The defining fact of China in our time is its contradictions: The world’s largest buyer of BMW, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles is ruled by a Communist Party that has tried to banish the word “luxury” from advertisements. It is home to two of the world’s most highly valued Internet companies (Tencent and Baidu), as well as history’s most sophisticated effort to censor human expression. China is both the world’s newest superpower and its largest authoritarian state.
For most of Chinese history, readers had limited access to books from abroad. In the 1960s and ’70s, when foreign literature was officially restricted to party elites, students circulated handwritten, string-bound copies of J.D. Salinger, Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. But in the past three decades, rules have relaxed somewhat and sales of foreign writers have ballooned, thanks to Chinese consumers who are ravenous for new information about themselves and the world. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, China’s 580 state-owned publishers acquired the rights to more than 16,000 foreign titles, up nearly tenfold since 1995; current hot sellers range from Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” to Henry A. Kissinger’s “On China.”
Ever since the reign of the first emperor, who oversaw the burning of Confucian texts in 213 B.C., Chinese leaders have valued the science of censorship. To release a book in China today, foreign authors must accept the judgment of a publisher’s in-house censors, who identify names, terms and historical events that the party considers unflattering or a threat to political stability.
December 7, 2013, 1:24 pm
BEN PROTESS and JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG
Federal authorities have obtained confidential documents that shed new light on JPMorgan Chase’s decision to hire the children of China’s ruling elite, securing emails that show how the bank linked one prominent hire to “existing and potential business opportunities” from a Chinese government-run company.
The documents, which also include spreadsheets that list the bank’s “track record” for converting hires into business deals, offer the most detailed account yet of JPMorgan’s “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, which has been at the center of a federal bribery investigation for months. The spreadsheets and emails — recently submitted by JPMorgan to authorities — illuminate how the bank created the program to prevent questionable hiring practices but ultimately viewed it as a gateway to doing business with state-owned companies in China, which commonly issue stock with the help of Wall Street banks.
21 November 2013 Last updated at 13:50 GMT
Chinese officials must stop using torture to extract confessions from suspects, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The court said on its official microblog that using "freezing, starving, extreme heat, fire branding or extreme exhaustion" to extract confessions was also illegal.
It is the latest in a series of moves aimed at reforming the Chinese police and other security agencies.
Last week, China said it was abolishing "re-education through labour" camps.
The system, which started in the 1950s, allowed the police to send anyone to prison for up to four years without a trial. It was almost impossible to appeal against a sentence under the system.
The new announcement comes a week after Chinese officials concluded a four-day, closed-door meeting in Beijing at which a number of reforms were agreed.
The Supreme Court has ordered lower courts to exclude evidence obtained by torture "in a bid to promote fair justice", state-run Xinhua news agency says.
"Evidence must be valued," Xinhua said, quoting a court document.
"The traditional concept and practice of a testimony being the most paramount should be changed, and more attention should be paid to examining and using material evidence," the document added.
The document also makes clear that courts should remain independent, must follow legal procedure and should not become involved in police investigations, Xinhua says.
However, enforcing a ban on this behaviour will be difficult, says the BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing.
By Barbara Demick
September 25, 2013, 4:57 p.m.
BEIJING — He was a poor man selling sausages and chicken from an unlicensed food cart in hope of earning enough money to send his talented young son to an art school in the capital.
Outside a market in northeast China on a spring day, two municipal officers, members of a notoriously brutal force known as chengguan, confiscated Xia Junfeng's cooking equipment and took him in for questioning. Xia said it quickly turned into a beating.
Soon, both officers were dead, stabbed with a small knife Xia kept in his pocket for slicing sausages.
On Wednesday, more than four years since the incident in Shenyang, after lengthy appeals and heavy publicity that turned him into a symbol of repression for many Chinese, Xia was executed. China's microblogs were flooded with outrage.
On one popular site, Sina.com, Xia's name was the most searched of the day, and 2.8 million people posted messages, almost all supporting him.
