Today’s China Readings May 16, 2012

"Sinocism is the Presidential Daily Brief for China hands"- Evan Osnos, New Yorker Correspondent and National Book Award Winner

The rhetoric may have cooled slightly but there is still no resolution of the China-Philippines dispute over Huangyan Island/Scarborough Shoal. The New York Times has a good look Inside the China-Philippines Fight in the South China Sea, the Heritage Foundation examines US treaty obligations to the Philippines in South China Sea Dispute between China and the Philippines: Safeguarding America’s Interests and concludes that we are at low risk of having to join an armed conflict to assist the Philippines, and the Wall Street Journal looks at the impact of and response to the fishing bans both sides have declaread in the surrounding areas in China and the Philippines Play the Green Card in Sea Dispute.

The New York Times tells us that China’s Political Turmoil Won’t Delay New Leadership and seems to refute the Reuters report suggesting a delay in the 18th Party Congress. Hong Kong’s Ming Pao ran a piece yesterday that argues the FT report on the effective downfall of Zhou Yongkang is wrong–中國評論﹕政法委書記的仕途. So who is right? I wish I knew.

Reporting on Chinese elite politics is incredibly hard and I hope readers do not think I am being too critical of the journalists who are doing their best to report on this extremely important issue. In grad school in 94/95 I took a China Politics class with Alice Miller, my MA advisor, in which we spent hours critiquing Western and Hong Kong media reporting on Chinese politics. Nearly 20 years later there is a lot more information in the public domain about what is going on but it may be even more difficult to sift through the noise to find the truth. I highly encourage you to read what Geoff Dyer, former FT Beijing bureau chief, recently had to say about reporting on China politics–Shanghaied: Why you shouldn’t believe everything you read about China.

Chen Guangcheng is still in Beijing, AP tells us that yesterday he spoke by phone to Congress and said his family back in Shandong is in trouble. The New York Times bureau chief Michael Wines went to Chen’s hometown, ran into a wall of security, and detailed his experience in China’s Obsession With Stability Can Come at the Cost of Laws.

Food safety is still a problem. Chinese media tells us that Formaldehyde cabbage in Shandong is just the tip of the iceberg (蔬菜保鲜剂滥用现象调查:甲醛白菜仅是冰山一角) and Jiangxi now has fake stewed pig ears that pose health risks. I guess that if this toxin-enhanced food doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger, and in fact could hasten the development of the pollution-resistant Chinese borg?

Official Chinese media keeps kicking own goals. In Beijing Daily…Media potshot on U.S. ambassador backfires the always excellent China Media Project examines the hilarious reaction to a call by the Beijing Daily for US Ambassador Locke to disclose his assets, and Kaifu Lee sent out a Weibo to his millions of followers with a screenshot of US officials’ asset disclosures as well as a link to the website where anyone can look up asset disclosures. As a prominent US China specialist said, it is almost like the Beijing Daily is doing this intentionally to make the Party look bad.

China has a new good samaritan hero. Zhang Lili, a middle school teacher in Jiamusi, lept in front of a school bus and saved two kids. She was struck, apparently lost both legs, and has just awoken from a 58 hour coma. Her story is on the front page of today’s People’s Daily. In this case at least, she deserves whatever accolades the state wants to give her.

Lest we forget, today, May 16, is the 46th anniversary of the kickoff of the Cultural Revolution. On his Sina Weibo this morning, renowned scholar and social justice activist Yu Jianrong called for May 16 to be designated a day of reflection. My first exposure to anything about the Cultural revolution came during third year Chinese at the Middlebury summer program in 1988 (yes, that old), when we were reading the May 16 Notice aloud and after a classmate made a mistake the teacher, a Beijinger, corrected him and then proceeded to recite the next three pages, all while writing something else on the blackboard. I wrote a paper in grad school on Mao Badges and the Cultural Revolution, and highly recommend Tania Branigan’s recent piece China’s Cultural Revolution: portraits of accuser and accused, and not just because one of the interviewees is my partner.

