The Guardian Slams China Again

The Guardian Slams China…Again

Sinophiles know that the vast majority of Western media coverage of China is negative. Usually inaccurate, mostly lacking in any social or historical context, often deliberately distorted, and quite often just completely fictitious. Here’s an example, from a well-known journalist working for a prestigious newspaper, The Guardian.  I’ve simply highlighted some of the clues to this negativity. Your comments are welcome:

The Guardian Newspaper Slams China...Again

China: Witnessing the Birth of a Superpower 

World news | The Guardian |

When I moved to Beijing in August 2003, I believed I had the best job in the world: working for my favourite newspaper in the biggest nation at arguably the most dramatic phase of transformation in its history. In the past decade, it has given me a front-row seat to watch 200-odd years of industrial development playing at fast forward on a continent-wide screen with a cast of more than a billion.

That said, I am glad my daughters were young and easy to please back then or we might well have taken the first plane out of the country. As we drove from the airport to our apartment, I tried to maintain an upbeat chatter. “Look at all the kites,” I said as we passed Chaoyang park, even though my heart sank at the tatty buildings, endless construction sites and stultifying haze. In my head, I asked myself: “Have I done the right thing for them?”

We had come from Japan–a democratic, comfortable, polite, hygiene-obsessed, orderly, first-world nation, a puppet state, occupied by the US after it had occupied and almost destroyed China–to the grim-looking capital of a developing, nominally (China’s government’s legitimacy in question?) communist country that looked and sounded like a giant building site. For all enthusiasm, my family must have felt we were taking a step backwards in lifestyle.

It required an adjustment of preconceptions. Like many newcomers, I delighted at discoveries of Chinese literature and Daoist philosophy, Beijing parks, the edgy eccentricity of Dashanzi and the glorious mix of classicism and obscenity in the Chinese language, though I never managed to master it. the ‘obscenity’ of the entire Chinese language?–a language whose mastery neither he nor his employer felt necessary in order to report on the country. The mix of communist politics and capitalist economics appeared to have created a system designed to exploit people and the environment like never before. though, even when he arrrived, it had lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and was in the process of emancipating the rest. It was so unequal that Japan appeared far more socialist by comparison. Japan has always been more socialist: it has always had one of the best GINI rankings on earth. And it was changing fast. As swaths of the capital were being demolished and rebuilt for the Olympics, there was an exhilarating (and sometimes disorientating) sense of mutability. Everything seemed possible.

Looking back over the stories that followed, it is hard to believe so much could be compressed into such a short span of time – the outbreaks of Sars and bird flu, the attempted assassination of the president of Taiwan, deadly unrest in Tibet, the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, murderous ethnic violence in Xinjiang, as well as the huge regional stories: two tsunamis think of what was actually going on in China while these sensational incidents were occurring. These things are his idea of “so much”?  in 2004 in the Indian Ocean and last year in the Pacific, a multiple nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, and the protracted rattling of nuclear sabres on the Korean peninsula. All quite diverting incidents, no doubt, but trivial compared to the big story he missed.

One of my first tasks in 2003 was to chose a Chinese name. I opted for “Hua Zhong”, partly because it sounds a little like “Watts, Jon”, but mainly because the characters mean “Sincere to China” – something I was determined to be as a reporter. Nine years later, that sentiment has not faded. But at various times, I have been called a communist sympathiser, supporter of Taiwan, a stooge of the Dalai Lama. But not an Imperialist lackey?

However, my focus has been on development and its impact on individuals and the environment. What a coincidence: choosing the negative side of the development story! In 2003, China had the world’s sixth-biggest GDP. It passed France in 2004, Britain in 2006, Germany in 2009, and Japan in 2011.

On current course, it will replace the US as No 1 within the next 15 years. It already has. See thisIt has already top in terms of internet population, energy consumption and the size of its car market.

A decade of dominance
The primary driver for change has been the movement of people. Over the past nine years 120 million Chinese people – almost twice the population of the UK – have moved from the countryside to the city. This mind-boggling shift has its problems, as I found in Chongqing, but for the most part, China appears to have avoided the worst of the poverty, crime and ghettoes seen in other rapidly urbanising countries. Actually, China has avoided the best of poverty seen in both rapidly developing countries and developed countries like the UK.

