Posts tagged ‘Cultural Revolution’

18/06/2016

Study Finds China’s Ecosystems Have Become Healthier – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s skies may be toxic, and its rivers fetid and prone to sudden infestations of pig carcasses. But according to a new study, the country’s environmental battle has also been making quiet, measurable progress.

The paper, a collaboration between U.S. and Chinese researchers published in this week’s issue of Science, found that China’s ecosystems have become healthier and more resilient against such disasters as sandstorms and flooding. The authors partly credit what they describe as the world’s largest government-backed effort to restore natural habitats such as forests and grasslands, totaling some $150 billion in spending since 2000.

“In a more and more turbulent world, with climate change unfolding, it’s really crucial to measure these kinds of things,” says Gretchen Daily, a Stanford biology professor and a senior author on the paper.

The study didn’t examine air, water or soil quality, all deeply entrenched problems for the country.

Beijing’s investments in promoting better ecosystem protection were triggered after a spate of disasters in the 1990s. In particular, authors note, two decades after China started to liberalize its economy, rampant deforestation and soil erosion triggered devastating floods along the Yangtze River in 1998, killing thousands and causing some $36 billion in property damage.

The government subsequently embarked on an effort to try to forestall such environmental catastrophes. According to the study, in the decade following, carbon sequestration went up 23%, soil retention went up 13% and flood mitigation by 13%, with sandstorm prevention up by 6%.

The paper also involved authors from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Minnesota, among other institutions. Data was collected by remote sensing and a team of some 3,000 scientists across China, said Ms. Daily, who praised the “big-data” approach to tracking the quality of China’s ecosystems.

“The whole world is waking up to the need to invest in natural capital as the basis for green growth,” she said.

Reforestation was one particular bright spot, she said. Under the country’s founding father, Mao Zedong, China razed acres of forests to fuel steel-smelting furnaces. To reverse the trend–and combat creeping desertification in the country’s north — the country embarked on a project in 1978 to build a “Great Green Wall” of trees. Today, authorities say that 22% of the country is covered by forest, up 1.3 percentage points compared with 2008.

The authors note that the study has limits. While China has reported improving levels of air quality in the past year, urban residents still choke under regular “airpocalypses.” The majority of Chinese cities endure levels of smog that exceed both Chinese and World Health Organization health standards.

“You can plant trees till the end of time,” says Ms. Daily. “But they’ll never be enough to clean up the air.”

Source: Study Finds China’s Ecosystems Have Become Healthier – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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27/05/2016

What Can Be Learned From China’s Monetary Past – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s decline as a great power in the 19th century wasn’t the fault of imperialism and opium. It was bad monetary policy, after all.

English: Qing emperor Jiaqing

English: Qing emperor Jiaqing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So says Werner Burger, a numismatic historian and Sinologist who has published a detailed history of money in the Qing Dynasty, entitled “Ch’ing Cash.” Mr. Burger has spent his professional life tracking down details of nearly every coin minted in China over three centuries. After three decades of making official requests, it wasn’t until 1996 that Beijing granted him access to the previous century’s imperial mint reports, the modern equivalent to central bank money supply statistics.

His conclusion: The Jiaqing Emperor, By letting the fakes infiltrate the economy, the Jiaqing emperor and his successors allowed the effective exchange rate for standard brass Chinese coins to swell from the official rate of 1000 per unit of silver to as high as 2500. Soldiers wages were effectively halved, giving them little incentive to fight the various battles against Western colonizers.

Mr. Burger refutes the notion that China’s trade with the United Kingdom, which for a time involved China sending silver to the U.K. in exchange for opium, was responsible for the debasement. He said the amount of silver sent abroad didn’t affect the exchange rate, noting a mid-century period of three decades when China actually experienced silver inflows.

Amid such currency instability, “all attempts at economic reforms and progress were bound to fail. China had no chance to catch up with the rest of the world and so lost a whole century to corruption and greedy officials,” says Mr. Burger.

For investors who want to learn from China’s past mistakes, the two volume history will cost a pretty penny: $800.

