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By Albertine Ren, published: September 14, 2014 It’s been three months since Pu Zhiqiang’s formal arrest on June 13. An extension of investigation period expired on September 13 without indictment or change of detention status, a blatant disregard for criminal procedure prescribed by the Chinese law. Such is the judicial randomness in China. — The editor   He favors navy suits and towers over everyone else at 6’2”. Farmers fall on their knees when they see him, hoping he can save their land or their child. Certainly, with a Mount Rushmore chin and the looks of leading men from a Communist propaganda film, he could have been custom-ordered from some fortune-teller manual on how to spot successful guys. The effect only falls apart when he […]


By Chang Ping, published December 17, 2013 (Chinese original published on December 6)   In the walled-in court of the Chinese Communist Party’s ruling elite, big dramas proceed one after another. The Bo Xilai-Wang Lijun-Gu Kailai series was sensational enough, and the Zhou Yongkang case is going to be even more earthshaking. Rumor has it that the former member of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee and former secretary of the CCP Central Politics and Law Commission has been placed under Shuanggui (双规, Party discipline to investigate a cadre in designated place and for a designated duration). It is said that his wife, son and close associates have been held too. For the past months, Zhou Yongkang’s henchmen have fallen left and right, and rumors have […]


By Mo Zhixu, published: September 30, 2013     On Sunday, September 22, 2013, Jinan Intermediate Court sentenced Bo Xilai to life imprisonment while stripping him of his political rights for life. As such, the incident begun by Wang Lijun (王立军) entering the US Consulate in Chengdu on February 6, 2012, has come to an end nineteen months later. However, the political debate, sparked by Bo Xilai’s “singing red and striking black” campaign in Chongqing from 2007 to his fall, continues. When Bo Xilai was elected a member of the CCP Political Bureau during the 17th CCP Congress, he was in effect excluded from the future lineup for top leadership of the party and the country. He was not appointed to be one of the […]


Readers of my posts here by now should know that I am not a neutral person, and my bias can be very strong. To be perfectly honest with you, I cherish the freedom of not having to pretend otherwise. Below is a compilation of Twitter Chinese community’s reaction to the news of Chinese writer Mo Yan 莫言 winning this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature (his name literally means “Don’t talk”). I follow nearly 800 people, and the voices on my Timeline are overwhelmingly lopsided. Now, since it’s unlikely that the Swedish Academy will provide you some of the key information about this particular laureate on its site, I will do you a service by supplying it: Mo Yan is currently a member of the Chinese […]


In an interview with the New York Times in late May when his “probation” ended, China’s most famous artist, Ai Weiwei, recounted the details of his forced disappearance in April, 2011. “The policeman yanked the black hood over Ai Weiwei’s head. It was suffocating. Written in white across the outside was a cryptic phrase: ‘Suspect 1.7.’ At the rear of a white van, one policeman sat on each side of Mr. Ai. …They clutched his arms. Four more men sat in the front rows.” It must be jolting enough to be pulled out of the crowd from the bustling Beijing International Airport. But there was something else that bewildered Ai Weiwei. “‘Until that moment I still had spirit, because it didn’t look real,’” Mr. Ai said. […]


Since November last year, Murong Xuecun has becoming increasingly vocal about China’s political situation. If you haven’t read his works, now is a good time to catch up. His only book available in English, “Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu” (excerpt) focuses on individual struggles in modern China, and while it is a gritty look at life, it is not specifically political in nature. The turning point seems to have come when his visit to Chen Guangcheng ended in getting thrown to the ground and beaten by hired thugs. The riveting account of that trip helped focus the spotlight on Dongshigu and the abuse of human rights there. Since then he has published a number of biting works that are worth reading (in addition to […]


I recently finished reading Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe by Frank Dikötter, which outlines the full scope of horror that was the Great Leap Forward which in four years claimed 45 million lives. However, that number fails to capture the suffering and individual abuse that was pervasive throughout the country.  While it is by far the most complete account of that period, it makes for rather dark summer reading. I felt a need to push myself through the unpleasant details as a kind of penance for my years of absolving Mao of any wrong doing. In the past I would have argued that Mao had been fed inaccurate information and was clueless about the actual situation, it was a terribly naive position, […]


A few days ago, it was announced that Liu Zhijun, former head of the Railway Ministry was stripped of his party title as a result of misconduct. In the Western press it was said that his graft involved hundreds of millions of RMB (over 800 million), and yet People’s Daily (PD) has never hinted at an amount. With this small spark, I decided to do a case study of PD’s reports on corruption in China. The Party’s mouth piece is left in a precarious situation, a lack of reporting on corruption would give the people the impression that nothing is being done to confront the very visible problem. Reporting too much though gives the impression that every gov’t official is corrupt, and the Party is […]


