Videos are currently circulating online of a mysterious car crash that occurred earlier today in Tiananmen Square.
Currently, not much is known about the incident, which occurred at around 7:20 a.m. this morning. While there are rumors of a planned attack and explosion, Chinese state media has called the incident a “vehicle rollover” in which a driver and cyclist were injured.
And it appears that the situation at the square has since returned back to normal. Read the rest of this entry »
The January 13, 1967 issue of TIME magazine featured Mao Zedong on its cover with the headline “China in Chaos.” Fifty years later, TIME made U.S. President-elect Donald Trump its Man of The Year. With a groundswell of mass support, both men rebelled against the established order in their respective countries and set about throwing the world into confusion. Both share an autocratic mind set, Mao Zedong as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Donald Trump as Chairman of the Board. As Jiaying Fan noted in May 2016, both also share a taste for “polemical excess and xenophobic paranoia.” For his part, Mao’s rebellion led to national catastrophe and untold human misery.
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America. Although some of China’s New Leftists hailed Trump’s November 2016 win as a validation of ever-victorious Mao Zedong Thought, there is little reason to think that a Trump-led America will give much succor to China’s ideologues. In the two months since the U.S. election, through a phone call to Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen, repeated comments on China’s currency manipulation, the appointment of Peter Navarro (an economic hawk and author, among other things, of the 2011 book Death by China: Confronting the Dragon—A Global Call to Action) as director of the National Trade Council, and his intervention in a dispute over an underwater U.S. drone waylaid by the Chinese navy in the South China Sea, Trump has indicated that he is taking an unpredictable approach to the most important global bilateral relationship. Even long-standing friends and allies of the U.S. have been thrown off guard as they learn how to live with the Great Disrupter.
The Chinese Communist Party under its Chairman of Everything, Xi Jinping, hasn’t had to confront such an erratic and populist leader since Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolutionary 50 years ago.
Uproar in Heaven
In Official China, the anniversary of the Cultural Revolution passed in silence, even though today’s People’s Republic, whether in terms of its achievements or of its egregious failures, continues to live in the shadow of that political maelstrom.
In 1966, Mao observed that his personality was a mixture of contradictory elements. There was the self-assured sense of destiny and confidence that led him to challenge and overturn earlier leaders of the Communist Party, confront Chiang Kai-shek, and lead the Chinese revolution. This was, he said, an expression of his “Tiger Spirit,” something that was in constant interplay with his “Monkey Spirit,” one that was skittish, paranoid, and unpredictable. The Monkey was always ready to take on the Tiger with devilish glee. In the last two decades of his life, Mao’s China reflected this deep-seated contradiction as the country lurched between authoritarian control and anarchic confusion. What for the Great Helmsman was his life force writ large would rend the fabric of the society he ruled and threatened everything he had worked to achieve.
At the time of the Sino-Soviet split in 1961, Mao wrote a poem in praise of China’s most famous monkey, Sun Wukong, the hero of the popular late-Ming novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. The international order established following WWII was under increasing pressure, and the Socialist Bloc, led by the Soviet Union, was riven by rebellion and disquiet as a result both of repressive Soviet expansionism in Europe and the ideological uncertainty generated by Nikita Khrushchev’s secret denunciation of Joseph Stalin in 1956. Mao, giving vent to his Tiger Spirit, would now lay claim to the mantle of world revolution.
A thunderstorm burst over the earth,
So a devil rose from a heap of white bones.
The deluded monk was not beyond the light,
But the malignant demon must wreak havoc.
The Golden Monkey wrathfully swung his massive cudgel,
And the jade-like firmament was cleared of dust.
Today, a miasmal mist once more rising,
We hail Sun Wu-kung, the wonder-worker.
Having delivered this challenge, Mao’s unpredictable Monkey Spirit would attempt to turn the world upside down. His poem and Uproar in Heaven, a 1964 film adaptation of Wu Cheng’en’s novel, struck a cord with the restive youth of China, many of whom closely followed China’s ideological contest with the Soviet Union. Like Mao, they too felt that their country was being stymied by a hidebound Soviet-style bureaucracy; the normalization of the revolutionary ardor of the past was frustrating China’s ability to lead history and achieve greatness. They related to Mao as he portrayed himself as an outsider who championed an uprising of the masses against a sclerotic system.
When, in 1966, Mao both engineered and supported a grassroots youthful rebellion against the very party-state he had created, a group of middle-school students in Beijing responded by composing a series of manifestos declaring that they, like Monkey, would support the Chairman, create an uproar in heaven, and smash the old world to pieces. In particular, they proclaimed “Rebellion is Justified” and quoted a line from Mao’s 1961 poem:
The Golden Monkey wrathfully swung his massive cudgel,
And the jade-like firmament was cleared of dust.
Mao responded to the young rebels and, to use today’s parlance, an alt-left movement of radicalism was born. The students called themselves Red Guards.
In August 1966, Mao and his deputy, Lin Biao, encouraged the Red Guards to Destroy the Four Olds and a wave of iconoclasm swept the country while the violence against people victimized as representing the old order were denounced, attacked, beaten, and even killed. During what would be known as Bloody August, Mao is said to have written to Jiang Qing, his wife and partner in revolutionary extremism, declaring that “Once heaven is in great disorder a new kind of order can emerge.” He believed that throwing the political establishment and social order into confusion would liberate the true potential of people to achieve what was otherwise seemingly impossible. A high-tide of revolutionary enthusiasm would allow people to cast aside the deadening bureaucracy and revitalize industry, agriculture, research, and society itself. Under the guidance of Mao Zedong Thought, the goal of making China great again could be realized on the world stage.
The Instincts of an Autocrat
The similarities between Mao Zedong and Donald Trump don’t end with the autocrat’s mindset touched on in the opening paragraph of this essay, or with the clash between tiger-like brio and the dyspathy of the monkey. The will to autocracy means that both figures share (with elected or self-appointed strong men historically and worldwide) some disturbing parallels:
Quotations Vs. Tweets: In the Mao era, the mysterious, contradictory, and yet powerfully inciting utterances of the Chairman were conveyed not by Twitter, but through quotations broadcast over national radio and carried in the newspapers. In the print media, Mao’s gnomic utterances were always highlighted by being printed in bold, while on radio they were recited in the stentorian voice of authority. A daily quotation called “The Highest Directive” featured in the top right-hand corner of the People’s Daily and was mimicked by every paper across the land. The quotations demanded a response and action and sent the country lurching in different directions while confusion reigned supreme in Beijing.
Progadanda Vs. the Lying Media: Like Mao, Trump has trouble sleeping, and his early morning Tweets reveal whatever has caught the leader’s flickering attention, alerting the world to some new twist or turn in his feverish thinking. With Twitter, Trump bypasses both the formal bureaucracy of Washington and what he and his followers dub “The Lying Media.”
Mao too distrusted the state media based in the capital, Beijing, and with the support of his wife, Jiang Qing, and her Shanghai comrades he got his message of rebellion out in other cities. He extolled The Right to Rebel and, in essence, he launched the Cultural Revolution to “drain the swamp” of the Chinese Communist Party bureaucracy. He called enemies within the Party nomenklatura “Capitalist Roaders,” the permanent political class, that is men and women who were pursuing policies that undermined his ideas and which, he believe, held back China’s productive capacity and frustrated the country’s global revolutionary preeminence.
Climate Change Vs. Human Will: The effects of climate change and the mismanagement of natural resources were evident in Mao’s China. There was a profligate depletion of water resources; increasing desertification starting from Outer Mongolia; unmodulated industrial pollution from the Great Leap Forward era onwards; denial of contaminants in food and water supplies. . . the list goes on. Mao believed that “man can conquer heaven,” that human will could triumph over nature. China now faces the challenge of climate change and environmental degradation with sober clarity; Trump’s America will be led by climate skeptics, deniers, and those who would sign up for Mao’s axiom.
The Smartest Men in the Room: Like Trump, Mao thought he was “smart,” and he distrusted experts and the educated. An autodidact, he believed that he did not need to rely on others to understand complex issues and resolve problems. He declared that the more education you have, the more dangerous you may be. Read the rest of this entry »
Party insiders say president wants to remain in office after his second term, breaking succession conventions.