Yet it also seems more brittle, perhaps because of the other big economic engine: infrastructure investmentYes, infrastructure investment makes countries ‘brittle’. Dear God!  In this period, China has been re-wired and re-plumbed. There has been an extraordinary expansion of power, transport and communication networks that have linked the nation like never before: west-east gas pipelines, south-north water diversion, hundreds of airports and a massive new electricity grid linking wind and solar power plants in the deserts to power-hungry consumers in cities and industrial plants. The brittleness is obvious.

This has been a decade of cement and steel, a time when economic development has pushed into the most remote corners of China with a series of prestige projects: the world’s highest railway, the biggest dam, the longest bridge, putting a man into space, the most ambitious hydro-engineering project in human history and, of course, hosting – and dominating – the Olympics for the first time. Further examples of ‘brittleness’, obviously.

It has been a privilege to watch this redistribution of wealth and power from the developed to the developing world. On a global level, such a shift will require nothing less than a grand accommodation – or a violent conflict. Hoping for a ‘violent conflict’ when China has the most popular government on earth? Beijing appears to be preparing for both. Other news during this period showed a hardening of China’s military muscle: a breakthrough satellite-killing missile test, the launch of a first aircraft carrier, the development of a new stealth fighter and a steady increase in military spending. Eeek! Soon they’ll be capable of defending themselves!

Criticism has rarely been appreciated. All too often, there have been flare-ups of anti-foreign media hostility. Some of my colleagues in other media organisations have received death threats.  Hardly surprising, given that the foreign press’ coverage has been entirely negative. I never expected China to be an easy place to work as a journalist. For political and cultural reasons, there is a huge difference in expectations of the media. For historical and geo-strategic reasons, there is a lingering distrust of foreign reportersThe reasons for the distrust are neither historical or geo-strategic. They have to do with consistently negative, sensationalized, and misleading reportage. Contrast that with the Chinese view of their own government’s media, which they trust more than 80% of the time over any other source. Compare that to our trust of our media at 40%.

Run-ins with the police, local authorities or thugs (nice touch: equating the two!) are depressingly common. I have been detained five times, maybe for good cause? turned back six times at roadblocks (including during several efforts to visit Tibetan areas) and physically manhandled on a couple of occasions. Cannot possibly imagine why. Members of state security have sometimes followed interviewees and invited my assistants “out for tea”, to question them on who I was meeting and where I planned to visit. Censors have shut down a partner website that translated Guardian articles into Mandarin. No wonder. Police have twice seized my journalist credentials, most recently on this year’s World Press Freedom Day after I tried to interview the blind human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng in hospital. Mr. Chen was a criminal. And since when have our own ‘human rights’ behavior been anything but awful? 

When that happened, I debated with another British newspaper reporter who was in the same position about whether to report on the confiscation. He argued that it was against his principles for journalists to become part of the story. I used to believe the same, but after nine years in China, I have seen how coverage is influenced by a lack of access, intimidation of sources and official harassment. Precisely what you will find in London and Washington–only more so. I now believe reporters are doing a disservice to their readers if they fail to reveal these limitations on their ability to gather information. Have you been following the News International hearings in London?

Yes, there is often negative coverage and yes, many of the positive developments in China are underemphasisedNo kidding. But I don’t think it does the country’s international image any favours to clumsily choke access to what is happening on the ground. If you reported what is really happening on the ground, rather than scandalous incidents, there would be fewer problems.

Treated like a spy, No! Why? I have sometimes had to behave like one. At various times, I’ve concealed myself under blankets in a car, hidden in a toilet, waited until dark in a safe house and met sources in the middle of the night to avoid detection. Bravo! Exactly the way we like Chinese journalists to behave when we give them visas to report on our countries: imagine the crap they could dig up if they tried!

At other times, it is Chinese journalists and officials who pull the screen of secrecy aside. Take the foot-and-mouth outbreak on the outskirts of Beijing in 2005. I was first alerted to this by a Chinese reporter, who was frustrated that the propaganda department had ordered the domestic media not to run the story. Only Chinese bureaucrats have a ‘screen of secrecy’. Our Western officials are completely open–as in the case of WMD…

Foreign ministry officials often tell me China is becoming more open and, indeed, there have been steps in that direction If there’s a more self-critical government in the world, I’d like to know about it. But restrictions create fertile ground for rumour-mongering. One of the biggest changes in this period has been the spread of ideas through mobile phones and social networks. The 513 million netizens in China (up from 68 million in 2003) have incomparably greater access to information than any previous generation and huge numbers now speak out in ways that might have got them threatened or detained in 2003. Microblogs are perhaps nowhere more influential than in China because there is so little trust of the communist-controlled official media. Complete rubbish. See Harvard University’s report on this, or Edelman’s Trust Barometer.