Over the past few days, I’ve mentioned the village on the cliff several times, but haven’t yet discussed one of the biggest questions I had on my mind during my time there, Why didn’t the gov’t build this village a road? Why is it being left to charities to do the gov’t’s work? I should say that we aren’t just talking about a single road, the majority of the projects we visited were infrastructure projects. One involved repairing an irrigation system, another was to fix a broken water pump, and the third was to build a water pump. Throughout China this charity is also involved in rebuilding schools, roads, bridges and village clinics. This ties back into an important argument made by economists who say […]


Continued from yesterday My pleasant chat with the happy rural Christians was almost the complete opposite from my chat with one of the ministers of that province’s Christian Council (the governing branch of the officially recognized church). Perhaps that was because she could speak English, and wasn’t constrained by the officials that had come along with us; perhaps it was because she’d been pushed too far. In the city where she worked, the gov’t had big plans for the downtown areas, and the plans required the bulldozing of a historic church and a Bible training center. While the groups were being more than fairly compensated for the land, this minister was adamant that gov’t should not interfere with the church and that these place were […]


Over the past three days we’ve had a chance to look at the full version of the story the Party tells about China’s past 170 years. I divided it into three sections that weren’t broken up in the National Museum, but that allowed reflection on logical chunks – The Opium war up to the founding of the Republic; The founding of the Party through the Mao years; and finally, 30 years of opening up. I wanted to wait to comment on the text until you all had had a chance to read it and form some of your own impressions (which I hope you’ll share below). The first thing that I noticed from the exhibit was that China’s default status in the world is “glorious,” […]


Last week Chen Guangcheng entered a US embassy for the protection that the Chinese gov’t had failed to provide the innocent man. According to Chen’s friends, it was a step that Chen did not want to take. Today we will be looking at three lessons Chen’s case teaches us about China’s legal system. Chen Guangcheng would never call himself a dissident; he might hesitate to even describe himself as an activist. The incredible thing that we should keep in mind as representatives from the US and China decide Chen’s fate, is that he is a man who simply thought that the laws on paper should be enforced. Chen’s initial fame came from his efforts to protect the rights of the disabled and he fell afoul […]


By Yaxue Cao Okay, where were we? In Edition 1, the sleek, smart-looking British gent was nowhere on the scene yet, but we now know that he was seen pinching the behind of Gu Kailai (谷开来), wife of the newly-deposed Communist leader Bo Xilai, ten years ago in a southern town of England, and that he was found dead on Ms. Gu’s birthday in a hotel room in the southwest city of Chongqing, China. Quite a span however you look at it. If you are like me, tired, sleep-deprived, and dozing off during much of the show, I suggest you sleep through it altogether lest you get drowned by a deluge of facts and rumors, but mostly rumors, swooshing down on you when you wake […]


Last night the Central Gov’t confirmed that rumors of Bo Xilai’s involvement in the death of a British national were true. The Party claims this as a victory that shows China as a country “ruled by law (and here),” even though information about this case began to surface months ago with Wang Lijun fleeing to the U.S. Embassy in Chengdu. Bo’s sacking along with the revelation that he may have been an accomplice in a murder is also unusual in that high-level officials are usually dismissed without much clarification. In the last big case, with Railway minister Liu Zhijun supposedly embezzling 800 million RMB, it was only stated in the Chinese press that he was suspected for graft without a specific amount (even though he was blamed […]


Today the pro-Mao (and by extension pro-Bo Xilai) site Utopia announced it would be closed for a month. At the risk of over simplification, this would be like Mitt Romney shutting down Tea Party websites. While one of my co-workers seemed to think that this was “good news,” it’s not the victory for reformers that some might be tempted to claim it is. Too often observers make the mistake of assuming that China is either heading to the left (which in China is the pro-Mao camp) or to the right (reformers), but things are rarely that simple. As other observers have noted, if a site on the right had ventured as far from the permissible realm as Utopia had gone to the left, people would […]


By Hu Ping Mr. Hu Ping (胡平) was a graduate student of philosophy at Peking University in 1980. On campus that fall there was a lively student campaign, and then election, for People’s Representatives of Haidian District in Beijing, an event that has not been seen since. Mr. Hu was one of the candidates. I remember all of a sudden the campus was filled with milling crowds reading posters by the candidates sharing their ideas. Public debates were held, followed by endless chattering around meal times and in the evening hours. After ten bleak years of the Cultural Revolution, the energy was palpable, raw and eruptive. As a freshman still just finding my ways in college life, I understood little of what was going on, […]


