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China Change, February 12, 2018     On February 9, lawyer Chen Wuquan (陈武权) was criminally detained with five villagers on an island off the coast of Zhanjiang (湛江), on the southwest peninsular of Guangdong Province. He was not a lawyer representing clients in a land rights defense case, as one may assume. Instead, he was a disbarred lawyer living at home in his village, leading an effort against forced demolition, illegal land reclamation, and the logging of redwoods along the beach. The group of six had petitioned on behalf of the village, and the police responded by detaining them for “obstructing the start of construction.” On February 11, Chen Wuquan’s family received notice of his criminal detention. Before he led villagers to protest illegal […]


Wu Qiang, December 14, 2016 “They had merely to sit on the edges of Tianfu Square wearing smog masks for police bring them in for interrogation until the early hours of the morning — this is a clear show of how deeply anxious Chengdu authorities are about protests against smog.”     For the last week, inland China has been enveloped in smog. Some cities issued emergency smog warnings; others cancelled outdoor activities at schools. In Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, the government banned gatherings in Tianfu Square (天府广场)— as though they were afraid of something. And just as expected, on the weekend, Chengdu residents came out in numbers on Chunxi road in the central business district and on Tianfu Square. Some sat down […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: November 16, 2015 While the number of spotted seals keeps dwindling, its ardent protector gets jail time – an all too familiar Chinese tale.     The 52-year-old Tian Jiguang (田继光) is an environmentalist living in the northeastern province of Liaoning, China, known for his commitment to protecting spotted seals that breed in the wetlands of his hometown, where the Liao River meets the Yellow Sea. He was arrested in October 2013 for “alleged extortion.” When he was indicted, he was given an additional charge of “embezzlement.” In September 2014 he was sentenced by the Dawa County Court (大洼县法院) to 12 years in prison—5 years for extortion, and 8 for embezzlement. Last Friday (November 13), Panjin Municipality Intermediate Court (盘锦市中级法院) upheld […]


By Wu Qiang, published: March 15, 2014 Look beyond Chai Jing’s film.   In a time when opinion leaders, known as the “big verified accounts” or Big Vs,  in China have been razed or driven away, who would have thought that one of them would re-activate the topic of smog with an eye-opening combination of a TED-like presentation and documentary interviews. Everything about Chai Jing’s film Under the Dome, from millions of views within two days, to the heated national debate, from the government’s initial encouragement to its subsequent censorship, indicates that it is a carefully-planned New Media event, and its purpose is to cause a small tsunami in the traditional arena of politics in order to establish a new framework for the politics of […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: March 9, 2015 China’s left foot wants to go north, and China’s right foot wants to go south. Both feet have the same goal, and, that is, to maintain the one-party rule.   When I first watched Chai Jing’s Under the Dome a week ago, my response was like everyone else’s: “Bravo!” In early 2013, shortly after the prolonged smog that cloaked much of China which Chai Jing mentioned at the beginning of her film, political science professor Wu Qiang at Tsinghua University wrote an article titled Amidst the Smog, I Hear the Bugle Call for a National Environmental Movement and China Change translated it. So, watching the film, my mind jumped, “the Bugle Call!” But instantly, I had other thoughts, too, just like […]


As we saw yesterday, China’s water problem urgently needs solutions. As is often the case in China, the Party has pushed forward a single massive project as their favorite option. This project is known as the “South-North Water Diversion Project,” and was inspired by a quote from none other than Chairman Mao who stated, “Southern water is plentiful, northern water scarce. If at all possible, borrowing some water would be good.” Mao may have gotten the idea from the Soviet Union, which was also working on a similar project at the time (that project was abandoned in the 80’s due to environmental concerns). The project began in 2002, and some sections are already in use. The plan seems straight forward enough, pump water from the Yangtze […]


When talking with Chinese friends and co-workers about the pollution levels in Nanjing (awful compared to developed countries, but decent for Chinese cities), they are quick to point out that foreign companies in China are the ones that should be blamed for the filthy air. While it is absolutely true that foreign companies are adding to China’s environmental woes, I’m not convinced they should shoulder all the blame. Today, I’d like to start by discussing three points related to this statement, and I hope you’ll continue the discussion in the comment section below. Production for the West This factor is undeniable. Western consumers have benefited from the destruction of China’s environment by purchasing cheap goods. If all of our environmental standards were enforced globally (and […]


On my way to the supermarket I pass a man fixing bicycles, a place that can repair virtually any article of clothing and at least three shops that can solve any problem on almost any cell phone. This culture of fixing things instead of throwing them away is something I deeply admire. In Longzhou I had a flat tire, so I went to the repairman who worked behind a newspaper stand just off campus. His body was a rich brown, and he hardly had any hair left on his head, just a few wisps combed over. He only spoke the local dialect, and I could only speak Mandarin, but he knew what I wanted when he saw the sorry shape of my bicycle. He pulled […]


I’m at a conference focused on Charity and Education in China, so this week we’ll be focusing on these two issues. One of the biggest misconceptions in the west about China is that “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” is anything like “Socialism”. From the 1970’s China has maintained only the State owned enterprises, which are incredibly profitable, but has done away with most of the social programs. For nearly thirty years many of these holes grew larger, and are now reaching a point that is beyond rescue even for the party. The Central Government has mandated a “Harmonious Society”, but has left the details to local governments. So in the last ~5 years these gov’t bodies have encouraged the growth of a civil society, finally admitting […]


Continued from yesterday  When life satisfaction disconnects from GDP growth, it has to be met in other ways to ensure the Party’s rule, and I believe we are approaching that moment. Today we will be looking at some of those options. Note: while I do not have access to a crystal ball, I’m putting time frames on these issues to emphasize that these are not things that will be changed instantly, and to clarify the order in which they may happen. Lowering Costs (The Present) The Party knows that even though many Chinese people are far richer than their parents, many of them still cannot afford many of the basic appliances that can improve living standards. This is why the gov’t offers generous subsidies to […]


It’s early morning, the sun is shining through  kitchen windows, aroma of coffee wafts pleasantly as toddlers squirm and squeal at your feet. The husband is off busying himself for the office, life could not be better. On the other side of the world, in a village in China, another person is preparing for his day at work. He, too, has a wife who stands in a small area where the cooking is done, also, a happy toddler wriggles and squeals on the floor. But this man will not be going to an office. He will head off to a different type of job for twelve hours, probably for his sixth day in a row. That job is back-breaking, dirty and pays very, very little. […]


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