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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,

Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Contingent Gains Strength

December 10, 2006, marked the close of elections for members of the Election Committee of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Of the 137 candidates recommended to the Election Committee by the pro-democracy camp, 114 won.

This was the first time that the pro-democracy camp, made up of the Democratic Party and the Civic Party, has ever won more than 100 seats on the Election Committee. It was a significant victory because, by law, one must receive at least 100 nominations from the Election Committee to be eligible to run for chief executive.

A Huge Victory

According to The Epoch Times, with 114 newly elected pro-democracy members, plus the 20 already on the Election Committee, the pro-democracy camp took control of 134 seats. It is almost certain that Alan Leong, who was recommended by the Civic and Democratic parties to run for the Chief Executive office, will earn the needed 100 nominations to become an official nominee.

Alan Leong of the Civic Party, encouraged by the results, remained optimistic about his nomination, stating, "The election results have two implications: First, it is clear that the people of Hong Kong have shown that they want the election for chief executive to be competitive; and second, those who came out to vote cast a sacred vote for the future of Hong Kong. These two messages are clear and indisputable."

The results of the voting came as a surprise for the pro-democracy camp. Mr. Ronny Tong of the Civic Party said, "The election system is so distorted that it was very difficult for us to have a fair election. Even under these circumstances, we made such a great achievement. We must thank our constituents and apologize to them for not being confident in the beginning."

But Mr. Sen Yang, another democracy representative, criticized the so-called small-circle election, "It is not fair that only 220,000 people are allowed to vote. In a society as mature as Hong Kong, everyone should have the right to vote."

The "Small-Circle Election"

In past years, the people of Hong Kong have asked for a general election for the position of Chief Executive of Hong Kong. But this never became a reality due to suppression by the mainland Chinese Communist Party. The election game was only played by the 800-member Election Committee, which consists of two parts: the current representatives, who are very small in number and dubbed the "small circle," and the new members elected by about 200,000 constituents from various sectors of Hong Kong assigned by the Hong Kong Administration. A majority of those elected were from pro-communist sectors.{mospagebreak}

Anyone who wants to become a formal candidate must first get at least 100 nominations from the Election Committee. The 800 members will then vote to elect the chief executive. This was generally viewed as a way for Beijing to guarantee a pro-Communist Party chief executive to rule Hong Kong, where the "One Country, Two Systems" policy must be applied and can therefore maintain tight control.

According to a Voice of America report by Ya Wei, some analysts have said that, although Alan Leong could run for the election as a formal candidate, the Election Committee, which has always been considered loyal to Beijing, will choose a candidate whom they think will be loyal to Beijing.

Pro-Democracy Camp Breakthrough

According to Dong Xiang, a well-known Hong Kong magazine, although incumbent Chief Executive Donald Tsang will win the election in March 2007, the practice of having only one candidate run for election was brought to an end by the victory of the pro-democracy camp in the Election Committee. There will now be a competitive election.

The magazine disclosed that, before the election, Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wu Bangguo had warned Tsang to "take good care of the election," which meant preventing the pro-democracy camp from gaining more than 100 seats on the Election Committee.

Beijing Regime Is Furious

According to Apple Daily, just like what happened in the voting for the Election Committee, the pro-democracy camp won all members in the legal field. However, none of the 12 lawyers from the Hong Kong Bar Association who were supported by the Chinese Communist Party made any inroads in the elections.

An unidentified source told Apple Daily that Beijing felt it lost face on this issue. Beijing was furious about the results of the election. The state-controlled Xinhua News Agency posted election-related news in a very low profile.

Rise of the Pro-Democracy Camp In Hong Kong

In the past, pro-democracy camp candidates have been reluctant to run for election. It was not feasible given the nature of the "small-circle election." It has been hard to move the election process forward while the Chinese Communist Party has controlled the Hong Kong elections.{mospagebreak}

Last year, Anson Chan, the famous former Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration, stepped forward to advocate general elections. She even attended the parade on July 1. Some analysts said that she intended to run for election, but she announced that she would not because, as an analyst conceded, Beijing did not favor her.