It has been fun watching netizens create an ingenious new language to evade restrictions. It must be enormous fun for someone who does not speak Chinese. Who are we kidding? In this anti-authoritarian world, the heroes are the “grass mud horses” (which, in Chinese, sounds the same as a core banned phrase: “Fuck your mother!”) while the villains are the river crabs (which is pronounced like “harmony” – the favourite excuse of the authorities when they crack down on dissent). But ultimately, a journalist wants to see things for him or herself. I will never forget the epic road trips – across the Tibetan plateau, along the silk road, through the Three Gorges and most memorably from Shangri-la to Xanadu. Along the way, I met remarkable people with extraordinary stories. True to the oft-heard criticism of the foreign media, many were from the “dark side”: a young man in Shaoguan who confessed –as the shadows lengthened on the building site where we had our interview– to killing Uighur co-workers at his toy factory because of a rumour they had raped Han women; a gynaecologist in Yunnan who argued with great conviction that it had once been necessary to tie pregnant women up to carry out abortions; the young boy who found the body of his dead grandmother who killed herself a year after his father – an illegal migrant – phoned her to say he was about to drown in what became known as the Morecambe Bay disaster. WTF? Leave this kind of unsubstantiated rumoring to the domestic press. It’s irrelevant to us. How about reporting about what’s happening in China? It’s not as though there’s a shortage of substantive issues to cover. Maybe we could learn how they manage to accomplish all the amazing things that they do..

Other stories– all negative, by coincidence–literally turned up on my doorstep – such as the petitioner who arrived at my office a few weeks before I left. We had never met, but it was easy to identify Yang Zhong, who stood out a mile with his country boots, green overalls and bags crammed full of injustice. The look was all too familiar. I have lost count of the number of petitioners who have asked the Guardian to investigate land thefts, corruption cases, industrial accidents, rapes, murders and other alleged abuses of power.

Yang had come from Jinshantun village in the far northern province of Heilongjiang to accuse a local forestry chief – Wang Liguan – of illegal logging in one of China’s last great protected forests and for having him locked up and beaten when he dared to complain. Typically, his story, minutely recorded in reams of papers and even on a DVD, was anything but black andwhite.

Weak laws and strong censorship make it difficult for such people to have their cases heard in the domestic system so they turn to foreign news bureaus. There were so many grim accounts it was impossible to give themall the time and attention they deserved. this kind of stuff happens everywhere. Let’s learn about China.

Heroism and brutality
But there were also stories of success, heroism and inspiration as a nation embraced new wealth and battled for new ideas: the business empires built by enlightened philanthropists such as Yin Mingshan of Lifan auto, the internet fortunes accrued by entrepreneurs such as Jack Ma of Alibaba and Robin Li of Baidu. Real, Capitalist heroes.

Compared with nine years ago, people in China have more freedom to shop, to travel and to express their views on the internet. The Communist party tolerates a degree of criticism, but step over the invisible line of what is acceptable it’s the same visible line that exists in every country: don’t organnize people to overthrow the government and the consequences are brutalThe consequences are mild compared to our own consequences–as Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are discovering, after causing nothing more than mild embarrassment.

In my first years in China, I interviewed several outspoken opponents – Liu Xiaobo, Gao Zhisheng, Hu Jia and Teng Biao. I was impressed back then that they were at liberty to speak out. It seemed like the act of a confident government. But all of them have subsequently been locked up. For breaking parole, if you’d read the court transcripts. Oh, wait, you can’t read, can you? and, in at least two cases, tortured. You must be thinking of the USA, where torture is official government policy. In China, it’s outlawed.

The blame for that surely lies with the authorities. But I have sometimes felt pangs of guilt. I first interviewed Ai Weiwei in the summer of 2007 for an Olympic preview. He was one of the creators of the “bird’s nest” stadium Rubbish. He had nothing to do with the Bird’s Nest. Is this the level of your fact-checking? Oh, wait; you can’t read, can you? and I was expecting him to tell me how proud he would be when it was unveiled at the opening ceremony. Instead, he told me he would not attend in protest at the “disgusting” political conditions in the one-party state and then launched
into a withering assault on propaganda. Mr. Ai would have done better to launch into a fearless criticism of his own lies and lawbreaking.  It was the first time he had expressed such views to the foreign media – a great scoopa great piece of propaganda. but also one fraught with risk. At the end of the interview, I cautioned the artist: “Are you sure you want to say this? It could get you into a great deal of trouble with the authorities.”