Apologies, this summary today is a bit too long. Thanks for reading, and remember the best way to see this daily post is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still blocked here.

  • China Adds Treasuries for Second Month on Reserve Growth – Bloomberg
  • Cultural Revolution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Today, May 16, is the 46 anniversary of the kickoff of the Cultural Revolution
  • Anti-Chinese sentiment in Singapore up following Ferrari crash caused by Sichuan man: Shanghaiist
    tragic three-vehicle accident in Singapore caused by a speeding Ferrari driven by a young, good-looking and fabulously rich mainland Chinese immigrant killed three people, including himself. The Ferrari collided into a Hyundai Sonata taxi, which subsequently hit a motorcycle.
    31-year-old Sichuan native Ma Chi died on the spot while a local taxi driver and his female Japanese passenger succumbed to their injuries later at the hospital.
  • The Price Of A Swift Pigeon: Try $328,000 : NPR
    Chinese buyers are driving up the prices of racing pigeons to astronomical levels. One buyer paid $328,000 for a single bird earlier this year. Belgium, however, remains the center of pigeon-breeding. Here, Yi Minna, the chief operating officer at the Pipa pigeon auction house, is shown in Knesselare, Belgium, last year.
  • Blogger Shines Light on U.S. Shadow War in East Africa-Wired
  • 人民日报-张丽莉英雄事迹引起广泛关注
  • China to increase residential land supplies this year – Xinhua |
    China will increase residential land supplies by more than 20 percent this year in order to further restrain property prices, according to a plan released by land resource authorities Tuesday.
    The Ministry of Land and Resources said in a statement that the government plans to provide a total of 172,600 hectares of residential land this year, up 21.3 percent from 2011.
    The amount of land to be doled out is double the annual average of 87,300 hectares supplied over the last five years, the ministry said.
  • Challenges of 90% home ownership — Shanghai Daily | 上海日报 — English Window to China New
    T appears a miracle – as well as a challenge – that nearly 90 percent of Chinese families own their homes.
    The People’s Bank of China and the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics released a joint report on Sunday on China’s family finance, which found that 89.68 percent of Chinese families own at least one home, compared to the world’s average rate of about 60 percent
  • China News Headlines | Hong Kong’s premier newspaper online |
    Gu Wangjiang , the sister-in-law of Bo Xilai , has Shenzhen and Singapore business holdings with links to Shandong – adding to the web of assets owned by the scandal-ridden family.
    Under her Cantonese name Kuk Mong Kong, Gu is a director of two Singapore firms, Lobb Heng and Tian Yuan Holdings, according to corporate documents filed in Singapore.
  • China News Headlines | Hong Kong’s premier newspaper online |
    The announcement in mid-March that Bo Xilai had been stripped of his political posts has exposed the former high-flying Chongqing party chief to the glare of publicity, shining attention on his family’s links to a web of foreign companies.
    These assets have been traced to Hong Kong and elsewhere, and to large mainland state-owned firms and leading foreign businessmen, raising questions about the scale of Bo’s alleged corruption and the complicity of his family, particularly his wife, Gu Kailai .
  • 我国拟规定吸毒赌博酗酒者不得聘为涉密人员|涉密|吸毒|赌博_新浪新闻
    China planning regulation banning gamblers, drug users and heavy drinkers from working in jobs that require security clearances
  • 北大限定名额排查“网瘾学生”_网易新闻中心
    Peking U auditing students for internet addiction, has quota to fill, a la political campaigns of years past?
  • China Kicks U.S. Private Equity Aside as Local Funds Rise – Bloomberg
    Blackstone Group LP (BX) and TPG Capital are among global firms being kicked aside as preferred investors in China, the world’s second-biggest private-equity market.
    Investments by Chinese firms rose to $7.8 billion last year, exceeding for the first time the $7.4 billion poured in by U.S. and other foreign funds, according to the Asian Venture Capital Journal, which tracks the industry…
    “There are still attractive deals for foreign investors in China,” Pantheon’s Meads said. “They have to work a lot harder than they have in the past to get them.” CUZ THEY USED TO BE SO EASY TO FIND?
  • Xinhua Insight: Beijing starts crackdown on illegal aliens – Xinhua |
    The National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee reviewed a draft law last December that combines two separate current laws regulating entry and exit procedures for Chinese nationals and foreigners, respectively.
