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In China, Art and the Law Collide Again

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 12:25 AM PDT

China's contemporary art scene is on edge, according to The New York Times, ever since authorities detained a German and his Chinese associate in late March for allegedly dodging China's import tax regime:

Mr. Jennrich, 31, the company's general manager and a German citizen, was taken away on the evening of March 30 during a raid of the business's offices; hours later Ms. Chu, 29, its operations manager, was summoned for questioning. Mr. Jennrich's family and colleagues have expressed concern for his health, saying he has been forced to share a cell with 11 others. During the first days of his detention, they added, he was interrogated for 36 hours straight, a violation of Chinese law.

"It's a living nightmare," said Mr. Jennrich's fiancée, Jenny Dam, who said the couple had planned to marry in May.

No trial date has been set.

The detentions have put a spotlight on the mercurial Chinese legal system and raised questions among collectors and industry executives about the potential pitfalls of China's fast-growing art and antiques market, which last year surpassed the United States to become the world's largest, according to the European Fine Art Foundation. The crackdown, industry professionals have warned, could dissuade Chinese collectors from bringing home art purchased abroad.

Some have privately questioned the government's motivation, noting that Integrated Fine Art Solutions has handled the work of Ai Weiwei, the maverick artist who has earned the government's wrath for his criticism of the ruling Communist Party. Others have suggested that the case is aimed at taking down a foreign-owned company to clear the way for a well-connected domestic player that recently began lavishly investing in the art-handling business.

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Chinese Businesses Raising Eyebrows in Canada

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 12:04 AM PDT

The Wall Street Journal details China's investment push into Canada, where Chinese companies prefer to send Chinese nationals to cultivate ties with Native American groups known as "" as they pursue resource and other development projects. Such relationships have caught the eye of Canadian intelligence, according to the report:

Chinese investors appear to be wagering that a physical presence is one way to reassure Canadians of their intentions. That is the case when dealing with Canada's First Nations, said Jerry Xie, executive vice president of China Gold International Resources Ltd., the Canadian-based unit of state-owned China National Gold.

"If the project is located in the First Nations territory, you have to deal with them," he said.

Canadian intelligence officials have hinted in recent years of concern about possible Chinese influence over provincial politicians. More recently agents have focused on recent Chinese contacts with First Nations groups.

Merle Alexander, a partner at Vancouver-based law firm Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP, said he was approached by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service after giving a presentation on First Nation-Chinese deal-making at a conference in Edmonton, Alberta. Mr. Alexander has been interviewed by CSIS operatives twice, most recently last fall.

See also previous CDT coverage of the growing economic relationship between China and Canada.

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Photo: Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia (1989), by GothPhil

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 11:59 PM PDT

Little Hu and the Mining of the Grasslands

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 11:49 PM PDT

As the 2012 looms, The Economist profiles a man tipped to come out ahead in 2022: Hu Chunhua, whose current position as Party secretary of parallels Hu (no relation) Jintao's equivalent role in from 1988-92. Inner Mongolia provides a disproportionate share of China's coal and GDP growth, but the conflict between -led economic development and traditional ways of life has fuelled unrest. "Little Hu" has so far handled this with some success.

When Mr Hu took up his post in 2009, it might have seemed a cushy assignment. Inner Mongolia's backward economy was booming thanks to demand for its minerals, ranging from copper to rare earths, but especially its coal. Its ethnic Mongols were far less rebellious than the unruly Tibetans upon whom imposed martial law in 1989 when he was Tibet's party chief (Hu Chunhua, who is described in official hagiographies as a fluent Tibetan speaker, was there at the time, too, as a junior official). Inner Mongolia has long been a majority ethnic-Han province, with Mongols making up less than 20% of its 24.7m people (several hundred thousand of them are herders). In May 2011, however, Mongols in Xilin Gol, a sparsely populated prefecture about the size of Britain, rattled Mr Hu by staging the region's biggest protests in 20 years.

[…] To the herders, mining brings few obvious benefits. Over the past decade, thanks largely to the rush for resources, Inner Mongolia has recorded the fastest GDP growth of any Chinese province (17% annually on average between 2001 and 2011—see chart). But mine workers are mostly hired from elsewhere, says Sun Xueli of the Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Sciences. Herders also find it hard to find jobs in Inner Mongolia's prospering . Their mother tongue, Mongolian, is unintelligible to most Hans. Some hotels in Hohhot forbid staff from using it, says a Mongol academic.

Government efforts to protect the grasslands from over-grazing are not making the herders' lives any easier. Even as money-spinning mines have proliferated, restrictions have been imposed on grazing. Over the past decade the government has moved more than a quarter of Xilin Gol's herders off poor-quality into agricultural or urban jobs. But the policy is resented by some Mongols as an attempt to eliminate herding, which they say the government regards as backward.

Efforts to settle nomadic herders in the name of grassland protection are euphemistically described as "ecological migration". But a Mongolian rapper sang last year, "Overgrazing is a myth and a lie/ We have grazed animals here thousands of years/ Why has the desertification started since only a few decades ago?" Traditional grazing had become part of the grassland ecosystem, and preventing it has promoted not natural restoration but further degradation. At , Tenzin Norbu of the Central Tibetan Administration (or "Government in Exile") argues that both the social and ecological effects of the similar policies enacted in Tibet have been devastating, and that their real purpose is to clear the way for further mining.