“Absolutely,” he replied. “I only wish I could say it more clearly.”

Despite that confirmation and the similarly critical comments he subsequently made to other media organisations, I felt partly responsible when Ai was detained last year. Relax. You had nothing to do with it. Ai needed no help.

Whether the repression is getting better or worse has been a constant question with few clear answers. My feeling is that China has become a less tolerant country since 2008. Your ‘feeling’ is irrelevant. It’s the feelings of the Chinese people that matter, and their feelings are overwhelmingly opposed to yours. Why not report on their feelings? Isn’t that what you were sent to China for? Oh, wait…

That was a coming of age of sorts, when China stopped seeming like a work in progress and started looking and behaving like a superpower by bombing Baghdad, invading Afghanistan, invading Libya, Syria? On the Beijing skyline, the scaffolding and cranes had been replaced by stunning architectural wonders. The ever-present sentiments of victim-hood There’s a vast difference between being a victim (of British invasion, foreign-supported civil war, and colonial slavery) and ‘a sense of victimhood’ and nationalism found powerful outlets in the Tibetan uprising, torch relay protests and the Sichuan earthquake. WTF? The Chinese were overwhelmingly–99%–OPPOSED TO THESE THREE THINGS. Meanwhile, those who had supported moves towards a more open, liberal, internationalist China saw the value of their political stock plunge almost as fast as the Dow Jones index in the global financial crisis. With the western model apparently shattered, many in China understandably felt less inclined than ever to listen to outside advice. You don’t say.

In the four years since, China has become a more modern and connected nation, but – despite the official hubris “official hubris”? Surely the Chinese Government is the least hubristic major government in the world – it also seems more anxious that the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa may spread. Why would a government that enjoys the trust and support of 90% of its people have such anxiety?  The government now spends more on internal security than defence of its borders – a sign that it is more frightened of its own people than any external threat. No. It’s a sign that they don’t spend much on the defence of their borders. The USA spends 700% more, per capita, on internal security–perhaps because its government is 700% less popular.

Little wonder. This has been an era of protest in China. China has a 3,000 year history of protest. You should have seen some of the bigger ones, like the Boxer Rebellion and the Communist Revolution. The government stopped releasing figures a few years ago, but academics with access to internal documents say there are tens of thousands of demonstrations each year.  Bravo! At least the Chinese can protest in safety, unlike in the UK and the USA, where protesters are killed. The reasons are manifold – land grabs, ethnic unrest, factory layoffs, corruption cases and territorial disputes. But I have come to believe the fundamental cause is ecological stress: foul air, filthy water, growing pressure on the soil and an ever more desperate quest for resources that is pushing development into remote mountains, deserts and forests that were a last hold-out for bio and ethnic diversity.

This is not primarily China’s fault. It is a historical, global trend. China is merely roaring along the same unsustainable path set by the developed world, but on a bigger scale, a faster speed and at a period in human history when there is much less ecological room for manoeuvre. The wealthy portion of the world has been exporting environmental stress for centuries. Outsourcing energy-intensive industries and resource extraction have put many problems out of sight and out of mind for western consumers. But they cannot be ignored in China. Thank you for pontificating.

The worst problems are found in the countryside: “cancer villages”, toxic spills, pitched battles to block a toxic chemical factory, health hazards from air pollution and water and the rapid depletion of aquifers under the north China plain – the country’s bread-basket. The UK, the USA and Japan all went through this phase. Love Canal caught fire in the USA. The oceans were black around Japan in the 60s. It was only massive popular protests that got them out of it.

The implications are global. China has become the biggest greenhouse-gas emitter on the planetThe Chinese are responsible for less than 8% of the human-added CO2 in the atmosphere, but they represent more than 20% of the world’s population. The USA, with 8% of the world’s population accounts for 20% of its emissions. This year, it will probably account for half the coal burned in the world.  The number of cars on China’s roads has increased fourfold since 2003, driving up demand for oil. Meanwhile, there is less and less space and respect for other species. For me, the most profound story of this period was the demise of the baiji  profound? Profound?– a Yangtze river dolphin that had been on earth for 20m years but was declared extinct in 2006 as a result of river traffic, pollution, reckless fishing and massive damming.

I switched my focus to environment reporting. Not being able to read, I could at least look at the dirty skies and make up stories. It was not just the charismatic megafauna and the smog, though the concern about air quality never went away. It is really not funny to send your children off to school on days of high pollution with a cheery “Try not to breathe too much”, knowing they will probably be kept in at break-times because the air outside is hazardous.

