Posts tagged ‘Great Hall of the People’

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 Tens of millions of dollars-worth of black-market, out-of-date and improperly stored vaccines have been sold to government health centres, which have in turn been making money by selling them to patients.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

Advertisements
02/07/2015

China National Security Law Aims to Create ‘Garrison State,’ Experts Say – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China has adopted a sweeping national-security law that the government says is needed to counter emerging threats but that critics say may be used to quash dissent and exclude foreign investment. As WSJ’s Chun Han Wong reports:

Its passage marked the latest signpost in Beijing’s intensifying crackdown on activism and dissent during the past two years, featuring repression of civil-society groups, heightened monitoring of social media, and sharpened warnings against the spread of Western ideas and influences.

The new legislation forms the centerpiece of a series of proposed security laws, including draft laws on counterterrorism and the management of foreign nonprofit groups. Together, experts said, the laws underpin a push by President Xi Jinping to consolidate his and Beijing’s power and promote a notion of rule of law that doesn’t undermine the Communist Party’s authority.

These laws “reflect the party’s determination to create a garrison state,” said Jerome Cohen, a veteran China legal scholar at New York University. The national security law, he said, is “an ideological platform that guides domestic and foreign policies.”

via China National Security Law Aims to Create ‘Garrison State,’ Experts Say – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

31/03/2015

China aims to double doctor numbers as cure for healthcare woes | Reuters

China will almost double the number of its general doctors by 2020, trim its public sector and improve technology as it seeks to fix a healthcare system plagued by snarling queues and poor rural services, its main administrative authority has said.

People queue at a hospital in Shanghai, September 2, 2014.  REUTERS/Aly Song

China’s fast-growing healthcare market is a magnet for global drug makers, medical device firms and hospital operators, all looking to take a slice of a healthcare bill expected to hit $1 trillion by 2020, according to McKinsey & Co.

“Healthcare resources overall are insufficient, quality is too low, our structures are badly organized and service systems fragmented. Parts of the public hospital system have also become bloated,” China’s State Council said in a five-year roadmap announced late on Monday.

The roadmap, which laid out targets for healthcare officials nationwide between 2015 and 2020, said Beijing wanted to have two general doctors per thousand people by 2020, close to double the number at the end of 2013, as well as increasing the number of nursing and support staff.

China suffers from a scarcity of doctors – partly caused by low salaries – which has created bottlenecks at popular urban hospitals leading to rising tension between medical practitioners and often frustrated patients.

The roadmap said China would also look to use technology such as mobile devices and online “cloud systems” to meet some of the issues, a potential boost to tech firms like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and its healthcare subsidiary Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd.

China should also have digital databases for electronic health records and patient information covering the entire population to some degree by 2020, it said.

Providing access to affordable healthcare is a key platform for President Xi Jinping‘s government. However, recent probes have turned the spotlight on corruption in the sector, while patients often have large out-of-pocket expenses due to low levels of insurance coverage.

The roadmap said China would push forward the development of grassroots healthcare, a fast-growing business segment, while reining in some large public hospitals in urban centers.

The document also suggested further opening to the private sector, where Chinese and international firms have been taking a growing role in running hospitals.

“The role of public health institutions is too big, with the number of beds accounting for around 90 percent of the total,” the State Council said.

via China aims to double doctor numbers as cure for healthcare woes | Reuters.

11/03/2015

Ideology: Class struggle | The Economist

IN THE first week of March university students in China will return from a break of six weeks or more. They will find a new chill in the air. While they have been away, officials have been speaking stridently—indeed, in the harshest terms heard in years—about the danger of “harmful Western influences” on campuses, and the need to tighten ideological control over students and academic staff.