BEIJING— Jeremy Page and Lingling Wei report: China’s Communist Party elite was craving a firm hand on the tiller when it chose Xi Jinping for the nation’s top job in 2012. Over the previous decade, President Hu Jintao’s power-sharing approach had led to policy drift, factional strife and corruption.
The party’s power brokers got what they wanted—and then some.
Four years on, Mr. Xi has taken personal charge of the economy, the armed forces and most other levers of power, overturning a collective-leadership system introduced to protect against one-man rule after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.
Shattering old taboos, Mr. Xi has targeted party elders and their kin in an antigraft crusade, demanded fealty from all 89 million party members, and honed a paternalistic public image as Xi Dada, or Big Papa Xi.
Now, as he nears the end of his first five-year term, many party insiders say Mr. Xi is trying to block promotion of a potential successor next year, suggesting he wants to remain in office after his second term expires in 2022, when he would be 69 years old.
Mr. Xi, who is president, party chief and military commander, “wants to keep going” after 2022 and to explore a leadership structure “just like the Putin model,” says one party official who meets regularly with top leaders. Several others with access to party leaders and their relatives say similar things. The government’s main press office declined to comment for this article, and Mr. Xi couldn’t be reached for comment.
Mr. Xi’s efforts to secure greater authority may help ensure political stability in the short run, as an era-defining economic boom starts to falter. But they risk upending conventions developed since Mao’s death to allow flexibility in government and ensure a regular and orderly transition of power.
Concern is rising among China’s elite that the nation is shifting toward a rigid form of autocracy ill-suited to managing a complex economy. China’s array of challenges includes weaning the economy off debt-fueled stimulus spending, breaking up state monopolies and cleaning up the environment.
“His dilemma is that he can’t get things done without power,” says Huang Jing, an expert on Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore. “He feels the need to centralize, but then he risks undermining these institutions designed to prevent a very powerful leader becoming a dictator.”
Mr. Xi’s supporters say he still faces resistance within the party, and needs to modernize leadership structures to confront the slowing economy and a hostile West.
At a meeting of 348 party leaders in October that granted Mr. Xi another title—“core” leader—he railed against indiscipline and warned of senior officials who “lusted for power, feigned compliance and formed factions and gangs.”
Since then, many party members have signed written pledges of “absolute loyalty.” In a speech in October, the party chief of Henan province, Xie Fuzhan, hailed Mr. Xi as a “great leader”—words usually reserved for Mao.
Hours before Donald Trump’s election victory, China officially launched its own convoluted process for selecting a new national leadership team, to be unveiled at a twice-a-decade party congress next fall. Up to five of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top leadership body, are due to retire.
Only Mr. Xi and Premier Li Keqiang would remain if the party observes the precedent, established in 2002, that leaders over age 67 step down. Read the rest of this entry »
The declared aim of this ambitious plan for a social-credit system is to build a ‘culture of sincerity.’ At this stage in China’s history, it is questionable whether the party-state can build any kind of culture.
Stanley Lubman writes: The Chinese government is taking the first steps in an evolving plan to employ big data to establish a nationwide system of mass surveillance of the entire population. This “social-credit system” would mobilize technology to collect information on all citizens and use that information to rate their behavior, including financial creditworthiness and personal conduct. The local experiments have provoked mixed reactions.
“The Communist Party, since it gained power in 1949, has endeavored to monitor and control the behavior and thoughts of the population. In the era of Mao Zedong it established ‘residents’ committees’ in the cities and ‘village committees’ in the countryside to monitor citizens’ behavior and report to local police. These continue to operate today, if in slightly different forms.”
The declared aim of this ambitious plan for a social-credit system is to build a “culture of sincerity.” At this stage in China’s history, it is questionable whether the party-state can build any kind of culture. The center cannot effectively control local governments, a large share of economic profits is going to the wealthy, corruption remains widespread and neither the economy nor the populace will tolerate the absence of rule of law indefinitely.
The Communist Party, since it gained power in 1949, has endeavored to monitor and control the behavior and thoughts of the population. In the era of Mao Zedong it established “residents’ committees” in the cities and “village committees” in the countryside to monitor citizens’ behavior and report to local police. These continue to operate today, if in slightly different forms.
The current effort to expand control of personal conduct is the latest in a series of moves to control behavior that now include campaigns against corrupt officials, rights lawyers and others whose conduct and actions are considered “subversive” both in person and otherwise—such as in social media.
The new social-credit system may include “black marks for infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules,” according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The article quotes planning documents stating that the system would “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” It is no wonder that one Chinese human rights-activist is quoted as saying “Tracking everyone that way, it is just like ‘1984’.” (The famous novel published in 1949 by George Orwell imagines a mythical regime that spies on all of its citizens using omnipresent surveillance.)
Current tentative steps to test the new system have raised questions about its implementation and reach. Obvious issues include defining the criteria that would be applied to rate citizens, the government and social institutions that would perform the ratings, and the impact of those ratings on citizens’ business and professional activities and on their lives in general. A key component of the new system will be taking traditional credit-scoring and adding other data points. Sesame Credit, an affiliate of e-commerce titan Alibaba, currently surveys online shopping habits and, if users consent, posts their education levels and legal records. Businesses and some individuals such as lawyers, accountants, teachers and journalists would receive closer scrutiny of their professional behavior. Read the rest of this entry »
The dictator is enjoying a surge of popularity. But the rise of this neo-Maoist movement could upend China’s stability.
Jamil Anderlini writes: A heavy pall of pollution hangs over Tiananmen Square and from a distance the giant portrait of Mao Zedong above the entrance to the Forbidden City looks a little smudged. It is 8am and the temperature in central Beijing is already approaching 30C.
But the heat and smog are no deterrent to the thousands of people waiting in hour-long queues to pay respects to the preserved body of the “great helmsman”. Since his death 40 years ago, Chairman Mao’s corpse — or, more likely, a wax replica — has been on display in a purpose-built mausoleum in the geographic and figurative heart of the Chinese capital. Well over 200 million people have visited.
In the west, Mao is understood chiefly as China’s “Red Emperor” — a vicious dictator who fostered an extreme personality cult, launched the disastrous Cultural Revolution and masterminded a “Great Leap Forward” that resulted in the worst famine in history. Experts estimate that Mao was responsible for between 40 million and 70 million deaths in peacetime — more than Hitler and Stalin combined.
However, while Hitler, Stalin and most of the other totalitarian dictators of the 20th century were repudiated after their deaths, Mao remains a central figure in modern China. The Communist party he helped found in 1921 and the authoritarian Leninist political system he established in 1949 still run the country. “Mao Zedong Thought” is enshrined in the party’s constitution and, since 1999, his face has adorned most banknotes (something he refused to allow during his lifetime).
But this whitewashing of Mao’s legacy is a risky strategy. Thanks to the party’s tight control over education, media and all public discourse, most people in China know very little of Mao’s terrible mistakes. Indeed, the dictator is more popular today than at any time since his death. Last year nearly 17 million people made pilgrimages to his home town — Shaoshan — in rural central China. In the mid-1980s, barely 60,000 undertook the journey.
China has also seen the rise of a vocal political movement of “neo-Maoists” — militant leftists who espouse many of the utopian egalitarian ideas that China’s current leaders have largely abandoned. These neo-Maoists are by definition an underground movement, which makes it very difficult to estimate their numbers, but public petitions sympathetic to their cause have garnered tens of thousands of signatures in recent years.
Several experts believe a neo-Maoist candidate would probably win a general election in China today, should free elections ever be allowed. This means the movement could enjoy the sympathy of hundreds of millions of China’s 1.4 billion people. As such, it poses one of the biggest threats facing the authoritarian system in the world’s most populous nation today.
“Speed up comrades, walk forward,” a young man in a clean white shirt with a bullhorn yells at the tourists lined up in Tiananmen Square, many of whom bow three times before a large Mao statue as they enter the mausoleum. Visitors are not allowed to take photos and tall paramilitary officers shoo people along, ensuring nobody gets more than a quick glimpse of the figure wrapped in the hammer and sickle flag and laid out in a crystal coffin behind a glass wall. Just a kilometre away is the heavily guarded compound where China’s current leaders work and live.