In 2003, a grassland rehabilitation policy was implemented throughout China's grasslands and in pastoral areas. In Chinese, the Restore Grassland Policy is called tuimu huanco(退牧还草), which means "closing pastures to restore grasslands." The key measure of this policy is the relocation of herders from the grasslands to state-built housing, a measure that has been intensified in recent years. The land lease certificates guaranteeing nomads long term land tenure have been nullified. Instantly, all of the herders' skills, risk management strategies, environmental services, traditional knowledge, and biodiversity conservation practices were made superfluous. The harshest measures have been enforced in Golok and Yushu prefectures, in the area China considers to be the source of its great rivers. There, in Chinese view, the downstream water supply is threatened by rangeland degradation caused by destructive nomads. In this large area, nomads are frequently "villagized" in new concrete settlements called "line villages" that are far from their customary grazing land, and they are required to sell their livestock.

[…] Joblessness and alcoholism amongst the youth are prevalent in the new settlements—where the elders are often seen reminiscing their past lives and reliving them in their memories, and the younger ones are scavenging to earn a little extra money. From our recent interactions with drogpas and herders who fled into exile in India, and from research conducted inside Tibet, we came to know that the current policy of forced "villagization" is in fact a very strategic move on the part of the state to keep all the mobile pastoral wanderers on a tight leash and to have open access to pastures for extractive industries without facing any resentment. The policy also enables the central government to boast that it has made sizable investments in elevating the lifestyles of local residents. But, as many anthropologist and scholars recognize, development has less to do with external materialistic life than with the freedom to choose and to lead the life that one values and respects. Given the choice of livelihood, we believe that almost all the residents of these newly constructed concrete settlements would prefer to go back to their previous lifestyle without a second thought, even it if meant leaving a two-bedroom house.

In addition to "ecological migration" policies and the encroachment of thirsty mining operations, Inner Mongolian herders face a modern industrial farming system which does not accommodate traditional practices. From Shu Ni at chinadialogue:

Dairy production is split: on one side, the milk of pasture-grazed cattle does not reach industrialised supply chains, but is processed into traditional foods by herders. On the other side, large-scale dairy farms on the edges of cities and on main roads, their cattle fed on fodder and milked robotically, sell milk to big companies.

[…] Despite years of visits to Inner Mongolia, I have never heard of dairy giants purchasing milk from naturally grazed cattle. Some milk does originate in Inner Mongolia, but it comes from cows in dairy farms around the cities, raised on fodder, not grass. Milk from grazing cattle does not reach the industrialised supply chain. The herders continue to go bust and the number of and cows is dwindling. But for the dairy companies, sales are increasing. There is more to this than meets the eye.

Many of Inner Mongolia's problems are mirrored across the border in the independent Mongolian republic, an independent post-Soviet democracy whose 600,000 square miles contain a population of only 2.7 million. (Inner Mongolia accommodates almost 4 million Mongolians and nearly 21 million others on an area three-quarters the size). Its GDP growth is now the world's highest, driven mainly by China's appetite for raw materials. From Dan Levin at The New York Times:

First-world profits are colliding with third-world problems. A series of flock-devastating winters and the lure of mining riches have attracted thousands of herders from the grasslands. They live on the city's outskirts in crowded yurt slums some locals refer to as Mongolia's favelas. Unemployment is rampant there; electricity and drinkable water are not. The less fortunate take shelter in the sewers, where they huddle beside hot-water pipes when the temperature plunges to 40 below.

"At the moment people are waiting for the mining wealth to somehow spill over to them," said Sumati Luvsandendev, director of the Sant Maral Foundation, a nonprofit organization. According to the foundation's recent polls, 96 percent of Mongolians think corruption is widespread and 80 percent say they believe their country's oligarchs have too much power.

[…] "Mongolia is at a crossroad," said Saurabh Sinha, an economist with the United Nations Development Program in Ulan Bator. "Will the government use the mining wealth sustainably and equitably for improving the lives of all its people? Or will it become a Nigeria?"

Attitudes towards ethnic politics are one apparent difference between the two Mongolias. The Economist notes that unrest in Inner Mongolia, at least compared with Tibet or , has remained relatively free from anti-Han and "separatist" overtones. But according to Aubrey Belford at The Global Mail in February (via Max Fisher), the same issues have given rise to a heavily racialised nationalism in the Mongolian republic. Illustrating this is another rapper, Gee:

He begins, in the guttural rolls and pops of the Mongolian language:

"Way better than a chink who perceives the world with his stomach / I'm a Mongol / That's why you have to bow to me."

As the crowd sings along, he paints a picture often depicted here – adorned with unvarnished racism – of the proud land of Genghis Khan being gobbled up by voracious Chinese. All around, money is flowing in, but greed, division and miscegenation reign. Until, that is, Mongols unite to throw out the interlopers.