Universities have always been worrisome to the Communist Party; they have a long history in China as wellsprings of anti-government unrest. The party appoints university presidents. Its committees on campuses vet the appointment of teaching staff. Students are required to study Marxist theory and socialism. They are not allowed to study politically sensitive topics such as the grievances of Tibetans or the army’s crushing of the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

There is no sign of an anti-party campaign developing on campuses (students are signing up for party membership in droves, believing it to be a path to career success). But since Xi Jinping took over as China’s leader in 2012, the party has been trying to reinforce its control in numerous areas. In the army it appears that Mr Xi has been leading the effort personally (see article). In the academic realm, his involvement in the crackdown now unfolding is less certain. But he has shown no sign of resisting it, and some of the rhetoric warning of the dangers of Western values echoes his own. Mr Xi is certainly no liberal. In his rule he has tightened controls over the media, and there have been numerous arrests and trials of civil-society activists.

That officials have begun to turn their attention to campuses became evident on January 19th, when Xinhua, a state-controlled news agency, published a summary of a document issued secretly by the central authorities in October. It directed universities to “strengthen” their efforts to spread the party’s propaganda and promote its ideology. It told them to educate students better in the history of the party, as well as about the “Chinese dream” (a pet idea of Mr Xi’s). The document also urged educators “firmly to resist infiltration by hostile forces”. It was suffused with the same sense of a party under assault by Western liberal thinking that permeated a secret directive issued in 2013, known as Document Number Nine. That spoke of the threat posed by ideas such as universal values, civil society and press freedom—positive mention of which had occasionally surfaced in some Chinese newspapers and still occurs frequently in university classrooms.

An old-style propaganda campaign is now unfolding. On January 29th Yuan Guiren, the education minister, declared at a conference that “textbooks promoting Western values” would not be allowed in classrooms, nor would “slandering” of the party leadership. Officials at the same meeting echoed his views, including the party chiefs of Peking University and Tsinghua University, the country’s most prestigious colleges. On February 6th a commentary in the People’s Daily, the party’s main mouthpiece, quoted the party chief of Renmin University in Beijing as saying that Marxist thinking must “enter textbooks, enter classrooms and enter brains”.

via Ideology: Class struggle | The Economist.

06/03/2015

Chinese city shuts factories as environmental law bites | Reuters

An industrial city in eastern China has closed several factories, including many steel and nickel pig iron producers, in an apparent sign the government is stepping up enforcement of a new environmental law in the face of growing public discontent over pollution.

Premier Li Keqiang told the annual session of the National People’s Congress, or parliament, on Thursday his government would do everything it could to fight pollution.

China’s vast and energy-intensive steel sector is at the heart of the government’s war on pollution, but it also encapsulates the challenges of curbing smog without denting the economy. Complying with stricter standards would have knock-on effects throughout industry and raise costs for steel producers who are already feeling the pinch of tepid demand.

Most steel producers in Linyi, a city in coastal Shandong province, appear to have been shuttered, industry sources said.

“Almost all the steel-making production in Linyi has closed, and there is no date for when to resume production,” said an official with Linyi Yuansheng Casting Co Ltd, one of the mills in the city, who declined to be identified.

via Chinese city shuts factories as environmental law bites | Reuters.

05/03/2015

5 Takeaways From China’s State-of-the-Nation Speech – WSJ

With a state-of-the-nation speech, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced an era of slower growth, saying “China’s economic development has entered a new normal.” The nearly 100-minute speech inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Thursday outlined the Chinese government priorities for the coming year. The overriding imperative: generating enough growth to keep people happy while the government guides a transition away from smokestack industries to services.   

1 China’s ‘new normal’ is slower, but not slow.

The lowered growth target of about 7% is the lowest in over a decade, but still — Chinese state media reminded — fast for a major economy. A willingness to see an economic free-fall after years of heady growth it isn’t. Mr. Li several times cited the need to keep the economy humming along. He said maintaining “medium-high-level growth” is crucial to boosting living standards, creating jobs and finding new growth drivers.

2 Is smaller better?

While China’s large and often unpopular state enterprises typically capture a large share of bank loans and other government support, Mr. Li gave more than a shout-out to small businesses. He promised to make it easier to start new businesses and encourage people to do so. It isn’t so much an ideological retreat from state control to the private sector. The reason, he said, is that China needs to create jobs and smaller businesses do that.