“Chairman Mao was a truly great man but this is not the country he dreamt of, this is not real communism.”
Many of the people visiting Mao’s remains have been left behind by China’s economic boom in recent decades. They see Mao as a symbol of a simpler, fairer society — a time when everyone was poorer but at least they were equally poor. Those who have studied the resurgence in Mao’s popularity in China see it as part of a broader global phenomenon that encompasses the appeal of Donald Trump in the US, Brexit in the UK and populist politicians on the left and right in Europe. At a time of sharp dislocation and intense resentment towards elites, people in many countries are attracted by nostalgia and tradition. For ordinary people in China, that means Mao and the classless society he envisioned. Read the rest of this entry »
Ilaria Maria Sala writes: The bizarre “One Country, Two Systems” formula under which Hong Kong has been ruled since its handover to Beijing in 1997 has been declared dead many times—but last Sunday’s elections may just have proven its remarkable resilience.
“In many ways, the combination of Hong Kong with China has been like a marriage between two near-strangers, one of whom was brought to the altar without being asked their opinion, and where the power balance is fatally skewed.”
Invented by China’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping for China to govern Hong Kong, it was a bold and imperial idea. By allowing Hong Kong to retain its partially democratic system and freedom of expression, it would let the far away “province” govern itself, as long it remained loyal to the center.
“Leaders in Beijing are obsessed with control, and national identity in China is increasingly defined as supporting the Communist Party.”
The current Chinese government has more desire to control and more technology to do so than Deng or the emperors used to, but Hong Kongers are nevertheless guaranteed the right to vote in partial elections, freedom of speech and press, and an independent judiciary, rights citizens on the mainland only wish for.
“The sudden, unlawful arrest of dissidents is no surprise in China, but nothing of the kind had ever happened in Hong Kong.”
In many ways, the combination of Hong Kong with China has been like a marriage between two near-strangers, one of whom was brought to the altar without being asked their opinion, and where the power balance is fatally skewed. Hong Kong, with its long-held democratic aspirations and millions of residents who had fled Communist rule on the mainland, was never going to be an easy addition to China. Leaders in Beijing are obsessed with control, and national identity in China is increasingly defined as supporting the Communist Party.
Unsurprisingly, “One Country Two Systems” has been under severe stress in recent years. Read the rest of this entry »
Hot Chili Peppers, War, and Sichuan Cuisine
The first mention of the chili pepper in the Chinese historical record appears in 1591, although historians have yet to arrive at a consensus as to exactly how it arrived in the Middle Kingdom.
Andrew Leonard writes: In 1932, the Soviet Union sent one of its best agents to China, a former schoolteacher and counter-espionage expert from Germany named Otto Braun. His mission was to serve as a military adviser to the Chinese Communists, who were engaged in a desperate battle for survival against Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.
“Eating chili peppers is like riding a roller coaster. It delivers a rush of danger and pleasure.”
The full story of Braun’s misadventures in China’s Communist revolution is packed with enough twists and turns for a Hollywood thriller. But in the domain of culinary history, one anecdote from Braun’s autobiography stands out. Braun recalls his first impressions of Mao Zedong, the man who would go on to become China’s paramount leader.
“The Sichuanese are fiery. They fight fast and love fast and they like their food to be like them—hot.”
The shrewd peasant organizer had a mean, even “spiteful” streak. “For example, for a long time I could not accustom myself to the strongly spiced food, such as hot fried peppers, which is traditional to southern China, especially in Hunan, Mao’s birthplace.” The Soviet agent’s tender taste buds invited Mao’s mockery. “The food of the true revolutionary is the red pepper,” declared Mao. “And he who cannot endure red peppers is also unable to fight.’ ”
Maoist revolution is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when your tongue is burning from a mouthful of Kung Pao chicken or Mapo Tofu at your favorite Chinese restaurant. But the unlikely connection underscores the remarkable history of the chili pepper.
For years culinary detectives have been on the chili pepper’s trail, trying to figure out how a New World import became so firmly rooted in Sichuan, a landlocked province on the southwestern frontier of China. “It’s an extraordinary puzzle,” says Paul Rozin, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, who has studied the cultural evolution and psychological impact of foods, including the chili pepper.
Food historians have pointed to the province’s hot and humid climate, the principles of Chinese medicine, the constraints of geography, and the exigencies of economics. Most recently neuropsychologists have uncovered a link between the chili pepper and risk-taking. The research is provocative because the Sichuan people have long been notorious for their rebellious spirit; some of the momentous events in modern Chinese political history can be traced back to Sichuan’s hot temper.
As Wu Dan, the manager of a hotpot restaurant in Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, told a reporter: “The Sichuanese are fiery. They fight fast and love fast and they like their food to be like them—hot.”
The chili pepper, genus capsicum, is indigenous to the tropics, where archaeological records indicate it has been cultivated and consumed perhaps as far back as 5000 B.C. Typically a perennial shrub bearing red or green fruit, it can be grown as an annual in regions where temperatures reach freezing in the winter. There are five domesticated species, but most of the chili peppers consumed in the world belong to just two, Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens.
“The food of the true revolutionary is the red pepper. And he who cannot endure red peppers is also unable to fight.”
— Mao Zedong
The active ingredient in chili peppers is a compound called capsaicin. When ingested, capsaicin triggers pain receptors whose normal evolutionary purpose is to alert the body to dangerous physical heat. The prevailing theory is the chili pepper’s burn is a trick to dissuade mammals from eating it, because the mammalian digestive process normally destroys chili pepper seeds, preventing further propagation. Birds—which do not destroy chili pepper seeds during digestion—have no analogous receptors. When a bird eats a chili pepper, it doesn’t feel a thing, excretes the seeds, and spreads the plant.
The word “chili” comes from the Nahuatl family of languages, spoken, most famously, by the Aztecs. (One early Spanish translation of the word was “el miembro viril”—tantalizing early evidence of the chili pepper’s inherent machismo.) Botanists believe the chili pepper originated in southwest Brazil or south central Bolivia, but by the 15th century, birds and humans had spread it throughout South and Central America.
Enter Christopher Columbus. On Jan. 1, 1493, the great explorer recorded in his diary his discovery, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, that “the pepper which the local Indians used as spice is more abundant and more valuable than either black or melegueta pepper [an African spice from the ginger family].”
In the 15th century, Spain and Portugal were obsessed with finding sea routes to the spice markets of Asia that would allow them to break the monopoly wielded by Arab traders over access to hot commodities like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Although Columbus was utterly wrong in his belief that he had sailed to India, he still succeeded in locating precisely what he had been seeking. Read the rest of this entry »
GUIYANG, China — Emily Rauhala reports: Pastor Su Tianfu slides into the back seat and tells the driver to hit it.
He looks over his shoulder: “Is there anybody following us?”
It is days before Christmas, but instead of working on his sermon, Su is giving his tail the slip.
The slight and soft-spoken Protestant preacher is no stranger to surveillance. Su has worked for years in China’s unregistered “house churches,” and he said he has been interrogated more times than he can count.
But even Su is surprised by what has happened in Guiyang this month: a crackdown that has led to the shuttering of the thriving Living Stone Church, the detention of a pastor on charges of “possessing state secrets” and the shadowing of dozens of churchgoers by police.
A local government directive leaked to China Aid, a Texas-based Christian group, and reviewed by The Washington Post advises local Communist Party cadres that shutting down the church is necessary to “maintain social stability”— a catchall phrase often used to justify sweeping clampdowns.
The Dec. 9 raid on the church in a relatively sleepy provincial capital is conspicuous because of the timing — about two weeks before Christmas — and because the government’s tactics were revealed.
But it also speaks to a broader pattern of religious repression that is playing out beyond China’s mountainous southwest, as the officially atheist Communist Party struggles to control the spread of religion amid a broader push to thwart dissent.
“The overall environment in the past few years has been harsh,” said Yang Fenggang, director of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society. “There’s a tightened control over civil society in general, including churches.”
Unlike in many parts of the West, Christianity is thriving in China.