Source: What Can Be Learned From China’s Monetary Past – China Real Time Report – WSJ

01/04/2016

Beware the cult of Xi | The Economist

Xi Jinping is stronger than his predecessors. His power is damaging the country

“IF OUR party can’t even handle food-safety issues properly, and keeps on mishandling them, then people will ask whether we are fit to keep ruling China.” So Xi Jinping warned officials in 2013, a year after he became the country’s leader. It was a remarkable statement for the chief of a Communist Party that has always claimed to have the backing of “the people”. It suggested that Mr Xi understood how grievances about official incompetence and corruption risked boiling over. Mr Xi rounded up tens of thousands of erring officials, waging a war on corruption of an intensity not seen since the party came to power in 1949. Many thought he was right to do so.

Today, however, China is enduring its biggest public-health scandal in years. Tens of millions of dollars-worth of black-market, out-of-date and improperly stored vaccines have been sold to government health centres, which have in turn been making money by selling them to patients.

Mr Xi’s anti-graft war has often made little difference to ordinary people. Their life—and health—is still blighted by corruption. In recent days there have also been signs of discontent with Mr Xi among the elite: official media complaining openly about reporting restrictions, a prominent businessman attacking him on his microblog, a senior editor resigning in disgust.

Mr Xi has acquired more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. It was supposed to let him get things done. What is going wrong?

Credibility gap

In fairness, Mr Xi was bound to meet with hostility. Many officials are angry because he has ripped up the compact by which they have operated and which said that they could line their pockets, so long as corruption was not flagrant and they did their job well. But Mr Xi has also found that the pursuit of power is all-consuming: it does not leave room for much else. In three and a half years in charge, he has accumulated titles at an astonishing pace. He is not only party leader, head of state and commander-in-chief, but is also running reform, the security services and the economy. In effect, the party’s hallowed notion of “collective” leadership (see article) has been jettisoned.

Mr Xi is, one analyst says, “Chairman of Everything”. At the same time, he has flouted the party’s ban on personality cults, introduced in 1982 to prevent another episode of Maoist madness. Official media are filled with fawning over “Uncle Xi” and his wife, Peng Liyuan, a folk-singer whom flatterers call “Mama Peng”. A video, released in March, of a dance called “Uncle Xi in love with Mama Peng” has already been viewed over 300,000 times. There have been rumours recently that Mr Xi feels some of this has been going a bit far. Some of the most toadying videos, such as “The east is red again” (comparing Mr Xi to Mao), have been scrubbed from the internet. Many would take that as a sign that the personality cult is little more than harmless fun.

Mr Xi is no Mao, whose tyrannical nature and love of adulation were so great that he blithely led the country into the frenzy and violence of the Cultural Revolution. Although some older Chinese squirm at a style of politics so reminiscent of days long past, there is no suggestion that China is on the brink of another such horror.

More …

No liberal, Xi

More …

Source: Beware the cult of Xi | The Economist

06/10/2015

China’s New Nobel Laureate: New Attention to an Old Science Problem – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Chinese pharmacologist Tu Youyou, who won a share of the Nobel Prize for medicine on Monday for her discovery of a game-changing malaria treatment, did her seminal work when China was in the midst of the radical movement known as the Cultural Revolution. Her pathbreaking Nobel win is renewing discussion of the way China’s scientific community does research.

The award to Ms. Tu ticks a number of firsts: She’s the first citizen of the People’s Republic to win a science Nobel, the first Chinese citizen to win a Nobel for medicine and the first female Chinese citizen to win a Nobel of any kind.

In marveling at that feat, Chinese media have dwelled on Ms. Tu’s lack of academic credentials. The 84-year-old chief professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine is without a PhD, without an overseas education and without the title of yuanshi (or academician) given to the country’s top scholars. For that reason, she has been referred to as China’s “three withouts” scientist. Prior to her winning the prestigious Lasker Prize for Medical Research in 2011, she was an obscure figure.

That a future Nobel laureate could be ignored for her lack of traditional accomplishments has renewed attention to an academic system already criticized by many as bureaucratic and unimaginative.

