Archive for September, 2013


Xi Jinping hopes traditional faiths can fill moral void in China | South China Morning Post

President Xi Jinping believes China is losing its moral compass and he wants the ruling Communist Party to be more tolerant of traditional faiths in the hope these will help fill a vacuum created by the country’s breakneck growth and rush to get rich, sources said.


Xi, who grew up in Mao’s puritan China, is troubled by what he sees as the country’s moral decline and obsession with money, said three independent sources with ties to the leadership.

He hopes China’s “traditional cultures” or faiths – Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism – will help fill a void that has allowed corruption to flourish, the sources said.

Sceptics see it as a cynical move to try to curb rising social unrest and perpetuate one-party rule.

A monk in a temple in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province. President Xi Jinping wants the ruling Communist Party to be more tolerant of traditional faiths. Photo: Reuters

During the early years under Communism, China’s crime rate was low and corruption rare. By contrast, between 2008 and last year about 143,000 government officials – or an average of 78 a day – were convicted of graft or dereliction of duty, according to a Supreme Court report to parliament in March.

Xi intensified an anti-corruption campaign when he became party and military chief in November, but experts say only deep and difficult political reforms will make a difference.

Meanwhile, barely a day goes by without soul-searching on the internet over what some see as a moral numbness in China – whether it’s over graft, the rampant sale of adulterated food or incidents such as when a woman gouged out the eyes of her six-year-old nephew this month for unknown reasons.

“Xi understands that the anti-corruption (drive) can only cure symptoms and that reform of the political system and faiths are needed to cure the disease of corruption,” one of the sources told Reuters, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for discussing elite politics.

via Xi Jinping hopes traditional faiths can fill moral void in China | South China Morning Post.

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Chinese inspectors uncover widespread corruption in “shock and awe” probe | South China Morning Post

Ten teams of inspectors sent around the nation four months ago as part of the leadership’s anti-graft drive have wrapped up their field trips, finding “corruption problems” in most places they visited.


They inspected units in Chongqing, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Hubei and Guizhou, as well as the Ministry of Water Resources, the Import-Export Bank of China, the China Grain Reserves Corporation, Renmin University and the China Publishing Group.

The teams have provided feedback to the inspected bodies and alerted the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) to signs of possible corruption, according to a statement released on the official website run jointly by the CCDI and the Ministry of Supervision.

The central inspection teams aim to spot corruption and create an atmosphere of “shock and awe” [among officials] to curb rampant corruption, said Wang Qishan, China’s anticorruption tsar, before despatching the teams in mid-May.

The most eye-catching destination was Chongqing, still smarting from the upheavals of the downfall of its former party chief Bo Xilai . Bo was sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption and abuse of power.

In a comment about the new Chongqing municipal government, Xu Guangchun, head of the Fifth Central Inspection Team, said the municipality had failed to impose sufficient checks and supervision over its top leaders, and certain leading cadres did not have firm political beliefs and failed to reach moral standards.

Xu also warned about “corruption risks” in state-owned enterprises in the municipality, pointing to rampant “fly-style” corruption – committed by lower-ranking officials – within the organisations.

via Chinese inspectors uncover widespread corruption in “shock and awe” probe | South China Morning Post.


India and Pakistan Agree to Take Steps to Ease Tension –

India and Pakistan have agreed to take steps to reduce tension on the disputed part of their border, in a much-anticipated meeting that senior officials said made advances in the tense relations between these nuclear-armed neighbors.


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif met in New York on Sunday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The talks went better than expected, officials from both sides said.

A series of deadly events in the weeks leading to the discussions had heightened tensions in the countries’ already-fraught relationship.

Washington believes normalizing relations between India and Pakistan would help stabilize the region, as the hostility between the two countries feeds a detrimental competition for influence in Afghanistan. And Islamabad‘s concern over its eastern border with India prevents it from dealing with the al Qaeda-influenced militant groups that menace its northwest.

“There is clearly a desire from both sides to have a much better relationship,” said India’s national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon, briefing reporters after the meeting. “We have actually achieved a new stage; we do have some understanding on how to move forward.”

Earlier Pakistan Extends Olive Branch to India. Mr. Sharif, who came to power in June and has a history of pursuing peace with India, had asked for the meeting.