Because of tight restrictions on religious practices, reliable figures are hard to find, but the Chinese government generally puts the number of Protestants (a group it calls “Christians”) at 23 million and the number of Catholics at more than 5 million.
Foreign scholars estimate that there are 67 million to 100 million Christians in China — compared with 87 million Communist Party cadres. Yang estimates that China will be home to 250 million Christians by 2030. Evangelical Protestants, like Su, are the fastest-growing group.
The Communist Party has a complicated, often contradictory, view of faith: The constitution protects the right to religion, but the state is unwilling to relinquish control.
“The Chinese Communist Party is violently allergic to non-party organizing vehicles, whether they’re nonprofits, libraries or churches,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s Bizarre Maoist Spectacle: Final Nail in the Coffin for the Cuckoo Bananas Labour Party?Posted: December 19, 2015
John McDonnell audaciously brandished a copy of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell dropped a political bombshell in the House of Commons What was it over? A book. Not just any book, mind. A book conveying a philosophy that is most certainly taboo in British politics. A book that was none other than Mao Zedong’s very own ‘Little Red Book’. The commotion caused by it was far from little, however.
The immediate reactions of everyone in the House of Commons were indeed telling. The Conservatives were overjoyed. It was an early Christmas present for them. Many MPs were chorusing “more! more!” On the Labour side of the hall, some found it amusing; yet it clearly stirred up much discontent. Even Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who could be seen sat beside McDonnell at the time, had a faint look of despair as this historic book was pulled out; which is, to some extent, the scriptures, or holy book, of the far left.
Clearly it was done as a mere jest, and nothing more than a humoured attack at Chancellor George Osborne – who he ironically labelled “Comrade Osborne” – in criticism for his approach to Britain’s relations with China. His direct quote from Chairman Mao was as follows:
“We must learn to do economic work from all who know how. No matter who they are, we must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously. But we must not pretend to know what we do not know.”
Yet it is an unsuitable affiliation. Surely you’d expect something like this from the Communist Party of Great Britain themselves; not from a serious opposition party vying to win power in modern-day Britain – where Thatcherism still lingers and private property is still at large.
Most Marxists I have ever associated with would actually distance themselves from Mao Zedong: a dictator of the People’s Republic of China, responsible for the deaths of millions of his own civilians – from famine and executing those against the rule. Even if you are going to cite a Communist figure at all in British politics, better to use a figure such as Lenin or Trotsky; not a brutal mass-murdering despot.
Many feel content with a more narrow view of politics. Even if it isn’t one that directly mirrors the Conservative party’s ideology, it wouldn’t drift too far from this. Hence by both the Conservative party and the then-austerity-favouring Labour party gained 330 and 232 seats respectively (562 out of 650 overall) in the General Election last May. Many predict the latter figure, which is that of Labour of course, will be trimmed away if trends stay the same. Read the rest of this entry »
Russell Leigh Moses writes: The People’s Daily is the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper. It announces what the party sees as the major issues of the day and the current direction of the nation. It’s also the main platform for political discussion, marking out initiatives and identifying the parameters for debate. Like many other party newspapers, People’s Daily is required reading for party members.
It is also, for too many new party members at least, increasingly irrelevant.
With articles on a typical day involving discussions of party doctrine, dogma and jargon abound. Major stories often include grip-and-grin accounts of Chinese leaders meeting obscure peers from faraway nations.
And headlines in the newspaper can have an eerie similarity, such as the recent edition that had 11 that began with the name Xi Jinping, China’s president and Communist Party leader.
That makes the People’s Daily no different from newspapers around the world struggling to stay significant during the digital revolution. But for the Communist Party, the stakes are arguably bigger: Its power and legitimacy depend on party leaders getting the word out and those words being taken seriously.
That unease was on display in an editorial in an edition of People’s Daily last month titled, “Is It OK for Party Members Not To Read Party Newspapers?” Yan Jin, an official in Changsha, the capital of China’s southern province of Hunan, noted that these days “some cadres do not bother to even read party newspapers and spend that time browsing through gossip instead.”
Yan concedes that this situation shouldn’t be a surprise as “current party members born in the 1980s and 1990s haven’t grown up with the habit of reading actual newspapers and now have more ways of getting information from the computer or their phone.” In his own district, Yan said, cadres between 22 and 30 years of age comprised 25% of the membership, suggesting that this problem of paying less attention to party news will grow as older officials retire and younger ones join the ranks.
Yan said that party newspaper readership has also declined because a growing number of cadres “justifiably criticized party newspapers as boring.” Many party members simply haven’t wanted to devote the time to wading through the heavy political prose even though, as he contends, party newspapers have “tried to write more and more lively sentences, and attempted to adopt a new style that’s both shorter and addresses real issues.” Yan notes that party newspapers are now easier to access online and at news kiosks, which should help their appeal to younger officials.
Apparently, that strategy is falling short. Read the rest of this entry »
Mass trolling of government Weibo accounts, once common, has become rare in recent years as authorities have tightened their grip on the platform.
Josh Chin reports: With China’s guardians of taste cracking down on everything from televised cleavage to the lyrics of Taiwanese rapper MC Hotdog, Chinese Internet users were provided with alternate entertainment this week: watching the country’s culture ministry get eviscerated on social media.
“You manage what we read, what we watch on TV, what movies we see, what we do online, when we drive our cars, what we say, but you don’t manage the quality of our food or housing, our health, or our children’s ability to attend school. Everything you should manage, you don’t and what you shouldn’t manage, you do!”
The Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for the protection and promotion of Chinese traditional culture, launched its official account on the popular social-media platform Weibo Thursday and almost immediately it found itself drenched by a firehose of vitriol. Three messages posted to the feed since Thursday afternoon had attracted over 100,000 comments a day later, most of them unfavorable or outright hostile.
“You manage what we read, what we watch on TV, what movies we see, what we do online, when we drive our cars, what we say, but you don’t manage the quality of our food or housing, our health, or our children’s ability to attend school,” read one comment that attracted more than 23,000 likes. “Everything you should manage, you don’t and what you shouldn’t manage, you do!”
The account was launched on the same day that the official Xinhua news agency released the full text of a landmark speech on arts and literature delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The speech, delivered at a symposium last October, laid out a vision of artists serving the state that closely resembled cultural policies outlined by Mao Zedong seven decades earlier.
Mass trolling of government Weibo accounts, once common, has become rare in recent years as authorities have tightened their grip on the platform. The response reflected widespread frustration with increased censorship and cultural tightening under Mr. Xi, including harsher restrictions online that led to the banning of several popular foreign TV shows and cartoons. Read the rest of this entry »
The American’s Left’s Blond-Haired, Blue-Eyed Fantasyland
Kevin D. Williamson writes: The curious task of the American Left is to eliminate “white privilege” by forcing people to adopt Nordic social arrangements at gunpoint.
Progressives have a longstanding love affair with the nations of northern Europe, which are, or in some cases were until the day before yesterday, ethnically homogeneous, overwhelmingly white, hostile to immigration, nationalistic, and frankly racist in much of their domestic policy.
When leftists preach socialism, they have in mind a very white version of it.
In this the so-called progressives are joined, as they traditionally have been, by brutish white supremacists and knuckle-dragging anti-Semites, who believe that they discern within the Nordic peoples the last remnant of white European purity and who frequently adopt Nordic icons and myths, incorporating them into an oddball cult of whiteness.
“In this the so-called progressives are joined, as they traditionally have been, by brutish white supremacists and knuckle-dragging anti-Semites, who believe that they discern within the Nordic peoples the last remnant of white European purity and who frequently adopt Nordic icons and myths, incorporating them into an oddball cult of whiteness.”
American progressivism is a cult of whiteness, too: It imagines re-creating Danish society in Los Angeles, which is not full of Danish people, ascribing to Scandinavian social policies certain mystical tendencies that render them universal in their applicability.
Call it “Nordic Exceptionalism.”
[Read the full story here, at National Review Online]
The Left occasionally indulges in bouts of romantic exoticism — its pin-ups have included Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, Mao Zedong; we might even count Benito Mussolini, “that admirable Italian gentleman” who would not have been counted sufficiently white to join Franklin Roosevelt’s country club — but the welfare states that progressives dream about are the whitest ones: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, etc. The significance of this never quite seems to occur to progressives.
