Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dalai Lama Giggled His Way on American National TV

The Dalai Lama and Barbara Walters
(ABC News / Rob Wallace)

In a rare appearance on American national TV, the Dalai Lama talked with famous TV journalist Barbara Walters about his belief in heaven, and even received a kiss from her in a program aired Friday night on ABC.

The program, “Heaven----Where is it? How do we get there,” was ABC’s special presentation, in which Ms. Walters talked with religion leaders from around the world in search for the idea of heaven in different religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam.

To do the show, she recently traveled half way around the world to a remote comer of northern India, where the Dalai Lama is living in an “out-of-the-way village.”

Standing in front of a two-story white villa, Ms. Walters saw the Dalai Lama slowly stepped down the stairs in his lama robe, with smile on his face.

“Welcome,” the Dalai Lama greeted Ms. Walters in English, and grabbed her hands and held them for a while, like meeting an old friend who he hadn’t seen for a long time.

Ms. Walters called him “your holiness” and thanked him for allowing them to visit him, something the religion leader does not do very often. Their talk, as aired last night, was purely spiritual, touching nothing about politics.

Besides discussing Buddhism belief of heaven, the show also provided a glimpse of the famous lama’s personality.

Using his somewhat awkward, sometimes broken, but still understandable English, the 71-year-old Dalai Lama told Ms. Walters that he was not living God as many of his followers deemed him.

“No. Certainly [I’m not God],” he said and giggled. He took off his glasses and said if he was God, he would not have to wear glasses to be able to see well. He said he was a teacher, teaching Buddhism.

Not only that he was not God, the Dalai Lama said he had not reached the stage of being enlightened, either. In other words, he saw himself still far away from the highest status of Buddhism pursuit, Buddhahood. Instead of knowing everything, he told his American visitor, he could not tell what was going to happen the following night, and he forgot what happened the day before.

“I always consider myself as another human being. Nothing special, nothing more,” he said.

The Dalai Lama also acted more like a caring teacher than a mighty religion leader, who some people believe to even have super power.

He giggled throughout the interview, which made him look very easy-going, happy and amiable. Ms. Walters thus described him as a “charming and charismatic leader,” with “an infectious giggle.” Despite English talk and lama dress, his manner was very similar to those highly-esteemed figures at his age in China. He also had an optimistic view of today’s world, concluding it is “close to heaven.”

Talking with pretty high spirit, the Dalai Lama appeared to be very energetic. He was even not reluctant to show a little bit naughtiness.

At the end of the interview, when Ms. Walters asked him whether it was possible to kiss him on the cheek, he said “okay” without hesitance and accepted the kiss, again, with a laud giggle. And then, he volunteered to show Ms. Walters the New Zealand-style kiss by pressing his nose against hers. While doing that, the two broke into big laugh.

----by Josie Liu

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Retired Provincial Leader Targeted for Pleads

Mao Zhiyong, former party secretary of Hunan province, has not enjoyed much peace as he hoped since he chose to retreat to his rural home village and live a farmer’s life three years ago, after stepping down from office.

His after-retirement life was recently featured in The Beijing News, which apparently has been very busy.

The 77-year-old man has an impressive political resume, including 16 years as the party secretary, the top official of Chinese province, of his native Hunan province, another three years in Jiangxi province in the same post, and several years as the vice chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Such a strong background makes people in the village and nearby believe that Mr. Mao is a powerful figure.

Local officials come to his home regularly, seeking advices on local issues. Using his resources and connections, he managed to have a Hong Kong businessman to take over a pig farm in the village, which created new jobs and businesses, and helped villagers to make more money.   

Not only better economy, he also attracted appealers from local and outside towns, who hoped Mr. Mao could help to claim their rights or seek justice. But the best Mr. Mao could do is no more than writing a letter to responsible officials, asking “please deal with [the case] in accordance with due policies.” On lucky days, the note could generate some feedbacks from Hunan and Jiangxi governments, where Mr. Mao once served as the chief.

To make sure that his life would not be disturbed too much, local police set up a guard booth near his home to provide 24-hour protection.

Mr. Mao’s return to rural village made big news three years ago, since it is not usual for such a high-ranking official to leave prosperous city and settle down in relatively backward country side. He wanted to go home, farming and raising chicken, because in the village, “the water is good, air is good and vegetable is good,” he said.

The attention he received in his home town, however, is predictable. High-ranking officials always trigger big excitement among lower officials as well as common folks in China, as in many other places around the world. Besides, they often possess substantial political influence even after they retire.

It’s also no wonder that appealers with all kinds of sad stories and broken rights would try to seek help from this retired former powerful, since they often fail to get much response from sitting officials.

----by Josie Liu

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wedding Ceremony a Growing Business

Wedding hosts are gaining popularity, and money, in China

Chinese people spend as much as 300 billion yuan (more than $38 billion) every year on wedding ceremonies, which has helped to boost a new business.

Meanwhile, as more and more new couples start to hire professional wedding planners and wedding hosts, wedding planning and hosting has become a booming new occupation in many Chinese cities.

As part of the new trend, a national wedding host competition is to be held in Chengdu, Sichuan on Wednesday. Shi Kangning, an executive for this competition, told Xinhua that over 100,000 wedding hosts now take on wedding stages all over the country.

There are about 10 million new couples tying the knot every year in China, each spends 3000 yuan ($380) for the wedding on average, for things like wedding banquets, jewelries, and wedding photo shooting, Mr. Shi said. He himself is a successful wedding host, and among the earliest who ran their own wedding ceremony companies.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, December 15, 2006

Richest Writers in China

Mr. Han Han

Mr. Guo Jingming

The most popular writers in today’s China have made their way into the millionaire club, by selling their books and earning eight-digit-number royalty.

Chinese Business Post recently surveyed publishing companies, bookstores and writers, and came up with a list comparing some writers’ royalty income for their works of the past decade, calculated by multiplying published copies, cover price and royalty rate of each work. The survey adopted an average royalty rate of 10 percent for the calculation.