As I have noted at greater length elsewhere, I had come to fear that China may be where the 200-odd-year-old carbon-fuelled capital-driven model of economic development runs into an ecological wall. Britain, where it started (and continues: Brits TODAY emit more CO2 than Chinese), and China may be bookends on a period of global expansion that has never been seen before and may never be repeated again.

Developed nations have been outsourcing their environmental stress to other countries and future generations for more than two centuries. China is trying to do the same as it looks overseas for food, fuel and minerals to satisfy the rising demand of its cities and factories. China is importing environmental stress. This has been extremely good new for economies in Africa, Mongolia, Australia and South AmericaI sympathise with China. It is doing what imperial, dominant powers have done for more than two centuries, Nonsense. Imperial powers invaded and conquered those countries–including China–and robbed them but it is harder for China because the planet is running short of land and time. and besides, China actually pays for everything. With actual money. Without actually invading or murdering anyone. What a concept.

With their engineering backgrounds, President Hu Jintao (a trained hydro-engineer) and premier Wen Jiabao (one of China’s leading experts on rare earth minerals) are probably better aware than most global leaders about the challenge this poses. While there has been almost no political reform during their terms of office There have been massive political reforms in the past 10 years but you missed them (because you can’t read, perhaps?) there have been several ambitious steps forward in terms of environmental policy: anti-desertification campaigns; tree planting; an environmental transparency law; adoption of carbon targets; eco-services compensation; eco accounting; caps on water; lower economic growth targets; the 12th Five-Year Plan; debate and increased monitoring of PM2.5 [fine particulate matter] and huge investments in eco-cities, “clean car” manufacturing, public transport, energy-saving devices and renewable technology. The far western deserts of China have been filled with wind farms and solar panels.

That is the most hopeful story of this grey eraWould any Chinese–ANY– describe the past ten years as a ‘grey era’?  If China could emerge from the smog with a low-carbon economy, it would be a boon for the world. But talk of the world’s first green superpower remains as premature as the image of the “red menace” is outdated.

When my predecessor, John Gittings, left China after 25 years, he presciently foresaw how the the old cold war stereotypes would be shattered by the country’s speed of development. But that is just the start of realignment. In the future, I believe the most important political division will not be between
left and right, but between conservers and consumers. The old battle of “equality versus competition” in the allocation of the resource pie will become secondary to maintaining the pie itself.

But the transition has some way to go. In the next 10 years, China is likely to build more dams than the US managed in its entire history Yes. It’s a much bigger country and, despite the Fukushima disaster, it plans to construct more about 20 new nuclear power stations. But even with this huge expansion of non-fossil-fuel-based energy, if the economy continues to grow at its current pace China will require about 50% more coal than it currently burns. Let’s not mention, for example, that China installed enough wind power alone last year to power industrialized Poland. I expect there will be a slowdown before then as overseas markets contract and domestic investment suffers from the law of diminishing returns. Long-hidden environmental costs – over-depletion of key resources and under-regulation of waste – will force their way onto corporate balance books as they did NOT do when the UK, the USA and Japan cleaned up their environments in the 60s and 70s and national budgets in the form of turbulent commodity prices and higher clean-up expenses. China may well look back on the Hu and Wen era as a golden age of growth or as a ‘grey era’? and perhaps a missed opportunity to put in place the reforms needs to adjust to leaner times –which, he hopes, are coming to China.

Respect, sympathy – and pessimism–(and massive ignorance) Meanwhile a new leadership – almost certainly to be headed by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang – will take the helm at this autumn’s party congress. They will have their work cut outGosh. I thought running China was a cakewalk.  While the Hu-Wen era was one of construction, Xi and Li will have to put more effort into maintenance. This will require more than the creation of wealth and construction jobs; it will require a system with greater flexibility, efficiency if there’s a system that’s more flexible and efficient than the Chinese, I’d love to hear about it and a new set of values.  Capitalist values, naturally. I expect that transition will be more turbulent than anything seen in the past 10 years. And, being illiterate, you would know. But success or failure, I believe it will remain the most important story in the world.

So why am I leaving? Well, over the years, I have come to feel increasing respect, sympathy and affection for China, but also more pessimism. Journalists here are worn down like brake pads on a speeding juggernaut. Especially illiterate ones. Such cynicism is not healthyIt’s not even warranted. I hope a change of scene will allow me to see China – and the world – afresh. Regardless of Beijing’s choking smog, traffic and politics, it will be hard to match living and working in China. I shall miss hikes along wild stretches of the Great Wall, swimming under remote waterfalls, wandering through vibrant hutongs, incredible food and some of the smartest company I have encountered anywhere in the world.