For his part, Mr. Singh has a record of defying hawks at home to reach out to Pakistan. But how far he can go is limited by elections his party faces in India next year. Any supposed softness on Pakistan will be exploited by his conservative opponents.

via India and Pakistan Agree to Take Steps to Ease Tension –

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Chinese pilgrims head for Saudi Arabia – China Daily

BEIJING – A total of 290 Chinese Muslims took off in a charter flight here for Saudi Arabia on Saturday evening for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, according to the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

English: A picture of people performing (circu...

English: A picture of people performing (circumambulating) the . This picture taken from the gate of Abdul Aziz seems to divide the Kaaba and the minarets into mirror images of one another. Français : Pélerins en train de réaliser la Circumambulation (ou Tawaf) autour de la Ka’ba. Photo prise depuis la porte Ibn Saud, d’où la vue présente une symétrie en miroir presque parfaite. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These passengers, coming from various regions including the provinces of Hubei, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Heilongjiang and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, marked the last group of more than 11,800 Chinese Muslims who have all left for this year’s pilgrimage, said a statement released Saturday by the administration.

The Mecca pilgrimage, also known as the Hajj, is a Muslim religious tradition that specifies that all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to travel to Saudi Arabia must visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime. According to the administration, professional medical experts were sent together with the pilgrim team to ensure the health of pilgrims.

via Chinese pilgrims head for Saudi Arabia |Society |

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Chinese police rescue 92 abducted children – BBC News

Chinese police have rescued 92 abducted children and held 301 suspected members of a huge trafficking network, the authorities say.

They say two women were also freed in an operation involving police forces in 11 provinces of the country.

The traffickers are believed to have targeted children in the south-western Yunnan and Sichuan provinces and then sold them in other regions.

Child-trafficking has become a serious problem in China, correspondents say.

Critics blame the country’s one-child policy and lax adoption laws, which they say have created a thriving underground market for buying children.

Some families buy trafficked women and children to use as extra labour and household servants, as well as brides for unmarried sons.

Last year, more than 24,000 abducted women and children were freed in China, according to the public security ministry.

It said that some of those kidnapped had been sold for adoption or forced into prostitution.

Greater freedom of movement as a result of China’s economic reforms is thought to have made it easier for trafficking gangs to operate.

via BBC News – Chinese police rescue 92 abducted children.


Xi Jinping tightens his grip with echoes of Chairman Mao at his worst

The Times: “Xi Jinping has marked his first half-year as President of China by resurrecting some of the finest leadership traditions of the late Chairman Mao: public humiliation, political backstabbing and crackling paranoia between officials.

Mao Zedong (1893-1976) leader of chinese communist party

The campaign, which was given a test-run in Hebei province yesterday under the glare of Mr Xi himself, involves a revival of the widely despised “criticism and self-criticism” drives established in the post-revolutionary 1950s.

The unbearably tense sessions, which force officials to decry their own shortcomings before highlighting the faults of their closest colleagues, have been given a makeover for the early 21st century and rebranded as “Democratic Life Meetings”.

But they have lost none of their old edge. Though nominally cast as a way to bring operational problems to light, the sessions were always intended to enforce discipline. The return of the practice comes as Mr Xi appears to be channelling key tracts of rhetoric and ideology from Mao Zedong.

In his first six months at China’s helm, the new President has intensified a Mao-style control of information, he has unabashedly allowed critics of the regime to be rounded up, he has called for Mao-style indoctrination for school children and told regional officials that “revolutionary history is the best nutrition for Communists”.

Even his much vaunted anti-corruption campaign has drawn on the vocabulary employed by Mao: Mr Xi has asserted the need to bring down both the “tigers” and “flies” of corrupt officialdom in a direct echo of comments by Chairman Mao six decades ago.

Hu Xingdou, a political economist at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said that while Mr Xi’s economic policies were in the mould of the great reformer Deng Xiaoping, the new leader was a Maoist when it came politics.

The criticism sessions, which could be rolled out to affect tens of thousands of senior officials across the country, are part of Mr Xi’s reference to the overtly Maoist leadership model known as the “mass line” that seeks to focus policy on the needs of ordinary Chinese.

