Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

14/04/2017

Tiger toffs: China’s elite boarding schools | The Economist

CHINESE parents pride themselves on the importance they attach to education; it is, they say, the most important gift they can bestow on the next generation.

That makes them all the more willing to shell out, if they can afford it, on expensive boarding schools which they believe will enable their children to concentrate fully on their studies. Poor families in the countryside pack their children off to board, too. But that is because they have no choice: daily commuting would be too expensive or arduous. In the cities, boarding schools are usually far grander. Attending them is more a badge of privilege than evidence of pragmatism.There is considerable demand for such urban schools. In many rich countries, parents often fret about sending their children away to board, partly because of the high cost and partly because these days many parents prefer to have their children with them. In China, by contrast, it is considered very normal for a couple to live apart from their child (they usually only have one). For urban boarders, the distance is seldom great: parents usually send their children to schools very close to where they live.

Boarding school offers an alternative to foisting a child on grandparents, which parents often do, sometimes for days on end. It may be costly, but parents reckon that such schools can do more to help children study after class than the elders can at home. In a country where siblings are so rare, many also see communal living as good for their offspring. Some 3.5m children now board in cities, around 4% of the urban school population. The vast majority of them do so at high school (8% of secondary-school pupils board, compared with 1% of primary schoolers).

A few of the boarding schools court the country’s elite by offering to prepare children for admission to universities abroad (in China, foreign education is another much-desired symbol of privilege). The redbrick quadrangle of the recently built Keystone Academy in a suburb of Beijing resembles a boarding school in New England. The institution’s annual boarding fee of 360,000 yuan ($52,000) is higher than tuition at Harvard University.

But the most expensive boarding schools may have had their heyday. Many parents with that much cash to spare would often prefer to send their children to board abroad: enrolments in American and British boarding schools are rising fast. Social trends are also changing. A wife who can afford not to work—and who has time to parent a child—is increasingly seen as someone who enjoys high status: traditional gender roles are making a comeback. In 2014 Yin Jianli, a popular author and former teacher, included an essay entitled “Boarding is a Bad System” in a book she wrote about education. It argued that if dorm-life really fostered the “sense of collectivism” that its proponents claim, then children from orphanages would score top marks. She said that mothers should be more involved in child-rearing.

For ordinary middle-class parents, less fancy state-run boarding schools are becoming more affordable: often they cost only a few thousand yuan a year. But even their future may be threatened. President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft drive is making it harder to secure a place in the best ones by using the once common methods of paying backhanders and pulling strings. These days having a child at a good state boarding-school can be a sign of corruption. No one wants that badge.

Source: Tiger toffs: China’s elite boarding schools | The Economist

07/04/2017

Prestigious Chinese university to open campus in Oxford despite ideological crackdown at home | South China Morning Post

One of China’s top universities is preparing to open a campus at the heart of British academic life, just months after President Xi Jinping called for Chinese universities to be transformed into strongholds of Communist party rule.

Peking University, an elite Beijing institution where Mao Zedong once worked as a librarian, will open a branch of its HSBC Business School in Oxford early next year, financial magazine Caixin reported on Thursday.

The school is setting up camp in Foxcombe Hall, which it recently purchased for a reported £8.8 million (US$11.97 million). The 19th century manor was home to the eighth earl of Berkeley.

Peking University said courses at its Oxford campus, which is not connected to the University of Oxford, would focus on “professional knowledge of China’s economy, financial market and corporate management”.

Wen Hai, its dean, said Peking University had beaten off competition from three rivals, including an unnamed Oxford college, by offering a “very tempting price” that left the sellers “little room to say ‘no’”.

Wen said the university had been able to do so thanks to its close ties to China’s Communist Party. Those connections allowed it to “to expedite the transfer of money transfer needed for the acquisition” despite tight capital controls imposed by Beijing in an attempt to stop firms and citizens shifting large sums of money overseas.

Last summer’s vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, which has seen the pound plummet against the Chinese yuan, will also have helped the buyers.

