Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

17/09/2014

Survey shows 10 problems of Chinese society – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

Twenty-four percent has cited the credibility deficit of the government as a main reason behind the lack of trust in Chinese society, according to a survey conducted by People’s Tribune, a magazine of People’s Daily.

Survey shows 10 problems of Chinese societyThe survey finds more than 80 percent of respondents think of Chinese society as “sub-healthy” and 40.4 percent  believe that a crisis of credibility is sickening society.

The “symptoms” are, in order, distrust in “whatever the government says”, “distrust between people’, “doubt over food and medicine safety” and distrust in “doctors’ professional ethics”.

A lack of faith is the most recognized problem in the survey. When asked to choose which group suffers the most from the symptom, more than half of the respondents chose government officials. In a report of the People’s tribute, the choice was referred to a recent case of the self-styled “qigong master” Wang Lin, who claimed to have supernatural powers. He has been put under the spotlight after his photos with many government officials and celebrities were published online last summer.

The superstition in officialdom mirrors corruption in the government, the report said. In terms of the reason behind the loss of faith, some 50 percent of netizens cited “unethical behaviors have gone unpunished”, while 20.8 percent blame the “mercenary” market economy.

Extreme, violent and anti-social behaviors have been chosen by nearly one third of the netizens as another major illness of society, with the “disadvantaged groups” as the most obvious example. “The growing social inequality and feeling of deprivation” have been cited as the main causes.

The full list of responses of the survey

1 Lack of faith

2 “Bystander attitude”or being indifferent

3 Anxiety over work, life and future

4 Habitual distrust

5 Ostentatiousness

6 Reveling in scandals

7 Hedonism

8 Extreme, violent and anti-social behaviors

9 Addiction to the Internet

10 Masochism, complaints about the Party and state system

via Survey shows 10 problems of Chinese society – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

15/09/2014

Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ

If you’re tired of walking behind someone who’s trudging along as they text, has this Chinese city got the sidewalk for you.

Last week, the city of Chongqing unveiled a lane specially designated for people who want to walk as they use their cellphones. “Cellphones, walk in this lane at your own risk” is printed in the lane in white lettering. The adjoining lane reads “No cellphones.”

On Monday, Weibo users reacted to the news with a mixture of amusement and scorn. “It’s such a lazy design. Shouldn’t the cellphone lane be placed [farther from the road]? It is not practical at all,” wrote one user.

Another dismissed the innovation, writing, “It’s just another imitation of foreign inventions,” the user wrote, referring to a similar experiment launched in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. “Besides, it seems only to be serving as a tourist attraction,” the user wrote of the road, which is located in a Chongqing tourist area called “Foreign Street Park.”

Still another wondered whether the road would make anything safer. “Is the goal here to encourage still more people to use their cellphones while walking?”

via Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

12/09/2014

Soft power: Confucius says | The Economist

“HARMONY is the most valuable of all things,” said the Chinese philosopher Confucius two and a half millennia ago. There is little of it in evidence in the frosty relationship between the woman who was the founding director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Oregon, Bryna Goodman, and her fellow historian, Glenn May. Their offices are separated by a ten-second walk, but the scholars do not exchange visits. Their palpable ill feeling reflects growing discord among Western scholars about a decade-old push by China to open government-funded cultural centres in schools and universities abroad. Intended to boost China’s “soft power”, the centres take the name of the peace-espousing sage. They tap into growing global demand for Chinese-language teaching. But they are also fuelling anxiety about academic freedom.

In America the Confucius programme has been widely welcomed by universities and school districts, which often do not have enough money to provide Chinese-language teachers for all who need them. But critics like Mr May believe China’s funding comes at a price: that Confucius Institutes (as those established on university campuses are known) and school-based Confucius Classrooms restrain freedom of speech by steering discussion of China away from sensitive subjects.

In June the American Association of University Professors called for universities to end or revise their contracts with Confucius Institutes (America has 100 of them) because they “function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom”. Mr May has been asking the University of Oregon to close its institute, to no avail. Ms Goodman (who is no longer the institute’s director) says that in funding its interests China is like any other donor to American universities. She says that the institutes have become lodestones of what she calls a “China fear”.

When China opened its first Confucius Institute in 2004 in Seoul, it hoped the new effort would prove as uncontroversial as cultural-outreach programmes sponsored by Western governments, such as the British Council, the Alliance Française and Germany’s Goethe-Institut. The idea was to counter fears of China’s rise by raising awareness of a culture that is often described by Chinese as steeped in traditions of peace.

