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Just a quick thought today: As I tell people in the States, when it comes to China, seemingly good news is often bad, and seemingly bad news is often good. In many cases, like increased numbers of AIDS cases, higher numbers of people living below the poverty line, and shrinking college admissions, bad news can actually be signs of problems being acknowledged and addressed. On the other hand, reforms to the criminal code, the completion of bridges and rails, and “elections” often serve as reminders of how far China has to go in terms of human rights, safety, and developing a gov’t that is actually selected by the people. In a story published the other day in People’s Daily, the gov’t announced that it planned […]


With the conclusion of the school year, I marked the end of my 5th consecutive year in China. Soon, I will be heading back to the United States and applying to graduate programs related to international development and theology. It has been a fantastic time. I feel very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be here and to witness China firsthand. I plan on continuing to write about China, and will try to digest a similar amount of People’s Daily, Global Times, and whatever else looks interesting. I know that I will not be able to keep up with frantic pace of five posts a week, so for the past few months I’ve been working with Yaxue and another friend (you will meet […]


Yesterday we posted Xu Zhiyong’s essay calling for a New Citizens’ Movement. Today I want to highlight a few of the aspects that make this piece especially interesting to me, and why I believe this essay lays out a realistic path for change. Reform not Revolution What has been made clear time and again in Global Times and Peoples Daily is that the Chinese people have little appetite for revolution, they aren’t wrong about this. After all, they got their fill of the chaos that revolution brings during Mao’s reign. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, and a successful movement is going to have to reassure the people that what they are doing is not going to turn China into Libya, Egypt or Syria. […]


As the U.S. continues to grapple with what the Supreme Court decision last week will mean for their health care coverage, China has begun to experiment with their own reforms. In the U.S. our policies left millions without health insurance, and individuals struggled with bankruptcy and chronic illnesses. In China, the situation has deteriorated to a point where patients stab their doctors, hospitals have police stations, and demonstrations are held several times a month in front of the public hospital where I work. I’ve written about China’s hospitals before in Storming the hospital and Chinese doctors speak out about China’s health The reforms being tried in all of Shenzhen’s public hospitals and one of Beijing’s look to address one of the key underlying issues – over prescription. When […]


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 […]


For the last few weeks, the expat community in China has been abuzz with talk about Beijing’s crackdown on foreigners who are here illegally, and the growing anti-foreign sentiment that seems to be stoked by state media (Beijing Cream’s summary of what sparked it all and the fiery post that almost got China Geeks sued). So far the crackdown has already spread to Yanbian and Chengdu is preparing to announce similar measures, a nationwide campaign in the next few months would not be surprising. If we’re completely honest though, I think most of us would agree with the importance of enforcing visa policies, but dislike the tone of the rhetoric and the nationalism it encourages. I think we should also admit that most of us know people […]


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 […]


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 […]


When you hear the words “migrant worker,” what kind of person comes to mind? Are they young or middle age? Are they poor? Are they educated? While “migrant worker” seems at first to describe a fairly uniform group of lowly occupations – factory and construction workers, aiyis, taxi drivers, etc. Their backgrounds are actually quite diverse, and the term covers a far larger group of people than we might expect. So large in fact that over 55% of those between 14-35 living in Shanghai are counted as “migrants.” Many of these people are ambitious college graduates entering a workplace with little need of higher education degrees. As a colleague from a Chinese charity recently told me, a large number of people working at factories like […]


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 […]


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 […]


Over the last year we’ve discussed the problem of air pollution nearly a dozen times, and while this is a pressing issue that effects hundreds of millions of people, there is a bigger environmental challenge facing China – water pollution. More specifically, there is a shortage of water that can be used. You can tell it is a serious problem, given the frank discussion of the issue in the People’s Daily, and that unlike smoking or public defecation, it has its own public service campaign. A recent article from People’s Daily highlights some of the problems (it’s worth reading the full thing): UP to 40 percent of China’s rivers were seriously polluted last year after 75 billion tons of sewage and waste water was discharged into them 20 percent of rivers were so polluted their water quality was rated too toxic even to come into contact with nearly 300 million rural residents lack access to drinking water The per capita of water resources is only 2,100 cubic meters annually, or about 28 percent of the world’s average About two-thirds of Chinese cities are “water-needy” Unlike air pollution, water shortages (caused partially by pollution and industry) disproportionaly effects the poor. For […]


After two days without breakfast, I was glad to see the jianbing man this morning (jianbing is a delicious crepe like food that should be enjoyed by all). I was actually surprised to see him, the two big meetings of the Party start next week, and I had assumed they had forced him from the street early as usual. When I asked where he had been, he said, “There was a health inspection. We get a phone call from someone who knows when these are, and so we stayed home.” I nodded and expected the conversation to shift back to the usual topic: the cost of random goods in the US. In the last year the jianbing man has been absent a few days at […]