Caixin said the university’s decision to expand into the “city of dreaming spires” came as Beijing pondered ambitious plans to boost the global standing of China’s top universities. Peking University, currently ranked the world’s 29th best university, had been handed billions of yuan by the government to “improve its research facilities and recruit teaching staff from top universities abroad to boost its international profile”, it said.

International schools in China attract more pupils

Prestigious British schools have set their sights on mainland China over the last 15 years with public schools including Harrow, Dulwich College and Wellington all opening spin-offs. British universities have also made moves into the mainland, where it is now possible to study at campuses operated by the University of Nottingham and the University of Liverpool. Last month the University of Leicester said it would open a campus in the north-eastern province of Liaoning.

Peking University described its Oxford campus, designed for students from both Europe and China, as “a bold step” and “an important milestone for the development of China’s higher education, given its inferior position globally over the past century”.

“It is our hope that the new initiative in Oxford will further strengthen the school’s international reputation as well as its teaching and research capabilities,” Lin Jianhua, its president, said in a statement.

The acquisition comes a few months after Xi, whom liberal scholars accuse of presiding over a severe clampdown on freedom of expression, declared Chinese universities should be party “strongholds”.China’s top colleges to face ideological inspections

Echoing a 1932 speech by Joseph Stalin, Xi called teachers “engineers of the human soul” whose “sacred mission” was to help students “improve in ideological quality [and] political awareness”.

Mainland China now has two universities in the world’s top 40, according to the Times Higher Education rankings. Even so, senior Communist party leaders have looked abroad to educate their offspring.

Xi Jinping’s daughter, Xi Mingze, studied at Harvard while Bo Guagua, the son of jailed party chief Bo Xilai, studied PPE at Balliol in Oxford where he built a reputation as an inveterate party animal.

“[It was like when] you take the cork out of a champagne bottle and it explodes for a bit,” Andrew Graham, the college’s former master, told the BBC in a recent series about the scandal-hit Bo family.

Source: Prestigious Chinese university to open campus in Oxford despite ideological crackdown at home | South China Morning Post

07/04/2017

Gujarat: India state approves life term for killing cows – BBC News

The western Indian state of Gujarat has passed a law making the slaughter of cows punishable with life imprisonment.

Under an amendment to the state’s Animal Preservation Act, those found guilty of transporting beef will also be jailed for 10 years.

The cow is considered sacred by India’s Hindu majority, and killing cows is illegal in many states.

But the new amendment means Gujarat now has the toughest laws on the issue in the country.

Offenders will face heavy fines, as well as time behind bars. The penalty for either act has been doubled from 50,000 rupees ($771; £618) to 100,000 rupees.

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Gujarat Minister of State Pradipsinh Jadeja told reporters that the cow was a symbol of Indian culture and the amendments to the act had been made “in consultation with the people”.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has also spoken repeatedly of “harsh” punishment for those who kill cows.

The new laws will come into effect from Saturday.

Source: Gujarat: India state approves life term for killing cows – BBC News

22/03/2017

Children dead in China school toilet stampede – BBC News

A stampede at a primary school in central China has left two children dead and 20 injured, state media said.Xinhua news agency said students were crowded into a toilet during the morning break in Puyang when others began pushing their way in.

Another report in a Chinese newspaper claimed the toilet’s wall collapsed from the pressure of the crush.All the injured have been taken to hospital, where some are reported to be in a serious condition.

Puyang county’s government told the Associated Press the incident was under investigation, but declined to provide further details.

It happened at the Number Three Experimental Primary School in Puyang county in Henan province on Wednesday morning.

Similar deadly incidents have happened before.Six children died and 25 were injured in a stampede on a school staircase in South West China in 2014.

Source: Children dead in China school toilet stampede – BBC News

17/03/2017

New rules, new dodges: Chinese football clubs are struggling with new curbs on foreign players | The Economist

MUCH grumbling accompanied the start on March 4th of this year’s season of the Chinese Super League (CSL), the uppermost tier of professional football in China. Managers of its 16 clubs have been gnashing their teeth at a change of rules which was suddenly announced just a few weeks before the first matches. Teams are now allowed to field a maximum of three foreigners.The clubs would have preferred more notice. Many of them have only just acquired even more foreign players. All now have at least four, the previous maximum per side in any CSL game. (One of them, a Brazilian called Oscar, is pictured in a CSL match—he was transferred to Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea, an English club, for £60m, or about $75m, in December.)