“It seems like every headline I’ve seen today says ”Three-Withouts’ Scientist Tu Youyou Wins Nobel for Medicine.’ That’s not a headline, but a question we should all ponder,” cinematographer Wang Peishan wrote in one of many similar comments on the Twitter-like Weibo social media platform.

Source: China’s New Nobel Laureate: New Attention to an Old Science Problem – China Real Time Report – WSJ

11/03/2015

China’s Risky Mao-Style Focus on the Personal Life of President Xi Jinping – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Chinese media’s relentless focus on the achievements and personal life of President Xi Jinping represents a sharp break with recent leadership practice in China, which has studiously avoided the personality cult that surrounded Mao Zedong. WSJ’s Andrew Browne traveled to Liangjiahe, the cave village in northern China where Mr. Xi was banished during the Cultural Revolution, to answer a question: Is it all about personal aggrandizement? Or is it a media-driven effort by the troubled Communist Party to capitalize on an immensely popular president?

It may be both. Just over two years into his term, three major anthologies of Mr. Xi’s speeches and writings have rolled off the official printing presses. The Chinese characters for “China Dream,” Mr. Xi’s catchphrase for national rejuvenation, are plastered across subway stations, bus stops and billboards. Party newspapers extol the “Spirit of Xi Jinping.”

There’s an irony, of course, in Mr. Xi taking a leaf from Mao, who persecuted his father. But Mr. Xi’s main goal is to save the Party. That means preserving Mao as a symbol of Communist rule.

via China’s Risky Mao-Style Focus on the Personal Life of President Xi Jinping – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

14/12/2014

China Has a ‘New Normal’ Too – Businessweek

China’s Communist Party leaders are known for their turgid jargon, much of it dating back decades to when Mao Zedong still dominated dogma. But sometimes, apparently, they feel the need to borrow from less hoary, more capitalistic sources.

A technology and manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China

That is what Xi Jinping has done with his “new normal” theory of the Chinese economy, now getting lots of play in the state media. The phrase, first popularized by Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, the giant Newport Beach (Calif) bond fund manager, referred of course to the lackluster economic growth following the global financial crisis.

Earlier this year Xi used the then-already tired cliché while on a May inspection trip to Henan, the province southwest of the Chinese capital. Then it got a real airing during a speech he gave at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum last month. “A new normal of China’s economy has emerged with several notable features,” Xi said, speaking before more than 1,500 global business executives in Beijing, reported the Party-owned Global Times on Nov. 10.

“First, the economy has shifted gear from the previous high speed to a medium-to-high-speed growth. Second, the economic structure is constantly improved and upgraded. Third, the economy is increasingly driven by innovation instead of input and investment,” the paper wrote, paraphrasing Xi.

Translation: Yes, the economy will not grow at the hyper rates all of you had gotten used to—still, no need for alarm. We are making the transition to a healthier, more sustainable version, this one driven more by consumption, services, and, oh yes, innovation. “The ‘new normal’ theory elaborated by Chinese President Xi Jinping would be one of the hallmarks to be engraved in history,” the Global Times ambitiously predicted.

“We must understand the new normal, adjust to the new normal, and develop under the new normal—coming to terms with the new normal will be the ‘main logic’ for economic growth for some time,” the official Xinhua News Agency wrote today, in a report on the three-day, high-level Central Economic Work Conference that closed Thursday. “The new normal has not changed the strategic importance of a period that will see great achievements,” it promised.

via China Has a ‘New Normal’ Too – Businessweek.

11/07/2014

China’s Patriotic Red Tourism Makes a Comeback – Businessweek

Ear-splitting explosions go off and plumes of gray smoke drift over the arid Shaanxi countryside of northwestern China. Ragtag Communist soldiers in blue uniforms fire their rifles at an advancing Nationalist tank while villagers run for cover. Finally, justice prevails; the red flag of the Chinese Communist Party is held proudly aloft while peasants dance in celebration.