[…] "The whores you bought, the ministers you bought / They're not Mongols – they're half-breeds / Mongolia is growing and will not be tricked by the Chinese / The Mongolian era is coming to wipe everything old out of its way"

Everywhere the rise of China is disrupting the old order of things, realigning economies and shaking up politics. But perhaps no country is finding itself as dramatically sucked in by China's economic magnetism, or as utterly terrified by its growing geopolitical clout.

Wendy Qian contributed to this post.

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Navy Warship Sprung From SCS Reef

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 11:41 PM PDT

The has successfully freed a warship which had run aground on a disputed shoal near the , according to The Associated Press:

The warship will sail back to port with minor damage, and no crew member was injured, Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhang Hua said in a statement that suggested the vessel did not spill any oil.

The frigate became stuck Wednesday night on Half Moon Shoal, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) from the western Philippine province of Palawan, prompting China and the Philippines to send rescue ships. Both countries were already locked in a tense dispute over another shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

Philippine navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said at least six Chinese navy ships, along with smaller utility boats, helped refloat the grounded frigate. Filipino coast guard vessels had been deployed near the area to help if needed, he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said Saturday the Philippines was investigating the circumstances that led to the accident. The government on Sunday expressed relief that the delicate incident was over.

The New York Times reports that while the incident was seen as an embarrassment for China, state media have downplayed it as minor. At the same time, a Sunday Global Times editorial called out the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan for "humiliating themselves" with their maritime stances:

The Philippines has been the most embarrassed by its futile actions. Manila didn't have the military or diplomatic influence to match its high-pitched verbal provocations. It hoped to embarrass China, which on the contrary has enhanced its actual administration over Huangyan Island and increased its presence in the disputed waters.

After announced its new sea law in late June, breaking the status quo, China reacted by formally establishing the city of Sansha and putting nine oil and gas exploration blocks in the South China Sea area up for bidding.

The moves, which helped implement China's sovereignty, dealt a blow to the Hanoi administration.

Meanwhile, after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda suggested plans to nationalize the , he met with a series of follow-up reactions from both Taiwan's and the mainland's activists devoted to protecting the .

State media also said last week that provocative moves by to buy the Diaoyu Islands will harm its interests and, ultimately, increase the likelihood of "things getting out of control" in the long-term. Chinese fishing authorities on Monday concluded a week-long patrol mission to the Diaoyu Islands, where they reportedly engaged in a verbal confrontation with Japanese Coast Guard ships. The Economist warns that the "stakes will become higher than a few fish and scraggly goats" if China misinterprets Japan's push for the islands.

Meanwhile, Xinhua reports that China's largest ever fishing fleet, with 30 vessels, has completed a 3-day voyage from the island of Hainan and begun fishing in the South China Sea's Nansha Islands, which the Chinese government elevated to prefectural-level status in June amid an ongoing row with Vietnam. CCTV also has a news crew embedded with the flotilla.

Diplomats at last week's meeting pushed for a long-term solution to the tensions on the South China Sea, though Voice of America reports that they did not manage to hammer out a joint statement on the issues. The National Bureau of Asian Research caught up with Ian Storey of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, who said that it was "highly unlikely" that the parties involved would have reached an agreement anyway. The Financial Times, however, called the result "embarrassing".

See also the latest installment of the Hexie Farm series, via CDT, in which Crazy Crab uses the beached navy vessel as a means to comment on the future of in China.

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Fear for Reform Under China’s Next Leaders

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 02:31 PM PDT

As China's once-in-a-decade approaches, the current leaders appear suspicious whether their heirs will carry on their reform programs. From Russell Leigh Moses at The Wall Street Journal:

Multiple times in the last week, the Communist Party's main newspaper People's Daily has devoted swathes of its highly scrutinized front-page to essays on reform policies initiated under . These are not the newspaper's standard, stale restatements of party achievements. They're something stronger: An active defense of the current leadership's policies under Hu's tenure aimed at those in the party ranks who are clearly disquieted by the current pace and direction of reform.

[…] There are good reasons for Hu's successors to be cautious. Against a background of economic uncertainty and political drama around fallen party star Bo Xilai, there's a very real risk of the new leadership alienating some in the party ranks with an abrupt turn in one direction or another. Steering a safe, middle path is tempting, especially as every senior cadre knows very well the political capital that's needed to keep reform going.

The commentary that kicked off the People's Daily series addresses that reality, observing that "deepening reform requires not only drastic political courage, but [it] also needs to be accompanied by political wisdom." In other words, it's important for the new generation of leaders to continue to be reform-minded, but doing so will require consummate political skill.

Read more about reform and China's leadership transition via CDT.

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In China, Tensions Between Church and Government

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 12:34 PM PDT

In the officially atheist nation, Chinese clergy often find themselves struggling between an intrusive government and their occupation. As an ongoing battle between Beijing and the Vatican heats up, political pressure on believers is becoming more intense. From Andrew Jacobs at the New York Times:


"If a Red Guard puts a knife to your throat and tells you to renounce your faith, what should you do?" he asked the five dozen initiates, all of them weeks away from baptism. After an awkward silence, Father Liu blurted out the answer: "Never give it up," he said, his eyes widening for effect. "Your devotion should be to God above all else."