Last year China spent more than $450m on footballers, the fifth-largest such outlay by any country.

But all this money has not improved the dismal state of Chinese football. The men’s national team ranks 82nd in the world. In October an embarrassing 1-0 defeat to war-torn Syria triggered protests by hundreds of fans in the city of Xi’an where the match was played. Local media say the Chinese Football Association announced its new rules on orders “from above”. They impose a levy on big transfers and demand that one-sixth of clubs’ spending must be on youth training.

Officials have also been trying to curb the buying of stakes in foreign clubs—Chinese investors shelled out about $2bn on them last year. The government says this is part of an economy-wide clampdown on currency outflows. But it also wants to make the point that foreign talent won’t necessarily help China’s. The government has recently scuppered several investment deals. A Chinese consortium bought AC Milan, an Italian club, for $825m in August, but has been unable to move money out of China to complete the purchase.

Rather than simply moaning about the new rules, clubs have been devising ways of dodging them. Teams must now field at least one Chinese player under 23 each week. Some coaches simply replace them early in the game with older hands.

Source: New rules, new dodges: Chinese football clubs are struggling with new curbs on foreign players | The Economist

08/03/2017

The partition of India: “Viceroy’s House” is an antidote to colonial triumphalism | The Economist

THE fetishisation of British Imperialism is inescapable. Last December, Theresa May cited the East India Company as an example of Britain’s historical trading prowess. Contestants on a recent season of “The Apprentice”, an entrepreneurial reality show, created batches of “Colony Gin”; Marks & Spencer, a retailer, included an “Empire Pie” as part of its Gastropub collection. This nostalgia is borne out by a YouGov poll from 2016, which found that 44% of respondents are proud of Britain’s colonial history.

Those colonised, though, see the empire rather differently. A charge sheet of Britain’s efforts in India—and every territory colonised can produce an equivalent—might list partition, the man-made Bengal famine in 1943 (which resulted in an estimated 3m deaths), the wretched labour system of indenture and the looting of state wealth. Partition alone resulted in 1m deaths and created 15m refugees in a matter of weeks; Hindus and Sikhs fled their homes in what was the become the Muslim state of Pakistan, while Muslims in India took flight in the opposite direction.

“Viceroy’s House”, a new film written and directed by Gurinder Chadha, seeks to document Britain’s role in partition and the cleaving of the Punjab region. In the final months of the Raj, Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) arrives to oversee the transfer of power to Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), and reconcile the demands of independence leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru with those of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Sir Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow)—who had never set foot in India before—is drafted in to assess how 175,000 square miles, home to 88m people, should be split. Ms Chadha carefully balances high politics with its impact on ordinary citizens; relations between Hindu, Sikh and Muslim staff become tense as the prospect of annexing India’s Muslim-majority regions emerges.

The film is good in exposing the Machiavellian motives behind this rushed decision, as well as the gut-wrenching suffering that followed (the house, which “makes Buckingham Palace look like a bungalow”, becomes a camp for the displaced). It is not perfect, however. “Viceroy’s House” absolves everyone—Lord Mountbatten, the British, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims—of blame for the suffering. Some critics have complained that it does not give any attention to the Indian independence struggle, or catalogue the horrors of British rule. These are deserving of films in their own right; Ms Chadha’s decision to focus her lens solely on how partition unfolded is a wise one.

With millions of people involved in the story of partition, “Viceroy’s House” was always going to be a tricky undertaking, likely to be deemed unsatisfactory by many. Ms Chadha tells the story of this multifaceted moment in the region’s history through the lens of one building, framing it as the tale of “the people’s partition” rather than dealing in factionalism and blame. She has subverted the period-drama genre—how many period dramas close on a shot of a desperate refugee camp?—to produce something akin to a “Dummy’s Guide to partition”.