The writer with the highest royalty income, 14 million yuan ($1.75 million) is Yu Qiuyu, of Shanghai. The best sellers among his works are collections of essays about his thoughts and reflections of cultures, Chinese and foreign. Eryuehe, a novelist, is ranked right behind Mr. Yu, claiming 12 million yuan ($1.5 million) in royalty gain.

Noticeably, two young and edgy writers, Han Han and Guo Jingming, earning 9.5 million ($1.2 million) and 8.5 million ($1.1 million) yuan respectively, are among the top five, beating old generation literature icons like Mr. Wang Meng and Jia Pingwa.

These two young men were born in the 1980s and started to publish when still teenagers. Appreciated by many, especially young adults, as the voice of China’s new generation, they are different from writers of older generations in many ways, such as not shy to boast their personalities and applying cutting-edge writing styles.

It is also interesting to see Anni Baby, who gained her fame by writing on the Internet, be listed at 11 in the fortune list of contemporary Chinese writers. Many of her works having debut on the Internet were later published in paper books, which earned her nearly $1 million in royalty.

Not surprisingly, most of the top 25 richest writers in today’s China made their fortune by writing fictions, a genre enjoyed by most of the reading population in China. There are only five women among the top 25.

Like many other businesses in China, book publishing and selling has marched into market economy and allowed writers of good-selling works to become millionaire. But these writers are still minority. Most of people who try to make a living by writing, however, are not making big money, the China Business Post report says.

----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Warning: Non-direct-interest Conflict Growing in China

The number of social riots in China has been increasing in recent years

China is seeing a dangerous trend, the increase of non-direct-interest conflict, where many participants of protests or clashes with the police actually have nothing to do with the issue at question itself, but only use the participation as a way to let go their anger or doubts toward the government.

The problem is discussed in an article published in the December issue of Baixing magazine, an out-spoken media outlet based in the mainland.

In recent years, it is not rarely seen that some small quarrels in the streets evolved into large-scale riots involving tens of thousands of people, many of whom had no specific interest pursuits in the protest.

The trend is manifest among migrant workers in Guangdong, for example. Those who had specific interests at stake and those who did not often mixed together in protests. Often times, it was spectators, not the protestors, who threw stones at the police, the article says.

However, the phenomenon is far from simply people’s meddling, but rather demonstrates the conflict of interests between different groups, if not necessarily individuals, the article goes on to point out.

For instance, a farmer selling vegetables on the road side without authority permission was asked to leave by some city inspectors but refused to do so, and a fight broke out between the two sides. Hundreds of people walking by started to join the fight, mostly sympathetic with the farmer and criticizing the inspectors for not allowing the farmer to sell his products and to make a living. Among the crowds might be people who had similar experience of being pushed around by authorities and held the feeling of being oppressed. Therefore, non-direct-interest conflict is “group-to-group conflict; is the formation and division of social stratus,” the magazine article says.

“Due to past unfair treatment [from the authorities], [people] accumulate antipathy over time and feel themselves being the obvious or potential subject of persecution, and therefore try to let the feeling off their chests when there is a chance,” especially when they do not have sufficient channels to complain or defend their interests, says the article.

The peculiar conflict is characterized by an attitude that “nothing [done or said by the government] is trustworthy,” the magazine says. It warns that the problem, if not dealt with properly, could eventually harm the foundation of government ruling, because it sends a dangerous signal showing antagonism between government officials and the public.

The article attracted many discussions after it was posted on the Internet last week. Most of the commentators expressed their sympathy toward such non-direct-interest conflict.

Some say it is the result of non-electoral designation of government officials, and a way for the public to express their opinions. Some interpret it as the manifestation of the increasing class conflict in today’s Chinese society, the conflict between those who have privileges and the mast majority of plain citizens, or lao bai xing. There are also voices haling such public involvement in conflicts, calling it people’s awakening and social conscience.

----by Josie Liu

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

China Faces Challenge of Taking Care of the Elderly

China’s aged population will reach its peak at 437 million in 2051,and the best opportunity for China to get ready for taking care of the elderly is before 2032, or, the country will deeply regret, said a government official on Tuesday.

There are currently 16 million people in China aging 80 or older, according to a government report released on Tuesday. At the end of last year, people over the age of 60 amounted at 144 million, or 11 percent of the total population. Shanghai, China’s most fluent city, tops the list with nearly 20 percent of its population in the 60 plus age group.

With 3 percent annual increase of aged population, by 2051, people over 60 years old could be twice as many as children, claiming 31 percent of China’s population.

Despite such a heavy burden of taking care of seniors, China’s social services for old people, such as health care, legs seriously behind the needs.

Meanwhile, China’s pension deficit has reached 8 trillion yuan ($1 trillion) by the end of 2005, according to government statistics.
----by Josie Liu

Related article

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Debate: Loong or Dragon

top: a China long
bottom: a dragon

A scholar’s proposal of abandoning long, or Chinese dragon, as the symbol image of China triggered a hot public debate about this thousands-of-years-old emblem, particularly its English translation.

Early this month, Prof. Wu Youfu, a top administrator of Shanghai International Studies University, said in a local newspaper story that long is not suitable to be the symbol of China’s national image, because dragon is seen in the western world as “a monster full of arrogance and offensiveness.” He suggested that the symbol should be something resonating China’s peaceful rise strategy and avoiding westerners’ misconceptions about Chinese culture. Prof. Wu is also leading a research project on renovating China’s national image.

Soon after these comments were published, Prof. Huang Ji of East China Normal University, also in Shanghai, criticized Prof. Wu’s proposal as “ridiculous.” Nothing is wrong with long, according to Prof. Huang, and what went wrong is the English translation of long as "dragon."

It is dragon that is seen as “full of arrogance and offensiveness,” not long, and “a lot of Chinese scholars studying the English language have written articles to point that out,” Prof. Huang wrote in his blog on He made a different proposal: not to change long as China’s symbol, but change the translation from dragon to long, or loong. The alternative translations are already in use in some cases.