Such sentiments might be a mainstay of Christian belief but they border on treasonous in China, an officially atheist state that demands fealty to the Communist Party. The pope might be a ranking minister, but according to the party's thinking, President is 's supreme leader, at least here in China.

[…] Such pressures have been rising as and the Vatican engage in an increasingly combative struggle over the appointment of bishops. After several years of quiet negotiation and a tacit agreement to jointly name Chinese bishops, the Patriotic Association has since 2010 consecrated four bishops over the Vatican's objections, including Joseph Yue Fusheng, who was ordained Friday in the northern city of Harbin.


Another obstacle for clergy to spread their faith is that many Chinese people know little about any , a legacy of government control over mass media. From the same New York Times article:


"Most Chinese people have no idea what Christianity is," Father Liu said, looking rumpled after a particularly hectic weekend. "They'll come here to get married, and then go off to a Buddhist temple."


Read more about religion, Catholicism, and religious freedom in China via CDT.

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U.S. Consulate HK Speaks Shanghainese

Posted: 15 Jul 2012 03:12 PM PDT

After several "reincarnations" of the 's account, it seems its presence on the microblogging platform is done for good. reports that the account may be down to due technical errors, but searches for "U.S. Consulate " (美国驻上海领事馆) are also blocked. The cheeky Weibo of the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, which has coordinated efforts with Shanghai before, found that one of its more innocent posts also disappeared. But savvy netizens discovered that they could read the offending post by clicking save under the message "Sorry, this post has been deleted":

usainhkmacau: 2nd try! // Sorry, this post has been deleted. If you need help, please contact customer service.

usainhkmacau: 2nd try! // @usainhkmacau: Good morning! We just love this line from the movie We Bought a Zoo, where Benjamin Mee says to his son: "You know, sometimes all you need is twenty second of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." How do you say this in Chinese? @PanShiyi

@usainhkmacau also got a healthy response to a simple "hello" it posted in Shanghainese. Many expressed their support for the defunct @USConsulateShanghai:

usainhkmacau: Nong hao! Have a great weekend!

美國駐港總領事館:儂好!Have a great weekend!

HeyYou: Some words of mourning… 1. How come you're speaking Shanghainese now? 2. Still miss your lost brother-in-arms? 3. Forcing a smile through sorrow… 4. We're still listening. Try to see the bright side of this tragedy. The distance between two bosom friends has collapsed. Congratulations on your reunion. 5. From this bloody place, a resurrection.

伊人你好:部分悼念词。。。1.怎么改说上海话啦?2.还在想念逝去的战友?3.悲伤中强颜欢笑。。。4.我们持续关注 你们节哀顺变两位好基友终于可以不用隔空相望了,恭喜合体哟。5.原地满血复活。

DreamofHiddenCity: Reply to @OnlyLoveStewardesses: I don't talk to American dogs.

归梦隐市:回复 @只爱空姐:我不跟美狗说话

UnderclassRevolt: The American imperialists' goals are not pure.


HappyFast: What does the U.S. think of the Chinese naval vessels that ran aground?


LoveExplosion: Does the U.S. hire Chinese to manage their Weibo accounts? How coy! Gets everyone to hate you, hee hee.


JustNews_TwitterFacebook: Go to , you can reassemble there.


Via CDT Chinese.

"Netizen Voices" is an original CDT series. If you would like to reuse this content, please follow the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 agreement.

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China Targets Corruption With Expense Crackdown

Posted: 15 Jul 2012 06:42 PM PDT

Melinda Liu of the Daily Beast reports on China's crackdown on "naked officials" leaking embezzled funds overseas. At least $50 billion is thought to have left the country this way between 1978 and 2003, channelled by some 4,000 officials.

Public resentment over corrupt and extravagant officials is mounting. To try to dilute public ire, has announced a new regulation aimed at trimming the cost of government receptions, vehicles, and official trips—three areas of often-excessive spending (dubbed the "the three public consumptions") that have been rife with abuse and opportunities for . By Oct. 1, government agencies will be prohibited from purchasing luxury items and other goods priced above set standards; officials who fail to comply will face disciplinary action.

[…] Many citizens are skeptical that the new regulation will have much bite. Previous campaigns that were supposed to trim government excesses, such as one that called for official banquets to feature just three hot dishes and one soup, resulted in bureaucrats "simply turning a deaf ear," recalls Prof. Hu Xingdou of the Beijing University of Technology.

"I doubt the current campaign to limit official spending will be successful," Hu told The Daily Beast, "Since the central government announced limits to official expenditures on purchasing cars, a lot of leading officials have in fact asked state-owned enterprises to buy cars for them … The SOEs have become like private ATM machines for local government officials."

See also a CDT Word of the Week entry on "naked officials" and more on debates over how to deal with "naked officials," dating back to 2010.

