanying dance.

Mrs. Chen, who lived most of her life in China, has experienced the Chinese communist regime’s oppression first hand. She was a member of the only orchestra to survive the Cultural Revolution, a period of time in the late 1960s during which Chinese classical arts, culture, and religions were all harshly criticized and mostly destroyed.
At that time, anything from the West and anything considered bourgeois (like most arts) was banned. Most musicians stopped playing because they feared being labeled a "class enemy." Chen says, "Most artists were sent to the poorest parts of the country to do forced labor, to be ‘reformed’ (by communist ideology)." Even though her group—the best in the country—was allowed to continue performing, "We were forced to only play theatrical pieces extolling the Chinese Communist Party," she says.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Chen began to practice Falun Gong in the early 1990s when they saw this practice change their disobedient son into a disciplined young man. Their son was later arrested when the persecution began in 1999. For 18 months he was physically and psychologically tortured in a labor camp until being rescued and fleeing to the United States. Now, he lives in New York and plays oboe in the orchestra.

Many members of Divine Performing Arts as well as the Divine Performing Arts Orchestra have amazing stories like the Chens’. It is part of what distinguishes them from their contemporaries, making their performances so spirited.

The only question now is: What do they have planned for 2008? The performers all smile when asked this question. "Just wait and see," they reply.

One NTDTV staff member working on the show said, "Our success in 2007 gave us a huge boost. Preparations for 2008 are already at full steam and everyone is more excited than ever. It’s going to be a great year!"

Xiao Yang and Jared Pearman are Washington, D.C., based writers.

Purging One Hundred Flowers – The 50th Anniversary of China’s Anti-rightist Campaign

May 2007 is the 50th anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Movement in communist China. Back in May 1957, Mao Zedong initiated a campaign to purge alleged rightist from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Over 550,000 people were purged. Fifty years later, the term "Anti-Rightist Movement" remains a sensitive topic. The Communist Party refuses to apologize or to compensate the victims. Further, the CCP Propaganda Department, through a mandate issued earlier this year, has ordered Chinese media not to mention this issue.

On April 10, 1957, People’s Daily published an editorial calling on intellectuals to voice their suggestions and criticisms to the Party, promising no retaliation. Mao declared, "Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend." This was the "Hundred Flowers Campaign." CCP branches at all levels were instructed to encourage intellectuals to put aside their concerns and to come forward.

Suggestions and criticism poured in.

Then on May 15, 1957, Mao issued an internal notice alerting all CCP branches to be ready for a crackdown. On June 8, 1957, People’s Daily issued an editorial labeling those making suggestions and criticism to the CCP as anti-Communist Party and anti-socialism. The purge began. As a result of the suggestions they had been encouraged to make, tens of thousands of people lost their freedom, and millions of families suffered. Some were sentenced to prison, while others were sent to forced labor camps, where they were subjected to torture, starvation, sleep deprivation and other cruel and inhuman treatment. Their families were discriminated against in areas such as jobs and government medical benefits. Hundreds of thousands of people perished.

How many "rightists" were purged? The official number stands at 550,000, but the unofficial estimate is two million. That number includes approximately half of the intellectual elite of China at that time.

Scholars in the fields of political science, economics, sociology, history, and arts were the hardest hit. The most well known is Zhang Bojun (1895 -1969), who held a number of prominent government positions, including Minister of Transportation and President of Guanming Daily (the China State Council newspaper). Zhang studied philosophy in Germany between 1921 and 1924. A former CCP member, he was one of the founders of the "China Democratic League," a democratic party in China. He criticized the one party rule and advocated a two-house Congress. On June 8, 1957, the official opening of the Anti-Rightist campaign, he was considered the first and the Number 1 rightist. He died of cancer on May 17, 1969. Zhang was one of the few "rightists" who were not redressed after the Cultural Revolution.

Others include Luo Longji, China’s Minister of Forestry Industry who also held other government and democratic positions. He had been jailed under the Nationalist rule of China prior to the communist takeover in 1949. Yet, the CCP purged him because he refused to acknowledge the CCP’s leadership in the charter of the China Democratic League.
Now 77 years old, Zhu Rongji who served as Premier of China from March 1998 to March 2003 was also purged as a rightist. He graduated from the prestigious Tsinghua University in 1951, majoring in electrical engineering. According to his former colleagues, Zhu was indeed wrongfully purged. The work unit had a quota to fill and there was a shortage of rightists. With this education background, they chose him as a natural rightist.

Most of the purged rightists were purged simply because they disagreed with their bosses. Many were called "nodding rightists" because they nodded their head at rightists’ viewpoints during the Anti-Rightists conferences. One main target was the independent legal system. Legal professionals were transferred to other jobs; instead, political cadres and the police exercised judicial power.

According to official data published by communist China, in May 1980, all but a few of the 550,000 rightists, including the No. 1 rightist, Zhang Bojun, received redress. It is estimated there are about less than 10,000 "former rightists" still alive today.

At the beginning of 2007, the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department convened a meeting to lay out the ground rules on what should and shouldn’t appear in China’s media and publications. The Anti-Rightist campaign of 50 years ago was listed as one of the forbidden items.

The No. 1 rightist Zhang Bojun’s retired daughter, Ms. Zhang Yihe, wrote three books about the purge. The CCP authorities banned them all. She filed a lawsuit against the China General Administration of Press and Publications. The CCP controlled court tossed it out and refused to hear it.