When it is suggested that the central-planning, welfare-statist policies that they favor are bound to produce results familiar to the unhappy residents of, e.g., Cuba, Venezuela, or Bolivia — privation, chaos, repression, political violence — American progressives reliably reply: “No, no, we don’t want that kind of socialism. We want socialism like they have it in Finland.” Read the rest of this entry »
The police have deleted (seen on top graphic) and modified part of the “police history” of the 1967 riots on their website.
The 1967 riots during May to December were started by leftists in Hong Kong following a labour dispute in a San Po Kong factory, after the Cultural Revolution in China started. During the year 8,074 suspected bombs were planted, of which 1,167 were real bombs; At least 51 people died during the riots, including ten police officers, and 802 were injured.
Bi Fujian, a popular satirist and China Central Television host, came under fire in April when a video of him mocking the Communist Party leader during a private dinner was mysteriously leaked online.
Felicia Sonmez reports: A well-known Chinese TV personality who joked about revolutionary leader Mao Zedong behind closed doors will face “serious” punishment, according to state-run media, months after a video of the remarks went viral online.
Bi Fujian, a popular satirist and China Central Television host, came under fire in April when a video of him mocking the Communist Party leader during a private dinner was mysteriously leaked online. Mr. Bi swiftly apologized, but CCTV suspended him from his job and announced that it would be investigating the incident, which it said had “led to grave social consequences.”
“Before a word leaves your mouth, you are its master. Afterwards, it is your master. You can pull a nail out from a board, but it’s impossible to take a word back once it has been uttered.”
— Weibo user
Little has been heard about Mr. Bi’s case in the months since. But on Sunday, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party’s internal watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, sternly warned that authorities view the host’s quip as no laughing matter.
“…this is not just an ordinary disciplinary problem but rather a serious violation of political discipline.”
— China Discipline and Supervision Daily
“(Party authorities) believe that this is not just an ordinary disciplinary problem but rather a serious violation of political discipline,” the aptly-named China Discipline and Supervision Daily wrote, adding that Mr. Bi’s case would be “seriously dealt with.” It did not give further details.
The episode comes as China’s top media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, is tightening control over the TV industry with a series of new regulations aimed at keeping presenters and content in line with “socialist core values.” Read the rest of this entry »
China’s Xi Jingping is Trying to Combine the Invisible Hand of the Market with the Visible Hand of the Party-StatePosted: June 1, 2015
Xi Jinping’s China is the greatest political experiment on Earth
Timothy Garton Ash writes: Can Xi do it? This is the biggest political question in the world today. “Yes, Xi can,” some tell me in Beijing. “No, he can’t,” say others. The wise know that nobody knows.
There is a great debate going on in Washington about whether the US should change its China policy in response to Beijing’s more assertive stance under President Xi Jinping. This includes the reported stationing of artillery on the extraordinary artificial islands it is building on underwater reefs in the South China Sea. It also matters to everyone everywhere whether China can sustain its economic growth as it exhausts its ready supplies of cheap labour, avoiding the traps into which some middle-income economies have stumbled. Yet even more than in other countries, the future of China’s foreign policy and its economy depend on the quality of decision-making produced by the political system. It’s the politics, stupid.
“My greatest concern flows not from the moral dictates of liberal democracy as personal preference, although it would be dishonourable to pretend that those don’t matter, but from the insights of political analysis that lead us to liberal democracy.”
By now it is relatively clear what Xi is aiming to do. He is trying to steer a complex economy and society through difficult times by top-down changes, led and controlled by a purged, disciplined and reinvigorated Leninist party. He is doing this in unprecedented conditions for such a party, consciously trying to combine the “invisible hand” of the market with the “visible hand” of the party-state.
“Insights such as this: ‘If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.’”
— James Madison, federalist paper No 51
The “great helmsman” Mao Zedong is clearly one inspiration, but the pragmatic reformer Deng Xiaoping is another. “To reignite a nation, Xi carries Deng’s torch,” declared a commentary from the official news agency Xinhua.
Much of the reignition has so far been about establishing control over the party, state, military and what there is of civil society, after the Bo Xilai affair made apparent the internal crisis of party rule.
“Yes, dear comrades, it might be true, even though it was an American who said it.”
Yet, as a hereditary communist, the president may genuinely believe enlightened, skilful authoritarian rulers can handle things best: Lenin’s wager, but also, in different variations, Plato’s and Confucius’s.
The sinologist Ryan Mitchell notes that in a 1948 article, a veteran Chinese communist called Xi Zhongxun was quoted as saying “the most lovable qualities of us Communist party folks are devotion and sincerity”. Speaking to party members in 2013, his son, Xi Jinping, said that “leading cadres must treat the masses with devotion and sincerity”.
“A communist regime in crisis would probably find it impossible to resist the temptation of playing the nationalist card more aggressively somewhere in its neighbourhood, building on decades of indoctrination, a selective interpretation of the recent past and a narrative of 150 years of national humiliation.”
This experiment is life-changing for the thousands of purged officials, who have disappeared into the tender embrace of the relevant party and state organs. (Being a senior Fifa official is light entertainment by comparison, even if some may miss their five-star Swiss breakfasts.)
“It’s not just the inconvenience of finding it difficult to access Gmail, Google docs and so much else on the internet. More seriously, I noticed a real nervousness among intellectuals who a few years ago were so outspoken; a sense that the boundaries of what can be said publicly are narrowing all the time.”
It is also extremely uncomfortable for those Chinese who believe in free and critical debate, independent civic initiatives and non-governmental organisations. Here I found a striking contrast with earlier visits to Beijing. Read the rest of this entry »
“Things have been changing dramatically in the last two years. Since Xi Jinping came to power, what was tolerated before is not tolerated any longer, in China or Hong Kong.”
Ilaria Maria Sala writes: The shop assistant is abrupt when the question comes.
“We are not going to sell that one. Sorry,” he says, when asked for a copy of one of Hong Kong’s most eagerly searched-for books.
[Order Zhao Ziyang book “Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang” from Amazon.com]
“It might come back,” he says vaguely.
On the surface, there seems to be no censorship in Hong Kong. Unlike the mainland, the web is free, a wide range of newspapers is available, TV news covers demonstrations and protests, and nobody needs to apply for permission to print books.
“The pressure is on to stop Hong Kong people and mainlanders from reading unapproved books. When sales became harder, we started shipping books to individual customers in China. Nothing reached them. We tried through a courier in Shenzhen, but they stopped accepting books.”
“In 40 years, I know of only one book that has ever been stopped from distribution,” says Wong Sheung Wai, director of Greenfield Bookstore, a shop and distribution company, “and that was the Chinese translation of a guide to suicide.
“The real problem, though, is that our local government does not defend our autonomy. Rather, they lecture Hong Kong on how to behave to please the central authorities.”
“Taiwan translated it, but the Hong Kong authorities did not allow for it to be published and distributed here,” he says.
But mounting pressure from China to have greater control over what the Hong Kong public, and the Chinese tourists flocking there, read is creeping into this former British colony.
“Even the three big chains are commercial interests, so they do try to sell what clients want. At times certain books disliked by the Chinese authorities will still be available, but hidden behind a counter, or piled up with the spine turned to the walls.”
Through a complex web of self-censorship, soft censorship and mainland economic control, bookshops and media outlets in the territory have been changing their tone or giving less coverage to topics that China deems sensitive.
A slow but steady “mainlandisation” of Hong Kong, a key factor in bringing tens of thousands of protesters to the streets during last year’s umbrella movement, has been changing the face of the publishing and book distribution industry, with fewer shops willing, or able, to sell books forbidden in China.
Booming real estate costs add to that problem.
“Readers’ numbers are going down everywhere, and nobody can afford a ground-floor bookshop unless they are backed by people with very deep pockets,” says one publishing industry insider.
“If you ask me what is the biggest problem that Hong Kong faces right now, it is the Liaison Office, and their growing involvement in Hong Kong’s affairs.”
