Posts tagged ‘Government of the People’s Republic of China’

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 Tens of millions of dollars-worth of black-market, out-of-date and improperly stored vaccines have been sold to government health centres, which have in turn been making money by selling them to patients.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.

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No liberal, Xi

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Source: Beware the cult of Xi | The Economist

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18/03/2016

Deep in a pit | The Economist

COMMUNIST Party give us back our money”, “We want to live, we need to eat!” Such were the slogans daubed on banners that were displayed on March 12th during a protest by thousands of coal miners in the dingy streets of Shuangyashan, a city in Heilongjiang province near the border with Russia.

The demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of Longmay, the largest mining company in the north-east and Heilongjiang’s biggest state-owned enterprise (SOE). They demanded wages which they said they had not received for at least two months. Some protesters blocked railway lines; others scuffled with police wearing riot gear. Internet censors deleted pictures of the unrest (such as the one shown) as they spread across social media.

The protest was one of the biggest by workers at an SOE for many years. It was an indication of the problems that China’s government will probably face as it seeks to cut excess capacity among SOEs like Longmay and reduce their enormous losses. In February the labour minister, Yin Weimin, said that 1.3m coal workers and 500,000 steel workers could lose their jobs over the next five years.

Other estimates say 3m-5m people may be thrown out of work in these industries as well as in aluminium production and glassmaking. That is far fewer than the tens of millions who lost their jobs during SOE restructuring in the late 1990s. But the economies of some cities, including Shuangyashan, are driven by a handful of large SOEs. In these, downsizing will be traumatic and possibly turbulent.

Labour unrest is rising everywhere as economic growth slows (see chart). Many firms, like Longmay, are reacting to financial distress by paying wages late or not at all. According to China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based NGO, there were 2,700 strikes last year, twice the number in 2014. In the two months leading up to China’s lunar new-year holiday in early February, there were over 1,000 strikes and protests, 90% of them related to the non-payment of wages. Three days after the protest in Shuangyashan, an almost equally large one began at Tonghua Steel in neighbouring Jilin province, also over wage arrears.

In Shuangyashan (its name, meaning Double Duck Mountains, refers to the shape of two nearby peaks), the authorities have tried to soothe the protesters by giving them overdue pay. Some mine workers say they have now begun receiving their salaries for January, and that they have been assured their pay packets for February will be coming soon. But the government remains nervous of further unrest. On March 15th police were still ubiquitous, on the streets of Shuangyashan as well as outside a nearby mine. In the city centre, a row of women who said the men in their families all worked in mines sat holding placards offering their services as cleaners or house painters. “We have no money to eat. What do they expect us to do?” said one woman angrily before being told by police to stop talking. A man who identified himself as a government official followed your correspondent everywhere.

The protests in Shuangyashan were particularly embarrassing for the party, occurring as they did during the 12-day annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which ended on March 16th. Every year during the NPC session, officials try even more strenuously than usual to prevent street unrest, lest it tarnish the image of political unity and national prosperity that they want the NPC to project (see article). Party bosses in Heilongjiang will get their knuckles rapped by leaders in Beijing for failing to anticipate this outbreak, which followed months of grumbling among Longmay’s workers about lay-offs and overdue pay. In September, the company said it would shed 100,000 of its 240,000 staff.

Source: Deep in a pit | The Economist

04/12/2015

China’s Tech Industry Is as Male-Dominated as Silicon Valley – China Real Time Report – WSJ

When Chinese President Xi Jinping met with top U.S. and Chinese technology executives in Seattle two months ago, they posed for a now-famous group photo. But one thing was missing: women from China.

As WSJ’s Li Yuan writes in her “China Circuit” column: This defies the conventional wisdom in China that compared with Silicon Valley, China’s tech industry has less of a gender-inequality problem. True, women accounted for nine out of 30 Alibaba partners when it went public in 2014. Both Alibaba and Baidu’s chief financial officers are women. Some of China’s most prominent venture capitalists are women, too.

But the group photo attests to what is really happening behind the success stories: China’s tech industry is as male-dominated as that of Silicon Valley. And unlike the debate and discussions taking place in Silicon Valley about gender inequality, China’s tech industry has yet to acknowledge the problem. With the​tech sector becoming the brightest spot in a sluggish economy, women risk losing out in the competition for the best-paying jobs and the best opportunities to start their own businesses.