Many contrasted his case with that of Gu Kailai, the wife of ex-Politburo member Bo Xilai, whose sensational corruption trial wrapped up Sunday with the imposition of a life sentence. Gu, a lawyer, was convicted last year of premeditated murder for poisoning a British businessman. She was given a suspended death sentence, the equivalent of life in prison.
"Gu Kailai was a member of the privileged class, who knew what crime she was committing," wrote one outraged critic in a comment later expunged by censors. "Xia Junfeng was struggling at the bottom of society to survive. His death is an injustice. There is only tyranny."
Last year, some 30,000 people entered entered China’s “millionaire” ranks, according to the latest Hurun Report (pdf), which defines that as those with more than $1.63 million in assets. The report competes with Forbes and Bloomberg to count the assets of China’s notorious “hidden rich,” who tend to obscure their wealth to avoid scrutiny of the government, media, and public. (Hurun’s findings are widely reported in the Chinese press.)
The starkest trend from 2012 is that the net growth of China’s millionaire ranks is slowing fast:
Underlying this is a striking break with past trends. In 2012, even as the tally in some areas surged, a slew of provinces actually shed millionaires. Zhejiang province, China’s entrepreneurial hotbed, had 1,000 fewer millionaires in 2012 than it did in 2011, while Inner Mongolia lost 500. Numbers in Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei took a hit as well.
What happened to them?
The slowing economy likely reversed the fortunes of some former millionaire, particularly in industry-heavy provinces. Plummeting coal demand, which has exposed the sector’s excessive capacity and high debt, probably dented the wallets of some minor Shanxi and Inner Mongolia coal barons. (Inner Mongolia’s ghost city, Ordos, was funded by speculative coal money.) Similarly, falling steel demand and rampant overcapacity may have thinned the ranks of Hebei and Liaoning fat cats.
Another culprit could be real estate, the basis of many Chinese fortunes. A consistent 15% of millionaires earn their living from property speculation, according to Hurun. Even among non-real estate tycoons, the average value of property holdings in 2012 rose. And 64% of rich folks Hurun surveyed preferred investing in it, compared with 28% in 2008 (pdf, p.10).
But property prices fell in 2012, taking some fortunes with it. In Zhejiang, plunging housing prices set off a series of protests and left some developers without cash to cover debts.
Perhaps some of those developers didn’t make this year’s list. Then again, maybe they were part of Zhejiang’s spate of fleeing bosses (paywall). Many, though, were from the Zhejiang city of Wenzhou. In 2011, China’s slowdown collapsed Wenzhou’s bustling shadow finance system. As lenders began liquidating collateral—often residential property titles—the housing market crashed. Scores of Wenzhou businessmen fled the country.
Even those in Wenzhou without dangerous debts have been eyeing the exits. As a recent note on Wenzhou by Tracy Tian and David Cui of Bank of America/Merrill Lynch explained, those with means have bought real estate abroad, often baking “their overseas property investment choice into their decision-making for immigration.”
The 2011 Hurun report picked up on that, too. Hailing “the rise of emigration out of China” (pdf, p. 2), it reported that that “60% of millionaires are applying or considering emigrating overseas,” with many buying property overseas as a way of “facilitating emigration.”
"The Chinese Millionaire Wealth Report 2013."
(Reuters / Jason Lee)
What would you say if a teacher asked you for money after hugging your kid goodbye? One Chinese kindergarten has decided to cash in on the universal gesture of affection, with teachers serving up daily hugs to children for just under $13 a month.
Parents of tykes attending a kindergarten in east China's Yangzhou City were charged a so-called “hug fee” of 80 Yuan, some $12.80, local media report, citing a Chinese blogger.
According to the report the monthly fee covered one morning hug and one hug goodbye per day.
After the information surfaced online, some parents confirmed that they knew their children were hugged by the teachers but had no idea this was a prepaid option, as the charge was officially called a "quality education fee."
The school explained that hugs were one component of a quality education aimed at making children feel loved, secure and more confident.