For a long time, the pro-democracy camp has made up only a fraction of Hong Kong’s legislative council. The surprising win in the vote for members of the Election Committee is regarded by many analysts as a "rise" of the pro-democracy camp. It may very well be true, as the pro-democracy camp will now play an increasingly important role.

On December 17, 2006, Mr. He Junren was elected president of the Democratic Party. Not long ago, this former vice president was beaten by gangsters allegedly with ties to the Chinese Communist Party. He has vowed to continue his support of mainland China’s human rights and conscience movement. He will also continue to support Alan Leong.

"The Democratic Party will become not only the largest opposition party in Hong Kong, but also the largest opposition party in (mainland) China," said Mr. He.

From the Editor

Few things ruffle the Beijing regime’s feathers more than the idea of universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Beijing’s regime may tolerate Hong Kong’s capitalist reality in a business context, but the idea of a free election in Hong Kong is an anathema to it. When Christopher Patten, Hong Kong’s last governor-general before China’s takeover, loosened restrictions for the election of the 60 legislative council members, China’s state media accused Mr. Patten of trying to sabotage Hong Kong’s integrity and stability. When Hong Kong’s citizens went to the streets to demand a general election of their own Chief Executive and legislative council members, the communist-controlled media called the demonstrators "unpatriotic (traitors)."

The 1984 Sino-British Declaration, a treaty registered with the United Nations, guarantees Hong Kong with a "high degree of autonomy" except in foreign affairs and defense. The Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, empowers it to work out how the council members are elected after 2007 on its own. Of course, Beijing has its own interpretations and repeats two mantras through foreign ministry spokespeople: "Hong Kong’s elections fall entirely within China’s sovereignty. Hong Kong’s affairs are China’s internal affairs." Indeed, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress has already said no to universal suffrage in 2008.

In recent years, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China on July 1 has become an annual event for Hong Kong’s citizens to call for the free elections of their own leaders. The plot thickened when the pro-democracy faction won 114 seats on the Election Committee of the Chief Executive on December 10, 2006. Under the Basic Law, one must receive at least 100 nominations from the Election Committee to be eligible to run for the Chief Executive position, so this marks the first time that it could be filled by someone not designated by Beijing.

It is highly unlikely that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp will succeed in winning the upcoming election, since a vast majority of the 800 members of the Election Committee were designated by the mainland and remain loyal to Beijing’s communist government. By stacking the Committee, Beijing’s communist regime has all but ensured that the Chief Executive will continue to be under its firm control. However, the recent development has emboldened Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists and sympathizers, which in turn could have ramifications for its mainland counterparts. With more support for Hong Kong’s efforts toward democracy from all corners of the world, universal suffrage may come sooner rather than later.

On Foreign Corporations

China’s State Media Comments on World Fortune 500 Companies: Avoid Taxes, Pinch Pennies, and Abuse China’s Natural Resources

[Note: Below is a commentary from China’s state media on the world’s Fortune 500 corporations that are doing business in China. The article was initially published in Beijing Times after an investigative report on the "2005 Ranking of the World Fortune 500 Companies with Investments in China" organized by Southern Weekend was released on December 6, 2005, and posted on Xinhuanet on December 7, 2005. The article, titled "World Fortune 500 Companies Avoid Taxes in China; Some are Penny-Pinching and Abuse China’s Natural Resources," is translated below.]

"Among World Fortune 500 companies, which ones are the best investors in China? What kind of impacts do their investment activities make on China? The "2005 Ranking of the World Fortune 500 Companies with Investments in China" published by Southern Weekend on December 6 answered these questions. However, this list also revealed some of the dark secrets of these international corporations’ operations in China: Some corporations are extremely stingy, avoid taxes in China, and abuse China’s resources."