    The NPC dispatched four survey teams to Guangdong, Hainan, Guangxi and Beijing to investigate the illegal entry and residence of foreigners in February and March. The teams found that the country’s current laws give fewer options for law enforcement agencies, while police lack a nationwide database to help them coordinate related efforts.
    If the new law is approved by the top legislature, police will have more power and options to directly handle illegal entry and related cases.
  • China and Japan Fall Out Over Uighurs –
    Signs of tension are returning to relations between Japan and China, casting shadows over accelerating efforts between the two East Asian powers to strengthen their economic ties.
    In the latest sign of renewed strain, China has harshly condemned Japan for allowing a group of exiled Uighur activists to hold a major conference in Tokyo this week. China considers the group, the World Uyghur Congress, an “anti-China separatist organization.” Calling it a private group, Tokyo says it won’t interfere with its activities.
  • Little people live in SW China’s ‘Lilliput'[1]|
    “Lilliput’s” king and princess walk through their “kingdom” in a forest park in Kunming last month. Nearly 100 dwarfs live in their “Lilliput” inside a forest park in Kunming, the capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province. People who come and live in the park are all shorter than 1.3 meters.
  • Heroic teacher wakes from coma|Society|
    Zhang Lili, a teacher who nearly died saving two students, lies in an ICU ward in the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in Northeast China’s Hei Longjiang province on May 12. After 58 hours of emergency medical attention, she finally regained consciousness, the hospital announced on May 15.
  • China summons UK ambassador over Dalai Lama meeting with Cameron | Reuters
    China’s Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao summoned the British ambassador in Beijing on Tuesday to protest British Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, saying the meeting “seriously interfered” with China’s internal affairs.
  • US attack submarine docks at Subic | ABS-CBN News
    MANILA, Philippines – A US Navy attack submarine has arrived in Subic Bay, Zambales, about 124 nautical miles away from the disputed Scarborough shoal (Panatag Shoal).
    Authorities said the USS North Carolina is docked at Subic Freeport for “routine ship replenishment,” amid a standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships near the area.
    Philippine Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Omar Tonsay clarified that the US submarine’s arrival last Sunday “has nothing to do with that matter.”
    Tonsay said the USS North Carolina is due to leave Subic on Saturday.
  • The Associated Press: Blind China activist speaks by phone to Congress
    WASHINGTON (AP) — For the second time in less than two weeks, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has spoken by phone to a U.S. congressional hearing and alleged persecution of his relatives.
    Chen complained Tuesday that his elder brother and nephew had both been beaten by Chinese authorities since Chen fled house arrest in late April.
    Chen said a charge of homicide brought against his nephew was “trumped up” as he was acting in self-defense after being subjected to a three-hour beating that left him bleedin
  • China reacts to US nuclear amendment|Politics|
    Beijing urged more effort from parties concerned with contributing to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula as a response to Washington’s recent consideration over redeploying nuclear weapons in the Republic of Korea, according to a news release from the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.
  • Insight: French architect could be pivotal figure in China scandal | Reuters
    An elusive French architect is emerging as a key figure in China’s biggest political scandal in two decades, with evidence suggesting he shared both an affectionate and close business relationship with the Chinese woman at the heart of the scandal.
    Patrick Henri Devillers, 52, is one of two Westerners in China known to have had close business ties to the family of deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai, specifically with Bo’s wife who is accused of murdering the other expatriate, Neil Heywood.
  • China military paper warns officers to toe party line | Reuters
    hina’s top military newspaper warned officers on Tuesday to remain the ruling Communist Party’s “most loyal” defenders in the face of what it called Western plotting, describing recent cases of ill-discipline and corruption as a “profound warning”.