The ban on her books remind us of the brutal purges 50 years ago. The issue that China faces today has not changed in fifty years: democracy vs. autocracy, to freely express criticism of to stifle it.

Ms. Zhang pointed out that the CCP believes it will survive the 550,000 rightists that it purged, but it forgot that behind the 550,000, are millions of family members.

Xiao Tian is a correspondent for Chinascope.

From the Editor

Fifty years ago, Mao Zedong and his Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initiated a nationwide "anti-rightist" campaign in China, labeling around 550,000 intellectuals who had criticized the Party’s policies as "national enemies" and "anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists." Because the "rightists" were actually encouraged explicitly by Mao and the CCP to voice their concerns about the Party’s work prior to the campaign, it is generally viewed by Chinese historians that the campaign was a political trap set by Mao to purge potential dissidents and rivals.

The campaign brought immediate disaster to the "rightists." Some died during the infamous "struggle sessions." Many others died in prisons or labor camps, and their family members were indiscriminately persecuted as well to different extents. This was the first of the CCP’s remarkably similar, cyclical movements of purging its own people: the Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre (1989), and the ongoing crackdown of Falun Gong (1999-present). Each time, a new group of innocent citizens was targeted by violence and overwhelming force. Perhaps most damaging, though, China’s traditional values of honesty and trust that had been its mainstay throughout history have been damaged beyond recognition, and they have been replaced a CCP-driven culture of deceit and violence. For the sake of survival, few today dare to challenge authority and speak the truth on sensitive issues. The moral degeneration of today’s China, reflected through slave labor, general lawlessness, and rampant counterfeit items of all sorts like forged diplomas, tainted food, fake medicine, and pirated intellectual property, is directly attributable to the propagation of the CCP culture.

True to form, the CCP is refusing to acknowledge that it made a mistake 50 years ago. Although the "rightist" label was removed from use in 1978, the CCP has never expressed public remorse for the campaign or provided financial compensation to the victims or their families. The website for CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily still emphasizes that the campaign was "a resolute counterattack against the very few capitalist rightists’ furious attack of (the Party and socialism) and was absolutely necessary," only acknowledging that the campaign was "overly expanded."

This year is the 50th anniversary of the "anti-rightist" campaign. Ever mindful of any potential threat to its rule, the CCP is prohibiting public discussion of the campaign and banning all published material related to the topic. In spite of this imposing set of circumstances, over 1,000 "rightist" survivors sent an open letter to the CCP leadership, demanding a lift of restrictions on the freedom of speech, a public apology, and monetary compensation. One thousand may not be a big number relative to the total number of victims, but their actions carry a huge implication. It is a signal that people are demanding justice. As Ren Zhong, former officer of the Beijing Public Security Bureau and one of the "rightists" who initiated the open letter, said, "If we do not raise the issue, no one would bring it up when we all pass away. We want to restore history. This is our historical responsibility."

Chinese Traditional Musical Instruments: The Erhu

In Chinese musical events, one can often see a special instrument-the Chinese vertical fiddle, or erhu, performed as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. The humble erhu, however, despite its simple appearance, is capable of reaching depths of musical expression far beyond expectation.

The erhu, sometimes known in the West as the "Chinese violin" or Chinese two-string fiddle, is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument. It belongs to the huqin family of Chinese bowed string instruments. From the 30 or more types of huqin instruments documented throughout China’s history, a few, such as the erhu, have remained popular to this day, reaching the level of a solo instrument capable of expressing deep emotions and imitating natural sounds such as birds, horses, and even the human voice. There are usually two to six erhus in smaller orchestras, and 10 to 12 in larger ones.

Although often likened to the violin, the sound of the erhu is somewhat thinner and more nasal, with its unique tone generated by a piece of stretched python skin over the small sound box. Like other huqin instruments, the erhu does not have a fingerboard; the player’s fingers press on the strings without the strings ever touching the instrument’s neck. The hair of the bow remains permanently between the two strings, which are so closely positioned that the player’s left hand effectively moves along both strings at once to create notes, while the right hand plays the rhythm and creates the musical tone.

During China’s Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the erhu was popular for accompanying Chinese operas. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the erhu developed into a solo instrument.

This came about at a time when music conservatories were opening across the country and promoting Western instruments, music notation, and standardization. Many traditional Chinese instruments were sidelined or reinvented along more "scientific" and "modern" lines. For the erhu, its traditional silk strings were replaced with metal strings from the West.

    In more recent times, the erhu plays an important role in Chinese orchestras, filling the same parts as the violin in Western orchestras. Performers, such as Ms. Qi Xiaochun and George Gao, both students of the famous erhu artist Wang Yongde, have helped to popularize erhu music at an international level.

    The name huqin literally means "barbarian instrument," indicating the origins of Chinese fiddles, like the erhu, being with peoples from the northwest of China. Possibly the term also refers to the simple musical language expected from such a "primitive" instrument. However, anyone today who has heard of or been lucky enough to experience a master erhu solo performance in person is most often moved by the depth and richness of musical insight expressed through the instrument via the skill and realm of the player.

Beijing Makes a U-Turn In Its Japan Policy

China’s Communist leader Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met in Hanoi, Vietnam, during the 14th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum on November 18, 2006. It was the second time they met after Abe’s visit to China in October 2006. At the Hanoi meeting, Hu expressed his interest and desire to visit Japan. Surprisingly, they did not mention the issue of the Yasukuni Shrine, which had been a thorn in Sino-Japanese relations.