The List Focuses on the Corporations’ Responsibilities and Contributions; the World Fortune 500 Companies’ Scores Are Consistently Low

"According to Southern Weekend‘s evaluation criteria, Samsung won first place as the best investor on the list with a score of 70.409 points, followed by General Motors (57,206 points) and Philips Electronics (53.783 points.) Nearly 400 corporations participated in the evaluation. Because many corporations had a very low score, Southern Weekend decided to publicize only the top 70 best investors in China. The 70th on the list was Astra Zeneca, a U.K. pharmaceutical company, scoring 13.783 points.

"In terms of the evaluation criteria, Mr. Cao Xing, a chief supervisor at Southern Weekend, explained that there were five categories of evaluation criteria, including the amount of investment in China, the business operations in China, the social responsibilities, the local contributions, and the brand image in China. The amount of investment in China constitutes 20 percent of the score; the business operations, 25 percent; the social responsibilities, 20 percent; the local contributions, 25 percent; and the brand image in China, 10 percent. ‘This ranking emphasizes responsibility, development, and harmony with the environment,’ Cao explained.

"In addition, Southern Weekend also published four related rankings. Samsung in China won first place for its best business operations in China. Nissan Investment Company, Ltd., in China is ranked first as the best employer. General Motors in China is ranked first for its local contribution. And Proctor & Gamble in China wins first place for its best public image in China.{mospagebreak}

"To emphasize the objectivity and fairness, Cao said this evaluation project does not accept any corporation’s sponsorship or advertisement. ‘We have an allocated budget for this project,’ said Cao. The data used for the evaluation came from the Chinese government and public sources. For example, they looked at the top 500 corporations published by the Chinese government every year, the public information of all the corporations with stocks, etc. In addition, Southern Weekend conducted an investigation of these companies. They also verified all the data used for the evaluation."

Decoding the List

1. Most corporations are not good taxpayers in China

"One surprising data is that the majority of the world’s fortune 500 companies score low on paying taxes [in China]. The result has once again proven the common knowledge that not all international corporations are model taxpayers.

"Samsung, which ranked top on the list, scores 1.203 points on paying taxes, and General Motors has a full score of 10 points. Of the top 70 international corporations on the list, only 21 of them score above one point while the rest score lower than one point.

"Even though international corporations score extremely low on paying taxes in China, some people question whether some companies are given too high a score in this category. Some reporters say that some international corporations are very good at taking advantage of China’s tax policies to get tax returns, to get tax exemptions, to avoid taxes, and to use some regions’ favorable tax policies to reduce taxes."

2. No Corporation Stands Out for Charity Donations

"Besides taxes, international corporations in China are not generous in giving charity donations. Many corporations are penny-pinching. Samsung in China scores 0.877 point in charitable giving. IBM ranks number one in charitable giving with a score of 4.653 points. Twenty-seven corporations score zero."

3. Exploiting Workers

"Some international corporations in China are shameful in using the labor resources. Mr. Xi Guoming, chairman of International Corporation Research Center at Nankai University, said that larger international corporations in China are better in that they pay their employees better than domestic companies. They also provide medical insurance, employee training, and educational reimbursements, and so on. Some smaller international companies are not good to their human resources. In some regions in southern China, the average salary was about 500 yuan (US$63) [per month] during the late 1980s. According to research in the past few years, the average salary in these regions remains the same. This means that employees did not obtain benefits proportionate to the value they have created. The benefits went to the international corporations."{mospagebreak}

4. Leave Environment Problems to the Chinese Government

"This list also indirectly exposes the truth about another problem: The demand in China has created the acceleration of consumption of the world’s energy resources. Actually, the large quantity of energy and resources consumed by international corporations are calculated as China’s consumption. In addition, when these corporations use China’s resources, they fail to pay the costs.

"At the press release, Mr. Xi Guoming pointed out directly, ‘It’s undeniable that some foreign corporations are abusing China’s resources.’ For example, China transferred land or rented out land to international corporations at a very low price, causing an imbalanced price for using the land, which is unfavorable to the use of China’s resource.