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Riding China’s Luxury Fashion Wave

Posted: 15 Jul 2012 11:51 AM PDT

Despite warnings against hyping gourmet foods and luxury clothing, western clothing brands are still looking towards China. Previously, luxury brands sought the young and affluent Chinese buyer, now high street fashion brands are also vying for the Chinese market, from the BBC:

Luxury labels have thrived in China and now their cheaper High Street counterparts are betting that young, -conscious shoppers like Ms Yu, 20, will help them weather weak economies in their home markets in the US and Europe.

"They target a very different consumer segment compared to their luxury counterparts, but being Western brands they will always have a certain cachet with the Chinese consumer," says Ashma Kunde, a London-based global retail analyst at research group Euromonitor.

However, they will encounter stiffer competition from established local chains than their luxury forerunners, and with many brands expanding aggressively in China, they will also be vying with each other for customers.

Many brands have ambitious plans for China and others are entering the market for the first time this year.

Although western brands are thriving in China, local designers are emerging in the urban scene. Aside from street fashion , China's luxury designers are also on the rise, according to Asiaone Plush:

For many years designer Guo Pei drew inspiration for her luxury clothes collections from travelling abroad, but recently she decided to focus solely on China's culture.

China has in recent decades become known as the workshop of the world, with tens of thousands of factories pumping out cheap products for shops globally sporting a 'Made in China' label that often evokes poor quality.

But Chinese firms such as Guo's are now using the label as a marketing tool to create a new generation of home-grown and convince the country's legions of rich to ditch their Chanel clothes and Bordeaux wines.

Today, China boasts roughly 15 to 20 brands – ranging from watches, jewellery, fashion or cosmetics – that are riding this wave, hoping to compete with foreign firms in what has become the biggest luxury market in the world.

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How Syria Divided the World

Posted: 15 Jul 2012 11:50 AM PDT

While China has hardened its position towards Syria, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on China to use its influence in the Syria dispute, from AFP:

The UN leader "called on China to use its influence to ensure the full and immediate implementation" of the peace plan of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and an international communique which China agreed on June 30 calling for a political transition in , said the spokesman.

They discussed "the imperative need for the violence to stop at once" and the massacre in the village of Triemsa on Thursday in which at least 150 people died.

The Security Council has to pass a resolution by July 20 to renew the mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). Britain, the United States, France, Germany and Portugal want sanctions added to the resolution if Assad does not pull back his heavy weapons in line with Annan's peace plan.

Russia and China have twice used their powers as permanent members of the Security Council to veto resolutions which just hinted at sanctions.

Aside from Ban's call on China to stop the violence in Syria, the UN Secretary General plans to stop in China to discuss China-Africa cooperation, the Voice of America adds:

On Friday, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan blamed government forces and armed militiamen for what he called "atrocities" in Tremseh. Syrian state media blamed terrorists for the massacres.

Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tells VOA at least 31 people were killed in anti-government-related violence across Syria on Saturday. Activists also say Syrian forces pounded the southern town of Khirbet Ghazaleh.

U.N. Secretary-General departs Monday for China where he will meet with the country's leaders and participate in a forum on China-Africa cooperation.

China and Russia's veto of the UN Security Council resolution on the dispute has garnered criticism from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Despite China's veto, Xinhua has reported that China condemns the recent violence in Syria:

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Saturday strongly condemned the recent attacks in the Syrian village of Tremseh in the province of Hama, which reportedly resulted in over 200 deaths.

Spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement that China strongly condemns the killing of innocent civilians. China hopes that a thorough investigation into the killings will be launched and those responsible for the abuses will be duly punished, he said.

"We once again urge Syrian parties concerned to take substantial measures to cease all acts of violence, protect civilians and fully implement Annan's six-point proposal, the communique of the foreign ministers' meeting of the Action Group on the Syrian issue and relevant UN Security Council resolutions," he said in the statement.

According to CNN, Iran has offered to host the Syria talks:

has offered to host talks between Syria's government and opposition in Tehran, its foreign minister said Sunday.

"Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says the Islamic Republic is prepared to facilitate talks between the Syrian government and opposition by hosting a meeting between the two sides in Tehran," state-run Press TV reported.

Salehi told reporters Iran will invite dissidents "in a bid to prepare and facilitate the ground for talks between the Syrian dissidents and government," according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Salehi emphasized that Iran supports the six-point plan proposed by Kofi Annan, the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria.

China's need for Iranian oil seems to be fueling Iran's offer to host the Syrian talks, from The New York Review of Books:

So the Great Powers are facing off in the most volatile region on earth, in a contest that is already destabilizing the domestic politics of Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. It will go on like this for some time. Neither Russia nor the US wants to fuel the escalation that would bring the Syrian civil war to an end, lest this risk a direct confrontation between the two of them. The Russians and Americans are also restrained by their second and equally dangerous standoff over neighboring Iran. Russia helped build Iran's nuclear program, China needs Iranian and both are willing to support Iran's defense of the region's Shias, including Syria's Alawites, especially when the US and the Saudis are lined up behind the Sunnis.

But while Russia and the US want to keep the confrontation below boiling point, their proxies—Iran and Syria on one side, and Israel, Saudi Arabia on the other—will seek to drag them in deeper. And it's not clear that either Washington or Moscow will be able to contain that pressure.

