21/07/2014

To No End: Why China’s Corruption Crackdown Won’t Be Stopping Soon – China Real Time Report – WSJ

One major question hovering over China’s anti-corruption campaign – already the longest the country has ever seen — is when it’s going to wind down.

According to anti-corruption czar Wang Qishan, who briefed fellow officials on the campaign last week (in Chinese), it won’t be any time soon.

And the major reason for that may well be that Beijing hasn’t yet figured out how to end it.

Wang laid out the anti-corruption strategy in unusual detail during these meetings, supplying a road map that outlined where the campaign had been and where it’s now headed (in Chinese).

Beijing’s anti-graft crusade isn’t just a one-off initiative, but an extended battle which began last year, taking down, as President Xi promised, both high-ranking “tigers” and lower-level “flies.”

And it’s accelerating.  According to an analysis that appeared on the website of the People’s Daily earlier this month, from January to May this year, Wang’s inspection teams disciplined 62,953 people, an increase of 34.7% over the same period the previous year (in Chinese).

In his briefing last week, Wang conceded that the campaign didn’t start all that well.  Indeed, in the early stages of the campaign, Wang said, the sense among his inspection teams was that corruption was buried so deep within China’s political marrow that it couldn’t be defeated, only deterred from growing.  Party officials were only too comfortable with political business as usual, where bribes and personal connections overrode considerations of actual talent when it came to selecting and promoting cadres.

“Some localities and departments, as well as some party organizations saw the pursuit of honest government as not their main responsibility,” Wang said, adding that the only option at that point was to “not allow corrupt elements to gain a foothold” in the few institutions where corruption was not already omnipresent.

The tide turned, he said, when cadres were finally given political cover by Beijing to report on their comrades engaging in corruption, especially those selling access to government officials and offering bribes for promotion.  That routine had become worrisome to Beijing because unqualified and immoral officials were becoming policy-makers.

Moreover, Wang argued, by focusing on specific areas known to be rife with graft—such as land development and real estate projects, mining rights, and public welfare funds—inspectors showed skeptics and potential targets that this campaign was a serious effort to rollback misconduct.

So what’s next?

That’s the tricky part.  Punishing corruption is one thing; preventing its reemergence could be a far-greater problem.  As one Chinese analyst admitted despondently in the pages of the People’s Daily (in Chinese), unless the system is thoroughly reformed, there’s a good chance that “the rot will come back.”

Continuing to press hard against corruption seems to make sense if Beijing’s expanding fight against graft is finally starting to show success and developing the party’s legitimacy as a problem-solver on issues that matter to the masses. But there’s also concern about just how much longer the campaign can be maintained when, as the analysis above notes, there is “a danger of overdoing something, leaving some people in a constant state of anxiety.”

Fear is evidently freezing some officials from becoming more actively engaged in supporting Xi’s call for changes in how the government operates—a passivity that has led to complaints in the Party media (in Chinese).

And there’s a greater danger:  That this effort to tear down corruption is simply dealing with the existing problems and not doing anything about building a new way of decision-making.

As a leading Chinese commentator on the current leadership’s policies put it in the same People’s Daily essay, the real need is “to create a good political environment, allowing officials to devote oneself, heart and soul, to do things, and not focus on the small circle of relationships one has with one’s superiors, doing always what one is told to do.”

That’s an attractive vision, but one that would require a major restructuring of politics in China.

via To No End: Why China’s Corruption Crackdown Won’t Be Stopping Soon – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

20/07/2014

Seven People Attempt Suicide Protesting Illegal Land Seizures – Businessweek

On Wednesday morning at about 8:10 a.m., seven people who had traveled together to Beijing from southeastern Jiangsu province met outside the offices of the China Youth Daily newspaper. They carried with them black bottles containing pesticides, which they opened and quickly drank.

Seven People Attempt Suicide Protest in Beijing Over Illegal Land Seizures

In rural China, consuming pesticides is one of the most common methods of suicide; the seven chose this as an act of desperate protest. Petition papers that lay askew, near where the five men and two women fell unconscious on the pavement, indicate that the group had come to Beijing to petition national authorities to intervene over land seizures and forced demolitions in their hometown.

Photos of the seven lying on the ground, all wearing white t-shirts, were distributed widely over Chinese social media. Soon police and ambulances arrived, and the victims were taken to local hospitals. According to China newspaper reports, they remained alive and in stable condition as of Thursday evening.

via Seven People Attempt Suicide Protesting Illegal Land Seizures – Businessweek.

20/07/2014

China, Brazil close plane, finance, infrastructure deals | Reuters

In a raft of energy, finance and industry accords signed before presidents Xi Jinping and Dilma Rousseff, the two nations agreed to join forces to build railways to help Brazil cut its infrastructure deficit and feed China’s appetite for commodities.

English: Official photo of President Rousseff,...