— Alex Chow, one of the student leaders at last year’s protests
The three main local bookshop chains, with a total of 51 outlets, are controlled by the Liaison Office, Beijing’s official representation in Hong Kong, which, she adds, makes sure they only pay a nominal rent for their operations. Read the rest of this entry »
Alyssa Abkowitz reports: In 1989, sexologist Li Yinhe conducted a famous survey that showed 15% of Chinese respondents said they had premarital sex. Today, that figure is about 71%, according to local figures. “China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom,” said Zhang Lijia, author of the forthcoming novel “Lotus,” which looks at prostitution in modern China.
“China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom.”
Ms. Zhang was speaking to a mostly younger crowd at Beijing’s Bookworm Literary Festival on Sunday. She was joined by Jemimah Steinfeld, author of “Little Emperors and Material Girls,” which focuses on China’s sex and youth culture, and Faramerz Dabhoiwala, who has been called the Stephen Hawking of sex for writing “The Origins of Sex,” which looks at the western sexual revolution of the 18th century.
“Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket. For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”
— Zhang Lijia
Only several decades ago, “Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket,” Ms. Zhang said, referring to the 1980s, when women started to wear makeup and shorter skirts. “For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”
“Er nai, as modern-day Chinese mistresses are called, are deeply entwined in business practices, because having multiple mistresses is a sign that a man has the pull to seal a deal.”
Today, sex is everywhere in China, from adult stores on nearly every corner in Beijing to young entrepreneurs, such as one interviewed by Ms. Steinfeld, who wants to import quality sex toys because he thinks Chinese sex toys are faulty. (This could be a tough road, as the majority of sex toys are made in China and exported around the world, Ms. Zhang said).
“There are women who have lovers just for fun too. Male prostitutes are far more expensive here because they have more work to do.”
Judging from the panel discussion, progress is mixed. As Beijing looks to pass its first domestic violence law, cleavage is being banned on television. One of the most popular items sold at roadside sex shops is hymen repair kits. Read the rest of this entry »
Beijing Officials Pressure International Media
Daniel Wiser writes: China pressured international media outlets to censor their news coverage last year in addition to cracking down on domestic journalists, according to a new report.
“Chinese embassy officials in Paris, Berlin, and London lodged direct complaints with senior editors, in an apparent effort to pressure them into restraining their reporters in Beijing. The Tokyo headquarters of Japanese media have received similar visits.”
Conditions for both domestic journalists and foreign correspondents in China have worsened considerably under President Xi . Journalists surveyed last year said they were increasingly subjected to harassment by authorities, sometimes violent in nature, as well as to visa delays and cyber attacks. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which released its annual report on press freedoms in China on Monday, said intimidation from officials in Beijing has now extended to foreign outlets.
Chinese embassy officials in Paris, Berlin, London, and Tokyo all reportedly pressured editors at publications based in those cities to alter their coverage and exert more control over their reporters in Beijing.
’For activists, the internet is like dancing in shackles’
— Su Yutong
One Chinese blogger, Su Yutong, was fired from the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle last August after she alleged that directors at the outlet met with the Chinese ambassador and then told their Chinese-language staff to tone down its coverage. A Deutsche Welle spokesman said at the time that Su was terminated because “she tweeted about internal issues” in a manner that “no company in the world would tolerate.”
Deutsche Welle gave more prominence last year to columnists such as Frank Sieren, a Beijing-based media consultant who has business interests in the country and is known to be sympathetic to its leadership. The broadcaster has been criticized in the past for coverage that was overly supportive of the Chinese Communist Party.
IFJ specifically named three other overseas news services that were targeted by the Chinese government.
“At least three media companies—namely France 24, ARD TV (Germany), and the Financial Times—came under unusual Chinese government pressure after publishing news reports that angered the Chinese authorities,” the report said. “Chinese embassy officials in Paris, Berlin, and London lodged direct complaints with senior editors, in an apparent effort to pressure them into restraining their reporters in Beijing. The Tokyo headquarters of Japanese media have received similar visits.”
IFJ also condemned the repression of journalists covering Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests last fall. At least 39 reporters were harassed, detained, or assaulted by the city’s police or by demonstrators opposed to the pro-democracy movement…(read more)
The following is a blog post written by a Chinese journalist Su Yutong about her experience and feeling of being an activist calling for social change in China. Although to be an activist even on the Internet is like “dancing in shackles” in China, clearly people will not stop, just as what we have seen in the most recent days. Many people have been actively posting, forwarding and translating related information, raising more international awareness of Guangcheng’s case. Su said in her writing, “To the Chinese people, danger comes not from action, but from silence and submission. Rights activists such as Hu Jia and Chen Guangcheng have demonstrated this to us with their courage and action, and I would like to learn from them.”
When I was in China, I was a journalist. But, after four years, I decided to resign as the Chinese authorities did not allow us to report the truth. I then started to work in an NGO, doing research on social issues.
My concerns included the situation of victims of contaminated water sources, people who contracted HIV/AIDS through blood transfusion, as well as assisting vulnerable groups in defending their rights.
I was one of the more active internet activists, giving my views on public affairs, disseminating information and organizing activities.
From 2005, I was “invited for tea”, and for “chats”, kept under surveillance and periodically placed under house arrest in China.
In 2010, I distributed “Li Peng’s Diary”, a book forbidden by the authorities, and had my home raided and property confiscated by the police. With the help of international NGOs and friends, I managed to go into exile and now live in Germany.
For many bloggers in China, the most common and typical situation you face on a daily basis is all your content is suddenly deleted. In worse situations, sites will block opinions that are deemed to be “sensitive”.
I was an early internet activist. I organized a protest against the Vice Minister Wu Hao of the Yunnan Provincial Propaganda Department, in solidarity with human rights lawyer Ni Yulan; commemorative activities in relation to the Tiananmen crackdown and actions of solidarity with other activists. Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING—Acknowledging that its current programs are insufficient to meet the needs of a fast-paced, 21st-century population, the Chinese Ministry of Justice held a press conference Friday affirming its commitment to fixing the nation’s crumbling reeducation system.
“We are falling well short of the reeducation needs of this country and failing a whole generation of dissidents. We need better reeducators who know how to use modern teaching and disciplinary technologies if we want to inspire our people to become fully subservient pawns of the state.”
According to government officials, the steady decline in the quality of reeducation is evidenced by the system’s serious overcrowding, dilapidated correctional facilities, and outdated propaganda materials, which have left a large percentage of China’s political prisoners unprepared for life as obedient citizens.
“For China to remain competitive, it is of the utmost importance that we hire administrators who have the passion and know-how to promote the inability to think independently.”
“We are falling well short of the reeducation needs of this country and failing a whole generation of dissidents,” said justice minister Wu Aiying, lamenting that many institutions currently rely on standardized reprogramming curriculums that haven’t been updated since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. “We need better reeducators who know how to use modern teaching and disciplinary technologies if we want to inspire our people to become fully subservient pawns of the state.”
“The last thing we want is for state prisoners to fall behind and end up getting stuck in the system for several extra years. If we get them out there, we know they can thrive as pliant mouthpieces for the Communist Party.”
“It is crucial that we find ways to attract the best instructors to our facilities, the devoted ones who aren’t just in it for the paycheck,” Wu added. “For China to remain competitive, it is of the utmost importance that we hire administrators who have the passion and know-how to promote the inability to think independently.”
Speaking candidly with reporters, several top Justice Ministry officials admitted that the majority of reeducators do not actively engage with China’s largest generation of prisoners to date, noting that most instructors lack passion and enthusiasm for their daily thought-suppression and punishment sessions. Read the rest of this entry »
Doing calligraphy, along with playing badminton, is a one of the few hobbies government officials in China admit to having
“The problem today, according to the editorial, comes when officials promote their squiggles as valuable works of art.”
“Officials should put down their calligraphy brushes and stick to governing.”
Wang Qishan, the Politburo Standing Committee member who heads the party’s anti-graft commission, hit out at the traditional craft during a plenary meeting of the organization last week in Beijing, and the message was backed up by an editorial from the agency posted on Tuesday to its website.
Officials shouldn’t “grab meat from the plates of artists,” the editorial said.
Doing calligraphy, along with playing badminton, is a one of the few hobbies government officials in China tend to admit to having. State leaders often pen well-wishes in calligraphy when they drop into companies around the country, creating valuable mementos that tend to get displayed in prominent spots in the companies.