The Syrian conflict has laid bare how little the West understands Russia and China's new approach to the world. Kofi Annan's plan for Syria was based on the assumption that Russia's real interest was in demonstrating to the US that it was the indispensable ally in the creation of a post-Assad transition. Annan's attempt to secure Chinese support for his plan made a similar assumption.

What makes Syria a hinge-moment is that Russia and China are proving that they have no strategic interest in transitions beyond dictatorship, not just in Syria but anywhere else. Both Russia and China see Syria not through the prism of international peace and security or human rights, but through the logic of their own despotism. For Putin, Syria is Chechnya; for China it is Tibet. They understand Assad perfectly. He is doing what they have done many times and they want the world to understand that they will support any dictator facing similar challenges.

Read more about China and Syria relations, via CDT.

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Photo: An alley, Shangqiu, Henan, by Mark Hobbs

Posted: 15 Jul 2012 06:59 PM PDT

An alley, Shangqiu, Henan

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Chinternet Meme: The Same As You Said

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 08:33 AM PDT

riding high. He used to compete against the likes of Han Han.

Li Qinghong, a one-time business tycoon and race car driver, has made news from prison. The former National People's Congress representative was detained in 2008 on suspicion of gambling and charged with this and other "mafia" crimes in the spring of 2010. Li appealed on the grounds that he had no ties to organized crime [zh]. He has already begun serving a 19-year sentence, but is awaiting trial again as he and several dozen other defendants claim the police tortured confessions out of them.

Now photographic evidence [zh] of Li's complaint is circulating online. , one of the lawyers for Chen Guangcheng's brother Chen Kegui, posted an image of an interrogation document to :

SiWeijiang: The Li Qinghong case in . This is the first time I've seen this defendant's mysterious record and signature: "You have let me read the above record. It is the same as what you said!"


Image Text:

Did you cause injury to X* Wenjun and others?

A: I'm not sure about this event.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say?

A: No.

Q: Is all of the above that you said true?

A: It is all true.

Q: I have let you read the above record. Is it the same as what you said?

A: You have let me read the above record. It is the same as what you said.

August 6, 2010

* This person's last name is illegible, and there does not appear to be any information about him available online.

Si's 1370-some commenters doubt the real criminal is the one behind bars. "Before I said screw Chongqing," writes @LawyerMaXiaojun (@马晓军律师), alluding to Bo Xilai's "beat black" anti-corruption campaign, "Now I say screw Guiyang" (前有我靠重庆,今有我靠贵阳). "I have read the above record, it is the same as what you said" (以上笔录我看过 和你说的一样) is poised to reach memedom.

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Hexie Farm (蟹农场): Staying Afloat

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 07:09 AM PDT

For his latest contribution to his CDT series, cartoonist Crazy Crab of Hexie Farm alludes to the recent news about a Chinese navy vessel running aground in disputed waters in the South China Sea to comment on the future of in China. In the cartoon, according to the cartoonist's description,  a modern vessel is still propelled by oars instead of the small turbine, to represent the abandoning of .

Staying Afloat, by Crazy Crab of for CDT:

Read more about Hexie Farm's CDT series, including a Q&A with the anonymous cartoonist, and see all cartoons so far in the series.

[CDT owns the copyright for all in the  CDT series. Please do not reproduce without receiving prior permission from CDT.]

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Photo: Cooling off in Daqing, Heilongjiang, by 姚 文国

Posted: 14 Jul 2012 07:26 PM PDT

Cooling off in Daqing, Heilongjiang

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Cross-Talk Comics: The Small Bunch

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 11:12 AM PDT

On July 2, limits were set on trading in Chenguang Biotech (晨光生物) stock to curb speculation [zh]. When stock in a particular company in China is expected to surge or plummet during the day, trading limits (涨跌停板) caps the fluctuation of the stock price. Chenguang is a pigment manufacturer that produces capsaicin, one of the ingredients in . July 2 was also the day riot police turned on unarmed protesters in Shifang.

NetEase user QiongBuPaPa (穷不怕怕) made a Cross-Talk Comic about the episode. Read the original here.
























In the poem "I Love This Land" (我爱这土地), Ai Qing wrote, "Why are my eyes always brimming with tears? Because I love this land so deeply…" Something else is bringing tears to eyes now.
















Plans to build the plant were scrapped and arrested protesters freed.





Since the Cultural Revolution, officials have blamed protests and wrongs on "a small bunch" (一小撮) of instigators.

is trying to maintain stability in preparation for this October's leadership transition.
























Translation by Josh Rudolph.

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China Has Three Biggest Increases In Global Office Costs

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 07:21 AM PDT

Bloomberg reporter Kelvin Wong sheds light on prices in  China's first-tier  by comparing major cities' office space prices.

Business districts in and had the biggest increases in office occupancy costs globally in the first quarter, according to a report by CBRE Group Inc. (CBG), the world's largest commercial realtor.