A reenactment of the “Defense of Yan’an”

It’s a scene repeated every day at 11 a.m. as 350 actors reenact the “Defense of Yan’an,” a famous battle against the Nationalist forces of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek that was crucial to the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. “By coming here we can understand how the party sacrificed, created the new China, and built such a beautiful country for us,” says 13-year-old Deng Yi, visiting from Wenzhou, who along with his mother and father, each shelled out 150 yuan ($24) to watch the show.

That’s what China’s leaders want to hear as they expand “red tourism” in more than 100 sites across China. Their goal: to boost patriotism and support for the Chinese Communist Party. “We need to seize these two concepts—red bases and patriotic education on the one hand and developing red tourism on the other,” said President Xi Jinping in March.

Red tourism is not new to China. Millions flocked to red sites including Mao Zedong’s birthplace in Shaoshan, Hunan province, during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Visits to revolutionary locales spiked in 2011, as China prepared to celebrate the party’s 90th anniversary. If China’s leaders have their way, red tourism will have a massive renaissance. Already last year, 786 million tourists visited revolutionary sites, up 17.3 percent from the previous year, generating 198.6 billion yuan ($32 billion) in revenue, up 19.1 percent, according to the National Tourism Administration.

“We need to seize these two concepts—red bases and patriotic education on the one hand and developing red tourism on the other.”—President Xi

One of the most popular is Yan’an, the “cradle of the revolution” where Mao, General Zhu De, and other revolutionaries spent more than a decade living in caves starting in 1936. It’s also where President Xi, while a teenager, spent seven years among the peasants during the Cultural Revolution. Jinggangshan, in Jiangxi province, where the rebels hid out in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and Zunyi, in Guizhou province, a key stop on the Long March, are also top destinations.

To prepare for the onslaught of photo-snapping fellow travelers, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs last year spent 2.8 billion yuan on constructing memorials, while the state bureau in charge of cultural relics earmarked 487 million yuan for renovating red sites. Another 1.5 billion yuan was spent on 66 “red tourism highways” across the country.

“We hope to teach the next generation about what happened before,” says Hong Jiasheng, chairman of Yan’an Shengdian Red Tourism Development, which is run jointly with the local government and draws 500,000 tourists annually. An entrepreneur from Zhejiang province, Hong launched on July 6 a similar show in Fushun, Liaoning province, reenacting an important 1948 battle.

The push to develop red tourism is part of a larger campaign launched in December to instill citizens with what Xi calls core socialist values aimed at realizing the “Chinese Dream.” Those include patriotism, dedication, civility, and harmony. The values campaign will expand patriotic education in primary and middle schools, with university students encouraged to go on organized weeklong summer visits to red sites. Since China’s opening to the world, “Chinese have embraced diversified thoughts, including the decayed, outdated ideals of mammonism and extreme individualism,” the People’s Daily said in a February editorial.

via China’s Patriotic Red Tourism Makes a Comeback – Businessweek.

30/06/2014

Who Needs Science? China Province Orders Water Pollution ‘Swim Test’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Zhejiang Province is administering a swim test for its cadres, but not for the purpose you might think.

The coastal province is trying to get officials to jump into local rivers as part of an effort to battle China’s notorious water pollution.

“The public doesn’t get to know what water standards are from data, but from using it. Swimming can be used to judge this, (and) leading officials should do the test,” Zhejiang People’s Congress deputy director Mao Linsheng said at a recent meeting (in Chinese).

It’s not clear exactly what the province hopes to accomplish with the new initiative. There’s a rich political symbolism associated with leaders swimming in rivers in China thanks to Mao Zedong, who took a famous dip in the Yangtze River in 1966, accompanied by a team of bodyguards and 5,000 admirers, to prove he was still robust on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. But the destruction wrought in the decade following the Great Helmsman’s swim makes it a dubious template for today’s officials.

There’s also the question of whether Mao would be willing to swim in any of China’s rivers were he still alive today. Nearly 60% of China’s water is either moderately or seriously polluted, according to the Ministry of Land and Resources’s annual report released this April.