“At the moment, the ruling party feels it needs Maoism, and it is hard to say whether it is Xi’s own idea or not. There are too many social contradictions in China and the Party does need some type of authority in order to rule, otherwise the boat will overturn,” he said.

The latest round of criticism and self criticism sessions were conducted among the top echelon of Communist Party officials in Hebei: the 12-member provincial standing committee.

With a shirt-sleeved and unsmiling, Mr Xi quietly taking notes, and with state-run television cameras rolling, the party secretary of Hebei, Zhou Benshun, condemned a senior colleague’s personal ambition and her consuming need to look good in the eyes of supervisors. This misguided focus, he said, would lead to the local government “doing something irrelevant to the public interest”.

Obliged then to come up with a genuine set of personal failings of his own. Mr Zhou had to list his foibles as the most powerful man in Asia glowered inches away from him.

“I have not done enough to orient my achievements around ordinary people’s interests,” he said. “Sometimes my policy making is too subjective and carried out without a deep knowledge of the people. I haven’t been practical enough in my ideology. My fighting sprit is slack and my drive to work hard is falling away.”

His blunt appraisals were merely the opening gambit in a session in which nobody escaped criticism – much of it openly tailored to Mr Xi’s previous tirades against formalism, waste and corruption.

As the accusations flew, one member was accused of being too impatient, another said that the committee generally issued too many documents. With possibly negative implications for his career, the local head of the disciplinary inspection commission was accused by colleagues of underplaying the importance of punishment.

Several offered up broad condemnations of waste in the province, pointing out that Hebei had spent Rmb3.3 million (£335,000) hiring celebrities to sing and dance at the New Year Evening Gala in February.

Sun Ruibin’s self criticism, meanwhile, appeared carefully attuned to the public disgust at corrupt officials. “As a municipal party secretary I was given a big cross-country 4×4 car,” he said. “I felt perfectly at ease about it, although it was in clear violation of rules and regulations.”

In its write-up of the Hebei sessions, Chinese state media quoted a senior Hebei official who, perhaps unsurprisingly, felt that the revival of the criticism and self-criticism seminars was a good thing.

“After we were promoted and were officials for a long time … we started feeling good and arrogant,” he said, “We began just glancing at ‘shop fronts’ and rarely checking out ‘the backyards’ and ‘corners’ during inspection trips.””

via Xi Jinping tightens his grip with echoes of Chairman Mao at his worst | The Times.


Post Rahul wrap, Congress takes a U-turn

The Hindu: “Party hints at withdrawal of the controversial measure.

With Rahul Gandhi slamming the ordinance against disqualification of convicted lawmakers, the government is expected to take back the controversial measure, the Congress indicated on Friday.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addresses a press conference as party general secretary Ajay Maken looks on, in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

“Rahulji’s opinion is the opinion and the line of Congress… Now Congress party is opposed to this ordinance. The views of the Congress party should always be supreme,” party general secretary and communication department in-charge Ajay Maken said when asked about the fate of the ordinance in the wake of Mr. Gandhi’s views and whether it is likely to be withdrawn.

The Congress clearly appeared flummoxed by Mr. Gandhi’s stand as Mr. Maken, at a meet-the-press programme at the Delhi Press Club, completely backtracked from his statement praising the ordinance as “perfect”, made minutes before the party vice-president took the stage and denounced the measure calling it “complete nonsense” and “wrong” on the part of the government.

Mr. Maken sidestepped questions on whether Mr. Gandhi’s remarks meant a “rebellion” against the government or a public snub to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government.

“Rahul Gandhi is our leader. His views are views of the Congress party. The situation with any issue evolves with time and it has evolved and no one should have any objection to it,” he merely said in reply to such questions.

“What Rahul Gandhi said is the most important thing… that this ordinance will not help us fight corruption. He is our leader and I think this is our official political stand. Rahulji’s opinion is the opinion and the line of Congress… Now Congress party is opposed to this ordinance,” he said.”

via Post Rahul wrap, Congress takes a U-turn – The Hindu.


China in space: How long a reach?