"Xi said that foreign corporations intentionally move their factories with pollutant products or pollutant manufacturing environments to China. On the other hand, some local Chinese governments neglect the environmental protection regulations when inviting foreign investments. Hence, some corporations … moved the pollution problem to China and the Chinese government."

Translated  by CHINASCOPE from

China’s State Media Identifies "Anti-China" Scholars

[Note: The article below, titled "Who is Viciously Attacking China?" was original published in Global People (the magazine under Chinese Communist Party media People’s Daily group). The article was reposted on Xinhuanet on December 18, 2006. The article identified seven Western scholars from the United States, Japan, and Russia as "vicious attackers (against China)."]

"For several years, absurd theories like ‘China Threat,’ ‘China Collapse,’ ‘China Split,’ and ‘Yellow Peril’ have continually attacked China from the West. These arguments and rhetoric are not worth refuting, since they have never been real and will not become reality in the future. However, they have harmed China’s international image and have disrupted China’s efforts at development and engaging the world, and for this reason they should be taken seriously by Chinese people.

"So who are the people planning and disseminating these irresponsible opinions? How have they maligned China, and what is their goal in doing so? For the answer, you must look to ‘China’s vicious attackers.’ Only by gaining a deep understanding of their words can you truly uncover the means and motives of those attacking China, and by doing so lay bare their sinister machinations. Therefore, Global People has selected several ‘attackers’ from the United States, Japan, and Russia:{mospagebreak}

"Bill Gertz, The Washington Times: For 20 years he has been spinning the ‘China Military Threat Theory.’ Bogus news stories like ‘Chinese submarine tracks American carrier’ and ‘China paid millions to steal B-2 bomber stealth technology’ were entirely his creation. Most galling, this forger has won the support of the Pentagon and some members of Congress.

"Larry Wortzel, former assistant army attache at the U.S. Embassy in China [1988-1990]: This is a man who detests China to his very bones. He worked within the military intelligence system monitoring China for 25 years. In his eyes, China’s planes and guided missiles come from Chinese exchange students and computers, and pose a ‘serious threat’ to the United States. In the first half of this year, the U.S. State Department’s purchase of Lenovo computers was scuttled by him at the last minute.

"Michael Pillsbury, Pentagon consultant: His greatest trait is that when he is in China, he speaks of ‘friendship,’ but when he returns to the United States, he talks of ‘threat.’ He claims to have ‘a good deal of understanding of Sunzi’s The Art of War,’ but the strange thing is that he ‘discovered’ from The Art of War a ‘threat’ coming from China. He was the main author of the Pentagon’s 2005 Report on the Military Power of the P.R.C. that trumpeted the ‘China threat.’

"Gordon G. Chang, Chinese-American opportunist: ‘China’s economy is in decline and has begun to collapse; the time will be prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic games and not after….’ His ‘China collapse theory’ is so much sensationalism. Though he is ‘besieged’ at every turn because of the utter nonsense that issues from his mouth, his wacky theories still find purchase across the globe.

"Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo: Chief among the anti-Chinese in Japan, he started on the anti-China road 40 years ago. By cursing China to ‘split apart’ and calling for a re-invasion of China, he has become a classic representative of vicious attacks on China. Worth being aware of is that his anti-China ideas run deep in the fringes of Japanese culture and have extremely negative effects.

"Mineo Nakajima, ‘anti-China hero’ of Japanese academia: The earliest person in Japan to put forth the ‘China collapse theory,’ and an advocate of the ‘China split theory,’ he goes traveling every month for exchanges with anti-Chinese elements in other countries and to spread his anti-China fallacies. However, nothing that he has predicted has come to pass, so he had no recourse but to return to the ‘China threat theory.’