Over the past five years, the relationship between China and Japan has been icy cold. There were no top-level visits between the two countries. The Beijing regime repeatedly pointed out that former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine were the primary reason for worsening Sino-Japan relations. The fact that Japanese World War II leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal are honored at the Tokyo shrine alongside millions of war dead, has been a source of anger for those affected by Japan’s military aggression before and during the war. Thus, Abe’s October visit to Beijing was viewed as an "ice-breaking tour." Beijing’s regime not only received Abe with high status; it even compromised on the most sensitive issues such as the Yasukuni Shrine and Taiwan.

Commenting on the sudden change in China’s Japan policy, the chairman of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition, Mr. Wei Jingsheng, suggested that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is manipulating Japan. While attempting to soften Japan’s position, the CCP is also discouraging it from joining a Japan-U.S. Alliance.

Hu Expressed Interest in Visiting Japan

When Hu Jintao shook hands with Japan’s new prime minister in Hanoi, the suddenly warm relationship between China and Japan drew intense media attention.

During the Hanoi meeting, Shinzo Abe invited Hu Jintao to visit Japan. Hu expressed his appreciation and indicated that a detailed agenda would be arranged. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Liu Jianchao, expressed that China is positive about Hu’s visit to Japan.

Shinzo Abe was a member of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s cabinet. He supported Koizumi’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. He also visited the shrine himself. Since Abe became prime minister, however, he has not visited the shrine. Even though his position on the Yasukuni Shrine remains unclear as he has remained silent on the topic, some say he is trying to mend ties with Beijing.

According to officials who attended the meeting, the Yasukuni Shrine issue was not discussed.{mospagebreak}

Eager to Improve Relations with Japan, Beijing Makes Big Concessions

Back in October, after Shinzo Abe met with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao in Beijing, the leaders published a "China-Japan Joint Press Communiqué." The communiqué mentioned all the issues that were important to Japan, such as East Sea oil, North Korea nuclear weapons, the Chinese leader’s visit to Japan, and Japan’s permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council. On the other hand, the communiqué omitted all of the issues that China cares most about, such as Taiwan, the Yasukuni Shrine, and Japan’s Constitutional Amendment to change from the "pacifist" state it became after World War II. Now that Japan has amassed the third largest military budget in the world in total dollars spent, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apparently wants to translate that fact into a legal reality. He is reviewing Article 9, the famous clause in the Japanese Constitution, which prohibits Japan from maintaining war-making capabilities and has upgraded the Japanese Defense Agency to a full ministry.

Japanese media also noticed the Beijing regime’s unusual behavior. An article published by Asahi Shimbun on November 2, 2006, says that the CCP has always treated "history and Taiwan" as the political baseline between the two countries; and when the communist leaders meet with foreign leaders, they always push them to declare their position on the Taiwan issue. For example, when French President Chirac visited China, during a joint press conference, he re-emphasized the French position supporting a "One China" policy.

The Asahi Shimbun article speculated that Hu Jintao is giving the improvement of Sino-Japan relationship a high priority and wants to avoid sensitive subjects, since they did not even include the "Taiwan issue" in their joint press communiqué after Abe’s meeting with the Chinese leaders.

The Chinese Communist Regime Needs A Weak Japan

Wei Jingsheng suggested that the CCP’s concessions were a trap.

Wei said that Abe’s political position is right wing. No only does Abe want to review Article 9 of the constitution, but he also has hinted at the possibility of a nuclear weapons development program to cover the possibility of interference from China and North Korea. He is for teaching patriotism in schools, a more assertive foreign policy, and a closer alliance with the United States.

Outside observers even believe that he will move further right than Koizumi, and that is not what the CCP wants. Wei said, "The CCP wishes to keep Japan in a weak position, so weak that it will not form an alliance with the United States.{mospagebreak}

"The CCP’s concession is in fact a trap. In the future, if Abe adopts a rightist policy, the CCP can blame Abe for damaging Sino-Japan relations. This will put pressure on Abe. Japanese industry will especially pressure him."

In his public speeches on his recent visit to Japan, Wei related that the CCP is having a fierce internal struggle. People have long lost trust in the CCP. Thus, the CCP smells danger everywhere and is escalating military preparedness to be able to react to unexpected incidents.

According to Wei’s analysis, the CCP would need a war to shift attention from its domestic crisis. He believes three conditions need to be in place for the CCP to invade Taiwan: The first is Russia’s support, the second is a deep division between NATO and the United States, and the third is a weak Japan.

Due to its geographic, economic, and political factors, Japan plays a very critical role in the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan issues. The United States has recently strengthened its military cooperation with Japan and put Taiwan under the protection of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. In addition, Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian recently encouraged a Japanese version of the "Taiwan Relations Act" and called for a United States, Japan, and Taiwan three-way security treaty. Therefore, instead of pushing Japan away, to form an close ally with the other side, the CCP has extended a warm hand to Abe.

"Beijing needs a weak Japan and needs to keep Japan in a more manageable position in case of a military confrontation on the Taiwan issue," Wei said.

Joshua Li is correspondent for Chinascope.

China 2006 Review

The CCP Quietly Strengthens Its Control in Domestic and World Political Affairs

The year 2006 was crucial for the political survival of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and for Hu Jintao. After taking over power in a conservative manner, he needs to start establishing his historical legacy. In 2006, Hu’s strategies included reforms that aimed at improving people’s lives and boosting the development of the country, both materially and spiritually.