Through the Hanban, a government entity, China provides the centres with paid-for instructors and sponsors cultural events at them. Its spending is considerable, and growing rapidly. In 2013 it was $278m, more than six times as much as in 2006. China’s funding for Confucius Institutes amounts to about $100,000-200,000 a year on many campuses, and sometimes more (Oregon received nearly $188,000 in the last academic year). By the end of 2013 China had established 440 institutes and 646 classrooms serving 850,000 registered students. They are scattered across more than 100 countries, with America hosting more than 40% of the combined total. There are plans for another 60 institutes and 350 classrooms to be opened worldwide by the end of 2015.

Chinese officials express satisfaction. In June Liu Yunshan, who is in charge of the Communist Party’s vast propaganda apparatus, said Confucius Institutes had “emerged at the right moment”. He described them as a “spiritual high-speed rail”, promoting friendship by connecting Chinese dreams with those of the rest of the world.

Others are less sanguine, however. In America criticism has recently grown stronger. Earlier this year more than 100 members of the faculty at the University of Chicago complained that Confucius Institutes were compromising academic integrity. In an article published in 2013 by Nation magazine, one of the university’s academics, Marshall Sahlins, listed cases in several countries involving what appeared to be deference to the political sensitivities of Confucius Institutes. These included a couple of occasions when universities had invited the Dalai Lama to speak and then either cancelled the invitation or received him off-campus.

In one case, at North Carolina State University in 2009, the provost said after the cancellation of a Dalai Lama visit that the Confucius Institute had indicated the exiled Tibetan’s presence could cause problems with China. This year Steven Levine, an honorary professor at the University of Montana, wrote to hundreds of Confucius Institutes around the world asking them to mark the 25th anniversary in June of the violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests. None of them agreed. Global Times, a Beijing newspaper, recently called the protests of foreign academics “a continuation of McCarthyism”.

Ms Goodman argues that the study of China needs all the funding it can get, even if that means taking money from countries with vital interests at stake—whether China, Taiwan, or the United States. She says that if China were ever to meddle politically in Oregon’s institute, the Confucius programme would be quickly shut down.

Such assurances do not address a big concern of critics—that the political influence of Confucius programmes is often subtle and slow-acting. If the critics are right, it is very subtle indeed. Surveys suggest that in many countries China’s image has not markedly improved over the past decade. The Pew Research Centre, an American polling organisation, says 42% of Americans viewed China favourably in 2007. Last year only 37% did. The political dividends of China’s soft-power spending are far from obvious.

via Soft power: Confucius says | The Economist.

11/09/2014

Can Jack Ma’s Alibaba Fortune Jump-Start Chinese Philanthropy? – Businessweek

Harvard just announced its largest-ever donation: a $350 million unrestricted gift to its School of Public Health. The donor is Hong Kong-based Morningside Foundation, led by two brothers who earned their fortunes in real estate, private equity, and venture capital. One brother, Gerald Chan, earned a graduate degree from Harvard. The school will be renamed in honor of their late father as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Jack Ma on July 15

Greater China is home to 358 billionaires (including 64 Hong Kong billionaires), according to the 2014 Hurun Global Rich List. Yet with a few exceptions—including the Harvard gift and Chinese tech titans’ recent fondness for the ice bucket challenge—a culture of domestic philanthropy has been relatively slow to take root. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet hosted a lavish 2010 dinner in Beijing intended to encourage the Chinese elite to embrace philanthropy, but several tycoons snubbed the Americans’ invitations and declined to open their wallets.

Now, at last, China has a powerful homegrown evangelist for philanthropy: Jack Ma. As co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, which filed paperwork last week to raise as much as  $21.2 billion in an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, he is one of China’s most respected and closely watched tycoons—and he’s publicly embracing a culture of giving.

Ma joined Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai earlier this year in establishing a personal philanthropic trust to be “funded by share options granted by Alibaba … for approximately two percent (2%) of Alibaba’s equity,” according to a statement. The trust will focus on the “environment, medicine, education, and culture.” In Ma’s words, “Alibaba was founded 15 years ago with a mission ‘to make it easy to do business anywhere’ and a set of principles and values that emphasize our responsibility to society. Giving back to society is deeply embedded in Alibaba’s culture.”

The total value of the fund will depend on the performance of Alibaba’s upcoming IPO. If the company is valued at $120 billion, or more, the charitable trust will be worth at least $2.4 billion.

via Can Jack Ma’s Alibaba Fortune Jump-Start Chinese Philanthropy? – Businessweek.

