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With China’s latest round of promotions, we have a chance to get an updated perspective on what is valued by the CPC, instead of relying on the claims from state media that the Party is looking to improve reforms and protect human rights. Within the top 7 it is clear that as long as you are a Han male, in your late 50’s or early 60’s, (and have suspiciously dark black hair), there is no single path to power. Xi Jinping was well connected through his family and developed ties in the military before moving unobtrusively through the Party ranks, Li Keqiang found ties to Hu Jintao in the Communist Youth League (CYL), Zhang Dejiang established himself by outlining how to work with North Korea, Yu […]


Today, Jonathan Watts of the Guardian filed his last article from Beijing entitled, “China: Witnessing the birth of a superpower.” While I will sorely miss his reporting, his lengthy 4,000 word post neatly encapsulates the decade long rule of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao who came to power just months before Jonathan’s arrival. It is absolutely worth reading in its entirety, but I created this handy chronological cheat sheet to the pieces linked to in it (his article cleverly clumps them by topics). 2003 John Gittings: Goodbye to China Nervous Beijing orders TV blackout as Chinese astronauts reach for the stars After the flood 2004 10,000 animals to be culled as SARS returns to China Taiwan president shot in election attack 2005 A bloody revolt […]


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, […]


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,” […]


…Continued Ushering in a new era of development in the cause of socialism 5.1 The Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee was a significant transition in the history of the party and the state since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. the CPC central collective leadership with Comrade Deng Xiaoping as its core throroughly reviewed the lessons from its experience in socialist construction, emancipated their minds, sought truth from facts, made the historic decision to shift the focus of the Party and country’s work to economic development and to implement reform and opening up, laid out the Party’s basic line for the primary stage of socialism and the three-step strategy for modernizing the country, created Deng Xiaoping Theory and blazed […]


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 […]


I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season. In this issue, you will find a sample response to President Hu Jintao’s article about malicious cultural infiltration by hostile forces, items about Wukan, how China practices law, why a couple who were dying to see each other had a hard time reuniting, the deluge of confidential user information, and more. Click date below for link to the original.   张鸣 /Zhang Ming/(Professor of political science at People’s University of China)/: Chinese have no American TV to watch, cannot access American websites. Americans are not allowed to open schools in China. On the other hand, China can set up TV, websites and schools in the US. The US has no Great Fire Wall to keep […]


A few weeks ago a Chinese friend told me what worries him the most: a form of Nationalism that asserts China’s natural position is “glorious” and that the country only falls from this status when “outside forces” limit its growth. Equally concerning to him was that these ideas were predicated on a kind of racial superiority, sometimes referred to as Han nationalism (大汉族 DaHanzu Greater Han Ethnic group). This small group of people maintain that not only was China weakened in the 19th century by western influence, but was susceptible to these forces specifically because they were being led by Manchurians. The ultra-nationalists take this misreading of history to illustrate that China can only be strong when Chinese (Han) culture is purified of foreign influences and […]


By Yaxue Cao A few days ago, I watched a video clip of the 6th plenary session of the Chinese communist party’s 17th Central Committee. I didn’t pay attention to what they were talking about. Instead I was interested by the stony faces of China’s highest-ranking officials when the camera rolled over them one after another: except for Hu Jintao who was giving a speech, each had the same frozen, expressionless face with no discernible muscle movement whatsoever, while it is hard to catch the focus of their eyes. A Weibo commentator said all of them suffered from “facial paralysis.” I probably shouldn’t be promoting physiognomy here, but in China, officials do tend to have highly uniformed facial display. In front of superiors, they pile […]


I’d like to apologize for the large number of links today, but when it comes to sensitive topics it’s best to be prepared. The other day I quietly asked my co-workers where exactly Dr. Sun Yat-sen (or Sun Zhongshan in pinyin) was during the Xinhai revolution, when Imperial China was overthrown. The intern quickly replied “Nanjing” which was a good choice, since that is where his mausoleum is, and where Sun set up the Republican gov’t (his presidency lasted 3 months). My other co-worker guessed “Beijing” then switched to “Beiping”, the name used during the republican era, just in case it was a trick question. Their mouths fell open when I told them he was in the far away city of Denver, a fact that […]


Recently a lot has been made of China’s efforts to modernize its military, and it’s easy to get the West’s attention when you simply remind them of the sheer size of China’s army. Even though China maintains the largest standing army in the world, it hasn’t been involved in international conflicts, outside of a limited peace keeping role, since the 1980’s. So what do they keep all of these soldiers around for? According to President Hu Jintao, who is head of the Party, the government, and the military, the PLA exists to: Consolidate the ruling status of the Communist Party Help ensure China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and domestic security in order to continue national development Safeguard China’s expanding national interests Help maintain world peace Though, […]


It’s very tempting at this moment to celebrate the release of Ai Weiwei, but the current situation is a painful reminder of just how far China has left to go before it actually respects Human Rights. The lead story today is that Ai Weiwei was released from prison on bail after confessing to his economic crimes (tax evasion). He has agreed to pay his fines, and is out because of good behavior in confessing and because of a chronic illness. Other sources add that this is partially in response to international calls for his release. Today, we’ll be picking this apart. It is wrong to say that Ai Weiwei is free. In the next few months there is a good chance that he will be […]


In the mid 1800’s China faced a growing debt with England as a result of opium addiction. Officially opium had been banned by the emperor but corrupt officials continued to allow the drug into the country for the right price. The problem was not only destroying the fabric of Chinese society, but the empire itself. Finally in 1838 a man with an impeccable reputation for being impervious to bribes was sent to deal with the illegal imports, his name was Lin Zexu. Not only was he effective in limiting the amount that entered the country, but was also adept at seizing it from warehouses. In 1839 he managed to destroy more than 2.5 million tons of opium, and wrote a letter to the Queen of […]


Every once in a while I start to wonder if I will run out of material for this blog…then I have a ridiculous weekend like this one and realize that there is still so so so much more to talk about. Even though many of you have read more than 100 posts here, we are still just a few inches beneath the surface, and luckily for us, that is where a lot of the fun begins. This weekend was May Day holiday here in China, essentially the communist version of Labor Day in the US, and my co-worker invited my wife and I to visit her husband’s hometown, Huaxi Cun. “Where is it?” I asked. “Oh, it’s very famous,” her husband said “It’s the first […]


Censorship in China at times is so extreme that it is almost laughable, like when they claimed foreigners couldn’t go to Tibet because of the weather (it was the anniversary of anti-Chinese riots). The news articles are so carefully screened for any material that doesn’t portray the official line that they can end up being whittled down to a single sentence. So today we are going to be looking at the ways the Chinese gov’t controls the news and the net. It’s no secret that the internet here is tightly controlled. Over the past four years I have seen (most of) Wikipedia become available, and have seen Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and countless other sites disappear without explanation. These sites are referred to as being beyond […]


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