Yet even as a superficial primer, “Viceroy’s House” fills a gap in Britain’s collective consciousness and cultural memory. In the canon of modern British films about India, partition features in “Gandhi” (1982) and “Midnight’s Children” (2012) but gets scant treatment elsewhere. “Viceroy’s House” stands out from these offerings as a British film narrated with heart, soul and profound sadness by a Punjabi film-maker with a personal investment in the story: the closing credits reveal that Ms Chadha’s grandmother lost a child to starvation while fleeing to India.

It will be hard for some to maintain a sense of nostalgia and triumphalism for Britain’s empire after watching “Viceroy’s House”: Ms Chadha intersperses the drama with Pathé news footage of communal violence and Churchill’s dejected newscasts explaining the collapse of law and order. The film has ensured that partition, which is rarely taught in British high schools, has a place in the nation’s shared public culture again. Too right. Partition is as much a part of modern Britain—home to 700,000 Indian and Pakistani Punjabis, many of whom are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of partition—as butter chicken, saag paneer, naan, bhangra and Bollywood.

Source: The partition of India: “Viceroy’s House” is an antidote to colonial triumphalism | The Economist

24/02/2017

The missing middle: Women in South Asian politics have not empowered women | The Economist

ON THE Indian subcontinent, as in no other part of the world, women have risen to the pinnacle of politics. Indira Gandhi of India, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar are all famous names. Less well known is that Sri Lanka was the first country ever to elect a woman prime minister, or that it has also had a female president. For 22 of the past 25 years Bangladesh, a largely Muslim country with more people than France and Germany combined, has been led by a woman. And the chief ministers of numerous country-sized Indian states, from West Bengal in the east to Tamil Nadu in the south, have also been women.

India’s democracy is not pretty; these are the winners of bare-knuckle contests.

Yet for all such headline-grabbing successes, the fine print tells a different story. Although there has been steady progress in such things as stamping out female infanticide and spreading women’s education, statistics continue to reveal a stark sex divide. At 27%, the share of Indian women who work, for instance, is less than half the level in China or Brazil (and also in neighbouring Bangladesh, although slightly higher than in Pakistan). In 2012 a household survey found that four-fifths of Indian women needed their husband’s or family’s permission to visit a local clinic. A third said they would not be able to go alone. More than half also said they could not visit a shop, or even a friend, without someone else’s approval. For many, the very idea of going out was alarming: 70% said they would feel unsafe working away from home, and 52% thought it normal for a husband to beat his wife if she ventured out without telling him. In November, following a shock government move to scrap higher-denomination banknotes, a domestic violence hotline in the city of Bhopal in central India registered a doubling of calls, largely from women whose spouses had discovered they had secretly been saving cash.

On your bike

For wealthy and middle-class Indian women, freedoms have steadily grown: Anubha Bhonsle, a television anchor, recalls the strangeness of being the sole female driver of a motor scooter on many streets when she started commuting 15 years ago. “No one would give a second glance now,” she says. Yet in many professions women remain rarities. Barely 10% of the 700 judges in India’s higher courts are female, and only 17% of the 5,000 officers in the Indian Administrative Service, the elite corps of bureaucrats that runs the country.

Women are scarce even in politics. In the lower house of India’s parliament only 12% of MPs are women. State legislatures are similarly male. True, women’s share of seats has risen, but slowly: 50 years ago the proportion of women in the lower house was 6%.

It is only in village and district councils that women hold much sway, but this is partly due to laws that assign either a third or half of seats to female candidates. Earlier this month tribesmen objecting to efforts to impose a women’s quota in local elections rioted in Nagaland, a state on the border with Myanmar that is one of the few exceptions to such rules. Naga men insist that local custom precludes female village chiefs.

Such troubles reveal one cause of slow progress to sexual equality: Indian politicians have generally found it more rewarding to cater to subgroups defined by caste, religion, ethnicity, language or local grievance, rather than to broader categories such as women. This is equally true of female politicians, and of regional leaders less constrained by democracy. Sheikh Hasina, the current, iron-fisted prime minister of Bangladesh, has recently moved to reduce the legal age of marriage from 18 to 16. Given that child marriage is already common, especially in the impoverished countryside, women’s-rights activists are upset. But analysts explain that apa, or “big sister”, who has hounded opposition parties including Islamists, is looking for ways to deflect conservative anger. In order to succeed female politicians in the region often make a point of acting tough. Mamata Banerjee, the diminutive but formidable chief minister of West Bengal, once dragged a male colleague out of the well of parliament by the collar when she was an MP in Delhi. Like Sheikh Hasina and Mayawati, a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, as well as Jayalalithaa, a recently deceased former film star and long-serving chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Ms Banerjee has carefully repressed her sexuality. These women are ostentatiously “married” to their cause or their party.