"Evgeniy Nazdratenko, Russian official: He is one of the leading modern drum-beaters for the ‘Yellow-Peril Theory.’ ‘China has plans to expand its population across the Russian border,’ ‘Russia will inevitably fall to become a raw-material tribute-state for China’— during his tenure as governor of Russia’s Maritime Region, he not only made noise about this sort of twisted theory but also instituted discriminatory policies toward Chinese people and gave orders to expel tens of thousands."

Translated by CHINASCOPE from

Reclaiming Chinese Culture

If it’s true you can learn a lot about someone from who are his enemies (even if imagined), then so too, it would seem, can one learn a lot about a nation-state. Or Party-state, as in the case of mainland China, which has been ruled by an unelected Communist Party (the CCP) since 1949.

One needs look no further than the bizarre (un)diplomatic efforts of Chinese officialdom over the past couple of weeks for confirmation. For around the world, embassy officials and consuls of the Chinese state have been putting the Chinese people’s hard-earned tax dollars to work trying, oddly enough, to bring down a cultural show. And a Chinese cultural show, at that—New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television’s Chinese New Year Spectacular.

What would prompt such abnormalities, then, as crank calls to the show’s hotlines trying to crash the phone system, threatening letters to show sponsors, and even attempts to pressure venues into canceling the event? Granted, communist rulers sometimes find enemies in strange places—witness the notorious campaign to once "eradicate sparrows," or the branding of the Mary Kay cosmetic company as an "evil economic cult."

But isn’t NTD’s show itself Chinese culture—a shared, collective good? Isn’t this something for everyone, especially officials, to be proud of? What could be threatening to a powerful regime about petite ladies prancing about doing innocuous things like a fan dance?

The answer, I would suggest, cuts to the heart of a fascinating set of issues, not the least of which is who is "China," who gets to be "Chinese," and whether it’s possible for a Chinese cultural space to exist that is not managed and orchestrated by Beijing’s rulers.

Since the ascendancy of the Communist Party in China, "culture"—defined locally as performing arts, shared stories, traditions, etc.—was seen as means par excellence of disseminating ideology among the less (and sometimes more) literate. Performing troupes would thus bring the message of the Party to the masses through various theatrical shows. Values such as "struggle" and the demonizing of new social pariahs such as "landlords" were standard fare.

Traditional culture, meanwhile, became the unlikely fodder for these tellings; traditional stories and themes were refashioned in barbarous, if unlikely, ways. This gave way to all-out hostility toward and assault on China’s traditional past by the Marxist rulers during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), which was more akin to cultural insanity: Imagine Red Guard troops taking baseball bats to Buddha statues.

With the death of Mao in 1976 things normalized, but only slightly, perhaps. While artists were no longer jailed or beaten publicly, the arts, or Chinese culture proper, remained quite firmly in the Party’s hands. New contortions of the past have marked this (the "post-Mao") era, with most instantiations being contrived, if not for purposes of ideology, at least to cater to the imaginations of tourists from afar (something like Confucius meets Colonel Sanders).{mospagebreak}

In each case, the Communist Party has wed itself to Chinese culture, and claimed it for its own—and as its sole, self-proclaimed, proprietor, felt a sense of entitlement, if not possessiveness.

With the arrival of NTD’s first Chinese New Year production in 2003, the Party-state’s monopoly on culture was faced with—in its own words—a "crisis." The people now had an alternative, as it were. How so?

First, the formation of NTD as a media entity marked, judging by scholarship on Chinese media, one of the first Chinese-language media ventures truly independent of China’s Communist Party. Confirmation of this is found quickly in the stunning extent of efforts by Chinese authorities to thwart the station. Many of its New Year performers, like the station’s founders, could be called Chinese communism’s discontents—people who have seen and gone through a lot. Several I have interviewed were abused something horrible for being artists (and thus "bourgeoisie") under communist rule. They strike me as an uncompromising, determined bunch. Whereas indicators are that many Chinese media outlets have been bought off or bought out (call it the CCTVization of the world), these folks are dogged.