Source: China’s Tech Industry Is as Male-Dominated as Silicon Valley – China Real Time Report – WSJ

25/06/2015

At least 18 dead in attack in China’s Xinjiang: Radio Free Asia | Reuters

At least 18 people are dead after ethnic Uighurs attacked police with knives and bombs at a traffic checkpoint in China’s western Xinjiang region, Radio Free Asia reported on Wednesday.

The attack occurred on Monday in a district of the southern city of Kashgar, where tensions between Muslim Uighurs that call the region home and the majority Han Chinese have led to bloodshed in recent years.

Suspects killed several police officers with knives and bombs after speeding through a traffic checkpoint in a car in Kashgar’s Tahtakoruk district, U.S.-based Radio Free Asia said, citing Turghun Memet, an officer at a nearby police station.

Armed police responded to the attack and killed 15 suspects “designated as terrorists,” Radio Free Asia cited Memet as saying.

An SVG map of China with the Xinjiang autonomo...

An SVG map of China with the Xinjiang autonomous region highlighted Legend: Image:China map legend.png The orange area is Aksai Chin, a part of Xinjiang which is claimed by India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The attack comes at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a sensitive time in Xinjiang after an uptick in attacks over the past three years in which hundreds have died, blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants.

Repeated calls to the Xinjiang government news office were not answered. Such incidents are frequently reported in overseas media but not confirmed by the Chinese government until days later, if ever.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say repressive government policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam and on Uighur culture, have provoked unrest, a claim that Beijing denies.

via At least 18 dead in attack in China’s Xinjiang: Radio Free Asia | Reuters.

07/05/2015

China pulls out stops to avoid lay-offs as economy cools | Reuters

As growth in China’s sagging economy looks on the verge of spilling below 7 percent, officials worried about a spike in unemployment are pulling out all the stops to avoid mass lay-offs.

State firms are encouraged to keep idle workers employed, subsidies and tax breaks are given to companies that do not fire their workers, and some businesses are even enticed into hiring despite the slackening economic growth.

The measures appear to be working for now, said a senior economist at the Development Research Center, a think-tank affiliated to China’s cabinet.

“There is no big problem in employment. They (top leaders) are more worried about financial risks and debt risks,” said the economist, who declined to be named.

But things could change quickly.

In one of the first signs of distress in China’s labor market, the Liaoning government said in April it had slashed its 2015 job creation target to 400,000 from 700,000, to reflect a “severe” employment trend.

That came in the wake of data that showed Liaoning, one of three rustbelt provinces in northeastern China, grew just 1.9 percent in the first three months of the year, the slowest of China’s 31 provinces and regions.

Disappearing job opportunities or a spike in unemployment are always a concern for China’s stability-obsessed government, especially with 7.5 million university graduates estimated to join the labor market this year.

via China pulls out stops to avoid lay-offs as economy cools | Reuters.

29/01/2015

China pledges to ‘regulate and revamp’ e-commerce sector amid Alibaba row | South China Morning Post

The Ministry of Commerce said it will boost regulation of China’s e-commerce sector amid the continuing row between Alibaba Group, over alleged sale of fake goods by its subsidiary Taobao.com, and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC).

Alibaba's corporate headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Photo: Reuters

Shen Danyang, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said on Thursday that the move was aimed at revamping the entire sector.

Last year, the ministry investigated more than 11,000 violations in the fast-growing e-commerce industry, and closed 3,400 websites, Shen said. The ministry would continue its campaign to build a safe and reliable market for consumers.

Online media company Sina reported on Thursday that a SAIC spokesperson denied they had received a formal complaint from Taobao.com against director Liu Hongliang, despite Taobao’s claim yesterday that they would do so.

An open letter was published on Taobao’s official Weibo account on Tuesday accusing SAIC director Liu of commissioning an “unfair” quality survey of goods sold on the platform, which resembles eBay of the US, and making public the results without giving online shop owners a chance to appeal.

Alibaba Group is due to release its quarterly earnings tonight.

via China pledges to ‘regulate and revamp’ e-commerce sector amid Alibaba row | South China Morning Post.

26/01/2015

Govt sells off premium cars- Chinadaily.com.cn

The first group of premium government automobiles to be auctioned off amid the ongoing frugality campaign have gone under the hammer in Beijing.