05/09/2014

China’s ‘Birthplace of Kung Fu’ Hopes to Train CEOs to Meditate – Businessweek

The ancient Shaolin Temple, perched on a leafy mountaintop in eastern China, is widely recognized as the birthplace of kung fu. For at least 1,500 years, its resident monks have preserved the physical and psychological training regimen of the legendary martial work. Now they’re trying to master commercial arts, too.

A monk practicing kung fu at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, China

The temple is hiring a media director and social media editor, according to state-run Chinese newswire Xinhua. “The need arises from an internationalizing Shaolin,” a monk who works for the temple’s “Intangible Assets Management Center” told the newswire. The ideal candidate would be versed in China’s fast-growing social media platforms, especially Twitter (TWTR)-like Sina Weibo (SINA), as well as fluent in both Mandarin and English.

Shaolin already offers high-end, live-in meditation courses for chief executive officers willing to live on the mountain as martial arts apprentices for a month, as China Daily recently reported. For those with less time to spare, one-time sit-down sessions with the temple’s abbot are also available. Earlier this year, members of the elite China Entrepreneurs Club attended a private conference at the temple with the theme “self cultivation of entrepreneurs.”

Last year, about 800 foreign executives also came to study and train on the mountain. A marketing manager from Greece who came to Shaolin for a two-week course told the newspaper: “In business, you have to be flexible; you have to find new paths and change. You have to see a crisis and avoid it. Kung fu teaches you to be fluid, like water, because everything in kung fu flows, and stagnation is bad.”

Once its social media marketing team is in place, Shaolin hopes to expand outreach to overseas business leaders who seek to cultivate kung fu mindfulness. Its courses are a relative bargain compared to executive MBA programs, ranging from $800 to $10,000.

via China’s ‘Birthplace of Kung Fu’ Hopes to Train CEOs to Meditate – Businessweek.

05/09/2014

China warns again of dark side of the mooncakes | Reuters

China’s crackdown on corruption, a scourge Communist Party leaders fear threatens their hold on power, is likely to last at least another five years, an official said, warning also against the mid-autumn tradition of handing out mooncakes as gifts.

Freshly-baked mooncakes pass along a conveyor belt at a mooncakes factory in Shanghai September 12, 2013.  REUTERS/Aly Song

Wang Qishan, secretary of China’s anti-corruption watchdog, was quoted as saying the government’s “campaign against extravagance and corruption” would continue for at least five years, the official China Daily said.

Wang’s comments, also reported on television on Thursday, were made in August at a meeting in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping has promised to go after “tigers and flies” in rooting out rampant graft, a campaign that has brought down politicians and company executives in industries including oil, cars and healthcare.

The campaign has also dragged down sales of high-end products from the fiery sorghum-based liquor, baijiu, to mooncakes, both traditional popular gifts for smoothing business and official ties.

Wang criticized the tradition of giving mooncakes as presents around the Mid-Autumn Festival, adding that the practice created opportunities for graft, the China Daily said.

Mooncake sales have taken a steep hit ahead of this month’s festival. In key production regions, sales were half the level of last year, the China Daily said, citing the Wuchuan Association of Mooncakes.

via China warns again of dark side of the mooncakes | Reuters.

04/09/2014

Businessman caught in Colombia is China’s first economic fugitive extradited from Latin America | South China Morning Post

A businessman from Zhejiang province, who was arrested in Colombia over allegations he fled the mainland after leaving debts totalling millions of yuan, was repatriated to China yesterday.

a-yiwu.jpg

The case is the first time the mainland has extradited an economic fugitive from a Latin American country, China News Service reported.

The 35-year-old suspect, whose surname was given as Wu, was arrested in Colombia on August 28, it said.

He owned a trading company in Yiwu city and reportedly fled China on a flight from Shanghai‘s Pudong International Airport on September 9, 2012.

He had allegedly left unpaid debts totalling more than four million yuan (more than HK$5 million).

Zhejiang police launched an investigation into Wu about a month later, and order for his arrest was issued in December 2012.

After cooperating with Interpol, Zhejiang police discovered in July that Wu was in Colombia, said Ding Pinglian, of the Zhejiang provincial police bureau.

Four police officers were then sent to Colombia to assist with Wu’s arrest and extradition.

Wu is expected to stand trial in Yiwu, China News Service reported.

A total of 11 people suspected of economic crime have been repatriated since the Ministry of Public Security launched a campaign to return fugitives in July, the report said.

The ministry said last month that more than 150 mainlanders suspected of economic crimes were in the United States, which had become the “top destination” for Chinese fugitives.

via Businessman caught in Colombia is China’s first economic fugitive extradited from Latin America | South China Morning Post.