  • 军报:解放军部分干部立场摇摆 须认清阴谋_新闻_腾讯网
  • Beware the new Beijing-Berlin bond –
    When Chancellor Angela Merkel visited China in February – after the European summit and right before the EU-China summit – she appeared to speak for Europe, which reinforced the impression that Berlin had replaced Brussels in Beijing.
    Germany must not give up on a European approach to China. But the rest of Europe must also urgently find ways to help Germany be a good European in its relationship with China – or risk being cut out of the loop as Germany’s bilateral relationship with China replaces Europe’s embryonic “strategic partnership” with China.
  • Oil, Nationalism and Bananas in the South China Sea –
    Fish, oil and bananas all play a role in the latest round of the high-stakes sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea, a problem that may rival Europe’s own 19th-century “Schleswig-Holstein Question.” That long-simmering territorial dispute, between Denmark and Germany, led the British politician Lord Palmerston to quip that only three people had ever understood it: a dead prince, a German professor who went mad, “and I, who have forgotten all about it.”
  • South China Sea Dispute between China and the Philippines: Safeguarding America’s Interest–Heritage Foundation
    What this series of statements means in the current context is that if any Philippine “public vessel” comes under Chinese fire, such an act will result in the U.S. invoking the treaty. Invoking the treaty does not mean automatic armed response, but by invoking it, the U.S. formally recognizes the attack as “dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it (will) act to meet the common dangers.” The attack triggers formal bilateral consultations under the treaty to determine an appropriate course of action. (There is nothing uniquely tentative about the U.S.–Philippines MDT in this regard. All of America’s security treaties in the region contain similar diplomatic nuance and consultation mechanisms.)
    Formally invoking the treaty would require a response that could range from diplomatic censure to armed defense of Philippine vessels. The decision over what specific response to choose would be a political one and dependent on the circumstances of the conflict. Declaring Chinese activity in the South China Sea “dangerous to peace and security,” however, would have powerful effects in and of itself. With such a declaration on the table, it is difficult to imagine life as usual in the U.S.–China relationship.
  • China’s Tight-Rope Walk: Balancing the Contradictions in Chinese Growth – Max Fisher – International – The Atlantic
    Many economic problems that we face are actually political problems in disguise, such as the nature of the economy, the nature of the ownership system in the country and groups of vested interests,” Beijing political scientist Zhang Ming told the New York Times. “The problems are so serious that they have to be solved now and can no longer be put off.” As Walter Russell Mead put it, “Authoritarian modernization always works until it quite suddenly doesn’t.”Still, this is not China’s first apparently insurmountable economic challenge, and Beijing has amazed the world before. China-watcher Bill Bishop wrote in response to the news of China’s economic deceleration, “Things have always been messy here, they always will be, and [I suspect] that the economy, and the government, are more likely to muddle through than to either collapse or take over the world. But the Coming Muddle-Through of China will never sell as a book.” That’s a play off of Gordon G. Chang’s famously China-skeptic book, The Coming Collapse of China, which came out in 2001, more than 10 Chinese-collapse-free years ago.
  • 蔬菜保鲜剂滥用现象调查:甲醛白菜仅是冰山一角|甲醛|白菜|蔬菜_新浪新闻
    Formaldehyde-sprayed cabbage just tip of iceberg of misuse of preservatives on vegetables
  • Misunderstanding China Popular Western illusions debunked
    Good CLSA Report
  • Nexon Expects ‘Robust’ Demand for Online Games in China – Bloomberg
    Nexon Co. (3659), which developed China’s second-biggest online game for Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700), forecast “robust” demand from players in the world’s biggest Internet market, contrasting with analysts’ predictions of weaker growth.
  • Baidu Unveils Low Cost Smartphone with Voice Recognition and 100GB of Cloud Storage | Tech in Asia
    search giant Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) announced that it too is launching its own low-cost handset, the Changhong H5018, which is manufactured by Foxconn and will be soon be available across the country in cooperation with China Unicom. The phone will be priced at under 1000 RMB (which converts to about $158).