Dragon, according to English dictionaries, is a mythical monster with wings and claws, which spouts fire and is often associated with evilness or fierceness. In contrast, long in traditional Chinese culture is an auspicious symbol and mostly a positive notion, indicating opulence, happiness and good power. It is translated as dragon probably because the two imaginary creatures both have snake-like bodies, Prof. Huang told
Long is the mark of China’s image, as well as the embodiment of recognition of China and the Chinese civilization for all Chinese people around the world,” Prof. Huang wrote. Abandoning long and using different things as the national symbol, as proposed by Prof. Wu, would “lead to confusion in recognizing the mother land.”

On the Internet, the mast majority of commentators harshly denounced Prof. Wu’s proposal, except for few comments supporting his idea on the basis that long was for a long time only the symbol of China’s ancient emperors.

Many people expressed their anger at Prof. Wu’s idea.

“As the symbol and image of China, long has been connected in flesh and blood with Chinese history and civilization, with every single Chinese people, for a long, long time, without interruption,” one person commented on the Internet. “To get rid of long is to cut the root!”

Some people were particularly angry at the fact that Prof. Wu’s proposal was based on the concern of westerners’ possible “misinterpretation” of the image of long. Some even went so far as to label Prof. Wu as treachery. “I despise people like Wu Fuyou,” one poster wrote. “People like that don’t deserve to be Chinese,” wrote another.

In an online survey on, over 90 percent of the participants supported long as the national symbol, and over 80 percent agreed with changing the translation.

Wedding in Ancient Outfits

A young couple in Fengjie, Chongqing held a wedding on Monday following traditional rituals, and dressed in hanfu, the outfit worn by ancient Chinese. To show case their traditional dresses, the couple strolled around their hometown, attracting thousands of onlookers.

Hanfu, the ancient style outfit, has become increasingly popular among Chinese youth since it was reintroduced into people’s daily life about four years ago. In addition to being attracted by its unique beauty, young people love and wear hanfu in occasions like traditional holidays and weddings to demonstrate their will to retrieve traditional Chinese culture.
Several websites and social groups are also formed to promote hanfu, along with other Chinese cultural heritage and traditional values.
----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Coal Shortage Left Thousands in Cold in Urumqi

Wrapped in a comforter to keep warm in dorm

More than 10,000 people in Urumqi, Xinjiang, found their home freezing after the heat was stopped on Saturday. A coal-burning furnace providing heat for the area stopped working after heat company workers fed it with coals of poor quality. The company purchased these bad coals from some small coal mines, when its contract coal provider was short of supply, Xinhua reported.

The heat break lasted for nearly 96 hours, leaving thousands of people fighting cold in rooms of temperature lower than 10 degree Celsius, or about 50 degree Fahrenheit, while the out-door temperature was way below the freezing point. Some electronic heaters thus were sold out in many local stores during these days. The heat was resumed late Wednesday night.

China has been in constant shortage of coal supply for recent years, largely due to huge demand of coals for generating electricity to feed energy hungry factories of all kinds. The demand-supply strain has been a major drive for illegal coal mining, including over production at state-owned coal mines, which many times has led to explosion, collapse and other fatal accidents at the mines.

Homosexual Man Stopped from Seeking Partner
A homosexual man was stopped last month by a security guard at the gate of elite Tsinghua University in Beijing, before he made his way into the campus with a board on his back. The hand-written board read: I’m a gay; sincerely looking for a life-time partner. He said he took the action not only to find a partner, but also to advocate for gay rights and fight against discrimination, Shanghai based Xinmin Evening News website reported.

The man later complained to the university, claiming he was discriminated, but the university denied any discrimination against homosexuals.

The Tsinghua incident is one of the few, but increasing cases of advocating gay rights in China, although homosexuality has largely remained a taboo in public discourse. Most gay people in China still hide their sexual orientation from others and many remained in normal marriages. But the society has been more and more familiar, if not more tolerant, with the concept of homosexuality, and many people are talking about it in private talks or on the anonymous Internet.
----by Josie Liu

Friday, December 01, 2006

New Wave of Democratic Talks in Chinese Media Attract Attentions

CCTV Documentary: The Rise of the Great Nations

People in China noticed that the media have been unusually outspoken lately. An article published in an on-line chat room cited a few examples, including published interviews with human rights activists and dissent academics who are not favored by government censors, and several articles frankly advocating democracy and rule of law, something not very often seen in mainland media.

But the most remarkable media event recently is a documentary series, The Rise of the Great Nations, aired on one of China’s major propaganda organs, China Central Television.

The 12 part documentary looked into the rise of nine of the world's main powers, including Germany, Spain, Japan and the United States, over the past 500 years and examined why they thrived. Unlike the Communist Party’s long-time interpretation of history as ruled by class struggles and censure of capitalism, the documentary provided rather objective and factual narratives and analysis, an approach so unusual for CCTV that many viewers said they could not believe the show was produced by the station.

Mai Tianshu, one of the creators of the documentary, told a Chinese newspaper that the show aimed at helping the public to understand what is the origin and future trend of modern society, the importance of reason, compromise and cooperation in building a new system, and the necessity of a strong central power.

In the cyberspace and other media, people are comparing The Rise of the Great Nations with another mind-shaking documentary, The Young Death of a River. It was aired on the same station 18 years ago and has been deemed as having fanned the democracy fever among young people and therefore facilitated the demonstration at the Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Young Death of a River, or He Shang, denounced the traditional Chinese civilization, nurtured by the Yellow River, as close-minded and hidebound, and called on the Chinese nation to learn from western society’s “ocean civilization” in order to step up as a modern nation.

Some analysts say that like The River, The Rise foreshadows new moves of political reform, but others say it is just one implement of Chinese leadership’s intention to learn from western society, including its democratic and legal system, in search of appropriate ways for China’s modernization. Still others say the show is a good education for Chinese people, preparing them for China’s rise as a world power.