3 The government isn’t going away

For all the progress, China’s government still believes strongly in the state’s hand over the invisible hand. The deficit is being widened – to 2.3% of gross domestic product from 2.1% – to spend more money to create growth. Big infrastructure projects are still in vogue, with the government promising 800 billion yuan (about $127.6 billion) for new railways and a similar amount for water projects. One of President Xi Jinping’s pet projects, a bevy of cross-border infrastructure projects to bind neighboring economies to China’s orbit known as the new Silk Road, received three mentions.

4 What about the environment?

Expected to be a hot topic, the environment didn’t feature highly in government priorities. Last year, Mr. Li vowed to “declare war on pollution” in a bow to rising middle-class complaints about noxious air, especially in Beijing. A documentary by a former state TV reporter released last weekend went viral. Mr. Li’s speech, however, offered tinkering on already-laid plans. Energy intensity – a measure of energy used to create economic growth – is to be cut 3.1%, lower than last year’s 4.8% but enough to reach a long-term target.

5 China still has a long way to go.

For all China’s tremendous success in becoming an economic powerhouse, income gaps are wide and many people — especially in rural areas — struggle. These government reports are a good reminder of that. This year, Mr. Li said, 60 million more rural Chinese will get access to safe drinking water. Some 200,000 people live without electricity, though more will get it, he said. The social safety net the government has struggled to build out is still thin. The government’s raising pensions, but even so the lowest basic pension across urban and rural China will be 70 yuan a month, less than $12.

via 5 Takeaways From China’s State-of-the-Nation Speech – WSJ.

26/02/2015

China’s top court unveils deadlines for legal reform | Reuters

China’s top court set a five-year deadline on Thursday for legal reforms to protect the rights of individuals, prevent miscarriages of justice and make its judiciary more professional as the ruling Communist Party seeks to quell public discontent.

Zhou Qiang, President of China's Supreme People's Court, attends National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

A statement on the Supreme Court’s website promised specific deadlines for each goal, including support for a “social atmosphere of justice” by 2018.

It gave more details of a decision reached at a four-day meeting last year, when the party pledged to speed up legislation to fight corruption and make it tougher for officials to exert control over the judiciary.

Despite the legal reforms, Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s administration has shown no interest in political change and has detained dozens of dissidents, including lawyers.

China’s top court stressed that one of the five basic principles of legal reform was adhering to the party’s leadership and “ensuring the correct political orientation”.

He Xiaorong, the director of the Supreme People’s Court‘s reform division, said the court “would make officials bear responsibility for dereliction of duty” for cases that have a wide impact.

“Only through the establishment of such a system can we ensure that we can guarantee social fairness and justice in every case,” He told a news conference, according to a transcript on the court’s website.

The measures reflect worries about rising social unrest. Anger over land grabs, corruption and pollution – issues often left unresolved by courts – have resulted in violence between police and residents in recent years, threatening social order.

via China’s top court unveils deadlines for legal reform | Reuters.

10/12/2014

Former top planning official jailed for life in China over graft | Reuters

The former deputy head of China’s top planning agency was jailed for life on Wednesday over a bribery scandal that exposed graft at the highest levels of China’s government, and ensnared several companies including Toyota Motor Corp.

Liu Tienan, then deputy chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), attends a news conference in Beijing in this February 27, 2009 file photograph. Liu, a deputy chairman of China's top planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), is under investigation for suspected ''serious discipline violations'', state media said on 12 May, 2013, REUTERS/Stringer/Files

The sentence, handed down by a court just outside of Beijing, capped the downfall of Liu Tienan, who was sacked as deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) last year, a position that carries ministerial-level status.

Liu was the first ministerial-level official to face an investigation after Xi Jinping became Communist Party head in late 2012 and launched the most aggressive anti-graft campaign China has seen in decades.

via Former top planning official jailed for life in China over graft | Reuters.

19/11/2014

China and Japan: Out of the deep freeze | The Economist

AFTER Japan’s prime minister worshipped at Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine last December, China declared Shinzo Abe to be beyond the pale; principles are principles. But Chinese ones are, well, nothing if not adaptable, and on November 10th President Xi Jinping met Mr Abe for the first time. A “four-point agreement” comes as a welcome signal that tensions between Asia’s two biggest powers might, at least for now, begin to ease.