  • 明報電子報 – 中國評論﹕政法委書記的仕途/文﹕孫嘉業
  • China Foreign Investment Falls 0.7% in Sixth Monthly Drop – Bloomberg
    Foreign direct investment in China fell for a sixth month in April, as faltering global growth and renewed turmoil in financial markets dented company spending in Asia’s biggest economy.
    Inbound investment dropped 0.7 percent from a year earlier to $8.4 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said today in Beijing. That compares with a 6.1 percent drop in March and extends the longest stretch of declines since the global financial crisis.
  • Media potshot on U.S. ambassador backfires – China Media Project
    The Beijing Daily, the official mouthpiece of Beijing’s top city-level Party leaders, shamed itself earlier this month in the eyes of many Chinese on social media when it led a campaign of propaganda against the United States, criticizing its involvement in the Chen Guangcheng case. The reaction against the paper was so strong that “Beijing Daily” was within hours defined as a sensitive search keyword on Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular microblog platforms.
    Today, just as “Beijing Daily” is again searchable on Sina Weibo, the newspaper has stepped right back into the spotlight of mockery by dragging its favorite whipping boy, U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, into one of China’s most sensitive ongoing debates — the intransigent issue of the disclosure of the personal finances of Party and government leader
  • Asia House of the Day: A Jungle Retreat in Bali, Indonesia- Photos –
    I WISH// $3,500,000
  • People’s Daily hails political reforms, rejects Western model
    People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC), ran a full page of articles Monday hailing steady progress in the country’s political reform, and vowing that China “will never copy Western political models.”
    Led by an article titled “China’s political reform makes significant progress” on the front page, the newspaper ran a total of eight articles on an inside page, listing examples such as respecting and protecting human rights being written into the Constitution in 2004, a democratic election system being introduced to village governments, and rural residents beginning to enjoy equal representation in the People’s Congress. ..
    Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at a press conference in March that “suspension of reform and retreat would only lead to a blind alley.”
    But due to ideological barriers such as blind confidence resulting from rapid economic growth in recent years and difficulties in taking power away from leaders with vested interests, the reform still needs time, experts said.
  • China’s Political Turmoil Won’t Delay New Leadership –
    But if these reports of rifts and divisions are overblown, important policy issues remain unresolved. Recent evidence of an economic slowdown point to the need for China to move away from its heavy dependence on exports and business investment to encourage more consumer-driven growth.Yet except for loosening money supply this past weekend, few changes seem in the offing. And despite repeated reports of political change — most recently in Monday’s People’s Daily — these seem to involve bureaucratic tweaks to the existing structure rather than any fundamental overhaul.“The real challenge isn’t the political maneuvers, but the desire to reform,” said a senior editor at a party newspaper. “It’s the content that’s the problem.”
  • Heard on the Street: Going Nuclear on China’s Slowdown –
    With business not stepping up to the plate, the government will have to find another means to channel its stimulus. The obvious solution is to ramp up public investment, both through higher fiscal spending and potentially more loans to local government financing vehicles.The National Development and Reform Commission’s plan for 2012 calls for major investment in nuclear power and water, for instance. Despite concerns after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, China plans to add 10.7 billion kilowatt hours to its nuclear power capacity in 2012, the equivalent of 12% of 2011 output.Water is a perennial problem in China, where water resources per capita are equivalent to some African and Middle Eastern countries. The NDRC’s plan for 2012 includes investment in sewage treatment, improving irrigation in the agricultural sector, and pushing for more efficient use of water in industry.

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