----by Josie Liu

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Survey: Chinese People’s Attitudes toward AIDS Mixed

In some places, knowledge about preventing HIV is printed on poker cards for public education

Most Chinese people in a survey showed tendency to avoid contact with HIV affected people, although they supported equal rights for this group.

Over sixty percent respondents agreed that HIV affected people should have the same rights as other people to work and receive education. About sixty percent, however, responded that they would not be willing to continue to work with people tested HIV positive, according to the survey, conducted by before the Dec. 1 World AIDS Day.

For a multi-choice question about whether people would tell others if they themselves were found to have AIDS, more than 80 percent responses went to informing parents, lovers, good friends and people they had “intimate contact” with. There are also 40 percent responses going with not telling anybody.

What would people do if they knew their neighbors were affected? Forty-seven percent of the respondents said they would try to avoid contact with the affected person, 10 percent said they would move, and three percent would visit the affected person at home. There are also 41 percent choosing to continue to live like usual.

By October, there have been more than 180,000 AIDS cases reported to Chinese authorities over the years. Among the cases reported during the first 10 months of this year, 37 and 28 percent were affected through drug and sexual activities, respectively, Xinhua reported. Chinese officials say there are still dangerous factors to cause further spread of AIDS in the country.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, November 10, 2006

Protesters Clash with Police over Land Disputes

Villagers in Sanzhou, Guangdong, confronted police

More than 10,000 people clashed with riot police in the village of Sanzhou, Guangdong, on Friday, during a protest over land dispute. NBC news aired footage of the clash on Friday morning, showing police using tear gas to disperse the crowds in a chaotic scene. This was one of the biggest clashes between protesters and the police since the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, NBC said.

Villagers in Sanzhou have been protesting against illegal seizure of their land by local officials and corruption for months and on Wednesday, they detained a few foreigners and government officials in a warehouse which they said was built upon such disputable land. The officials and guests from Hong Kong, Germany, Thailand and Britain were in there for the facility’s inauguration ceremony. The officials and guests have been let out by Friday, the South China Morning Post reported.

Land disputes have been one of the major causes for uprisings in China, especially in rural area, in recent years. In most of the cases, villagers protested local officials' grab of farmland and selling it to real estate developers. Local governments could gain tremendous profits by selling the land while villagers sometimes receiving little compensation or nothing at all. Such land deals are also plagued with alleged corruptions and foul plays, such as bribery between real estate developers and government officials and selling farmland that are supposed to be preserved as farmland.

The central government has warned local officials against illegal land seizure, but the rapacious land demand for real estate developments and limited supply, in addition to huge profits, could almost annul the warnings.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, November 03, 2006

Manager Committed Suicide after Sacked for Medicine Incident

Top: A victim of Xinfu injecta

Bottom: Mr. Qiu Zuyi

Mr. Qiu Zuyi, former manager of a state-owned medicine company, was found dead at his home in Fuyang, Anhui, on November 1. He apparently killed himself, according to Chinese media.

Beijing’s Mirror newspaper said he lived alone in Fuyang, while his wife and son lived in Shanghai. He also left a note with words like “very, very sad,” “no way to let out the pressure,” and “can only die to apologize,” according to Guangzhou-based 21st Century Economy.

The fatal nightmare of Mr. Qiu and his company, Anhui Huayuan Medicine Company, started on August 3, when China’s health ministry issued an emergent notice to all health providers across China, requesting immediate suspension of the use of Xinfu glucose injecta manufactured by the company. The injection fluid was reported to have caused at least dozens of deaths, and other harmful symptom such as sallergic shock, liver and kidney damage, and palpitation.

More than 2.7 million bottles of Xinfu liquid were soon recalled. In mid-October, China’s food and medicine administration announced that the problematic injecta was not sterilized to standard level. During its production process, the factory lowered the sterilization temperature, shortened the time, and overloaded the disinfection container, and therefore impaired the effect of the sterilization. Mr. Qiu was since removed from his post.

Meanwhile, more and more victims and their families around the country started to ask the company for compensation, and family member of some diseased victims came and burn funeral wretch inside the factory.

Ironically, on Friday, the company’s website still boasts its strong emphasis on product quality.

Mr. Qiu used to be seen as the hero of revitalizing a moribund state-owned factory. He applied and was chosen to be the manager in 2000 and had since turned the dying company into profit, and provided job to nearly 2000 people. The factory has resumed its production.

Fake and poor-quality medicine has been a huge problem in China in recent years as some manufactures pursuit profits over quality. The government has become more responsive to such cases, because some of the poor quality medicines kill people and the public is likely to be agitated if they don’t think their call for justice is sufficiently answered.

The dealing with the Xinfu incident appeared to be fairly prompt. Not only executives in the factory, but also local government officials overseeing medicine manufacture received punishment ranging from removal to disciplinary sanctions. The death of the former manager, however, may not put an end to people’s furies and compensation battles.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, October 27, 2006

Big Hole in China’s Social Security Fund

China is one of the biggest aging societies in the world

The deficit of China’s social security fund has now amounted to trillions of yuan, said Xiang Huaicheng, chairman of the National Council for Social Security Fund, the top management body of the fund in China.

“There is a loophole during the process of the transformation of social security system in our country, a system transformation cost. The cost probably is not to be measured by trillions of yuan, but by tens of trillions of yuan,” Mr. Xiang said on a China Central Television program aired on Friday.

The estimation could be inaccurate, he added, because China is lack of detailed statistics data on social security fund. However, the current fund of 2.3 trillion yuan (about US$0.4 trillion) is far from being able to handle the pension needs of China’s increasingly aging population, Mr. Xiang said, but he hoped the fund could be expanded to close to 10 trillion yuan within five years.

Deficiency and poor management of social security fund has been recognized as a major threat to China’s social stability. Some reforms have been tried to resolve the problems but an overall efficient and stable social security system is yet to be figured out, let along to be established. The country’s wide economic and social development gap among different regions and rampant corruption among government officials only complicate the already thorny and dangerous situation.

The fact that China’s top official of social security fund management acknowledged publicly the existence of a huge loophole only spells how serious the problem has become, because Chinese government officials usually tend to cover up problems in their realms until things are too bad to hide.