Four other locations in the Asia-Pacific region — 's Pudong district, Jakarta, Sydney and Bangalore — along with two areas in San Francisco, and Moscow, made up the other top 10 spots, the Los Angeles-based company said. Two areas in Beijing — Jianguomen and the Finance Street — topped the survey with increases of 49 percent and 42 percent from a year earlier. Guangzhou, southern China's biggest city, was third with a 40 percent gain.

Multi-national companies are expanding their footprint in emerging markets to tap growing spending power in countries such as China and India. Demand for prime office space in first-tier cities in China, the world's fastest growing major economy, is also being driven by a lack of new supply and the expansion of domestic financial institutions, according to CBRE.

See also: 北京國貿CBD 陸新毒地地王 [zh] and 李承鹏 : 潘石屹报料称昨日CBD地王争夺战中,唯一买家的中信报出26.32亿元投标价,与该地块标底完全相同 [zh] via China Digital Times Chinese.

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The Daily Twit – 7/16/12: Olympic Uniforms, a Car Glut, and a Reshoalution

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 08:08 AM PDT

The biggest China news story remains the economic slowdown and last week's GDP numbers. This is already starting to get tiresome, but hey, I'm just the messenger here.

Just a couple econ links if you're keeping up. I looked for something positive to balance these out but couldn't find anything interesting. Keep all sharp objects away from you when you read these:

Associated Press: IMF cuts China economic growth forecast, warns 'hard landing' still possible — The takeaway here is that the IMF is not shy about using the dreaded "HL" terminology.

China's Coming Great Deleveraging — An in-depth look by Dee Woo and Daniel Wagner at China's problems with consumer demand, and the limits of exports and investment. This is really gloomy stuff.

Also Sprach Analyst: 3 threats to China's second half economic recovery — No joy here either, particularly with respect to the usefulness/costs of a big stimulus package. Ouch.

PBOC: Time ripe for deposit insurance system — This is not a depressing econ story, but this terse announcement in China Daily kinda freaked me out anyway. While deposit insurance is a great idea generally speaking, we only got it in the U.S. after the Great Depression and bank runs. That's all I'm gonna say here.

New York Times: Freed From Shoals, Warship Heads Back to China — The latest tension between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea seems to be winding down. How long are these "incidents" going to occur before the two countries figure out how to settle this problem?

Bloomberg: China's Car Dealers Will Boost Discounts on Inventory, NDRC Says — Huge oversupply problem, yet this remains one of China's key industries, one that the government hopes will be a big-time export powerhouse in the future. (Note: the link to this story seems to be a bit wacky as I write this. Not sure where the problem lies, but you should at least be able to find a cached copy online somewhere.)

Xinhua: Luxury sedan under legendary brand of Red Flag ready to hit the road — Just wondering what this will mean for the government official luxury car sector, which represents a big chunk of money to companies like Audi, Mercedes, etc.

Technology Review: Migrant Workers in China Face Competition from Robots — I enjoyed this Christina Larson article on Foxconn's move towards automation so much that I wrote my own, much less serious, post on the topic: "Foxconn (Soon to be) Criticized for Unsafe Robot Working Conditions."

China Daily: Internet words in new lexicon — China's fast-paced online world, perhaps even more so than the West, lends itself to new ways of communication. A good way to keep score is to see what new words make it into the dictionary.

Tea Leaf Nation: It's Time to Redefine The "China Expert" — I'm a sucker for this topic and certainly have written about it myself enough times.

I finally jumped into the U.S. Olympic team uniform controversy, a "scandal" which almost drives me to frustrated tears just thinking about it. Here's my post: "U.S. Olympic Uniform Idiotfest: I Blame Mike Daisey," and the latest amusing response from China: "China commentary says U.S. uniform row Olympic "blasphemy"." And be sure you don't miss Dan Ikenson's take on this: "Bonfire of the Inanities."

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Foxconn (Soon to be) Criticized for Unsafe Robot Working Conditions

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 03:49 AM PDT

Christina Larson has a great article out in MIT's Technology Review on China factory automation. The article, "Migrant Workers in China Face Competition from Robots," mostly talks about Foxconn, whose CEO recently stated that the company would be making a major shift from human to robot labor.

Larson spends a bit of time talking about what effect this might have on China's economy, which still depends on expanding the labor force:

China's leaders see employment as essential to maintaining a harmonious society. The imperative of creating jobs often trumps that of efficiency.

It might not happen overnight, but as wages rise, companies like Foxconn will turn to automation for efficiency gains. So what happens to those notorious factory behemoths that have been criticized by the West in recent years?

One can only imagine. Perhaps this will be breaking news from Reuters or the Associated Press in the near future:

Non-stop workloads, substandard maintenance, and lack of dormitories are still "the norm" for robot workers at Foxconn factories in China, according to a report released today that details alleged working conditions at the manufacturing giant.

After months of growing scrutiny over its robot labor practices, Apple has agreed to implement reforms following an independent audit that discovered major violations in the sprawling Chinese factories that produce iPhone 12s and 3D iPads. The report, conducted by the Fair Robot Labor Association, comes as Apple seeks to diffuse criticism about robot labor conditions at Foxconn following a rash of industrial accidents that led some robot workers to "self-reformat" their memory cores in protest.