Over the past year, the gaps have widened between the rich and poor and between residents of the eastern boomtowns and the slower-to-develop interior provinces. Rapid industrial development has resulted in enormous levels of environmental damage.

Corruption has grown hand in hand with the economy. When one person is found guilty, it often triggers the fall of a group of officials either as related cases or as a result of conflict with political opponents. When Chen Liangyu, a member of the Politburo and the Party secretary in Shanghai, was arrested, it led to a series of arrests in other coastal cities. Among a long list were Liu Zihua, deputy mayor of Beijing; Li Jinbao, procurator-general of Tianjin People’s Procuratorate; Xu Haifeng, procurator-general of Beijing People’s Procuratorate; and Du Shicheng, the Party secretary of Qingdao.

The amount of funds involved in corrupt schemes is measured in the hundreds of millions of yuan. Chen Liangyu, for example, was involved in the misuse of Shanghai’s social security funds for illegitimate loans and investments to the tune of as much as 3.2 billion yuan (US$410 million).

Chinese political commentator Long Yan stated that the removal of Chen Liangyu entailed the most intense conflict within the CCP in recent years. He said that anyone with common sense could see that, although the removal of Cheng Liangyu was done in the name of anti-corruption, there was, in essence, fierce political competition taking place within the Party.

On the spiritual side, Hu emphasized peaceful, harmonious development. One example is the regime’s pragmatic move toward religion in an effort to promote institutional faiths. Between April 12 and 15, 2006, China hosted an international Buddhist conference in the city of Hangzhou. With that gesture, Hu acknowledged that he recognized the common people’s need for religion.

As a sign of nonhostility toward Chinese traditions, the Chinese communist government also launched Confucius Institute language centers all over the world, with a mission to promote the Chinese language, culture, and a range of other aspects of learning about China, including its business environment. Several of these institutes have already been established around the world, in such places as Japan, Australia, Sweden, and the United States. Beijing aims eventually to open about 100 such institutes. According to Purnendra Jain and Gerry Groot, the Chinese communist government has already committed nearly US$25 million a year for the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language.[1]{mospagebreak}

With just one year left before the 17th Chinese Communist Party Congress in the autumn of 2007, Hu is shaping his grand strategy, possibly with a new team of leaders all loyal to him. As pointed out by Francesco Sisci at Asia Times online: "The moment is crucial because the Party has to appoint one person or a group of persons to take the lead after Hu’s retirement. The congress could also initiate new political mechanisms for the promotion of leaders."[2]

Beijing Calls 2006 a "Great Harvest Year" for Its Diplomacy

While the United States has been tied up in Iraq and the world is facing threats from terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation, Beijing is strengthening its hand. The communist government has been exercising China’s "soft power" to promote Beijing’s "rights of subsistence" to compete with human rights. In the coming years, competition between Western efforts for freedom and democratization and Beijing’s effort to build an alternative to "Western hegemony" is expected to increase around the globe.

Building a Harmonious World That Can Accommodate Dictatorship

Beijing promoted the theme of "building a harmonious world" in international affairs in 2006. In the official newspaper People’s Daily, leading the top 10 international events in 2006 was the Beijing Summit on Sino-Africa Cooperation held in Beijing from November 3 to 5. Leaders from 48 of Africa’s 53 countries participated in the conference. In the first half of 2006 alone, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao paid visits to 10 African countries, injecting new dynamism into Africa-China relations.[3]

In Beijing’s view, hegemonism and terrorism are the big threats to world peace. Beijing’s regime has not seen a trace of terrorism in China, but it feels threatened by the democratization efforts of the Western world that promote human rights and freedom. To combat this, Beijing proclaims "state sovereignty" and "rights of subsistence and development" as the fundamental human rights. A score of Beijing’s friends share this understanding because they also have tense relations with the United States.

Kim Jong-il visited China for eight days in January 2006. At their meeting, Hu Jintao stated, "In the presence of regional and international complexity and dramatic change, we should further deepen the relationship between the Chinese and Korean Communist Parties and between the two nations. It serves our common interest and is also good for peace, stability, and development in Northeast Asia."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez paid a state visit to Beijing in late August. Closer ties with China make him more confident when demonizing Washington. Chavez called for a "strategic alliance" with China to foster a "multi-polar" world and to challenge the "hegemony" of the United States. Chavez promised to increase oil exports to China to one million barrels per day by 2012, and Hu Jintao agreed to support Venezuela’s campaign for a two-year seat in the U.N. Security Council and to provide substantial economic aid.{mospagebreak}

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a bilateral discussion with Hu Jintao in Shanghai on August 16, 2006. They acknowledged common understandings on many international affairs. China and Russia have been at odds with Western powers in the U.N. Security Council on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. China has pushed for dialogue without sanctions, despite its failure to convince Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program. Beijing’s regime finds it strategic to import oil from Iran. In 2004, the Chinese state-run Sinopec and Zhuhai Zhenrong signed deals with Iran to import 360 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to China for 25 years.

The Sudanese government is a clear beneficiary of the Chinese regime’s "rights for subsistence." Even though over 400,000 people have been killed and more than two million civilians driven out of their homes in Darfur, the Chinese communist government does not support U.N. intervention in Sudan. China gets about 10 percent of its oil import from Sudan.

China’s support for those countries is important because China’s influence in international affairs is growing due to its increased economic power.