Related article:
China Faces Social Security Fund Management Crisis

Zhou Zhengyi Under Investigation Again
Famous Shanghai real estate entrepreneur Zhou Zhengyi has been investigated by Shanghai law enforcement, according to the 21st Century Economy Report. Hong Kong investigators are also seeking to question Mr. Zhou over illegal financial practices.

Mr. Zhou was jailed for three years for financial fraud and got out of prison in May. He is widely speculated as having close ties with high-rank officials and involving in corruption.

----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cars to be Kept out of Beijing Roads During Important Conference

The logo of the conference is set up on the Tiananmen Square

More than half of the vehicles belonging to government agencies, military units and state-owned companies in Beijing are ordered to be kept at home from Nov.1 to Nov.6, when the China-Africa Cooperation Conference will be held, Beijing Evening News reported.

Meanwhile, many roads in Beijing will be blocked, and even the working and school schedule will be changed to guarantee good traffic during the conference, which actually will be held from Nov.3 to Nov. 5.

This is just another crazy example to show how bad the traffic in Beijing has become. In order to make sure hundreds of government officials and guests from African countries will be able to travel smoothly from the airport to hotels and around the city during their stay, the city could not do much but to ask large amounts of cars not to get on the roads at all, as well as government agencies and schools to pick other working or class hours than usual, no matter how confusing and incontinent that will be.

If hosting such an international meeting would require such big fusses to keep the traffic going, it’s simply terrifying to think how the city will handle the 2008 Olympic Games.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bloggers in China May be Requested to Reveal Real ID

Young bloggers at a blogger conference in 2005

The Chinese government has asked Internet Society of China, a non-governmental orgnization, to discuss the possibility and related issues of a new regulation requiring bloggers to use their real names and ID information to register for blogs, an official from the society said on Thursday.

The society held a meeting earlier this month, where experts from internet industry, law and government discussed issues like what kind of ID information should be requested, how to make sure the information are accurate and the timeline for the new regulation to take effect, according to a report on the organization’s website. No details of the discussion were revealed.

People who support such a regulation said it could prevent bloggers from publishing vicious comments, such as defamation and insult toward other people, which has occurred in the world of Chinese blog. Other people, especially those from the internet industry, voiced their concerns that the regulation could discourage people to blog and was against the open and free nature of the internet.

Other issues, such as protection of personal information and information verification, could also nullify the initiative, experts said.

Weblog started to gain popularity among Chinese people in 2002, and so far, there have been more than 33 million blogs registered in China, with more than 17 million bloggers, according to a report by China Internet Network Information Center. Like in most places around the world, Chinese bloggers have been blogging without revealing their real identity, and that is also one opportunity for some dissent voices to be heard.

----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bold Moves for China in Grasping Oil Resources

China Natural Petroleum Corporation

China Natural Petroleum Corporation, China's state-owned biggest oil producer, has reached a deal for a joint venture with Rosneft, Russia's state-owned oil giant. The new oil company is called Oriental Energy (translated from Chinese), in which the Chinese will own 49% of its stocks, and the Russian will own 51%, China Youth Daily reported. The new company will mostly operate in Russia, exploring and recovering petroleum there, the newspaper reported.

Earlier, China Petro purchased Rosneft’s stock worth of $500 million.

Meanwhile, an official in charge of China’s energy policy said in Beijing on Wednesday that Chinese companies’ oil exploitations in African countries were “mutually beneficial,” China News Service reported.

Zhang Yuqing, the official, also said that China is “willing to exploit [energy resources] in the United States.”

City to Select Filial Piety Paradigms

Haikou city in southern China’s Hainandao province released on Tuesday the candidates for its first competition of “Ten Stars of Filial Piety,” Hainan Daily reported.

The candidates were selected based on their exceptional behaviors of taking care and respect senior family members or citizens. The final results will be announced at the end of this month.

The campaign in Haiko is just one of many across China aimed at restoring some of the lost traditional values, including filial piety, which was highly regarded and enforced in ancient China.

In recent decades, however, it has become widespread that young people disrespect seniors, including elderly parents, even maltreat or abandon them when they are in need of care. Such a trend is partly the result of people turning their attention away from morality to money-making, as well as lack of education of traditions.
----by Josie Liu

Monday, October 16, 2006

Memorizing the Long March

Late leaders Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, featured in a Long-March movie poster

The Chinese government has launched various activities across the country to mark the 70th anniversary of the successful completion of the Long March, a master piece in the history of the communist-lead revolution in China in last century.

The Red Army started the Long March in October 1934, to evade massive attacks from the Nationalist army. They marched thousands of miles across China from east to west, sustaining battles, heavy casualties, famine, wounds and illness, walking through some of the cruelest conditions such as snow mountains and swamps, till they finally accomplished the mission in 1936.

President Hu Jintao visited an exhibition on the Long March in Beijing on Monday. He urged people to remember the great achievements of the revolutionary generation, and inherit their legacy in the current course of building the country, Xinhua reported.

Janitors Went on Strike Due to Low Pay
More than 100 city janitors in Lanzhou, Gansu, did not go to clean the streets on Monday, in protest against their under-minimum wages, Western Economic Daily reported.

The province, for which Lanzhou is the capital city, increased its monthly minimum wage to 430 yuan (about $54) in August, but some of the city janitors received only 360 yuan ($45) in October. These workers are mostly hired contemporarily. City government cited financial difficulties for the low payment. Labor Union in the city has pledged to investigate and resolve the problem.

----by Josie Liu

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Woman Named the Richest in China

Zhang Yin

The richest entrepreneur now in China, according to the newly released Hurun China Rich List, is Ms. Zhang Yin, Chairwoman of Nine Dragons Paper Industries Company, one of world’s largest manufactures of packaging material based in Dongguan, Gongdong.

Her personal fortune was estimated to be about $3.4 billion, which not only made her the top entrepreneur in China, but also the richest self-made woman in the world - surpassing that of Oprah Winfrey and J.K. Rowling, said Hurun Report, the company that compiled this list.