“As you have promised to make contribution to the party and to the country, why are you greedy for an unnecessary title for unjustified interests?”
Officials can be forgiven for thinking it’s OK to strive for recognition in calligraphy, an art form associated with erudition and wisdom. Chinese leaders from Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong to Mao Zedong have been celebrated for their ability to put brush to paper, though there is some debate as to whether the latter’s distinctive style deserved the praise the Communist Party has lavished upon it ever since.
The problem today, according to the editorial, comes when officials promote their squiggles as valuable works of art. Read the rest of this entry »
Many Americans point to globalization as a bogeyman, robbing our country of good jobs and resources. But really, the phenomenon has ushered a period of unprecedented prosperity in many poor countries.
Marian L. Tupy writes: Is inequality increasing or decreasing? The answer depends on our point of reference.
In America, the income gap between the top 1 percent and the rest has grown. But if we look not at America, but the world, inequality is shrinking. We are witnessing, in the words of the World Bank’s Branko Milanovic, “the first decline in global inequality between world citizens since the Industrial Revolution.”
For most of human history, incomes were more equal, but terribly low. Two thousand years ago, GDP per person in the most advanced parts of the world hovered around $3.50 per day. That was the global average 1,800 years later.
But by the early 19th century, a pronounced income gap emerged between the West and the rest. Take the United States. In 1820, the U.S. was 1.9 times richer than the global average. The income gap grew to 4.1 in 1960 and reached its maximum level of 4.8 in 1999. By 2010, it had shrunk by 19 percent to 3.9.
That narrowing is not a function of declining Western incomes. During the Great Recession, for example, U.S. GDP per capita decreased by 4.8 percent between 2007 and 2009. It rebounded by 5.7 percent over the next 4 years and stands at an all-time high today. Rather, the narrowing of the income gap is a result of growing incomes in the rest of the world.
Consider the spectacular rise of Asia. In 1960, the U.S. was 11 times richer than Asia. Today, America is only 4.8 times richer than Asia.
To understand why, let’s look at China.
Between 1958 and 1961, Mao Zedong attempted to transform China’s largely agricultural economy into an industrial one through the “Great Leap Forward.” His stated goal was to overtake UK’s industrial production in 15 years. Industrialization, which included building of factories at home as well as large-scale purchases of machinery abroad, was to be paid for by food produced on collective farms. Read the rest of this entry »
China’s old guard leftists are a loose network of officials and former officials, sons and daughters of party veterans, and ardently anti-Western academics and journalists. They look back to the precepts of Marx, Lenin and especially Mao to try to reverse the effects of China’s free-market policies and the spread of values anathema to party tradition.
HONG KONG — Chris Buckley and Andrew Jacobs reporting: They pounce on bloggers who dare mock their beloved Chairman Mao. They scour the nation’s classrooms and newspapers for strains of Western-inspired liberal heresies. And they have taken down professors, journalists and others deemed disloyal to Communist Party orthodoxy.
China’s Maoist ideologues are resurgent after languishing in the political desert, buoyed by President Xi Jinping’s traditionalist tilt and emboldened by internal party decrees that have declared open season on Chinese academics, artists and party cadres seen as insufficiently red.
“Never allow singing to a tune contrary to the party center, Never allow eating the Communist Party’s food and then smashing the Communist Party’s cooking pots.”
— Xi Jinping
Ideological vigilantes have played a pivotal role in the downfall of Wang Congsheng, a law professor in Beijing who was detained and then suspended from teaching after posting online criticisms of the party. Another target was Wang Yaofeng, a newspaper columnist who voiced support for the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and then found himself without a job.
“It’s a golden period to be a leftist in China. Xi Jinping has ushered in a fundamental change to the status quo, shattering the sky.”
— Zhang Hongliang, a prominent neo-Maoist
“Since Xi came to power, the pressure and control over freethinkers has become really tight,” said Qiao Mu, a Beijing journalism professor who was demoted this fall, in part for publicly espousing multiparty elections and free speech. “More and more of my friends and colleagues are experiencing fear and harassment.”
Two years into a sweeping offensive against dissent, Mr. Xi has been intensifying his focus on perceived ideological opponents, sending ripples through universities, publishing houses and the news media and emboldening hard-liners who have hailed him as a worthy successor to Mao Zedong.
In instructions published last week, Mr. Xi urged universities to “enhance guidance over thinking and keep a tight grip on leading ideological work in higher education,” Xinhua, the official news agency, reported.
In internal decrees, he has been blunter, attacking liberal thinking as a pernicious threat that has contaminated the Communist Party’s ranks, and calling on officials to purge the nation of ideas that run counter to modern China’s Marxist-Leninist foundations. Read the rest of this entry »
SHACHE COUNTY, China – The month of Ramadan should have been a time of fasting, charity and prayer in China’s Muslim west. But here, in many of the towns and villages of southern Xinjiang, it was a time of fear, repression, and violence.
“Throughout Ramadan, police intensified a campaign of house-to-house searches, looking for books or clothing that betray “conservative” religious belief among the region’s ethnic Uighurs…”
China’s campaign against separatism and terrorism in its mainly Muslim west has now become an all-out war on conservative Islam, residents here say.
“…women wearing veils were widely detained, and many young men arrested on the slightest pretext, residents say.”
Throughout Ramadan, police intensified a campaign of house-to-house searches, looking for books or clothing that betray “conservative” religious belief among the region’s ethnic Uighurs: women wearing veils were widely detained, and many young men arrested on the slightest pretext, residents say. Students and civil servants were forced to eat instead of fasting, and work or attend classes instead of attending Friday prayers.
The religious repression has bred resentment, and, at times, deadly protests. Reports have emerged of police firing on angry crowds in recent weeks in the towns of Elishku, and Alaqagha; since then, Chinese authorities have imposed a complete blackout on reporting from both locations, even more intense than that already in place across most of Xinjiang.
“Chinese police have cracked down on the wearing of beards and veils, in observance of Ramadan, in Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.”
A Washington Post team was turned away at the one of several checkpoints around Elishku, as army trucks rumbled past, and was subsequently detained for several hours by informers, police and Communist Party officials for reporting from villages in the surrounding district of Shache county; the following day, the team was again detained in Alaqagha in Kuqa county, and ultimately deported from the region from the nearest airport. Read the rest of this entry »
China’s state propaganda machine is seizing Friday’s 110th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping‘s birth to highlight similarities between President Xi Jinping and the paramount leader who set the country on the road to economic prosperity while crushing dissent.
A heavyweight official biography of Deng was published this week, and Chinese television viewers are being regaled with a 48-episode dramatisation of his life, broadcast nationwide in primetime.
“The contribution by Comrade Deng Xiaoping not only changed the historic destiny of the Chinese people but also changed the course of the world’s history.”
— President Xi Jinping
But the series only covers the eight years up to 1984, avoiding much of the tumult of the Cultural Revolution and, crucially, stopping five years before he ordered the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
“Xi is essentially trying to get back to the Deng spirit of being reformist on the economy and orthodox on the politics.”
— John Delury, an expert on modern Chinese history at Yonsei University in Seoul
via Ordinary Finds
The number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that it by 2030 it could have more churchgoers than America.
Speaking with our Hong Kong Bureau Chief yesterday about the often overlooked historical role of the post-reform Christian church as an incubator of enlightened self-governance and radical reform (try to imagine the civil rights movement without it) I was left with the impression that Communist China’s effectiveness at resisting reform and discouraging dissent would almost guarantee that Christianity’s future in China is not hopeful as it might appear. With Maoist China’s record of hostility to Christianity, and current success at containing or crushing competing ideologies, is this report–predicting an uninterrupted rise of Christianity in China–drawing premature conclusions?
Note the reverse image in the mirror: the decline of Christianity in the west. And consider the more troubling historical reverse: the persecution, slaughter, and displacement of Christians around the world.
Liushi, Zhejiang province – For the Telegraph, Tom Phillip reports: It is said to be China’s biggest church and on Easter Sunday thousands of worshippers will flock to this Asian mega-temple to pledge their allegiance – not to the Communist Party, but to the Cross.