Growing Economic Muscle Helps Diplomacy

With its growing economic muscle, China’s regime has found it easier to make other countries listen. The fifth summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held last June. China and Russia unveiled their ambitious plans to wield a broader regional influence, using China’s economic power and the large oil and gas reserves in Russia and Central Asia as leverage. A China-APEC summit was held last October for the 15th anniversary of China-APEC dialogue. China and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) agreed to speed up the establishment of their free-trade zone. And then came the Beijing summit of the forum on China-Africa cooperation last November. Beijing’s regime promised to double its aid to Africa by 2009 and forgave US$1.38 billion in debts from 31 heavily indebted African countries. Chinese officials described these three summits as one of the most important diplomatic achievements of the year. It’s clear that the regime is actively seeking great power status in international affairs in Asia and beyond.

Soft-Power Diplomacy

Another theme adopted by Beijing’s communist regime in 2006 was "soft-power diplomacy." It followed Joseph Nye’s formula; that is, using a nation’s culture, political value, foreign policy, and economic appeal to influence other nations. Although Beijing’s communism has no appeal for the rest of the world, its newfound economic strength has prompted a surge of interest in the Chinese market, language, and culture.{mospagebreak}

In Russia, Italy, India, and other countries, China used "China Year" to promote the regime’s image. In Europe and North America, the Chinese communist government helped to open Confucius Institute language centers to attract locals studying Chinese.

Beijing suffers from a bad image due to the communist government’s poor human rights record. Using Chinese culture to promote the regime’s image may have some effect. However, as the regime continues to make news with stories of terrible human rights violations, a better image may be a hard sell. As the 2008 Beijing Olympics approaches, the communist regime’s true image is expected to come into focus.

Millions Withdraw from the Communist Party — Defectors’ Stories Tell All

There are ripples in China’s own political pond. In spite of Hu Jintao’s advocacy of the "progressive nature of the CCP member" and "eight virtues" for all civilians in 2006, the effort was basically fruitless. The Epoch Times reported that its publication of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party triggered an unprecedented wave of resignations from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its affiliated organizations. By the end of 2006, nearly 17 million people had announced their withdrawals from the CCP and its affiliates.

On October 22, 2006, Jia Jia, former secretary-general of the Science and Technology Experts Association of Shanxi Province, walked away from a tour group in Taiwan to seek political asylum. Jia’s request for political asylum was initially rejected by Taiwan. When he was deported to Hong Kong on October 26, he found passage to Thailand and was granted refugee status by Taiwan a week later. Jia has lived in Malaysia since December 2006.

Jia has publicly exposed the truth about the millions of people in China who are quitting the Communist Party. He even published a statement renouncing his membership in the Young Pioneers and the Chinese Communist Youth organization.

Jia has said that many people, including Party officials, are cursing the Party. "I believe that the number of Party members who want to withdraw is at 95 percent," he said. "If we set up a stage on Tiananmen Square and asked the Chinese people to choose whether they wished to join the Party or to renounce their Party membership, the only people left in the Party would be the members of the Central Party Committee."{mospagebreak}

Two months prior to Jia’s defection, Yuan Shen, a veteran pilot who had served 18 years with China Eastern Airlines based in Shanghai, flew into Los Angeles International Airport at noon on August 8 with 313 passengers on board. Without any idea of how he’d face his future, Yuan decided to leave his wife, 12-year-old daughter, and a successful career in China to seek asylum. Yuan told the media that he fears for his safety if he returns to China because before the plane took off in Shanghai, he was threatened by airport security. According to Yuan, prior to takeoff, he was chatting with a ground security technician. Yuan told him about the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party and suggested to the young man that he quit the Party. He also talked to him about the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Soon after that conversation, the young man returned with four uniformed airport police. Yuan was finally released after the crew argued with the police, telling them that the plane couldn’t leave without Yuan.

"Having one copy of the Nine Commentaries amounts to a four-year prison sentence in China," Yuan explained. The Nine Commentaries is an editorial series published by The Epoch Times that gives an uncensored history of the CCP. Since its publication, millions of Chinese have decided to quit the Party. The book is claimed to be the number one banned book in China.

The statistics published by the Global Service Center for Quitting the CCP indicate that in 2006 alone, over 10 million Chinese people quit their membership in the Party and its affiliated organizations. A total of 16.8 million had resigned by the end of 2006, averaging 30,000 withdrawals each day. According to Gao Dawei, who heads the Global Service Center for Quitting the CCP, "The Chinese Communist Party has been covering up and denying the truth of the wave of resignation all along. Defectors like Jia Jia and Yuan Shen are eyewitnesses to the truth of this historical moment."

In 2006 the center received emails, calls, and faxes from military personnel, high-ranking government officials, and the general public. Many even insist on using their real names to withdraw from the Party. According to Gao, one of those was a group of seven Party officials—including a director from an office directly under the central administration in Beijing. In March 2006, 100 desperate workers from the Grain Bureau of Wuhan, Hubei Province, signed a group statement to withdraw from the Party and submitted it to the Wuhan City Administration. The news sent shock waves all the way to Beijing. In addition, people wrote slogans encouraging resignations on paper currency, posted withdrawal statements in public areas, and cursed the Party publicly during gatherings with friends and family.