Today the People’s daily ran a story gushing over an upcoming release of the complete works of Lei Feng nearly 50 years after his death. In the West though it is widely accepted as fact that Lei was little more than an invented character who served the Party’s propaganda needs, and is a reminder of the days before Mao’s cultural revolution. Today we’ll be trying to answer two questions about Lei – Who was Lei Feng? And is there still room in modern China for “Lei Feng Spirit”? I’ll let a People’s Daily article introduce the man: “Born in late 1940 in central China’s Hunan province, Lei was orphaned at the age of 7. He started working in a steel mill in 1958, and became […]


Over the past few days I’ve received emails from long-time readers of the blog telling me to “stay safe” after publishing Ge Xun’s account of his detention. In the past I would have said that for the most part, China deports troublesome foreigners and is content with keeping them outside of its borders and labeling them as “hostile foreign forces” (this is not the case with drug charges, China routinely executes foreign “smugglers”). Now though, it seems that the Party is expanding its search for activists that it deems a threat to stability, even if they have been living outside of China for 25 years, and is willing to subject them to violence and intimidation. We published Yaxue’s translation of Ge Xun’s account, not only […]


It would be easy to write a post about the difference between Malaysia and China and point to the joys of multiculturalism and  democracy. However it wasn’t these things that jumped out most at me during my travels, instead it was the simple joy of being reminded of the abundance of life outside of the human race. Even though Malaysian Borneo is home to orangutans, sea turtles, and hosts of other intriguing creatures, it was the little birds that could be heard in every city that made me saddest to leave. China’s urban areas have stray cats and dogs, rats, and surprisingly large cockroaches, but very few birds (outside of the ones old men bring to the parks in cages). Even though my apartment exits […]


China’s tomb raiders laying waste to thousands of years of history, by Tania Branigan. Soaring prices offered by collectors and lax monitoring of China’s thousands of historical sites have led to grave robbing on a massive scale. One researcher estimates that 95% of Chinese tombs have been plundered, and that without sufficient protection it could all be lost in the next 10 years. Chinese authorities and villagers clash over mosque – From around mid-December there have been a number of crackdowns on religious groups in China, with Buddhist, Muslisms and Christians all being effected. This time the clash happened in a Hui region, which is unusual, since Hui have traditionally been tolerated. The children left behind by China’s migrant workers – great photos and an […]


With the holidays I know that many of you have taken a break from the internet to spend time with your families, but the Chinese gov’t realizes this too, slipping 3 State subversion trials of dissidents into the final week of the year in the hopes that foreign media will miss the story (and one very mysterious broken probation). Due to the number of links this week, I’ve only added a few comments. China jails dissident 10 years for subversive essays Why isn’t the West reacting to China’s crackdown Draft law prohibits citizens who may endanger national interests from leaving country – This story has not been widely reported on outside of People’s Daily, but would essentially allow China to keep any dissidents from speaking out […]


China halts U.S. academic freedom at the class door, from Bloomberg, was the better of two excellent pieces this week on the topic of joint-managed colleges in China (the other being No academic freedom for China). This piece generated a lot of discussion about education, and one friend who actually studies at the school mentioned that the article should have also examined discussions in the classrooms that are actually much freer than she had expected. Hepatitis C outbreak hits Anhui, Henan, from Caixin, is an in depth look at how lax regulations and the recycling of used needles at local clinics led to over 110 people being infected. Supposedly this problem was fixed nearly a decade ago. This coming out near World AIDS Day is a […]


If you have spent much time in China’s major cities, you have no doubt seen a few hundred new luxury cars, up and coming urbanites clutching Louis Vuitton bags or sporting a new Rolex watch, and more than a few people talking loudly on their iPhones. This rampant materialism even seems to surpass what I saw in the US a few years back. As I’ve mentioned before, when co-workers return from overseas trips, more often than not, I hear about what they bought rather than what they saw. One friend told me he had spent over $25,000 on watches during a brief trip to Taiwan. Another said she had bought 4 new designer bags on a trip to Hong Kong. This binge shopping is shrugged off when […]


Ai Weiwei speaks out on his detention, appeared online for Newsweek and covers both the artist’s arrest and his ongoing campaign to pay a 2 million dollar tax bill. Ai’s description of his arrest is troubling, as well as Beijing’s attempts to silence him of which he said, “If you play a chess game, and play two or three moves, they throw the board away.” Shortly after paying part of the tax bill, the gov’t brought charges of pornography against him. Chinese executioner says job not complicated, appeared this week in Reuters. It gives a glimpse into one of China’s best kept state secrets: how many people are executed each year? It’s a little grisly, but it’s important to keep a focus on these issues. […]