The thorn in the side of relations is Japan’s Senkaku islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus. Chinese aircraft and coastguard vessels have greatly raised tensions from 2012 onwards, by making incursions around the Senkakus. So it is progress that Japan and China now acknowledge “the emergence of tense situations” there. For the first time Japan has referred to the Senkakus in a document with China. Chinese analysts claim a diplomatic victory. Even if obliquely, Japan acknowledges a dispute over sovereignty, Huang Dahui of Renmin University argues. Yet the wording also left ample room for Japanese diplomats to insist that they have not acknowledged any such thing.

The negotiations seem mostly about avoiding the hard issues. On Yasukuni, it beggars belief to think the Japanese promised Mr Abe would not visit the shrine where high-ranking war criminals are honoured. The joint statement says that Japan and China will overcome “political difficulties” in the spirit of “squarely facing history” (a favourite Communist Party phrase). China believes that means Mr Abe will stay away. Mr Abe and his right-wing supporters may think differently.

Most welcome is a commitment to set up crisis-management mechanisms in the crowded seas and skies around the Senkakus. For months both sides’ armed forces have seen the need for such a step, says Noboru Yamaguchi, a retired Japanese general. Yet the details remain unclear.

Now the two countries’ ministries can resume their connections, though exchanges are likely to remain fraught. As if to underscore the challenges, this week Mr Abe brought up with Mr Xi a fresh diplomatic complaint, about Chinese coral poachers hunting near Japan’s distant Ogasawara islands. As for the Senkaku islands and waters, will China withdraw incursions by its coastguard cutters? That would be the most genuine proof of a Chinese desire to lower the temperature.

via China and Japan: Out of the deep freeze | The Economist.

10/11/2014

Xi Jinping’s Ice-Cold Handshake With Japan’s Shinzo Abe – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Well, it’s a start.

Photo

After years of tensions over disputed territory, disputed history and visits to a certain shrine, China and Japan drew closer to establishing a more functional diplomatic relationship with a handshake on Monday between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.

As the video above suggests, the encounter was a tad on the chilly side, with Mr. Xi apparently refusing to return his counterpart’s greeting and looking throughout the photo op as if he’d rather be shaking hands with one of the goats that are said to be stripping the aforementioned disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands of their scant vegetation.

As WSJ’s Yuka Hayashi reports, however, a subsequent sit-down between the two leaders appears to have been somewhat more productive:

Speaking to reporters shortly after the meeting, Mr. Abe said, “I believe Japan and China took the first step toward improving our relationship as we go back to the principle of mutually beneficial strategic relations.”

The meeting, in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, lasted just short of 30 minutes. It followed weeks of intense, behind-the-scenes negotiations, as officials from Asia’s two biggest economies sought to arrange for Messrs. Abe and Xi to get together on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

…“I am aware that our neighbors in Asia and many countries beyond had been hoping to see dialogue between Japanese and Chinese leaders,” Mr. Abe said. “We were able to respond to such wishes and begin taking steps toward repairing our ties.”

China and Japan had earlier issued a surprise announcement that they planned a gradual resumption of diplomatic and security dialogues, though each side translated the text of the agreement in ways that made it look like the other had folded. That subtle sniping continued on Monday, when China’s official Xinhua news agency emphasized that the meeting between Messrs. Xi and Abe came “at the request of the Japanese side” — a message Mr. Xi’s expression during Monday’s handshake helped reinforce.

It wasn’t the first time onlookers have felt a chilly blast when the prime minister of Japan met China’s president. In November 2010, for example. then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan met then-Chinese President Hu Jintao. The meeting saw a few arms-length handshakes exchanged. Mr. Kan read out his greetings to Mr. Hu from a memo. A Chinese fishing trawler had collided with a Japan coast guard boat that September near disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

via Watch: Xi Jinping’s Ice-Cold Handshake With Japan’s Shinzo Abe – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India