Govt sells off premium cars

According to Zonto Auction, the 106 vehicles it sold on Sunday were from six central government departments including the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, China Securities Regulatory Commission and State Bureau for Letters and Calls.

The cars were without plates, which would have to be supplied by the purchasers.

A total of 505 bidders from around the country joined the auction, which brought in proceeds of 6.6 million yuan ($980,000).

The highest bid went to a Toyota cross country vehicle for 200,000 yuan.

Li Guanwen, 40, of Hebei province, bought a Skoda bus for 160,000 yuan.

“The market value of this bus is around 500,000 yuan,” said Li.

“I think the reform of official vehicles is a very good thing and is a very good approach to remind civil servants to cut costs and to serve the public well.”

In November 2013, public agencies were told to cut their vehicle fleets, as well as reduce receptions and overseas trips. The use of all vehicles, except those required for law enforcement, emergency duties and essential public services, were scrapped or severely reduced.

via Govt sells off premium cars[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn.

02/05/2014

Freedom of information: Right to know | The Economist

IN THE summer of 2013 Wu Youshui sent an open government information (OGI) request to every provincial-level government in China. Mr Wu, a lawyer based in the eastern city of Hangzhou, wanted to know about the fines imposed on violators of the one-child policy. Each year provincial governments collect billions of yuan from couples who have too many children, but how this money is spent is not public knowledge. That leaves the system vulnerable to corruption, says Mr Wu. To expose misconduct and spur public debate, he used the legal mechanism of the OGI regulations, China’s version of a freedom of information act.

When the regulations took effect in 2008 it marked, on paper at least, the beginning of a profound change in how the Chinese government handles some kinds of information. A culture of secrecy had for decades been the mainstay of the authoritarian state. But in the modern era absolute opacity can cause discontent that threatens stability. The government’s failure to disclose information about the spread of SARS, a respiratory disease, in 2003 hurt its standing at home and abroad. A government operating in “sunshine”, as state media have put it, could regain citizens’ trust and, the party hoped, help ease tensions.

The OGI regulations set up two ways of accessing government information. Government offices at local and central level had to issue findings of interest, such as plans for land requisitions or house demolition. The information was to be published on official websites and community bulletin boards and in government journals. Departments also became answerable to citizens. A response to a public request had to come within 15 days. This created a new way for people to contact and monitor the government, says Jamie Horsley of the China Law Centre at Yale Law School. At the last nationwide count, in 2011, roughly 3,000 requests had been filed to central-government departments and 1.3m others to offices at the provincial level. Over 70% led to the full or partial release of information, on everything from pollution to food safety to the tax on air fares. “It is as if there has been a pent-up demand and now people are pushing for the information,” Ms Horsley says.

In an important case in 2012 the All-China Environment Federation, a non-profit organisation with links to the government, took an environment-protection bureau in Guizhou province to court. The bureau had twice failed to give a good answer to an OGI request about a dairy farm that was discharging waste. The court ordered the release of the information within ten days. Such rulings against government departments, once rare, are becoming more common. In 2010 the chance of a citizen winning an OGI-related lawsuit in Beijing was 5%, according to research from Peking and Yale Universities. In 2012 courts ruled with the plaintiff in 18% of cases.

On April 1st the State Council, China’s cabinet, issued new guidelines, requiring that officials pay more attention to disclosing information. The guidelines come as the government is curtailing freedom of expression online and in the press.

Inevitably, plenty of information remains off limits. Article Eight of the regulations says disclosure must not endanger state, public or economic security or social stability, an open-ended list that prompts utmost caution from compliers. State and commercial secrets—however vaguely defined—are out-of-bounds. Last June Xie Yanyi, a Beijing lawyer, applied to the public security ministry for information about the surveillance of citizens. He received a note saying such details were not covered by the law. China’s regulations are more restrictive than those elsewhere. In America a request in the public interest suffices. In China, people must prove a personal need.

Government departments, at all levels, still do not release everything they should. But Mr Wu, the lawyer, found they are less able to opt out without a good reason. Guangdong province’s Health and Family Planning Commission initially rebuffed his OGI request, saying “internal management issues” prevented compliance. Mr Wu tried again. On April 1st Guangzhou Intermediate Court ruled in his favour. The commission was ordered to reprocess his request. He awaits word of its decision.

via Freedom of information: Right to know | The Economist.