Li Tianxiao, a news commentator, says the wave of withdrawals sends a clear signal that the Chinese Communist Party is losing popularity in China. "The decay of the Party will be the end result of this wave," he says. Guo Guoding, an eminent human rights lawyer in China, has concluded that Jia’s defection is an indication that a significant number of Chinese officials are aware of the wave of withdrawals. They all know that the Party will not last long if the wave continues.{mospagebreak}

Cooling Down China’s Overheated Economy

Ever since 2003, Chinese authorities have been trying to cool down the overheated economy. However, in the first half of 2006, the economy still grew at an annual rate of 10.9 percent, a record high for the past 10 years. The growth in the second quarter was even higher at 11.3 percent. Although the economy slowed down slightly to 10.4 percent in third quarter, and was estimated at 10.3 percent in fourth quarter, the overall growth rate is gauged at 10.6 percent for the year.

The Chinese economy is primarily driven by high investments and high exports. During the first 11 months of 2006, the investment in newly added fixed assets in urban areas amounted to only 2.59 trillion yuan (US$320 million), a 34.5 percent increase over the same period in 2005. The magnitude of trade volume in 2006 totaled US$1.76 trillion, a 23.8 percent increase over that of 2005. Exports were US$969.1 trillion, a 27.2 percent increase over 2005; and imports were US$791.6 trillion, 20 percent higher than in 2005. The trade surplus grew to US$177.5 trillion, a big jump of 74 percent over the previous year.

Despite the high growth, problems within the economy persist. A country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is composed of personal consumption, investment, and net export. In 2005, China’s investment was as high as 42 percent of the GDP; it is estimated to be even higher in 2006. Exports of good and services were about one fifth of GDP. The proportion attributable to personal consumption has been decreasing in recent years. It was at 38 percent in 2005. Therefore, China’s economy is overly dependent on investment and foreign trade.

The high growth of investment has been a headache for the authorities. One major concern is investments in big projects. The amount of capital loaned from state banks that will never be paid back is already daunting and will increase even more. However, because a local official’s performance is usually evaluated on the basis of economic indicators, mainly GDP figures, the effort to scale back investment is difficult to put into practice.

Overinvestment has not only led to overcapacity in some industries; it has also consumed already limited energy resources. Wu Xiaoling, the vice governor of People’s Bank, recently pointed out that there is a vicious cycle in the current economy. In 2004, the overheated economy left behind the bottleneck industries such as electricity, coal mining, and transportation. Afterward, many electricity and transportation projects were injected with huge capital, which later led to overcapacity. She also mentioned some unsustainable factors in the growth mode, such as that many investment projects were completed at a heavy cost to the environment.{mospagebreak}

In August 2006, the authorities launched a series of measures to slow down fixed-asset investment, especially in the real estate industry. At the State Council executive meeting in October, Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that the top priority for the fourth quarter and the 2007 macroeconomic adjustment is to control the amount of fixed-asset investment, improve the structure of investments, and tighten real estate development in each city. Although the central bank has already twice raised the bank interest rate, economists were concerned that the increase was not large enough to have an effect. At the same time, the government is afraid that raising the interest rate of the Chinese currency renminbi too high will result in huge amounts of foreign capital coming to China, pushing the exchange rate of the renminbi even higher.

The huge foreign trade volume and trade surplus is in sharp contrast to the low percentage of domestic consumption. Therefore, the goods and services produced by hundreds of millions of Chinese people have mainly benefited foreigners. One reason for low domestic consumption is the low wages paid for labor. This is deemed necessary for an export-oriented economy, especially when exports consist predominantly of labor-intensive products.

The structural problem also exists with income distribution. For the past decade, Chinese authorities has been trying to stimulate domestic private spending. However personal consumption as a percentage of GDP has dropped 8 points in the period from 1999 to 2005, and continues to decline. In 1996, household savings were still about 20 percent of GDP; the number dropped to 16 percent in 2005. At the same time, the savings ratio of government and enterprises has collectively increased from 18 percent in 1996 to 26 percent in 2006. These figures offer a vivid picture of the current Chinese economy: The communist government and enterprises are taking away a bigger and bigger share of the pie. That’s why personal consumption has been so low.

In the financial sector, bad debts continue to be a serious issue. The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) reported that until the end of September 2006, the Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) in the banking system remained at 12.74 trillion yuan (US$1.6 trillion), 7.3 percent of the total bank loans. The NPLs in the Big Four state banks were as high as 1.05 trillion yuan (US$0.13 trillion), 9.3 percent of the total bank loans. Although the official statistics show that bad debts are gradually decreasing, the number is still astronomical. Jiang Dingzhi, vice director of CBRC, reported that the NPLs are showing a trend of piling up, urging the commercial banks to strengthen the control of loans and expedite financial reforms. However, overseas scholars still doubt the official statistics. Gordon Chang, the author of the book Coming Collapse of China, estimated that the NPLs may be as high as 40-50 percent of total bank loans in China.{mospagebreak}

What the imbalance in the economic structure boils down to is that the nation’s wealth has shifted away from the majority of the population to government organizations and business enterprises. Not only is the per capita disposable income level at a low level, unemployment has became one of the most serious crises in the economy. In 2006, 1.24 million college graduates could not find a job. In rural areas, more than 100 million people are unemployed. It was estimated that in 2008, the number of urban unemployed may exceed 50 million. From 1992 to 2006, the total population increased by 140 million, with 100 million joining the active labor force. However, there has been little change in the total employed population. The added 100 million active laborers are either unemployed or under-employed, with no steady income and no social security.