Secondly, the NTD New Year’s show is very much Chinese. Positively so. And that makes it fundamentally different from the Party’s brand of communist culture. (As to the latter, one almost has to see for oneself the uniformed Chinese PLA soldiers dancing ballet to believe it.) The latter is the brainchild of a German figure, Marx, that came by way of the then-Soviet Union.

By contrast, the NTD show envisions itself as a return to, and draws inspiration from, China’s golden age—the Tang Dynasty (617-907). The Tang was a time of tremendous cultural diversity, tolerance, and religious devotion; note the contrast to China’s contemporary autocratic state. The show seeks to, like NTD itself, empower its viewers insofar as it reaches back to a shared past—unmediated by Party or state—for common values, ideals, and inspiration.

(And given that it was NTD that broke the SARS story—fully three weeks before China’s state media admitted to a top-down cover up—you might call NTD "the people’s station." It was, unlike Beijing, more concerned with the Chinese people’s welfare than the Party’s image.)

The show amounts to nothing less than a refashioning—or recovery—of Chinese self, I dare say. It suggests, tacitly, that there are other interpretations and visions of Chinese culture available, and that venturing in such directions need not be feared. It’s part of a process of becoming.{mospagebreak}

When we hear communist officials thus denounce the show as being "anti-China" (which is often), it is the highest form of flattery, it would seem. For in that ironic accusation is confirmation that NTD has ruptured a five-decade-long conflation of Party with China, of Communist Culture with Chinese Culture, and with being patriotic with loving the Party. One is tempted to say that these are two visions of Chineseness—one meant to control, one to empower.

Nobody can say for sure how all of this will play out, but for the historically minded it is a fascinating, hopeful moment. Until all is said and done, I’ll be enjoying the show.

Matthew Kutolowski is a Ph.D. student studying Chinese religion and culture in the department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University.

China’s Top 10 College Scandals of 2006

1. Shanghai Jiaotong University

In February 2003, Chen Jin, a testing engineer at Motorola, hired another person to remove the original logo on the MOTO-Freescale 56,800 chip that he purchased in the United States and to replace it with his own logo. This way, he appeared to have "developed" the so-called China Chip No.1. Because of his "outstanding research," he was offered the titles of professor, advisor of doctoral degree students, and president of the Microelectronics Institute. Thanks to "China Chip No.1," Chen Jin applied for dozens of heavyweight research projects and received grants totaling 1.1 billion yuan (US$140 million) for his "research." In January 2006, his plagiarism was exposed, shocking the whole country.

2. Beijing University

Shing-Tung Yau is a renowned professor of mathematics at Harvard University. In July 2006, in an interview with reporters, he claimed "most of the talent that Beijing University allegedly imported from abroad is bogus." According to a New York Times article published on October 17, 2006, "For the last year Dr. Yau has carried on a campaign against Beijing University, accusing it of committing fraud by padding its faculty with big names from overseas and paying them lucrative salaries for a few months of work."[1] Many other media outlets picked up this report.[2]

A survey in Science magazine showed that the number of such part-time professors in China had grown from 6 to 89 over the last six years, while the number of full-time professors had risen from 66 to 101. The arrangement allows Chinese universities to piggyback on the glory of work these people do in their other jobs. Dr. Yau pointed out that it also drains resources that should go to young researchers.

The authorities at Beijing University subsequently accused Dr. Yau of distorting the facts. At once, Dr. Yau, Beijing University authorities, many scholars, and China’s Ministry of Education all began hotly debating this issue. According to the online comments, most people agree with Dr. Yau’s allegations.

3. Nanjing Normal University

On September 27, 2006, university authorities "forced" 10 female students majoring in choreography at its College of Music to come to a party to dance with the high-level leaders who were visiting the school. The notorious scandal is that China’s education system is ultimately joining the tide of degeneration. They had to happily accommodate the desires of these corrupt officials.{mospagebreak}

4. Sichuan University

In 2006, a number of bogus academic research results at Sichuan University were exposed. In January, before Professor Qiu’s fake research was exposed, the bogus research of another scholar, an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences, was revealed, as was that of the university’s vice secretary of the Party. The Ministry of Education promised that the authorities of Sichuan University would investigate the incidents and disclose their findings to the Chinese people. As of today, no such information has been published.