When I first arrived in China in 2007, the attitude of many of my Chinese friends was that the system was broken, but there was absolutely nothing they could do to fix it. I clearly remember chatting with a professor in Longzhou. He said, “They talk a lot about a ‘harmonious society’ but what the hell does that mean? The price of everything is going up and things are getting worse. I don’t care about ‘harmony’ I care about actually having a good life.” At that time I was surprised to hear people openly complain about their situation, and was bothered by their sense of hopelessness. Now though people are far more willing to vent their frustration, not only with foreigners (who are seen as a safe […]


A few weeks ago SeeingRedinChina.com was not accessible within China. My initial urge was to figure out which post had led to being blocked, and decide what that would mean for the future of the blog. Was it our coverage of Chen Guangcheng’s case? Or was it my rant against the Global Time’s incredible lack of integrity which unintentionally went online the same day that Global Time’s called us one of the best English language blogs focused on China. A few days later though, the site was accessible and we hadn’t changed a thing. The Great Firewall of China had shifted once again. In my year of blogging I’ve seen a number of websites get blocked and often people try to find a single reason. Instead of […]


From time to time people disagree with some of my thoughts on China. I welcome thoughtful comments, and one of my major motivations in starting this blog was seeing to what degree people agreed with my thoughts on the middle kingdom. That being said, there are a few excuses that I’m tired of hearing. We’ll be looking at a few of these over the next few days. The West doesn’t understand China It seems that you can’t read an opinion piece in the People’s Daily without bumping into phrases like “the West”, “Hegemony” and the idea that westerners just don’t get China. This feeling comes out of a sense of superiority/insecurity within China’s nationalist groups. When it comes to democracy and other topics that worry China’s […]


The US Senate is getting ready to pass a bill that would allow the gov’t to place a tariff on Chinese goods equal to the amount that Chinese currency is undervalued. If that sentence makes complete sense to you, and you feel like you understand its implications, congratulations! You’ve clearly been working on your economics degree. If you’re like me though, you might want need further clarification. Today we’ll be looking at the general idea of currency manipulation so we can talk about the bill tomorrow. Is China’s Currency Undervalued? The answer to this is a resounding “yes.” It’s no secret that China has manipulated the value of its currency for years, unless you live in China where the People’s Daily throws a fit anytime the […]


If you aren’t familiar with the Great Firewall of China I would suggest reading this and this first. Several months ago Hillary Clinton described the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party to maintain their firm grasp on power as a “fool’s errand.” I think her succinct statement was right on target. The gov’t’s attempts to limit freedom of speech only seem to be accelerating the causes pushed by China’s activists. Today we’ll be looking at how the Great Firewall is likely to create more problems than it solves. First just a touch of history. Despite popular belief, the Great Wall as we know it (the brick one built after the Yuan dynasty), was built largely due to gov’t inaction. While the national gov’t bickered over whether or […]


The big story in China news this week was that there was an effort by Chinese arms companies to sell weapons to Qaddafi in mid-July, well after the UN embargo had begun. While the Chinese gov’t is denying any knowledge of these meetings (even claiming that it might have just been a friendly chat), and is stressing that no arms were sold. This does however fit China’s pattern of supporting dictators with small arms that they know are being used against civilians. As China’s strength grows, it is finding foreign policy to be a bit of a minefield. Read my coverage of weapons sales to Zimbabwe, and Chinese attitudes about the genocide in Darfur. China also used state media to focus anger at ConocoPhillips this week as news […]


This week we’ve been looking at how the party relies on improving its citizens quality of life for its mandate to rule. We started by looking at how GDP is no longer enough to maintain that stability, and what changes will be coming in the next few decades. Today I want to focus on some ways the Party could eventually transform its system of rule. As you read remember that the Party will maintain absolute power until a majority of the population feels that their lives are no longer improving. The most important idea to understand, is that there is no action considered beyond the pale for maintaining their position of power. As Fei Xiaotong points out in his book, “From the Soil”, they would […]


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 […]


Yesterday we looked at two of the Party’s central myths concerning China’s role in the world, today I want to look at two more myths that might not be working in the way the Party meant. The important thing to note here with the word “myth” is that I don’t mean to judge these definitively as lies (that’s up to you), but that these are stories told with special meaning to teach a specific lesson to the masses. Happy Minorities If you’ve been reading the People’s Daily these past few weeks in the run up to the Party’s 90th anniversary you are probably more than aware of the fact that China is a family of 56 happy ethnic groups. This is a “fact” that students […]


As I’ve mentioned before, the Party’s greatest concern is stability. It’s a phrase used so often when glossing over corruption, censorship, and human rights abuses, that it’s almost become a joke for those of us who spend far too much time reading the People’s Daily. In the after math of the Egypt protests the People’s Daily ran a flurry of stories about Egypt’s lagging economy caused by a lack of stability. The message was clear, the Party brings stability, and that stability brings GDP growth. For decades all China has had to do to maintain this growth was keep moving workers from the farms to the factories, but now that the wealth gap has grown beyond even American levels of inequality, China has brought back […]