At the same time, heavy taxation has adversely affected the development of private enterprises. From 1999 to 2004, more than 7.7 million individual entrepreneurs disappeared. In 2005 alone, 300,000 corporate enterprises were shut down. But 2006, on the other hand, was a year of harvest of fiscal revenue, which exceeded 4 trillion yuan (US$500 billion)—24 percent of the GDP, compared with the percentage of total labor income decreasing to 15 percent of GDP.

In 2006, various aspects of potential crises within the economy continued to accumulate. It is fair to say that after almost three decades of "reform," the economy is still showing a rosy face by charging forward at a high speed on a bumpy road but is out of balance—at a tremendous cost to the welfare of most of the population, the nation’s resources, the environment, and social stability.


Before the year’s end, China-U.S. trade had reached US$328 billion, making China the second largest trading partner of the United States (only after Canada). In the first 11 months of 2006, China’s trade surplus with the United States surged from US$185.3 billion to US$213.5 billion compared to the same period a year earlier. This represents an increase of US$28.2 billion or 13.2 percent. Beijing has accumulated a staggering foreign reserve of over US$1.0 trillion, the major portion of which was invested in U.S. treasury bonds.

Although the United States has been pressuring China to revalue its currency so as to rebalance the bilateral trade, China also holds the United States hostage and can threaten to dump the U.S. dollar to make the dollar fall sharply. The U.S. delegation headed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke visited China in December for the inaugural meeting of new "strategic economic dialogue." China’s state-owned media interpreted the visit as an indication of China’s rising significance. The U.S. delegation failed to secure a single concession on Chinese currency revaluation.{mospagebreak}

China’s trade with the European Union reached US$250 billion last year, so China also remained the European Union’s second largest trade partner.

Soaring Medical Costs: The Top Social Issue in China

Poor Health Care Coverage

Mr. Shen, a retired worker in Beijing earns 1,000 yuan (US$125) in retirement income each month. In an interview with Voice of America, Shen said if he has even a minor ailment, it will cost him a few hundred yuan to visit the doctor, which is too costly for him. So he usually buys some medicinal vegetables to cook in soup on his own, or goes to a drug store to get some over-the-counter medicine. Shen’s practice is a common phenomenon among most Chinese citizens without medical insurance. In a survey about China’s current medical system, conducted by China Youth Daily, 90 percent of the 733 who were surveyed said they were not satisfied.

In the 2007 Social Blue Book (also called 2007: The Analysis and Forecast of China’s Social Situation), published on December 25, 2006, by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Chief Editor Li Peilin says "soaring medical costs have plunged many rural and urban Chinese into poverty." The book was based on a survey that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences conducted from March to July 2006. The survey covered 7,140 households in 28 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions.

According to the Blue Book, for the first time, soaring medical costs was listed as the number one social issue in China. Medical expenses had risen to 11.8 percent of household consumption, surpassing education and transportation. According to Xinhua News, statistics from the Health Ministry show that one-third of poor rural patients in China choose not to go to the hospital when they are sick, and 45 percent of hospitalized farmers ask to be discharged before they have recovered.

The Blue Book showed that in the countryside, basic health insurance coverage and comprehensive coverage is at 6.5 and 3.3 percent of the population, respectively. Almost everyone surveyed was unhappy about the medical charges they received and complained about the lack of effective controls.

The Widening Gap Between the High and Low Income Groups

Also in the Blue Book, Li Peilin indicated that the income ratio of the top 20 percent of the population versus the lowest-earning earners has reached 18 and the gap continues to widen.{mospagebreak}

As the income gap widens, the Chinese people are widely lowering their estimation of their own social and economic statuses, according to Li. Over half of the Chinese people believe they belong to the lowest or middle-to-lower class.

The Chinese self-estimates of a "middle class" rating are not only lower than those of the developed nations, including the United States, France, and Japan, but also lower than those of developing countries such as Brazil and India.

This phenomenon is the result of very rapid change in the distribution of China’s wealth and the ever-widening income gap, said Li. Many people are puzzled by the unfairness of the income-distribution system. As a result, particular attention must be paid to this issue.

Li stated that not only must the distribution results be readjusted, but also a system for fair opportunities and fair power must be established. If fair opportunities cannot be guaranteed, simply adjusting the income distribution to make it more equitable will not completely eliminate the dissatisfaction of the people, he said.


When Premier Wen Jiabao spoke at a conference in 2004 on the re-employment of laid-off workers, he stated that unemployment was to be a top priority for his administration. Two years later, according to the Blue Book, unemployment ranked second place in social concerns.

In a BBC news report on July 17, 2006, the Zhejiang Television Station published an ad to hire 147 cashiers for a highway in northern Zhejiang Province. Seven hundred and twenty out of 1,600 people who applied were college graduates. The cashier worked three shifts a day and made an annual income of 20,000 yuan (US$2,500). That means that five college graduates applied for each cashier position that only required high school skills.

The Xinhua News Agency claimed that the urban unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent for the first nine months in 2006. However, many experts have questioned the accuracy of China’s officially published unemployment rate and wonder about the disputable technical definitions: whether it includes xia gang—people who became jobless due to the closing and restructuring of inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs), or people in their 40s who took early retirement packages and were bought out from their jobs. The BBC has reported that some analysts think the unemployment rate may be as high as 11.5 percent to 18.5 percent.{mospagebreak}

A newly emerging jobless classification is the college graduate. "Graduation equates to joblessness," has become common knowledge. The estimated number of college graduates in 2006 was 4.3 million, twice as many as in 2003 while the market demand was for only 1.5 million plus 0.7 million government municipal employee positions. This left two million graduates facing unemployment last year. As a result, many college graduates took low-paying jobs with a monthly salary averaging 1,000-2,000 yuan (US$125-$250) and could barely cover their basic living expenses.