5. Shanghai Normal University

In June 2006, the theses of 12 undergraduate students majoring in Oil Painting were rejected. The root cause: University President Xu Mangyao had a major academic disagreement with Liu Dahong, the thesis adviser for the 12 students. Sadly, all of the 12 theses became the sacrificial objects of the academic conflict.

6. Beijing University of Foreign Languages

On April 18, 2006, the college authorities accused Wei Yin (nickname), a Ph.D. candidate in 2002, of harassing, humiliating, and cursing her dissertation adviser using mini ads and e-mails. Because she also allegedly harassed another two faculty members, she was expelled from the school based on "sufficient evidence." After she failed in her appeal to the college, Wei Yin presented her case to the Education Committee of Beijing. The committee rescinded the decision for expulsion that the Beijing University of Foreign Languages authorities made. The media reported that nobody knows whether it was Wei Yin or the authorities at her college who misbehaved. In another scandal at Beijing Jiaotong University, exposed in 2005, a female graduate student allegedly used her body to get the admissions exam professor to let her see the graduate admission exam.

7. Huazhong University of Science and Technology

In June 2006, Professor Xiao Chuanguo of the college formally filed a lawsuit at Wuhan City Intermediate Court against Fang Zhouzhi, a scholar "renowned" for being against fake science, often called the "anti-fake science knight." Professor Xiao complained that he was not promoted to be an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences because Fang slandered him in an anti-fake science article that he published on the Internet. This was unprecedented news in Chinese academic circles as it forced a judge, who knows nothing about science or medicine, to make a judgment on an academic issue.{mospagebreak}

8. Lanzhou University

As a key college in greater northwestern China highly supported by the Ministry of Education, Lanzhou University has a lot of privileges regarding various aspects of state policies. In October 2006, however, a major scandal involving commercial bribery was exposed. Two high-ranking officials from the university—the president and the Party secretary—exploited their power in regard to a residential project and a new hospital building project to amass as much as 15.93 million yuan (US$2.0 million) in bribes.

9. Tianjin University

In November 2006, Shan Ping, the former president of the university, lost his title as representative to the 10th National People’s Congress. The reason was that Hong Jianmin, the vice president in charge of the university’s finances, abused the school treasury by borrowing money to trade in stocks. He lost 37.5 million yuan (US$4.7 million) of the school’s money, breaking the Chinese college record for the largest amount of college money to be diverted to the stock market.

10. People’s University of China

While extravagant construction in China’s colleges is no longer news, this latest incident demonstrates how today’s colleges in China are meticulously looking after their campuses instead of the fundamentals of college education. In August 2006, People’s University of China reportedly spent several million yuan to install two luxurious "tourist elevators" in a three-story cafeteria building. The "tourist elevators" outside the wall of the three-story building are to "demonstrate the scale of internationalization."[3]

Translated by CHINASCOPE from February 9, 2007.


Authorities Find Scapegoat to Blame For the Death of a Sixteen-Year-Old

On January 16, 2007, following the news of the death of 16-year-old former hotel waitress Yang Daili, more than 10,000 angry civilians flocked to the Lai Shi De Hotel in Zhuyang Town, Dazhu County, Dazhou City, Sichuan Province, to call for the arrest of the three suspects who are high-ranking Party officials in Sichuan.

Civilians Protest the Death of 16-Year-Old

By afternoon, as the situation grew beyond control, local authorities dispatched large contingents of policemen to suppress the angry civilians. According to witnesses, besides being beaten up and threatened by the policemen, numerous civilians were also arrested, including local students and children. An infuriated resident then set a fire in the hotel, which lasted for the next five hours.