On Tuesday I reported briefly on Shaanxi’s plan to relocate 2.7 million residents from the northern and southern parts of the province. The local gov’t reported that this was a major push to help break the cycle of poverty that has been effecting those regions for generations. They also cited the fact that both areas are prone to disasters, and so this project would help save lives. I wasn’t so optimistic about the project, and wondered when exactly we would find out the real motivation behind it. Today as I was combing through the part of the People’s Daily I realized they had yet again buried the lead. The headline is “Shaanxi plans to move 2.7 million to safer areas“, and the first page of […]


China’s high-speed rail system has been a hot topic for these past few months since it was revealed that millions of dollars had been embezzled from these projects. With that revelation came some big questions over the safety of the system, which had already been constructed with a fraction of the budget used in other countries. Japanese engineers were also raising questions about how China was using the same technology, but were traveling 25% faster than was allowable on Japanese lines. Yesterday we got the first notice that these lines were going to be slowed down, however all of the information pointed to this move being in response to complaints about high ticket prices. Today it seems we are getting a bit more of the […]


With growing unrest in the Middle East, China’s gov’t has been a bit more on edge than usual. News of what is happening in Libya and elsewhere is pretty hard to come by. The official gov’t position on Libya is that the violence should end, but is purposefully vague as to what that means. The argument I feel like I have been bludgeoned with this last week is “stability” (it’s my own fault for reading the People’s Daily every morning). On the front page of the People’s Daily website today we have headlines like “World Craves for Peace, Stability”, “Crack Nut with Tenderness – China seeks soft approach to social stability”, “The Leadership and Stellar Growth”, along with several other gag inducing buzz words. The […]


Today’s post is a crash course in economics (for people who don’t like economics). The truth is that we get a lot of numbers thrown around in the media about China, but I don’t think they are as meaningful as CNN or Fox news want you to think. Let’s get one thing clear straight out of the gate, China is obsessed with GDP. You can’t go more than a few days without seeing it as some headline on People’s Daily, and I was on the look out for parades or fireworks the day China passed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy. Virtually any govt. promotion relies on improving GDP and little else. So what exactly is GDP? I know it’s a figure we […]


There has been a recent movement in China to use social media to try to free abducted children, as well as child beggars. Initially these stories made the front page of the People’s Daily, but according to China Digital Times, the gov’t has become concerned that these stories are starting to make it seem that they aren’t doing much to stop these abductions. In what would seem to be a very grim story, there does seem to be a bright spot. The All-China Women’s Federation, together with UNICEF is looking to establish a temporary guardianship system (something like foster care) for abused and abducted children. I had reported a month ago on the dire situation in China related to child abuse, and the lax system […]


This is part two, make sure to read yesterdays post about “face” The other term that every expat dreads is “guanxi.” Roughly translated it means “relationship,” or “connection,” but really it is so much more than that. Guanxi is often described in textbooks as a kind of privilege or as a thing that might help you get a job. One of my readers described guanxi as “endemic” and that’s really the only way to describe it. Recent articles on People’s Daily relating to guanxi have included gov’t positions being given to family members before they are even half way through college, its an official’s son running a person over, and then daring the police to arrest him. Not that this kind of thing doesn’t happen […]


We’ve seen how limited interconnectedness and a lack of communication have been causing problems in China’s banks and hospitals. Today I want to bring up a third trend that is critical to understanding how China works. China’s Government This might not be a popular view in the West, but China’s National government has created some excellent policies and laws (for the most part, the most oppressive laws are hold-outs from twenty years ago). I believe that they have a clear vision of what they want for China, and they are eager to be in a globally respected position. The problem is their inability to implement many of these plans because of local officials. I realized this last year when I read “Will the Boat Sink […]


I’m not exactly sure how these things happen, but the other day my blog post got put up on a Chinese website (the section was later deleted). The title of the article had been translated pretty well. The name got translated to “China Sees Red,” which isn’t quite what I take it to mean, but its close. The post there led to some interesting discussion and a few naïve comments (it is still the internet, no matter the country). The big question though was; who is this American to judge China? It’s a fair question, so let me introduce myself. I had wanted to work in China since I was 16 and spent the 5 following years studying Chinese Language and history. I was enchanted, […]


This morning I was in a bad mood. I had just received word that China had announced that it would be blocking voip services like Skype. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Skype, but for expats like me it serves as the lifeline. If I want to call my parents, or see my niece and nephew, or talk to pretty much anyone, I use Skype. As you may know from every news source you’ve ever read, I live in a country where freedom of speech and privacy are not protected in any way. So when I told my friend Tim this morning that the govt. was trying to spy on my information, he just said “well duh.” Then it struck me, how is […]


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