The Acceleration of Corruption

According to a Voice of America (VOA) report on December 6, 2006, a survey by the Central Committee Party School of China (CCPS), the highest-ranked school for CCP ideology, shows that CCP cadres acknowledge that corruption is a major roadblock in China’s development—the "big enemy" of China’s social harmony.

The CCP’s Research Group for a Harmonious Socialist Society recently conducted a survey of 300 cadres who are leaders of departments or prefectures or their equivalents. The survey results indicated that corruption is the highest-priority issue, second only to the issue of social security.

The Journal of the Party School acknowledged that even though measures were taken, corruption in 2006 continued to spread like the plague in China and involved higher ranking officials, larger amounts of money, and has grown from an individual activity to systematic corruption.

"Like many other phenomena that occur during social development, corruption exists not just in China. It occurs in democratic countries as well as in authoritarian nations, although the systematic and widespread corruption is an issue unique to China," concluded an article published in the CCP’s newspaper Study Times.

Cao Changqing, former associate editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Youth Daily and a Chinese political commentator living in the United States, responded when interviewed by VOA: "When Beijing stresses that stability is the top-most priority, it implies that society is already very unstable. Now it widely promotes the construction of a ‘harmonious society.’ It shows that China’s society is rather inharmonious. The widespread corruption largely accounts for the lack of harmony in the society."

Cao said to VOA that China’s corruption is not limited to the ruling Party. Today’s China is full of both "hardware" and "software" corruption.{mospagebreak}

Hardware corruption is the corruption of the whole system. Nowadays there is not only a lack of ethics among individuals, but the whole system is corrupt. There is no rule of law, effective supervision, or planned elections.

In China, there is no independent judicial system. This is by itself a manifestation of corruption, Cao said. Such hardware corruption not only fails to suppress corruption, but also provides nutritious soil and favorable conditions for corruption.

Cao also points out that the "software" factors that nurture corruption include the lack of rule by law and the lack of individualism in China’s traditional culture.

After experiencing 10 years of "Cultural Revolution," China witnessed the emergence of the "Party Culture," which magnifies the worst elements in China’s traditional culture and pushes them to the extreme, Cao continued. As a result, people mistrust and deceive one another. The ultra-selfishness and dishonesty fill every corner of society.

The Sixth Plenary Session of the 16th CCP Central Committee held in Beijing from October 8-11, 2006, discussed and passed "decisions on key issues in building a socialist harmonious society." A nationwide campaign to "build a socialist harmonious society" followed afterward.

People are wondering how China can achieve "harmony" given the list of serious ongoing social issues. Cao told VOA, "They need a fundamental reform of the system: election, freedom of the press, and an independent legislative system."

Water Shortages and Air Pollution Top China’s Environment Problems

While a Chinese citizen consumes less than half of the world average for energy, China’s energy intensity per unit of GDP is 50 percent more than the world average [4].

Many ecological problems have developed in China over the past several years. Among the two most challenging in 2006 were water shortage and air pollution.{mospagebreak}

China has an estimated 26,000 active coal mines, which emit approximately 13.5 billion cubic meters of methane. In addition, China is the largest emitting country of black carbon (BC) in the world, releasing 17 percent of global BC emissions, which is believed to be the second most important global warming gas after CO2. Most of BC emissions are produced by burning crop residues, a common practice in rural China. Although the Asia Development Bank started a US$77 million project helping villagers to use village scaled gasifiers in Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi, and Shanxi provinces, the problem is far from being solved.

More than one million Chinese die from respiratory diseases due to severe air pollution each year, costing the equivalent annual salaries of five million people. China’s regional haze, largely caused by coal combustion and burning agricultural wastes, is depressing 70 percent of crops by up to 30 percent [5].

Among the 660 cities in China, 400, or over 60 percent, are short of water. Among these 400, 130 are seriously short of water. Many methods have been used to lower water usage: a quota for city dwellers, higher prices for water, education, and some permanent construction to solve the problem once and for all, such as the ambitious south-to-north water project.

The year 2006 saw the continuing construction of the south-to-north water project that will take water in three canals from the Yangtze Basin and carry it 3,000 km (1864 miles) to the Yellow, Huai, and Hai river basins in the north. Many have criticized this US$60 billion project for using outdated and inaccurate assumptions, exaggerating water consumption predictions, and neglecting to perform an integrated resource plan that compares the full costs, benefits, and risks [6].

On top of this, water projects, including dam building, have increasingly caused conflict among communities refusing to be resettled and from environmentalists demanding more transparency in the decision-making process.

China stands at a crossroad—the choices made today will determine the country’s ability to stem the growing political, economic, social, and environmental problems in the future.

Leon Chao, Ann Lee, and Xiao Tian are correspondents for Chinascope.

[1] Beijing’s ‘soft power’ offensive By Purnendra Jain and Gerry Groot  at
[3] People’s Daily, January 8, 2007
[5] China Environment Series, Issue 8, 2006, page 61.
[6] Global Water Partnership, 2005,