An agitated worker at the Lai Shi De Hotel revealed: "It is a known fact that Yang Daili was gang-raped by the three officials who visited the hotel on December 29. We have witnesses and material evidence to prove this. That is why we are so angry. To make matters worse, the local authorities have done all they can to cover up the incident and destroy all the evidence. Many websites and forums where we have posted related news have started censoring our voices.

"Moreover, I’ve heard that Yang’s family has also come under surveillance by the authorities. I wonder how things will turn out."

According to a worker at the Zhuyang Town Police Station who wishes to remain anonymous, "More than 10,000 civilians have come to protest over the past two days. Many police officers have already been beaten up.

"After the incident, Party officials from the provincial Public Security Bureau, the Provincial Party Council, and the Municipal Party Council all met together. I heard that the central government has also caught wind of this. So far, they have settled it by arresting the bartender of the hotel, Liu Zhikun."

The anonymous worker also revealed that the hotel is run by Xu Feng, son of the chief of the local West District police station.

Yang Wanted to Quit Her Job

Yang Daili, 16, was from Luojia Village, Dazhu Town, Sichuan Province. After graduating from middle school, she decided to start working, and on December 1 she formally began her employment at the Lai Shi De as a waitress. Yang’s father, Yang Wanguo, revealed: "On December 20, she told her mother that she was not going to work at the hotel anymore after collecting this month’s salary. She said that there were a lot of unusual management practices going on in the hotel and that there were a lot of drug addicts."{mospagebreak}

On December 29, three high-ranking Party officials in Sichuan Province came to Lai Shi De. They spotted Yang Daili immediately, named her as their waitress, and wanted to take her out. The next day, Ms. Yang was found lying in one of the hotel rooms. A worker at the Lai Shi De found that she had been drugged, a tooth was missing, her tongue was cut, and a nipple had been sliced.

Local Authorities Cloud Her Autopsy Results

Yang Wanguo continued, "The hospital gave me a report saying that she had died before arriving at the hospital. Even though the Public Security Bureau sent someone to perform the autopsy the same day afternoon, I have yet to receive a report. I checked her body in the hospital and saw no signs of injury except for some blood in her mouth. Later, in the autopsy, they said that they found some marks on her neck and back, as well as some blood in her genital area. The county government told me out of nowhere that my daughter had been raped before she died.

"The next day, however, I sensed something had changed. Initially they told me that there were four needle holes on her arms, but when the Provincial Judicial performed a second autopsy the next day, they told me that the four needle holes were fake. And as of today, I haven’t seen any report on her being raped. They’ve got us all confused."

"Liu Is Not The Culprit"

A local state-run media proclaimed the next day that the "collective mass event" had been basically settled and that "the hotel bartender, Liu Zhikun, the prime suspect in this rape-and-murder incident, had been arrested."

However, Ms. Yang’s family feels that Liu could not be behind the murder. A source pointed out: "They simply refused to do anything for 10 days after the girl’s death. Only after the civilians got all worked up and set a fire in the hotel did they finally, and very suddenly, arrest a suspect. Weren’t there three officials who raped the girl? What has it got to do with the bartender?"

Moreover, another anonymous source said: "An emergency meeting was held at 4:00 a.m. on January 18. It was the bartender who found the girl, so they decided that he was the best scapegoat. Every civilian knows that it is definitely not the bartender. The guilty ones are the three officials."

Indeed, the Internet community is far from satisfied with the result. An anonymous post was found on the Net: "I’ve heard that there are people in the county Party council involved, and there are quite a number of people in the provincial government backing it up."

Hundreds of other angry posts have emerged: "The officials all ganged up with each other," "Chinese law is no longer the law of the people, it is the law of the government," "Corruption! Even when they commit a crime, they can make use of all their power to cover themselves up," "To think that the Provincial Party Secretary Wang Wei proclaimed that Yang Daili’s death is just ‘the size of a butthole!’" "What kind of world is this! The powerless civilians are worthless in the eyes of those officials!"

Can Sun is a correspondent for Chinascope.