Such care is understandable. Male rivals have not shied from using sex to malign female politicians. One party leader in Uttar Pradesh lost his job for accusing Mayawati, who comes from a downtrodden caste, of “selling tickets like a prostitute”. A colleague went further against Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the opposition Congress party. Absurdly, he accused the head of the Gandhi dynasty of having worked for a Pakistani escort agency.

With so many obstacles blocking the path to power, it is hardly surprising that so many of the region’s successful female politicians got a head start. Amrita Basu of Amherst College finds that more than half of India’s female MPs in the past decade had family members who preceded them in politics. Quite often such dynastic links have been dramatic. Ms Suu Kyi in Myanmar and Sheikh Hasina are both daughters of slain independence heroes. Sonia Gandhi and Khaleda Zia, a former Bangladeshi prime minister and bitter rival to Sheikh Hasina, are both widows of assassinated leaders. Both Jayalalithaa and Mayawati entered politics as devoted lieutenants to charismatic, populist politicians; in Jayalalithaa’s case her mentor also played the lead in many of her films.

For women to play a more normal political role in the subcontinent, perhaps it is in films, and in popular culture in general, that change needs to happen first. All too often on the region’s screens, actresses who are paid a fraction of what male stars get portray women who lack agency in their lives. There is, though, an inkling of change. This season’s blockbuster and already the highest-earning film in Bollywood history, “Dangal”, tells the heart-warming story of sisters who become champions in the male-dominated sport of wrestling. Yet the main hero is not one of the girls, but the father, a former wrestler, who bends them to his will.

Source: The missing middle: Women in South Asian politics have not empowered women | The Economist

24/02/2017

“Kung Fu Grandma” Practices Chinese Martial Arts for Nine Decades – YouTube

Don’t let Zhang Hexian’s age fool you as the 94-year-old has a particular set of skills that make her a nightmare for thugs anywhere. The resident of Ninghai County in east China’s Zhejiang Province has been practicing Chinese martial arts since she was four and through the years she has refined her skills with great diligence and effort to become affectionately known as “Kung Fu Grandma”.

Regarded as “the village of martial arts,” nearly everyone in the village where Zhang lives practices kung fu. As the eighth descendant of her family, Zhang learned kung fu under her father’s instruction at the age of four and has continued to practice throughout nine decades. “My dad took me to sleep at that time. When we woke up in the morning, we started practicing kung fu in bed. I learned basic martial arts skills such as pushing palm and throwing a punch at an early age,” said Zhang Hexian.

Practicing kung fu has become a daily routine in Zhang’s life. Every morning, Zhang does kung fu exercises without feeling tired. Apparently she is in good health. “She wakes up very early and does physical exercises every morning. She usually runs around the village for morning exercise,”said Zhang’s son Feng Chuanyin.

Zhang recalled that she once fought against a bully when she was young. The bully was beating his wife when Zhang saw him. To uphold justice, Zhang grabbed his collar, ripped his shirt off and urged him to behave well. Apart from being a deterrent to hooligans and ruffians, Zhang is also a warm-hearted woman willing to help others, which is one of the secrets of her longevity. “She always has a good mood with a positive attitude. Helping others is also good for her health,” said Feng.

More on: http://www.cctvplus.com/news/20170215…

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24/02/2017

Dancing noodle vendor is China’s latest celebrity chef | South China Morning Post

A chef in southwest China became an instant celebrity after a video of him dancing while making noodles became an online sensation during the Lunar New Year holiday, according to a newspaper report.

Tian Bo, 31, was an ordinary cook of a noodle restaurant in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, before he began to sway his body with coquettish look when making noodles to attract more customers, the West China City Daily reported.His signature dish, “longevity noodle,” comprises just one noodle long enough to fill a bowl and is a specialty in the historic town of Huanglongxi.