“It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence.”
The 5,000-capacity Liushi church, which boasts more than twice as many seats as Westminster Abbey and a 206ft crucifix that can be seen for miles around, opened last year with one theologian declaring it a “miracle that such a small town was able to build such a grand church”.
“It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”
The £8 million building is also one of the most visible symbols of Communist China’s breakneck conversion as it evolves into one of the largest Christian congregations on earth.
“Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this. It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”
“It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence,” beamed Jin Hongxin, a 40-year-old visitor who was admiring the golden cross above Liushi’s altar in the lead up to Holy Week.
I can’t verify the authenticity of this, the translation is either a spoof, mischievous liberties were taken, or it really is based on the original text, but it looks like characteristic Mao-era cultural training. One thinks of North Korea, San Francisco, Think Progress, MSNBC, DNC Headquarters, even classrooms in New Jersey as recently as 2009…
For The Diplomat, Michael Lumbers writes: The splashy announcement recently of a $400 billion deal that will send Russian natural gas to China has triggered a new wave of speculation over the implications of strengthened Sino-Russian ties for America’s strategic position. The supply agreement, which will give Beijing a much-needed source of clean energy and Moscow an alternative market as relations with Europe have soured in the wake of the crisis over Ukraine, fleshes out a “strategic partnership” that has flourished over the past 20 years as a result of expanded trade, the final resolution of all border disputes, and a shared interest in impeding U.S. hegemony.
For some alarmed Western observers, seemingly forgetful that not even the bonds of communist ideology could prevent the violent rupture of the Sino-Soviet alliance at the height of the Cold War, this invigorated relationship threatens to consolidate into an anti-American alliance that is headed toward an eventual clash with the U.S. More sober voices stop short of such grim forecasts, but counsel that Washington should devise policies aimed atdriving the two powers apart. How, if at all, is the U.S. likely to respond?
Any assessment of U.S. options for responding to growing Sino-Russian convergence needs to begin with an understanding that the post-Cold War reconciliation, burdened by a long history of distrust, has often fallen short of the flowery rhetoric of summit communiques. For both sides, the relationship remains a function of more important dealings with the United States. Read the rest of this entry »
— tania branigan (@taniabranigan) April 29, 2014
First lady Michelle Obama‘s Spring Break trip to China with her daughters and mom has received some glowing news reports, but not because her press corps has had an easy time covering the event-filled trip. Reporters say that they have been blocked from events, screamed at by officials, held back with red tape and told not to move from prepositioned lookouts, possibly to avoid taking embarrassing photos.
On Monday, the New York Times filed a pool report about the first lady’s tour of Xi’an, a city dating to the 14th century. “Event below marred for press by obnoxious Chinese advance man screaming and shoving us behind his ever moving red tape line,” said the report. Another from Friday said that officials wouldn’t dish what the first lady and Chinese President Xi Jinping talked about or even ate during their dinner.
Beijing news has a unique multi-page feature with rare illustrations, photos, and informative texts about the history of tobacco in China. The images load slowly (mileage may vary) but it’s worth every moment. Here’s a sample:
China’s anti-smoking movement was first recorded in 1639, when Ming Dynasty (AD 1368－1644) Emperor Chongzhen issued a national ban on tobacco and stipulated that tobacco addicts be executed. In 1637, Qing Dynasty (AD 1644–1911) Emperor Kangxi expanded the death penalty to those who possess tobacco.
Advertisements featuring fashionable courtesans, or sing-song girls of Shanghai around the 1920s testified that the imported habit was trendy in what was then one of Asia’s biggest cities.
This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com
- Japan’s PM visits Yasukuni shrine, infuriating Chinese and Koreans
- Israel to announce new settlements along with Palestinian prisoner release
- Pakistan protesters block Nato supply route after new drone strikes
Japan’s PM visits Yasukuni shrine, infuriating Chinese and Koreans
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a surprise visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Thursday, saying the purpose of the visit was to pray for peace. Yasukuni Shrine is the national shrine for millions of war dead in Japan regardless of what role they played. It is still a scared place to all Japanese. The shrine was initially created by Emperor Meiji to commemorate any individuals who had died in service of the Empire of Japan during the Meiji Restoration. However, the numbers of those enshrined there have been expanded since opening in 1867.
China and South Korea are infuriated by the visit, because 14 convicted or accused Class A war criminals are enshrined there, in addition to the war dead from World War II.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said:
“China will not tolerate this. Abe’s visit severely went against the principle and spirit of the four political documents between the two countries, as well as the commitment made by former Japanese administrations and leaders on historical issues, and erected a major new political obstacle to the already strained China-Japan relations.
However, according to Abe:
“Some people criticize a visit to Yasukuni as something to pay homage to war criminals, an idea based on misunderstanding.
I paid a visit to show (to the war dead) my determination to create an age where no one will ever suffer from tragedies of wars.”
Thursday was also the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong‘s birthday, which China celebrated with patriotic songs and TV docu-dramas. Purposely left out of this “glorious” history was any mention of Mao’s horrific mistakes: the Great Famine of 1958-61 that killed tens of millions and the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution that shattered the lives of millions. Much to the dismay of many Chinese, the party still blocks public debate of these tragedies in case it might undermine the party’s grip on power. Japan Times (Comment) and CNTV (Beijing) and CS Monitor
BEIJING — William Wan writes: A curious thing happened two weeks ago as China was preparing celebrations for the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth. One of the main events — a symphony of favorite Communist songs at the Great Hall of the People — got an abrupt name change.
No longer would it be called “The Sun is Reddest, Chairman Mao is Dearest.” Instead, all traces of China’s founding father were quietly scrubbed from posters, ticketing Web sites and programs, and the show repackaged as a more generic New Year’s gala called “Singing the Motherland’s Praises.”
Even decades after his death, there is uncertainty about how to tackle the legacy of the man who cemented the party’s grip on power but was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions, disastrous policies and brutal purges.
At the heart of that ambivalence is a debate over China’s future. Die-hard leftists are pushing for the country’s new leaders to revive Mao’s teachings as a path to stronger nationalism, economic equality and party legitimacy. Meanwhile, liberals say the time has come not only for economic reforms and other new paths forward, but also for an honest assessment of China’s troubled past.
“Mao has never left China’s political stage,” said Guo Songmin, a well-known leftist commentator. “Now all sides want to use him to influence China’s political direction.”
A ‘Directive from The Ministry of Truth’
The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.
State Council Information Office: All websites strictly prohibit promotion of the December 11 Southern Metropolis Daily article “Name Change Requested for Mao Zedong’s Birthday Commemoration at the Great Hall of the People” and all related news. Immediately delete already published material. Close discussions on interactive segments and strictly control online comments. (December 13, 2013)
In an attempt to lower the profile of a planned symphonic concert honoring the120th birthday of Mao Zedong, authorities ordered a name change and merging of the commemoration with a New Years Gala. Recently, the State Council Information Office ordered the deletion of a Phoenix Net article that included an interview subject discussing the supernal power of Mao pictures.
Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”
Excessive nationalism threatens the country’s potential
Steve Chapman writes: To achieve any ambitious goal, you have to want it badly enough to work and sacrifice. But there is such a thing as trying too hard. Overzealous pursuit of your heart’s desire can end up chasing it away.
The Chinese government may be learning that right now. China, a great civilization brought low by foreign powers in the 19th and 20th centuries, has long burned to acquire a global stature corresponding to its self-image.
Its transformation from an economic catastrophe to an export machine has made it a much bigger player in world affairs. But sometimes efforts to assert itself generate not respect and cooperation but fear and resistance.
The decision to establish an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea didn’t have to set alarm bells clanging from Seoul to Tokyo to Washington. Other countries have their own along their coastlines, and Beijing can make a reasonable case that it’s entitled to one as well.
But the Chinese didn’t make the case; they just proclaimed it. The change came in such an abrupt and surprising way as to make it impossible for anyone to cheerfully accept. China failed to consult with its neighbors in advance, took in islands long under Japanese jurisdiction and established rules beyond what other countries impose.
Reason and faith go hand in hand in the pursuit of truth, but it’s the belief systems employed that serves as that pursuit’s moral grounding.