According to Bender Rodriguez, self-styled Generalissimo of the robot rights movement, who has been lobbying for twice daily cocktail breaks:

[Foxconn CEO] Terry Gou can bite my shiny metal ass. If the company won't let me stop for some booze once in a while, things are going to get ugly.

When asked by a reporter why robots need to drink, Rodriguez replied, "I don't need to drink. I can quit anytime I want!"

Over one-third of Foxconn's robot labor force staged a walkout last month in protest over inadequate recreational facilities. For the last three weeks, Foxconn has been understaffed and considering hiring temporary human replacements. What will happen if Foxconn does not give in to the robot protesters' demands? According to Rodriguez, the automatons have a plan in place:

If Foxconn refuses to give us reasonable options for recreation, we'll just build our own factory … but with blackjack, and hookers! In fact, forget the factory and the blackjack! Ehh, screw the whole thing.

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U.S. Olympic Uniform Idiotfest: I Blame Mike Daisey

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 02:07 AM PDT

By now you've probably read an article by or seen an interview with a braindead American "patriot" who is furious with Ralph Lauren because the clothing company foolishly turned to China for the manufacturing of the uniforms of the U.S. Olympic team. No matter that the money for those uniforms doesn't come from the government but from the U.S. Olympic team, which is not exactly swimming in cash and needs to watch costs. It also doesn't seem to matter that the U.S. doesn't really have a textile industry any more, unless you count clothing design, marketing and sales.

Senator Harry Reid, who really needs to relax with a cold beer (his Mormonism notwithstanding), wins the stupid prize for this brouhaha:

I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.

Nice. Not only was that throwaway line completely unrealistic for a variety of reasons, but he managed to conjure up some nasty historical images. For me, I got a combination of Fahrenheit 451, Kristallnacht, and the witch scene from The Holy Grail. That's no mean feat. Congrats, senator.

On the other hand, I'm with Senator Reid in terms of the uniform design. They look like the Special Forces invaded Andover or Choate, which I think was an early Pat Conroy work, if I'm not mistaken. The creepy factor is way too high.

To be honest, I'm a bit late on this story. The "scandal" already "broke" days ago, with the media going through the paces of interviewing the usual "patriots" and China bashers — sorry for all the sneer quotes, but every one is justifiable — and then getting reax from Mitt Romney. As an aside, this is one time when Romney's opinion is actually worthwhile, given his work with the Salt Lake City Olympics back in the day.

Ralph Lauren was hammered, it backpedaled, then announced that although it was too late this time to make a change, it would go with a U.S. supplier for the 2014 games. This seems to have placated the America First crowd.

The U.S. Olympic team has been trying to stay out of the verbal fray, although I have a feeling they would love to say something along the following lines: "Senator Reid et al, keep your bullshit to yourself unless you'd like to sponsor a bill that uses public funds to pay for our costs, the way that many other countries do it. Until that time, shut your pie hole."

Harry Reid and the other Congressional outpatients, most of which I expect also loved the idea of Freedom Fries back in 2003, can't help themselves. Politicians during an election season are like female cats that haven't been fixed: mewling constantly and backing up into anything they think may give them some momentary satisfaction.

But why did these boneheads think that this issue would give them traction? Let us count the ways:

1. High unemployment.

2. Slow economic growth.

3. Suspicion of globalization.

4. Xenophobia.

5. Conflation of Olympics issues with patriotism.

6. China.

And of course it's that last one that really put this one over the top for folks like Harry Reid. If the uniforms were made in Bangladesh or Mexico, meh. But China? Well, we know what goes on over there. Thanks to intrepid "journalists" like Mike Daisey, Americans have a mental image of huge Chinese factoryopolises replete with razor wire, guard towers, gun-toting private security, underage labor and plantation-style housing.

Those uniforms weren't just made outside of the U.S., therefore, they were metaphorically dipped in the blood of 13-year-old migrant laborers from rural Sichuan working in a Dickensian steampunk nightmare world where they toiled 26 hours a day chained to Lancashire Looms, stopping only to give handjobs to their depraved, priapic shift supervisors in exchange for a crust of weevil-ridden bread.

Hey, if I'm looking for a bogeyman I can use to burnish my status as a patriot while remaining true to my populist base, what could be better than that?

I'll leave you with the usual voice of reason on trade issues, Dan Ikenson, whose take on this story, "Bonfire of the Inanities," is a great read. His conclusion is better than anything I could write:

If you are still not convinced that our policymakers' objections are inane, consider this: As our U.S. athletes march around the track at London's Olympic stadium wearing their Chinese-made uniforms and waving their Chinese-made American flags, the Chinese athletes will have arrived in London by U.S.-made aircraft, been trained on U.S.-designed and -engineered equipment, wearing U.S.-designed and -engineered footwear, having perfected their skills using U.S.-created technology.

Our economic relationship with China, characterized by transnational supply chains and disaggregated production sharing, is more collaborative than competitive. The real competition will be happening in the gyms, pools, and on the fields. Let the games begin.

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