Tian told the Daily that he resorted to dancing while serving noodles in March last year when the restaurant was almost deserted and he was under enormous pressure. He fine-tuned his performance, adding pop music and coyish facial expressions.

Spinning, jumping and waving the noodles in his hand, Tian leers at the onlookers from time to time, according to the video circulated online.

After the video of his noodle performance made headlines online, his fortunes changed. Tourists arrived in town to seek him out and some even offered his a job with better pay.

Tian said he was merely acting at the restaurant and was not flirtatious in real life. He said he would stay at the restaurant for the time being but hoped to start his own noodle shop one day.

His video got mixed reviews on social media. “He is so tantalising. I just stared at the little brother and did not think about the noodles, ” said one Weibo blogger.

Said another: “I’ve seen him and I think he works too hard. He must get so tired from dancing and making noodles for long time.”

Source: Dancing noodle vendor is China’s latest celebrity chef | South China Morning Post

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23/02/2017

Wayne Rooney: Man Utd captain’s agent in China to discuss potential move – BBC Sport

Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford is in China to see if he can negotiate a deal for the forward to leave Manchester United.

There are no guarantees of success and it is thought a deal remains highly unlikely before the Chinese transfer window closes on 28 February.

But the fact Stretford has travelled to China is a clear indication United boss Jose Mourinho would let Rooney, 31, go.

And if he does not leave this month it seems certain he will go in the summer.Rooney has fallen down the pecking order at United under Mourinho.

Rooney should stay – Phil Neville

Mourinho not ruling out Rooney exit

Would a China move work for Rooney?

The England captain has been made aware of interest in him from the Chinese Super League for some time, although it is not known which clubs Stretford has spoken to.

Beijing Guoan, believed to be the favourite team of Chinese President Xi, had been seen as one of the favourites to sign Rooney but sources close to the club have told BBC Sport they are not interested in signing him.

Because of new restrictions on overseas players, Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian look like the most likely remaining options.

However, the England captain’s representatives have already spoken to Tianjin Quanjian and their coach, Fabio Cannavaro, said talks did not progress.

On Tuesday, Mourinho said he did not know whether Rooney, who has only just returned to training after a hamstring injury, would still be at Old Trafford in a week’s time.

It is not known whether this latest development will affect Rooney’s chances of being involved in Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Southampton.

They had appeared to have increased after Henrikh Mkhitaryan limped out of Wednesday’s 1-0 Europa League win against Saint-Etienne.

If Rooney follows former team-mate Carlos Tevez to the Chinese Super League, it would almost certainly cost him any chance of making the seven appearances he needs to become England’s most capped player.

Rooney’s preference is understood to be to remain with United for the rest of his contract, which expires in 2019, but a lack of time on the pitch is forcing him to consider alternatives.

Rooney is United’s record goalscorer and has won five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy since joining them as an 18-year-old for £27m from Everton in 2004.

The forward, who has started only three games since 17 December, has said he would not play for an English club other than United or Everton.

The big difference between Chinese Super League clubs’ transfer process and their Premier League counterparts is the preparation.

English top-flight clubs have extensive scouting departments with links around the world. They identify players months in advance, watch many live games and base their decision on an extensive process._94799249_oscar_getty

 

Oscar moved to Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in a £60m deal in December and scored on his debut for his new club

In CSL, the process is more agent-led. Most of the clubs are approached with recommendations for a position they are recruiting in, rather than seeking out players themselves.

Foreign players coming in on large fees are commanding three-, four-, five-year deals, even at the end of their career. They have the upper hand in negotiations and wouldn’t leave European football without long-term financial guarantees.

However, the Chinese government is concerned about capital leaving the country and it is difficult for these big transactions to exist while they are trying to crack down in other areas.

I think we will see a levelling out in fees. The £15m-£20m transfers will continue to happen for the next few years, but maybe we won’t see the likes of the £60m deal that brought Oscar to China.

Source: Wayne Rooney: Man Utd captain’s agent in China to discuss potential move – BBC Sport

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