However, the local school board found that such a practice violates educational rules, saying that if the information about the fee is confirmed by investigators, the school will have to return parents their money. The investigation into the not so touching matter is still ongoing.
On X-change (变形计), a program on Henan Satellite Television, two children swap families for seven days. One child hails from a low-income rural household, the other from a relatively well-off urban household in one of China’s booming metropolises. Over the course of six or seven episodes per swap, viewers learn about the background of both families – their jobs, income, work history, reasons for entering the program, and other interesting tidbits. The show recently returned after a three-year hiatus.
Netizens have praised X-change for showing the adversity facing rural children while also having a tangible impact on those children’s lives. In the final episode of the first swap, the urban student’s teachers and classmates donated a large sum of money to the rural child’s school. Attention from the show also prompted local government officials to build new dormitories for rural students.
But attacking the root causes of these inequalities is a different task altogether. The Youku comments section overflows with lamentations about education and opportunity, poor rural infrastructure and governance, the growing urban-rural income gap, and the rampant materialism among China’s urban youth. Viewers find the subject matter touching, but lament that such programming can only show one isolated situation while millions of rural Chinese children face hardship.
Indeed, when publicity from the show inspired local leaders to renovate the lice-ridden, rat-infested student dormitories, it simply reminded viewers that corrupt local officials have been siphoning off resources that should already have been gone to rural children. Writing on Youku, Wyl1994 argues that “nowadays government officials say things more beautiful than any song, but don’t actually do anything about it [the quality of education for poor kids].”
Some are hopeful, if only cautiously so. Zoaldyeck writes, “At least it has drawn attention to their problem and provided a sliver of hope to change their futures. It is clearly not enough to rely on themselves, they also need help from outside.” 街头的菜 believes the show won’t help most rural children, but hopes that the development of public welfare organizations will improve the lives of children in rural mountain areas.
June 29 (Bloomberg) -- Xi Jinping, the man in line to be China’s next president, warned officials on a 2004 anti-graft conference call: “Rein in your spouses, children, relatives, friends and staff, and vow not to use power for personal gain.”
As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment, according to public documents compiled by Bloomberg.
Those interests include investments in companies with total assets of $376 million; an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare- earths company with $1.73 billion in assets; and a $20.2 million holding in a publicly traded technology company. The figures don’t account for liabilities and thus don’t reflect the family’s net worth.
No assets were traced to Xi, who turns 59 this month; his wife Peng Liyuan, 49, a famous People’s Liberation Army singer; or their daughter, the documents show. There is no indication Xi intervened to advance his relatives’ business transactions, or of any wrongdoing by Xi or his extended family.
While the investments are obscured from public view by multiple holding companies, government restrictions on access to company documents and in some cases online censorship, they are identified in thousands of pages of regulatory filings.
The trail also leads to a hillside villa overlooking the South China Sea in Hong Kong, with an estimated value of $31.5 million. The doorbell ringer dangles from its wires, and neighbors say the house has been empty for years. The family owns at least six other Hong Kong properties with a combined estimated value of $24.1 million.
Xi has risen through the party over the past three decades, holding leadership positions in several provinces and joining the ruling Politburo Standing Committee in 2007. Along the way, he built a reputation for clean government.
He led an anti-graft campaign in the rich coastal province of Zhejiang, where he issued the “rein in” warning to officials in 2004, according to a People’s Daily publication. In Shanghai, he was brought in as party chief after a 3.7 billion- yuan ($582 million) scandal.
A 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing cited an acquaintance of Xi’s saying he wasn’t corrupt or driven by money. Xi was “repulsed by the all-encompassing commercialization of Chinese society, with its attendant nouveau riche, official corruption, loss of values, dignity, and self- respect,” the cable disclosed by Wikileaks said, citing the friend. Wikileaks publishes secret government documents online.
A U.S. government spokesman declined to comment on the document.
Increasing resentment over China’s most powerful families carving up the spoils of economic growth poses a challenge for the Communist Party. The income gap in urban China has widened more than in any other country in Asia over the past 20 years, according to the International Monetary Fund.