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27/01/2014

Dissent in China: Xu Zhiyong’s verdict | The Economist

IN OUR print edition this week, we reported on the trial of Xu Zhiyong, a prominent political activist charged with “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place”. Though we went to press before there was a verdict, there was little doubt as to what it would be. Now the verdict is in: Mr Xu was convicted, and sentenced to a four-year prison term. This was less than the maximum possible sentence of five years.

The news was announced January 26th through a microblog feed (here, in Chinese) belonging to the No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in Beijing. The one-day trial was held at the heavily guarded courthouse (pictured above) in the western part of the city on January 22nd. Mr Xu and his lawyers declined to mount a defence, decrying the proceedings as nothing more than theatre. Mr Xu did try to read a lengthy statement, but was stopped before he could finish.

Mr Xu is one of the founders of the New Citizens Movement, which in general terms calls on Chinese citizens “not to act as feudal subjects” but “to take seriously the rights which come with citizenship” according to China’s own constitution. In specific terms, the group has, among other things, called on Chinese officials to disclose their personal assets in order to combat corruption.

It is this call that authorities seem to find most threatening. The “disruption” Mr Xu is charged with causing refers to small and peaceful demonstrations that have occurred since he wrote about his ideas in 2012, in which other activists displayed banners urging asset disclosure for officials.

In principal, Chinese authorities would seem to agree with Mr Xu and his supporters. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) came into force in 2003 and, in Article 52.5, says its adherents “shall consider establishing\” effective financial disclosure systems for appropriate public officials and appropriate sanctions for non-compliance. China signed the convention in 2003 and ratified it in 2006.

China’s commitment to “consider establishing” such an asset disclosure regime is of course fairly weak tea; its response to Mr Xu and other citizens advocating the same thing, on the other hand, offers a fairly strong hint as to how the government\’s “consideration” is going thus far.

In his statement Mr Xu tried to tell the court, “By trying to suppress the New Citizens Movement you are obstructing China on its path to becoming a constitutional democracy through peaceful change.”

At the trial, the presiding judge reportedly stopped Mr Xu ten minutes in to the reading of his statement, calling it “irrelevant to the case”. But it is undoubtedly relevant to many of the biggest issues facing China today and is well worth an airing. It can be read in the original Chinese here, and in English translation here.

via Dissent in China: Xu Zhiyong’s verdict | The Economist.

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25/11/2013

No. 2 Most-Wanted Tiananmen Dissident Wu’er Kaixi Tries to Turn Self in, Gets Sent Home – China Real Time Report – WSJ

In his fourth attempt to surrender himself to Chinese authorities, exiled Tiananmen Square dissident Wu’er Kaixi on Monday flew to Hong Kong to seek extradition to mainland China. But Hong Kong officials denied his request, and quickly put him a plane back to Taiwan.

Mr Wuer, a former student leader of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square who now resides in Taiwan, boarded a Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Taipei on Monday morning to Bangkok, with a stopover in Hong Kong. He made use of the stopover to turn himself into Hong Kong authorities. He believes he remains on a wanted fugitive in China for his role in the 1989 student protests.

In the immediate aftermath of the June 4 crackdown on the protests, he was No. 2 on China’s list of most-wanted dissidents.

In an online statement posted on his blog, Mr. Wu’er urged the city’s government to arrest and extradite him to the Chinese authorities during. However, Hong Kong officials chose to deport him back to Taiwan Monday afternoon, according to Kenneth Lam, a Hong Kong-based solicitor who assisted Mr. Wu’er at the Hong Kong airport.

A spokesman at Hong Kong’s Immigration Department said it won’t comment on individual cases but said immigration officers may examine any visitor on arrival to the city to determine whether the person meets standard immigration requirements.

Mr. Wu’er has tried several times to attempt a re-entry to China. In 2009, he flew to Macau but was detained at the airport and deported. In 2010, he tried to enter the Chinese embassy in Tokyo and in 2012, he entered the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C., but both attempts to turn himself in were unsuccessful.

Mr. Wu’er said Monday the latest move was a “last resort” as Chinese authorities have refused to issue passports for his family members to visit him since he fled into exile shortly after the Tiananmen crackdown.

“I miss my parents and my family, and I hope to be able to be reunited with them while they are still alive ,” Mr. Wu’er said in the statement, noting that his parents are old and in ill health.

via No. 2 Most-Wanted Tiananmen Dissident Wu’er Kaixi Tries to Turn Self in, Gets Sent Home – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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