The Economist: “THE Soviet Union in 1961. The United States in 1962. China in 2003. It took a long time for a taikonaut to join the list of cosmonauts and astronauts who have gone into orbit around Earth and (in a few cases) ventured beyond that, to the Moon. But China has now arrived as a space power, and one mark of this has been the International Astronautical Federation’s decision to hold its 64th congress in Beijing.

The congress, which is attended by representatives of all the world’s space agencies, from America and Russia to Nigeria and Syria, is a place where eager boffins can discuss everything from the latest in rocket design and the effects of microgravity on the thyroid to how best an asteroid might be mined and how to weld metal for fuel tanks.

All useful stuff, of course. But space travel has never been just about the science. It is also an arm of diplomacy, and so the congress serves too as a place where officials can exchange gossip and announce their plans.

And that was just what Ma Xingrui, the head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and thus, in effect, the congress’s host, did. He confirmed that an unmanned lunar mission, Chang’e 3, will be launched in the first half of December. This means, if all goes well, that before the year is out a Chinese rover will roam the surface of the Moon. It will collect and analyse samples of lunar regolith (the crushed rock on the Moon’s surface that passes for soil there). It will make some ultraviolet observations of stars. And it will serve to remind the world that China intends—or at least says it intends—to send people to the Moon sometime soon as well.

Mr Ma also confirmed that China plans to build a permanent space station by 2020. Such manned stations are expensive and scientifically useless, as the example of the largely American International Space Station (ISS), currently in orbit, eloquently demonstrates. But they do have diplomatic uses, and that was why Mr Ma reiterated in his speech that foreign guests will be welcome on board his station—in contradistinction to the ISS’s rather pointed ban on taikonauts—though any visitors will first have to learn Chinese. What he did not do, though, was comment on the aspect of China’s space programme that most concerns outsiders, namely exactly how militarised it is.”

via China in space: How long a reach? | The Economist.

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Big reform plans for China’s newest trade zone set high expectations

Reuters: “China has formally announced detailed plans for a new free-trade zone (FTZ) in Shanghai, touted as the country’s biggest potential economic reform since Deng Xiaoping used a similar zone in Shenzhen to pry open a closed economy to trade in 1978.

The sunrise rises over the skyline of Lujiazui financial district of Pudong in Shanghai September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

In an announcement on Friday from the State Council, or cabinet, China said it will open up its largely sheltered services sector to foreign competition in the zone and use it as a testbed for bold financial reforms, including a convertible yuan and liberalized interest rates. Economists consider both areas key levers for restructuring the world’s second-largest economy and putting it on a more sustainable growth path.

No specific timeline was given for implementing any of the reforms, though these should be carried out within 2-3 years, it said, adding financial liberalization may depend on adequate risk controls. Chinese state media have cautioned that dramatic financial reforms are unlikely this year.

An executive at a foreign multinational in Shanghai said his firm was waiting for more clarity. “Is this Shenzen 2.0 heralding the beginning of a new era in trade, or a flash in the pan to simply boost economic confidence?””

via Big reform plans for China’s newest trade zone set high expectations | Reuters.


China and the Third Industrial Revolution


Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and best-selling author of The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, ( ) just finished a two-week-long first visit to China, where he met with local and national officials, laying out his vision of a post-petroleum, Internet-connected world.

Jeremy Rifkin

Rifkin came to the attention of Chinese policymakers late last year, after the official Xinhua News Agencyreported that Premier Li Keqiang is a fan of his writings; Li has instructed top economic planning and strategy officials to read Rifkin’s books.

 The Third Industrial Revolution, whose Chinese edition sold more than 300,000 copies, predicts a future where renewable energy replaces fossil fuels, power is produced individually on millions of buildings on every continent, and transportation is converted to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles. Surplus energy will be exchanged over the Internet, cutting waste and boosting economic productivity, Rifkin writes. Bloomberg Businessweek caught up with the peripatetic author on Sept. 23 for an interview at Beijing’s Grand Hotel overlooking Tiananmen Square, just before his departure from China.

 Can you explain the challenge the global economy is facing and what needs to be done?

The second industrial revolution is clearly in sunset. The fossil fuels energies have matured, and they are getting more expensive. The global markets for fossil fuels are completely volatile.