This is also the first time for a woman to top the China Rich List. The second richest on the list is Mr. Huang Guanyu, with personal fortune amounting at $2.5 billion. There are 35 women on this year’s list, domenstrating the increasing power of women in the private sector of Chinese economy.

Ms. Zhang, 49, was born into a military family in northeastern China province of Heilongjiang. Her career took off at the age of 27, when she came to Hong Kong and started a paper recycling business, recycling waste paper to produce new paper. A few years later, in 1990, she started to recycle paper in the United States and used it as material in her own paper manufacturing factory in Dongguan, established in 1988.

What made her the top of the list was the listing of her company on Hong Kong stock market in March. High price of her company’s stock, of which she owns 75 percent, has helped to boost her fortune.

“I was just lucky,” she once told Chinese media about her success. She said her secret was to “focus on my own work” and “always try to do what I am able to.”

Despite her achievements, she keeps low profile, and many people have never heard of her by the time she was announced the richest entrepreneur in China by Hurun Report on Wednesday.

The China Rich List, first released in 1999, was the creation of English man Rupert Hoogewerf, who also established Hurun Report, a luxury publishing and events group.

The list surveyed thousands of private enterprises around China to find the richest individual who owns or runs the companies, by camparing the stock values owned by these individuals. For non-listed companies, their profits were the basis for evaluation. Inviduals considered for the list were born and raised in China, no matter what passport they might hold today, according to Hurun Report.

On this year's list, real estate, manufacture and information technology are the top three businesses in terms of the fortune they possess. Individuals from IT sector started to appear on the list only a few years ago.

Apparently, Chinese entrepreneurs’ fortune keeps growing, pushing the bench mark of the list about $37 million higher than last year. Also, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Shanghai, Beijing and Jiangsu are home to most of these entrepreneurs, according to the list.
----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Harmonious Society the Key Word at Party Meeting

China's top leaders sitting on the stage at the plenum

The annual plenum of the China Communist Party central committee closed on Wednesday and issued the most important result of the meeting, a resolution on “several major issues about building a harmonious society.”

An editorial on People’s Daily, the major party mouthpiece, called the resolution a “guiding document” for the harmonious-society endeavor. The party initiated the drive as the core maneuver to tackle the widely spreading economic inequality among people from different classes and regions in China, as the country has been labeled by some as one of the most unequal economies and societies in the world.

The resolution portrayed the harmonious society as being “built and enjoyed by all Chinese people under the leadership of the CCP.” The concept was also labeled as the essence for the party’s course of building a China-style socialism society.

Through the declaration of the meeting, the party admitted that there were many conflicts and problems within today’s Chinese society, and urged party members to try their best to “increase harmonious elements as much as possible, and decrease the un-harmonious elements as much as possible.”

Specific goals of establishing such a society were articulated by the meeting, including a sounder judicial systems, reining the trend of the widening gap between rural and urban area, boosting technology innovations and "obvious improvements" of environment.

Bold economic developments and emphasis on social fairness and justice were cited as the basis for achieving a harmonious society. The meeting pledged to establish systems that will guarantee social fairness and justice, help the development of rural villages, make education development the priority, and improve public health care and environment protection. The party also mentioned establishing better anti-corruption mechanism and strengthening supervision of party officials.

These goals are set to be reached by the year of 2020, the declaration said.

Generally speaking, these principals and goals are old messages to Chinese people, except for a few things such as the stress on social fairness and intra-party utility, which suggests factional conflicts within the party. Some of the discourse is simply reiterating those that have been sung for many years by the party, although under different names, be it establishing China-style socialism, socialism market economy, or accomplishing the preliminary stage of socialism. Many of these goals have yet to be really achieved.

Among the initials mentioned in the plenum declaration, nothing substantial was mentioned about political reform. The focus was mostly on economy and social developments. The one-party ruling system was resolutely upheld, like always.

Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the question now is not the goals or the strategies, but secondary strategies used to achieve the goals.

“The issue is not what has come out of Beijing’s mouth, as much as it is what is Beijing doing to ensure that what has come out of its mouth is being implemented at the local level,” said Dr. Economy.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, October 06, 2006

CCP Central Committee to Discuss Building Harmonious Society

The annual meeting of the CCP central committee will start on Sunday. The three-day session is expected to discuss in detail maneuvers to achieve the goal of building harmony in Chinese society, with a stress on fairness.

Observers also expect to see the party discuss more efficient ways of cracking down corruption, to maintain its legitimacy and a welcoming image of itself among the public.

Personnel change is also closely watched. There are a lot of speculations that a younger generation of officials, who are viewed as more pragmatic and open- minded, are going to be positioned in some key posts, getting ready for in-side party elections next year on the 17th party congress. Also, these promotion-hopefuls will mostly share the vision with the current leadership.

However, most observers agreed that this is not the time for any major shift in China’s current system and political-economic policies. The long-existing lag between political and economic reform will continue to persist, and serious or institutional political reforms will have to wait till a new generation of leadership, who is expected to take over power in early next decade.

----by Josie Liu

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thousands Participated in Confucius Birthday Ritual

Proceeding at the ritual

Today marks the 2557th birthday of Confucius. Like last year, grand ceremonies were held across China and Taipei, to celebrate the life, ideas and achievements of Confucius. This year’s ceremony stressed the message that mainland China and Taiwan share the same cultural root.

China Faces Social Security Fund Management Crisis
Among several implications, the recent sack of Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu also revealed serious problems of the management and supervision of huge social security fund collected in cities around China.

Mr. Chen allegedly involved in loaning 3.2 billion yuan (US$400 million) of Shanghai social security fund to a company to purchase stocks, which is illegal under current Chinese law. What happened in Shanghai is only one of many incidents of illegal use of social security fund by local governments. This week, a few experts warned in Beijing that China is facing bigger and bigger challenge to manage its fast accumulating social security funds.