“The average Chinese person gets angry when he hears about deals where people make hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars, by trading on political influence,” said Barry Naughton, professor of Chinese economy at the University of California, San Diego, who wasn’t referring to the Xi family specifically.
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Hu Jintao has demanded senior Communist Party officials stifle tensions over the ousting of ambitious politician Bo Xilai and show unity as they prepare for a change of leadership, sources briefed on recent meetings said.
Hu urged the party to close ranks at a meeting of about 200 officials early this month at a Beijing hotel, declaring the downfall of Bo - China's biggest political scandal in two decades - to be an "isolated case", the three sources said.
The sources' comments represent the first confirmation of speculation that Hu recently intervened to prevent a wider rift in the party and to resist pressure from some elements for a wider purge of the populist Bo's policies and supporters.
Bo, former party chief of Chongqing city, was suspended from the party's top ranks in April after his wife became a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Before the scandal broke, Bo had been seen as a candidate to join China's new top leadership team to be unveiled this year.
"It's been settled that this will be dealt with as a criminal case, not a political case," said one of the sources, a retired official. "The central leadership wants to focus on ensuring a stable environment for the 18th Party Congress, so the guiding policy is to end all the rumors and contention."
The party congress, scheduled to be held late this year, will appoint a new generation of leaders. Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao will then step down from their government posts at the National People's Congress in early 2013, when Vice President Xi Jinping is likely to succeed Hu as president.
The sources, all with ties to senior party officials, spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid possible recriminations for speaking about internal party discussions.
Two of them said Hu had convened this month's meeting at the Jingxi Hotel, the party's heavily guarded conference hotel in western Beijing where leaders often hold secretive conclaves.
The meeting was part of a series of steps taken to shore up unity and advance preparations for the 18th Party Congress. Those steps included retired leaders, especially former president Jiang Zemin, giving their backing to Hu's position.
"Jiang said that if you have solid evidence that Gu Kailai committed murder and that Bo Xilai also committed major errors, then deal with it as an isolated criminal incident," said the retired official, paraphrasing a summary of Jiang's comments.
"There's already been too much instability. The overriding goal now must be a successful 18th Party Congress," the former official said, paraphrasing Jiang, 85, who a decade after he retired still exercises some influence over major decisions. One of the sources said Jiang was not at the Jingxi meeting and it was unclear where he made the remarks or how he conveyed them.
Hu's expected successor, Xi, also has stayed closely in line with the leadership's position on Bo, said the retired official.
IDEOLOGICAL RIFTS, RUMOURS
Describing Bo's downfall as a serious but isolated case of wrongdoing, Hu urged officials at the meeting to end ideological rifts and rumors ignited by the scandal, the sources added.
The domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, has faced accusations that he sought to protect Bo, but his career appears to have survived the controversy, despite rumors that Zhou could be sidelined.
"Zhou has been encouraged by the party leadership to make regular appearances and show he's trusted," said the retired official. He noted that Zhou and President Hu made a high-profile joint appearance before police on May 18.
Premier Wen had suggested he favored a wider reckoning in March when, a day before Bo was sacked as Chongqing party chief, the premier linked Bo's failings to the discredited radicalism of the Cultural Revolution.
But at the recent party meetings, Wen's comments were chided by some other officials, two of the sources said.
However, China's leaders could find enforcing demands for conformity from the public harder than from within the party.
Bo nurtured an ardent following among leftists who embraced what they viewed as his model of egalitarian growth, and they have continued to defend him as the victim of a plot. He had used Chongqing, a province-level municipality in southwest China, as a showcase for left-leaning populist policies.
Liberal reformers, however, want the government to look beyond Heywood's death and examine complaints about Bo's leadership, including accusations that his populist crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing involved abuses such as torture.
He was brought down after a furor erupted when his police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate for more than 24 hours in February and told American diplomats that he believed Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was implicated in Heywood's death in November, according to later descriptions of Wang's allegations.