English: Official photo of President Rousseff, taken by official photographer, at Alvorada Palace on January 9th, 2011. Français : Photo de Dilma Rousseff, prise par un photographe officiel, dans le Palácio da Alvorada le 9 janvier, 2011. Português: Foto oficial da presidente Dilma Rousseff feita no Palácio do Alvorada no dia 9 de janeiro de 2011 pelo fotografo oficial. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trade between China and Brazil soared to $83.3 billion last year from $3.2 billion in 2002, with iron ore, soy and oil making up the bulk of Brazilian exports, making China the South American nation’s biggest trade partner.

China’s Eximbank extended a $5 billion credit line to Vale to buy ships and equipment from Chinese companies, but there was no mention of a solution to an impasse over China’s refusal to allow giant, bulk iron ore carriers used by Vale SA to dock at Chinese ports.

In a sign of deepening financial ties between the two members of the BRICs bloc of emerging nations, the China Construction Bank formalized acquisition of 72 percent of Brazilian mid-size lender Banco Industrial e Comercial SA, a 1.62 billion real deal agreed in October.

Xi visited Brasilia after a BRICS summit that set up a new $100 billion development bank, to be based in Shanghai, that will fund infrastructure projects, providing developing nations with an alternative source of funding to Western-dominated multilateral financial institutions.

via China, Brazil close plane, finance, infrastructure deals | Reuters.

20/07/2014

China appoints special envoy for Afghanistan | Reuters

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it had appointed a special envoy for Afghanistan, underscoring Beijing’s concerns that the withdrawal of NATO troops will leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep.

English: US Army map of Afghanistan -- circa 2...

English: US Army map of Afghanistan — circa 2001-09. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sun Yuxi, a former ambassador to both Afghanistan and India, has been named to the new position and will have “close communication” with Afghanistan and other relevant parties, the ministry said in a statement.

“China and Afghanistan are traditional friendly neighbors. China pays great attention to developments in Afghanistan and is committed to deepening both countries’ strategic partnership, and so decided to appoint a special envoy,” it added.

via China appoints special envoy for Afghanistan | Reuters.

17/07/2014

Ex-Mongolia party officer gets life imprisonment for taking millions in bribes | South China Morning Post

A mainland regional official was sentenced to life imprisonment today for bribe-taking, a court said, the first high-ranking bureaucrat to be jailed in the corruption crackdown overseen by President Xi Jinping.

afp_emblem_wangsuyi-0717-1.jpg

Wang Suyi, 53, was last year removed from his post as chief of the Communist party’s United Front Work Department in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, an agency that liaises between the ruling organisation and non-communist groups.

He was convicted of bribery and sentenced to life in prison by the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing, the court said on its official account on Weibo.

He was charged with taking more than 10.73 million yuan (HK$13.5 million) in bribes between 2005 and last year in exchange for securing business deals for companies and promotions for individuals, earlier local media reports said.

Wang was the first official to face criminal trial among the 40 of vice-ministerial or higher rank investigated since China’s once-in-a-decade power transition in 2012 that anointed Xi as chief of the ruling Communist Party, according to the reports.

The South China Morning Post previously quoted a senior editor with a regional party newspaper as saying that Wang’s mistresses accused him of taking 100 million yuan in bribes, and of nepotism involving about 30 relatives.

Xi took office as president last year and has vowed to root out corrupt officials, warning that graft could destroy the ruling party.

Corruption causes widespread public anger in China and the drive has been widely touted.

At least 10 mainland provinces have launched investigations to track down so-called “naked officials”, those whose relatives have moved abroad, and the party is increasingly punishing members on charges of “adultery”, as it tries to clean up cadres’ reputation for corruption and womanising.

But critics say no systemic reforms have been introduced to combat it, while citizen activists calling for such measures have been jailed on public order offences.

via Ex-Mongolia party officer gets life imprisonment for taking millions in bribes | South China Morning Post.

17/07/2014

With Tensions Rising, Japanese Investment in China Plummets – Businessweek

Another consequence of the worsening Sino-Japanese relations: Japanese investment into China dropped by nearly half in the first six month of 2014, according to a new report by China’s Ministry of Commerce. As recently a 2012, Japanese investment posted growth of 16.3 percent, reaching $7.28 billion. The decline actually started last year, with a 4.3 percent drop.

Zhang Jifeng, director of the Japanese economy department in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the China Daily that Japan’s entrepreneurs are “waiting and watching.” He added: ”They’re profoundly aware of the connection between the political climate and their commercial performance [in China]. They don’t want to put their assets at risk.”

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China and Japan are in a dispute over the ownership of the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe further angered Beijing in December when he visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, a temple that honors Japanese soldiers but also its war criminals. Earlier this month Japan’s cabinet passed a resolution reinterpreting its pacifist constitution so its military can defend its allies.

via With Tensions Rising, Japanese Investment in China Plummets – Businessweek.