As part of comprehensive social reforms in China, more money is being collected for social security fund to match its expanding coverage. Currently, the fund is supposed to cover pension, work injury, job loss, health care and maternity for millions of urban residents participating in social security plans. The policy is yet applied to rural population.

In 2005, the total amount of the fund reached 1,843,500,000,000 yuan (about US$233 billion), three times that in 2000, according to Xinhua. But illegal uses of the fund are also widely seen. Some of the embezzled money was retrieved, but some was no where to be pursued.

Despite central government’s request that pension fund should be managed by professional fund management institutions, many local governments are actually taking the control. They do not make transparent their management of the money, and often use it for high risk investments like stocks, or loan it to businesses having close ties with government officials, regardless the prospect of the investment or the solvency of the borrower.

In the case of Shanghai, pension fund was overseen by a government agency, and large amount of the money was invested in stock market or real estate, which is prohibited by the central government.

As a matter of fact, pension money has fueled the fast growth of Shanghai’s real estate business in the 1990s, but a large portion of the investment failed, Asian Times reported.

How to manage this huge money to increase its value is another thorny problem. China has yet found an efficient solution in that regard, partly due to the lack of a developed and sound capital market system. He Ping, an expert on social security suggests that the government could try to invest the money in high profit industries like electricity and oil.

Poor management and supervision of the fund has already created huge pension deficit, which could trigger social upheaval if the situation was not improved.

----by Josie Liu

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Public Stunned, yet Pleased by the Removal of Shanghai Top Official

City view of Shanghai

Millions of people commented on the Internet in the last couple of days, hailing the sacking of Chen Liangyu, former party chief of Shanghai, who allegedly involved in the city’s recent social security fund embezzlement scandal.

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party made the decision on Sunday to remove Chen Liangyu from office, including his post in the Politburo, and start an investigation on his role in the pension fund scandal. Preliminary investigation showed that Mr. Chen was involved in the embezzlement. He was also found seeking interests for illegal entrepreneurs, providing illegitimate benefits for his relatives, and shielding his staff’s misconducts, Xinhua reported.

The move was to the surprise of the majority of the public. “It’s sudden, but reasonable,” one wrote on the Internet. Most people did not expect such severe punishments for Mr. Chen, who not only had a position in the politburo, but also headed the largest and most prosperous city in China. He was also seen as a member of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin’s clique.

Many observers said Mr. Chen’s fall indicated President Hu Jintao’s final take-over of the full power, and the ending of Mr. Jiang's influence on national politics. Others said the move was more than power struggle, but was part of Mr.Hu’s plan to crack down on party and government officials’ corruption, which has been prevalent in almost every government and party branch across China, and deeply rooted in the political system. They saw this move as a hope for restoring a clean, integral political arena.

One observer wrote that Chen Liangyu provided a good opportunity for President Hu to demonstrate that he was willing to remove anyone who committed corruption, so as to admonish other officials. And the timing was good, too. The communist party is expected to go through major personnel changes when the party’s 17th national assembly opens next year. There are speculations that half of the members of the politburo standing committee will retire after the assembly. With a largely new politburo standing committee, which sits at the top of CCP hierocracy, it is easier for Mr. Hu to implement new policies, including a tougher surveillance system to tackle corruptions.

On Tuesday, an official from CCP’s central disciplinary committee said that last year, more than 11,000 party members were dispelled from the party due to corruptions, Xinhua reported.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, September 22, 2006

Vehicles and bicycles competing for roads in Beijing

Calling Back Bicycles

Environmental protection organizations in China issued a letter on Friday, calling on the public to ride bicycles, instead of driving cars, to get around, like they used to, because bicycle riding is “more fun, healthier, faster and more environmental friendly.”

For decades, riding bicycle used to be the main transportation for people across China. But as more and more people start to drive their own cars, not as many people ride bicycles any more. Meanwhile, fast growing vehicles are deteriorating urban transportation in almost all major Chinese cities, and conflicts between vehicles and bicycles on the road are escalating as vehicles start to run on bicycles lanes when their own are overcrowded.

Liang Congjie, delegate of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top policy consultative body, told the Beijing News that it no longer feels safe to ride bicycle on Beijing’s roads. Liang, 74, who is also a famous architect and environmentalist, stopped riding bicycle in Beijing only recently, after falling from his bicycle when attempting to avoid a suddenly-coming vehicle. “If vehicles in Beijing don’t yield to bicycles, it will be very dangerous to ride bicycles in Beijing.”

Why? Mr. Liang cited several problems, including: some newly built roads do not have bicycles lanes; existing bicycle lanes are occupied by fast growing vehicles or taken as parking spaces. “These circumstances undermined bicyclists’ right of the road, and damaged the transportation resources of bicycles,” said Mr. Liang.

On Thursday, Qiu Baoxing, deputy chief of China’s state administration of construction, told a city planning forum in Guangzhou that China should adopt a compact model for city development, not the wide-spread model of the United States, Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

According to state planning, total highway miles in China will exceed that of the US by 2035, making China the No.1 country in the world in terms of highway area and energy consumption for transportation. “This is something very formidable, ” Mr. Qiu said.

Bad Behavior of Chinese Tourists Censured

A list of bad behaviors of Chinese tourists in overseas sites was published Friday on the website of China National Tourism Administration. The denounced behaviors include littering, spitting, not flushing after using toilet, ignoring No Smoking signs, cutting in front of others while waiting in line, talking loudly in restaurants, hotels or on plane, sporting and joking at religious sites, speaking bad words freely, behaving rude, bargaining at stores that don’t bargain, and taking things not for guests to keep from hotels and restaurants.

Along with the increase in Chinese people’s income are the number of Chinese tourists traveling overseas in Japan, Korea, Europe and other countries. While demonstrating their ability to purchase merchandises, Chinese tourists also show their bad manners in many ways. The tourism administration asked the public to submit what they think as bad behaviors of Chinese tourists and published the list as a way of education. The administration also issued suggestions for improvements.