"The leadership won't turn this into a line struggle," independent politics researcher Chen Ziming said, using the party's jargon for an ideological purge.
Beijing-based Chen, who has sources close to the party, said there appeared to have been heated internal debate over how to handle the Bo case before deciding to contain it.
"The drama is focused on the three actors, and that's already complicated enough," Chen said, referring to Bo, his wife Gu, and the ex-police chief Wang.
"If there are more actors brought into the drama, then it will become just too complicated and troublesome."
Bo, 62, and Gu, 52, have disappeared from public view and have had no chance to respond publicly to the allegations.
OUT OF SIGHT
The make-up of the next central leadership elite will be settled over coming months through an opaque process of inspections, jockeying and balancing rival camps in the party.
In recent weeks, the party has launched informal ballots and inspections to size up potential candidates for promotion into the Central Committee, which has about 200 full members, and the Politburo, a more powerful body with about two dozen members, the three sources said.
The Politburo Standing Committee, the core decision-making body, is chosen from the Politburo. The standing committee currently has nine members.
"Now they're going from province to province to examine officials and settle on possible candidates for the next leadership," said Chen, the researcher.
In China's top-down politics, final decisions rest with a handful of leaders, but the results of these assessments can sway deliberations, he said.
The informal polls would serve as a basis for discussions when the leaders head to summer villas in coastal Beidaihe in July or August, when the new succession lineup would be firmed up, said one of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
(Editing by Brian Rhoads, Don Durfee and Mark Bendeich)
Wen Jiabao said corruption was the greatest threat to the ruling party.
His comments come amid a drive to support the Communist Party's recent move ousting top politician Bo Xilai over alleged disciplinary breaches.
In another twist, it has emerged that Mr Bo's wife is now suspected of murdering a British businessman.
The politician's wife, Gu Kailai, was detained after the death of businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing, south-western China, in November.
On Monday, two sources close to the police investigation were quoted by Reuters news agency as saying Mr Heywood, 41, had been poisoned after threatening to expose Mrs Gu's plans to move money abroad.
The Chinese authorities have not publicly commented on the allegation.
In the article, which was reprinted in China's influential Qiushi journal on Monday, Mr Wen called for more effective measures to tackle corruption.
The article published in Qiushi, the party magazine, was based on a 26 March speech Wen delivered to China's State Council.
He said that greater transparency and a reduction in the concentration of powers among government structures were also needed.
The article, however, did not directly mention Mr Bo, 62, who is now under investigation for serious breaches of discipline.
Media reports suggest the former Chongqing party chief tried to abuse his power to derail the investigation into his wife.
Mr Bo was once tipped as a future leader and was expected to become a member of the party's powerful Politburo Standing Committee in the autumn.
He commanded strong support and possessed enormous charisma, in stark contrast with most of his colleagues, the BBC's Martin Patience reports from Beijing.
All this has forced China's leaders to handle his removal from power with care, our correspondent says.
He adds that the country's state media have been in overdrive in recent days, pumping out editorials stressing that no-one - not even top politicians - are above the law.
But supporters of Mr Bo see this as a convenient excuse for what they regard as a political purge, our correspondent says.
China may have already reach the peak of economic development unless there is a radical change in its political, social and economic system. It is just not possible to sustain at the same time the skimming of all profits by the corrupt few, the enslavement of the worker base, and the destruction of foreign competition by dumping. There would no market left to sustain the system and the bubble will implode. When and if the Chinese economic bubble collapses the World’s finances will have no engine left to run on.
China has seen an increase in labor unrest and the Chinese government is worried that another slowdown could spark public anger.
Zhou Yongkang, a member of the politburo, asked provincial officials for improved "social management".
"It is an urgent task for us to think how to establish a social management system with Chinese characteristics to suit our socialist market economy," Mr Zhou said in public comments.
"Especially when facing negative effects of the market economy."
He called for innovative approaches to a large set of policies which could include anything from increased policing to better internet control or better unemployment insurance.