26/08/2014

Top India court says coal allocations were illegal – Businessweek

India’s Supreme Court said Monday that all government allocations of coal reserves to private companies from 1993 to 2010 were conducted illegally, and it will hold a hearing to decide whether to cancel them.

More than 200 coal blocks, or areas of unmined reserves, were allocated during that period to companies for their use in power plants or steel or cement factories. The companies were allowed to sell excess coal on the open market, but the court said commercial sales from the reserves must be suspended until it makes its decision at a hearing on Sept. 1.

The court’s ruling extends beyond the initial case — dubbed “Coalgate” by the Indian media — in which the previous Congress party-led government was accused of costing the treasury hundreds of billions of dollars by selling or allocating about 155 coal blocks in 2004-09 without competitive bidding. A report by the country’s Comptroller and Auditor General leaked to the media in March 2012 estimated those losses to have been around $210 billion.

The scandal along with other high-profile cases of alleged corruption were seen as a key reason for the Congress party’s loss in this year’s elections to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s pro-business Bharatiya Janata Party.

The court said in its ruling Monday that between 1993 and 2010 there had been “no fair and transparent procedure” in the coal allocation process, “resulting in unfair distribution of the national wealth.”

“Common good and public interest have, thus, suffered heavily,” said the court, led by Chief Justice R.M. Lodha.

via Top India court says coal allocations were illegal – Businessweek.

26/08/2014

China’s Skyrocketing (Pet) Population – Businessweek

During a stint in the U.S. Army, Dennis Schenk worked alongside canine rescue units in the aftermath of a hurricane. He fell in love with dogs and decided he wanted to make them his career. He eventually got certified as a dog trainer by the International Association of Canine Professionals and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and in 2009 moved to China. Now he’s flown around the country by clients who pay him 500 yuan ($81) an hour to train their dogs to come and sit, and to treat them—the pets, not owners—for anxiety and aggression.

"Building a Beautiful Home for Your Pooch" (left); "The Most Beautiful Tail"

Cat and dog lovers are a relatively new breed in China. Up until the 1980s, keeping pet dogs was illegal in Beijing, because pets were considered to be a bourgeois affectation. Restrictions were loosened in the 1990s and early 2000s. (A height limit on dogs is still in place.) By 2012 the city had more than 1 million registered pet dogs, now served by more than 300 pet hospitals, according to the Beijing Small Animal Veterinary Association. China has become the third-largest pet market in the world, after the U.S. and Brazil, according to Euromonitor International, and is home to 27 million dogs and 11 million cats.

Maoist rhetoric hasn’t disappeared entirely. In early August the Communist Party-run People’s Daily ran an editorial decrying pet ownership as a “crude and ludicrous imitation [of a] Western lifestyle”—and argued that uncollected sidewalk poop disrupts “social peace and harmony.” In some cities, unwanted puppies are dumped on the street and become strays. The local press has reported cases of auxiliary police officers beating strays to death.

via China’s Skyrocketing (Pet) Population – Businessweek.

26/08/2014

Don’t Kidnap My Dog: An Animal Rights Movement Starts in China – Businessweek

In his book Citizen Canine (PublicAffairs, 2014), science writer David Grimm links the rise of the 19th century and early 20th century movement opposing “animal cruelty” in the U.S. to the then-novel practice of keeping dogs and cats as inside pets, enabled by such recent inventions as flea and tick medicines and kitty litter.

Dogs that were rounded up in Nanjing, China

China is still a place whose newspapers report that government employees beat unregistered dogs to death on the street and bury alive stray mongrels seen as nuisances. Meanwhile, China’s rising urban middle-class is increasingly embracing pet ownership, spending 7.84 billion yuan ($1.27 billion) on pet care in 2012. Beijing alone is home to more than 1 million pet dogs.

Deborah Cao, an expert on Chinese law at Griffith University in Australia, sees growing pet ownership in China as helping to create a base of middle-class support for anti-animal cruelty campaigns in the country. “There is much greater public concern today in most Chinese cities, especially among young and educated people,” she says. “That is what I called the emerging grassroots animal liberation movement. … I think it has to do with more people having pets, having more contact with animals. And for some it is related to spiritual beliefs, such as Buddhism.”

In a country where citizen groups face intense government scrutiny and often harassment, a recent series of volunteer (or even ad hoc) animal-rights campaigns has made headlines—and scored some surprising victories. Partially in response to citizen-led anti-animal cruelty campaigns, on June 30 China’s Food and Drug Administration ended requirements for mandatory animal testing of domestic cosmetics.

via Don’t Kidnap My Dog: An Animal Rights Movement Starts in China – Businessweek.

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