----by Josie Liu

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Confucius Birthday Ritual Supported by Chinese Public: Survey

People dressed in ancient costumes and following traditional procedures on a Confucius birthday ritual

More than 46 percent of those surveyed by said it is “very meaningful” to hold the birthday ritual to memorize Confucius, and another nearly 28 percent said the ceremonies “have some meaning.” About 26 percent said such ritual is totally meaningless. Meanwhile, 61 percent of the surveyed support the view that the sustain and protection of Confucius’ teaching is inadequate and that traditional Chinese culture is waning.

September 28 is seen as the birth day of Confucius, who was born in 551 BC. More and more places in China start to hold big ceremonies on this day in recent years to celebrate Confucius’ achievements in education, ethics, philosophy and other areas, as one way to celebrate traditional Chinese culture. Grand ceremonies again will be held this year in multiple locations in the mainland and Taiwan, and China’s state television is said to live the events.

China Internet Conference Kicked Off
Hundreds of big players of Chinese internet industry gathered in Beijing on Thursday for the 2006 China Internet Conference, held by China Internet Association. The meeting will focus on innovation pushed by the development of internet industry in China. Participants, including CEO of Chinese search enginee, Li Yanhong, president of Google China Zhou Shaoning and government officials overseeing the industry, will discuss a broad range of issues including Internet safety, technology development, ethical issues and business strategies.

Internet industry has seen fast grow in China in the past decade. Last year, online shopping users reached 22 million, and online trade reached nearly $1 trillion. While millions of Chinese now surf on the Internet, about 96 percent of Chinese cities and towns have internet connections, according to China News Service.

----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

One fresco in a Mogao Grotto

Dunhuang Grotto Relics Facing Serious Damages

Experts have warned that more and more tourist visiting Mogao Grotto in Dunhuang, Gansu are bringing more harm to the precious and yet fragile fresco in the caves, Guangming Daily reported. Since 1979, more than four million visitors have been to the site, and there were over 300,000 visitors every year in the past five years and the number keeps rising. Experts say large groups of visitors cause temperature and humidity changes inside the caves, and leave a lot of vapor and carbon dioxide there, which erodes the fresco. Experts are trying to work out better approaches to protect the relics while keeping it open to tourists.

There are about one thousand grottos in Dunhuang, some made more than 1000 years ago. Most of the caves have statures featuring Buddhism figures and splendid fresco depicting images and stories based on Buddhism scriptures. The surrounding area of the grottos is mostly deserted, and the extremely dry condition has been helpful to protect the relics, which is listed as the World Cultural and Natural Heritage by UNESCO.

What Chinese Cities Have the Best Life?
Shenzhen, Qingdao and Hangzhou are ranked top three cities with best living quality in China, according to a report released in Beijing on Wednesday. Shanghai is listed the fifth, and Beijing did not make top ten, China News Service reported. Other top ten cities include Yantan and Dalian. The ranking was decided by experts’ survey and evaluation, as well as public votes via the Internet.

Law to be Established to Protect the Great Wall
A Great Wall Protection Regulation draft was passed on Wednesday by the State Council, China News Service reported. The new regulation will stress local governments’ responsibility in protecting the Great Wall sections within their region.

The Great Wall has been suffering damages in recent years, mostly caused by human activities, such as road construction and doodle on the bricks. There have been some local regulations dealing with protection of the legacy, but not one on the national level.

----By Josie Liu

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Villagers Confronted Police in Guangdong over Election Fraud
Hundreds of villagers from Shadui Township in the Guangdong city of Xinhui surrounded their township government and had physical confrontation with policemen on Wednesday. Some villager were injured and sent to hospital, Hong Kong Cable Television reported. Villagers said the government did not allow them to vote in the People’s Congress representative election because the government and villagers disputed over use of land. A township official confirmed the conflict but said it was only a “small problem.”

Last week, thousands of residents confronted policemen in front of the city government in Ruian, Zhejiang (see picture). The people claimed that the local government covered up the truth of the suicide of a local teacher and asked for reinvestigation.


Happiness Index Derided by the Public
After decades of measuring progress in terms of hard economic data, mainland authorities are set to chart the state of the nation's well-being with the introduction of a happiness index.

National Bureau of Statistics chief Qiu Xiaohua said on Tuesday that the happiness index will include people's feelings towards their living conditions, such as income, employment, social welfare and the natural environment, the South China Morning Post reported.

The new move was ridiculed by many on the Internet. One commentator wrote on the Chinese online chat-room Huashan forum that happiness as an abstract concept and could not be expressed by numbers.

Another wrote that feeling of happiness is only a subjective perception, which does no good to reasonable policy making, but instead, would confuse people and be a waste of social resources to do such surveys. “For example,” the commentator wrote, “a bagger got some hot soup in a freezing day would also feel ‘very, very happy.’ This is the so called ‘happy of poorness.’ ”

There are also comments, though not the majority, supported such measurement, calling it a tool to educate people that happiness does not necessarily associate with material and therefore could curb the trend of consumerism in China, which the commentator deemed as having positive impact.

“Ten Ugly Quotes of Officials” Censured on the Internet
No.1 “Children, don’t move, let the leaders go first.” (An official from local education commission told panic pupils when they were caught in fire in a theater in a Xinjiang city. More than 300 people died, most of them elementary school students in that 1994 catastrophe. )

No.4 “Stop it! I’ve seen too much of this.” (A local government official told a villager who got down on his knees to plea for help from the government in defending his rights.)

No. 5 “China is very safe, no SARS. Welcome to visit China.” (An official from China’ s ministry of public health told foreigners when SARS broke out in 2003.)

No. 8 “I though I’m a pubic official, and all my food, clothing and expense should be provided by the public.” (A corrupted Guangdong official said after being arrested.)

No. 10 “Who asked you to work? You go find them (the employers). The government doesn’t owe you money.” (A government official in Heilongjiang told migrant workers who appealed to the government to help them get their overdue salary.)

The list is widely circulated on the Internet in China, but the original author is not clear. In online chatroom, the list drew hundreds of comments, mostly expressing their anger, discontent and distrust of government officials.