Pollution in Zhejiang appears particularly problematic. Last year, CCTV reported that more than 80% of the waters just off the coast of Zhejiang Province were polluted, threatening the local fishing industry. In March, a river in the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang caught on fire as a lit cigarette set alight chemical residues floating on its surface.

via Who Needs Science? China Province Orders Water Pollution ‘Swim Test’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

14/01/2014

Bowed and Remorseful, Former Red Guard Recalls Teacher’s Death – NYTimes.com

Nearly half a century after Bian Zhongyun was beaten, kicked, tormented and left to die, bloody and alone, at the Beijing girls’ school where she was deputy principal, a daughter of the Communist Party elite has offered public penance — of a kind that instantly brought controversy — for her part in one of the most notorious killings of the Cultural Revolution.

Song Binbin, third from left, before a bust of Bian Zhongyun, the leader of a Beijing high school who was killed in 1966.

Growing numbers of aging Red Guards have declared their contrition for violence perpetrated from 1966, when Mao Zedong urged students to turn against the school and party authorities he accused of stymieing his vision of a revolutionary society cleansed of ideological laxity.

But the apology from Song Binbin, reported by The Beijing News on Monday, quickly drew attention and was featured on many Chinese news websites. Here was a daughter of a veteran revolutionary apologizing for what has been widely described as the first killing of a teacher in the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

Ms. Song’s father was Song Renqiong, a general who served as a senior official under Mao and later Deng Xiaoping. Ms. Song herself won fame as a member of the first wave of Red Guards when she was photographed meeting Mao. But for years, many of them spent in the United States, she was muted about the death of Ms. Bian, a deputy principal at the elite Beijing Normal University Girls High School, where she was a student. The Cultural Revolution remains a sensitive, and heavily censored, chapter in China’s history. President Xi Jinping mentioned it only once and briefly in a speech last month celebrating the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth.

On Sunday in Beijing, Ms. Song, who was born in 1949, told a gathering of former students and teachers from the school that she was sorry.

via Bowed and Remorseful, Former Red Guard Recalls Teacher’s Death – NYTimes.com.

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25/12/2013

Mao’s achievements outweigh mistakes: state media poll | South China Morning Post

More than 85 per cent of respondents in a Chinese state media survey said that Mao Zedong\’s achievements outweigh his mistakes, as the country prepares to mark 120 years since the \”Great Helmsman\’s\” birth.

English: Portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen G...

English: Portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate Español: Retrato de Mao Zedong en la Plaza de Tian’anmen Polski: Portret Mao Zedonga na Bramie Niebiańskiego Spokoju w Pekinie. 中文: 天安門城樓上的毛澤東肖像 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mao\’s legacy remains mixed in China, where he is revered for the 1949 founding of the People\’s Republic but authorities have called for restraint in commemorating the anniversary.

Mao is blamed for the deaths of tens of millions due to famine following his \”Great Leap Forward\” and the decade of chaos known as the Cultural Revolution.

Since his death in 1976, the Chinese Communist Party\’s official line has been he was \”70 per cent right and 30 per cent wrong\”.

But participants in the survey conducted Monday and Tuesday by the Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling party, seemed to hold an even more favourable view of Mao.

Asked \”Do you agree that Mao Zedong\’s achievements outweigh his mistakes?\” 78.3 per cent of respondents in the Global Times survey said they agreed, 6.8 per cent strongly agreed and only 11.7 per cent disagreed. About three per cent said they did not know.

Nearly 90 per cent of those surveyed said that Mao\’s \”greatest merit\” was \”founding an independent nation through revolution\”.

China\’s ruling Communist Party heavily censors accounts of Mao\’s 27-year-long rule, and there has never been a full historical reckoning of his actions in the country.

Younger and better-educated Chinese were more likely to be critical of Mao, the Global Times said, while older respondents and those with a high school or vocational school education were more likely to revere him.

One potential reason for the Mao nostalgia among older and less-well-educated respondents could be China\’s widening wealth gap, the paper suggested.

\”Fairness being the second most popular of Mao\’s merits makes sense as it\’s part of the reason that people miss the Mao era, because the wealth gap was not as big as now,\” Zhao Zhikui, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

via Mao’s achievements outweigh mistakes: state media poll | South China Morning Post.

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