Last week Weibo was swept up in rumors of a completely imagined coup in Beijing (Yaxue covered the extent of the madness excellently). It seems that this week is bringing yet another wave of crazed speculation, again involving former star Bo Xilai, as well as an international man of mystery, and most of Bo’s family (NYT coverage or the more entertaining and similarly accurate movie version). For me the question has nothing to do with whether or not these rumors bare any resemblance to what has actually happened (they probably don’t), the big question is why aren’t these rumors being squashed like a bug? There are several possibilities. While nobody really knows the answer, my Chinese friends have assured me that “this is absolutely not normal”. Weibo has come off […]


By Yaxue Cao Mystery abounds. Suspense builds. Millions in China, as someone on Twitter puts it, have been immersed lately in writing “movie scripts” of court intrigues in Zhongnanhai (中南海, gov’t headquarters in Beijing). Under normal circumstances, they can’t even get within 30 feet of its shining red gate guarded by soldiers with truncheons but, all of a sudden, it seems that scores, if not armies, of people live right under the beds of China’s supreme leaders, and are eavesdropping on all of their nightly whispers! CCTV can’t be any happier. Its 7pm newscast sees a wobbling hike in viewership because its script, for once, becomes the most sought-after. Appearances are analyzed and then overanalyzed. Words are turned, over and over again, for hidden clues. […]


I think to many observers of China, People’s Daily (PD) has little worth outside of restating the Party line. They pretend that it is a reconstruction of the Ministry of Truth from 1984, whose only purpose lies in creating “truth.” Some even go so far as to argue that reading and quoting such a paper does nothing but affirm the Party’s leadership. In fact, bloggers, activists, and dissidents should be reading the People’s Daily, and, as I’ll show, often the most damning evidence against the Party’s rule can be found within its pages. Initially, I too was skeptical of the integrity of People’s Daily, but linked to it regularly, assuming that even the strongest proponents of China would find it difficult to argue with facts […]


Last week we looked at why the Two Meetings matter, today we’re looking at what this year’s recurring themes were. Equality Since opening up in the 80’s, gov’t resources have been increasingly targeted at creating advanced cities, abandoning the more equitable development that had been encouraged under Mao. Rural China now finds itself with few medical personnel and crumbling schools while their land is sold out from under them by greedy officials. Meanwhile Chinese cities have benefited immensely from the policies, which has created a wealthy class that in some cases spends more on a single meal than many farmers make in a year. This new wealth has helped spark a real-estate boom that has led to the quadrupling of real-estate prices in some cities, moving housing out of […]


Seriously, I feel pressured to bring something fun to you, at least not appearing to be a hell-bent crusader. But then again, it’s hard to be cute when China is due to legalize disappearance and secret detention—something China has been doing all along anyway but now it will be doing it legally—of those who is deemed to be “harming the national security.” If you have read my recent post “Drinking Tea with the State Security Police”, you know how liberally that harm can be claimed. And this is not the only thing nauseating coming out of the Two Meetings (两会). Click date below for link to the original.  In light of the “KGB clause” (termed by Hu Jia (胡佳), one of China’s most respected dissidents), […]


Just in case you’ve been doing something else this week besides poring over China news, Monday marked the start of China’s annual Two Meetings (两会lianghui). Over 10 days, “representatives” (it is unclear who they actually represent) submit thousands of suggestions for new laws, listen to speeches from heads of various ministries, and approve virtually everything the Party sets in front of them. For many Chinese netizens, it serves as a buffet of memes (internet jokes) at the expense of sleeping delegates and Mao’s grandson, as well as a source of outrage when it comes to expensive clothing and accessories. At the end of the meetings, new laws will be presented and then promptly forgotten. As the WSJ put it: …activists including artist Ai Weiwei, who was detained […]


I came across a blog post yesterday that compares Weibo and Twitter, and the conclusion is that Weibo is not international and its power to promote change is limited. To that I will add that Weibo is really a glass house where it feels like you are free but you keep hitting the walls all the time. It is also becoming a mirror of the twisted world that China is, because, for example, while posts about what’s going on in the Tibetan area of Sichuan can result in a night visit by police (an artist friend of mine in Beijing emailed me on the 9th about being visited by four policemen the night before and taken to a station and warned of his posts about […]


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