 To exacerbate the problem, we are in these five-year cycles of growth and slowdown. [Last time] it started when oil hit $147 a barrel in July 2008. And what happened is purchasing power shut down all over the world because everything relies on oil. That was the earthquake and the shutdown in the global economy in 2008. The collapse of the financial markets 60 days later was the aftershock.

Now what has happened is the developing world has come into the game with a third of the human race. So every time we try to replenish inventories, we grow, and when we hit that zone of $122 to $140 per barrel, the price of oil forces all the other prices up, and purchasing power slows down. So we are in a second slowdown right now.

We need a new economic vision for the world. And it has to be compelling and a game plan that is deliverable. And it has to move as quickly in the developing countries as in the developed nations. We have to be off carbon in 30 years. The elephant is climate change. It is looking very dire at this point.

Can you describe a post-fossil-fuel third industrial revolution?

Renewable energies are found everywhere: the sun, the wind, heat under the ground, biomass, the ocean tides and waves. All of these energies are found in some frequency in every square inch of the planet, unlike coal, gas, or uranium, which are elite, require huge military and geopolitical investments, and a hell of a lot of capital.

Ten years from now we will have tens of millions of buildings around the world producing some small amount of green electricity. In 20 years we will have several hundred million buildings, and China will be the big player with Europe in this.

As the technology scales in [for renewables] it is getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper, and it is following a similar build-out as computers and cell phones, in getting cheaper and cheaper.

Once you install the technology, the sun is free and the wind is free. So is the heat under the ground from the geothermal heat power. Just as we’ve gotten to near marginal zero cost [for information] with the Internet, as we move to these micro power plants, the actual energy is already at near zero marginal cost.

Why do you think your ideas resonate in China?

China has a number of agendas. China has to come up with a new economic reform plan under the new leadership. Secondly it has to urbanize the country. Third it has to bring western China up to par with its eastern part. And finally, it has to deal with the pollution that is literally killing its people.

To create a good Chinese Dream [a phrase popularized by Party Secretary Xi Jinping] for everyone, China has to knock out fossil fuels, because they are killing off this country. And China is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Many of the people I have spoken to said something along these lines: We missed the first industrial revolution totally. We missed almost all of the second industrial revolution. China came in during the last 15 years as it has sunsetted. So they have copied a revolution that is now on life support. China is determined to lead a third industrial revolution.

Why will China play a leading role in the third industrial revolution?

China has three assets that could position it, along with Europe, to be the leader of the third industrial revolution. Remember, Britain created the first industrial revolution because it had a lot of coal and it invented the steam engine to manage it. The United States created the second industrial revolution because it had lots of oil in Texas and Oklahoma, and we had the internal combustion engine and Henry Ford’s car.

China is ideally suited for the third industrial revolution because it has the most ample reserves of renewable energy resources in the world. It has the most solar radiance, most wind of any major country, off its coast. It has massive amounts of geothermal heat under the ground. It has massive amounts of biomass from its rural, agricultural areas. It is more than the Saudi Arabia of renewable energies. It can provide for every man, woman, and child here until kingdom come.

Asset No. 2, China has a social market economy like Europe. This is a huge asset. Infrastructure requires a social market economy. Infrastructure is something the government has to do and work with the business community to build it out. There is no example in the history of the world where infrastructure was put in by the private market.

The marketplace does not create public goods, so it is absurd to think companies will do it. You can not create the third industrial revolution if your entire business, investment, and financial community is focused on three-month quarterly statements. China is extremely comfortable with the government having this role and with long-term planning. In China they have five-year plans.

And the last asset: China has the cultural DNA to lead a third industrial revolution. In the West, our religious and philosophical tradition is that nature is the enemy, God has anointed us as masters, and we shall have dominion over nature. We exploit it.

Confucius completely parted with that. He said the meaning of the human journey is to extend empathy. And he said human beings are not separate from nature—we are part of nature. The key to the evolution of the human journey is finding a balance and harmony between humanity and nature.

This is China’s cultural DNA. It may not be practiced every day, but it is inside the DNA. And finally, no one wants in 30 to 40 years to be knee-deep in coal. If that is the case, they know they won’t be a great power.

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