17/07/2014

Chinese Searchers Are Rallied After Giant Yellow Duck Goes Missing – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Lost: one giant yellow rubber duck, last seen on a river in southwestern China.

A 54-foot tall inflated duck, the trademark creation of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, is on the run after disappearing from a river in China’s southwestern Guiyang city, where it was being displayed for locals.

On Wednesday evening, after floating peacefully for a couple weeks, the duck was lashed by a heavy storm. “The duck flopped over and was flushed away really quickly by the torrential flood. It disappeared right in front of me in several seconds,” Yan Jianxin, who helped coordinate the duck exhibition on behalf of a local company, told China Real Time.

In recent days, floods have hit cities in central and southwestern China, killing at least 32 and displacing tens of thousands. Still, given the size of the duck, some were surprised it too was susceptible.

“The duck itself weighed around one ton, together with its over 10-ton floating metal platform, and several steel wires fixing it to the bottom of the river,” said Mr. Yan. All those preparations, though, “didn’t stop it from being flushed away by the flood.”

So far, Mr. Yan’s duck hunt hasn’t achieved anything yet. But other locals have also joined in the search, with one local radio station urging people on Weibo to step up the hunt, saying, “If you live along the river and see an 18-meter tall big yellow duck, please call 5961027.”

“This never happened in the duck’s tour history,” said Yu-Mei Sung, marketing specialist from Blue Dragon, a Taipei-based art company which she said is responsible for facilitating the tour of Mr. Hofman’s duck throughout China.

“Mr. Hofman feels very sorry about what happened in Guiyang and he hopes people are safe and all the damage will be repaired very soon,” Blue Dragon added in a later statement.

A back-up duck order from an authorized Taiwan maker is on the way and is expected to arrive in two days, just in case the missing one is never found or is unrepairable when found, according to Ms. Sung.

This isn’t the first time Mr. Hofman’s duck has suffered hiccups in China. Last May, the giant duck deflated into a forlorn yellow puddle during its exhibition in Hong Kong, prompting an anguished outcry across social media around the world.

via Chinese Searchers Are Rallied After Giant Yellow Duck Goes Missing – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

17/07/2014

Four of every 10 Asians living with HIV are Indian – U.N. report – India Insight

India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians accounting for four of every 10 people infected in Asia, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday.

People walk near a red ribbon sand sculpture created by Indian sand artist Patnaik on the eve of World AIDS Day in Odisha

The epidemic has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected worldwide since it began in the 1980s, the U.N. AIDS programme said, adding that the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising around 35 million.

Here are some facts and figures on India from the report:

India accounted for 51 percent of AIDS-related deaths in Asia in 2013 and 8 percent of deaths worldwide.

via India Insight.

17/07/2014

Indian eatery run by murder convicts praised for politeness, hygiene – India Insight

As India’s capital baked under a heat wave this month, banker Gaurav Gupta sat down for lunch at a new air-conditioned restaurant, and was greeted by a smiling waiter who offered him chilled water and took his order — a traditional “thali” meal of flatbread, lentils, vegetables, rice and pickle.

Nothing unusual, except that the employee, like most of his co-workers, is a convicted murderer serving time in South Asia’s largest prison complex.

“Tihar Food Court” on Jail Road in west Delhi is part of a wide range of reform and rehabilitation initiatives undertaken at the Tihar prison. It opened in the first week of July on an “experimental basis” while waiting for formal clearances, and is located half a kilometre from the prisoners’ dormitories.

With a spacious interior lined with gleaming wooden tables and walls adorned with paintings by prisoners, the 50-seat restaurant is coming in for praise from customers, especially for being clean and for the polite behaviour of its employees, who were trained by the Delhi Institute of Hotel Management, an autonomous body under the state government.

“The food is average. But the hygiene factor is really good, very clean. And it’s a good thing they are employing prisoners,” said Gaurav Gupta.

via India Insight.

16/07/2014

Hope floats for Delhi’s e-rickshaws after minister’s backing – India Insight

The office of the New Arcana India e-rickshaw company is not easy to find. It is in a nondescript building nestled among other nondescript buildings in West Subhash Nagar, a middle-class neighbourhood of New Delhi.

If enthusiasm showed up on a map, it would be hard to miss the place. Inside on a recent Thursday, a meeting of Delhi’s Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association was in session. Steaming cups of tea were being handed out to members, mostly manufacturers of battery-operated rickshaws.

There are an estimated 100,000 such “e-rickshaws” working Delhi’s streets. Introduced in 2010 and operated by unlicensed drivers, they are a less environmentally harmful and cheap way to get around the city compared to traditional gas-powered autorickshaws and cars that are too expensive for many people to buy. They’re also easier on the operators than pulling a traditional rickshaw or riding a bicycle taxi. But transportation officials nearly made driving e-rickshaws illegal earlier this year in a bid to curb nightmarish traffic congestion and reckless driving.

via India Insight.

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