There have been multiple signs of a slowdown in recent months in China. The economy grew by 9.1% between June and September (2011) compared to a year earlier, the slowest rate of expansion in two years.
Last week, manufacturing was showed to have contracted sharply and the government cut the amount of money banks must keep in reserve to spur more lending, reversing recent policy.
There has also been a spike in labor unrest in recent weeks. Employees of a Singaporean electronics firm Hi-P International in Shanghai went on strike last week over mass job losses. Thousands of workers in Shenzhen and Dongguan, two of China's top export centres in the south of the country, went on strike last month protesting cuts in overtime.
In China there is pattern of overbearing demeanor by government officials and their proxies. The elite show contempt for human life and other people’s physical integrity and dignity. Public anger at the Chinese regime’s elite class erupted last month after a deadly hit-and-run accident at Hebei University in northern China. The driver is the son of a high-ranking police officer. He drove off after running down two students. When crowds stopped his car, he reportedly shouted “Sue me if you dare, my father is Li Gang.”
In a similar incident another teenager, 19-year-old Ma Wenzong (马文总), shouted out "My dad is the mayor!" (我爸是市长!), enraging the assembled onlookers. Ma's Mercedes SUV crushed the storefront signage of shopkeeper Liu Xiuying (刘秀英). After the two exchanged words, Ma rushed into Liu's store, and smashed a landline phone that sat atop a counter on the ground, before then using the store's calculator to repeatedly smack the head of Liu's 18-month-old daughter until blood was drawn. Police eventually arrived, only to leave promptly after declaring both Ma and his girlfriend, who was in the vehicle during the entire incident, were not driving drunk. Ma is the son of a local businessman, rather than Zhao Yide (赵一德), the Mayor of Wenzhou. It doesn't come as much of surprise that a 19-year-old was cruising around with a GL450, which has a modest sticker price that hovers in the neighborhood of 1.5 million RMB ($235,000 USD) for the 2011 model. Wenzhou and the rest of Zhejiang are known for having their fair share of wealthy types in the coastal province.
GUANGZHOU - The possibility of enacting laws to punish passers-by who refuse to help people in obvious distress has become a hot topic in the southern province of Guangdong. Legal experts and the public are debating the idea after a 2-year-old girl, Yue Yue, was run over twice in Foshan on Thursday but ignored by at least 18 passers-by. Yue Yue was finally moved to the roadside by a 57-year-old scrap collector, who then called for the girl's parents. At least 10 Party and government departments and organizations in Guangdong, including the province's commission on politics and law, the women's federation, the academy of social sciences and the Communist Youth League, have started discussions about punishing those who refuse to help people who clearly need it. They are also seeking feedback from the public as to whether legislation should be enacted. Zhu Yongping, a lawyer at Datong Law Firm, said lawyers will discuss the idea next month and push for the legislation. "Many laws, including forbidding drunken driving, in China have been passed after high-profile individual cases, and now is the right time to legislate against refusing to help people," Zhu said on Wednesday. "If we can use laws to guide our morality and ethics, our morals might not become worse." Nie Lize, an associate professor at Sun Yat-sen University, was also in favor of such a law. "It is necessary to legislate because the morals of Chinese people are getting lower," Nie said. However, Wang Zhongxing, a professor in the university's law school, said refusing to help people should not be a crime. "We should be very cautious to legislate because legislation is a double-edged sword," he said. "It can help fight crime, but it may also wrongfully accuse the innocent." Wang said the issue was about morals rather than the law. "It is not fair to punish all people who do not lend a helping hand," he added. Huang Na, an associate professor with the law school at the Chinese People's Public Security University, also opposed the idea of legislation. "The legislation should be targeted for the specially designated groups, including police and doctors, instead of the vast numbers of ordinary residents," she said. Otherwise, too many people will become suspects and defendants, Huang said. "Those who are not qualified to rescue the wounded may make the victims' conditions even worse," she said. "It may also limit the rights and civil obligations of citizens when morality and ethics are legislated."