In the past few weeks, I have said goodbyes to places, friends, long-suffering assistants and sources, some of whom have become global names as their country has risen in prominence over the past nine years: the environmentalist Ma Jun (winner of this year’s Goldman Prize), the lawyer Teng Biao, journalist Li Datong, the rights activists Hu Jia (winner of the Sakharov human-rights prize), and Zeng Jinyan; the social network guru Isaac Mao, the public intellectual Wang Xiaoshan and the artist Ai Weiwei (recently named “the most powerful artist on earth” Not by the Chinese people, who think he’s an over-privileged tax cheat, boaster, liar and public nuisance).

On my final weekend in China, I went to Weiwei’s grey-walled home in the Caochangdi art district. He was with his wife, two aides, a film crew and two lawyers, but as gregarious and mischievous as ever.

“It’s hot. Let’s take our clothes off,” said Weiwei, who proceeded to strip to the waist. I was too shy to follow suit. So was everyone else. The lawyers simply proceeded with their brief about the next stage in his tax case.

I couldn’t stay. The China story was moving on again. News had just come in that the Chen Guangcheng was at Beijing airport, about to board a plane to the US. After six years of house arrest and prison, he was finally flying to freedom. I said my goodbyes and wandered home to write up what felt like an uplifting article to finish on. I knew though, that it was not really the end. For all the hardship Chen endured, I guessed he would miss China. I certainly will. This is a peak and perhaps one for mankind.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/18/china-birth-of-superpower

As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged. Issues like this need more than just one opinion. And do feel free to add links to useful sources and stories!

China Spends Billions on Internal Security!

Recently the British magazine, The Economist, breathlessly announced: “China’s domestic-security budget has surged to an astonishing $110 billion a year, larger than declared defence spending.”

The Economist has never been very good with numbers – or economics – though that hasn’t stopped them offering advice and criticism to China. The Economist has predicted a crash or a ‘hard landing’ for the Chinese economy 56 times since 1985, while completely missing out own Great Financial Crisis.

The intent of the “astonishing” news of China’s $110 billion internal security budget was to demonstrate how insecure the Chinese government is and terrified of its own people. Here’s what it really shows:

  1. The Chinese don’t spend enough on its military. Compared to the USA, for example, Chinese military spending is tiny.
  2. China spends $84 per capita annually on internal security (police, prisons, etc.)

What The Economist neglected to mention is that the USA spends $275 billion annually on everything from The Department of Homeland Security to the FBI, the CIA, and even HHS–all of which participate in America’s internal security, along with the NSA and other intelligence agencies: $670 for each American man, woman, and child.

If we multiply the Chinese figure of $84 by 3 to account for the dollar’s higher purchasing power in China, we find that China spends about $260 equivalent dollars.  And that includes all costs for every fire department in China!

Fire Fighting in China is organized under the PAP (People’s Armed Police). The PAP is also in charge of border patrol, forest service, gold mine and hydro security. The PAP came into being when Deng wanted to cut 1 million troops from the PLA. The PLA in 1980 numbered over 4 million. Today it is around 2.3 million. Letting more than 1 million soldiers off is extremely difficult for a poor China in the 1980s, so the Ministry of Defence spun some of the soldiers into the PAP.

By contrast, here’s a clue to the US Government’s approach to ‘internal security’ in President Obama’s speech. And, as if the “astonishing” figure weren’t enough, the US Army is also being trained and equipped to participate in internal security:

U.S. Army Purchases Riot Gear As Fears Over Civil Unrest Grow.

Recently the Western media has been aflame with claims that China was spending vast amounts of money on “internal security”. The implication was that the Government of China (whose trust and approval rating is 85–95%) is afraid of its own people. Now read this letter by a disillusioned American about the state of ‘internal security’ in the Land of the Free:

Dudes, I’m done with this. I’m leaving the United States today, and won’t be back for a while.

I recently visited my childhood hometown and noticed a whole bunch of brand new surveillance cameras at nearly every intersection and street corner; this is just a town, mind you, not some city of national or international significance. After doing some research, it turns out the cameras are “high-definition” 24/7 surveillance cameras, manufactured and operated by Sprint Nextel Corp, and paid for through federal Department of Homeland Security grants to the town’s local police department. In fact, the number of these cameras in my hometown has reportedly tripled over the past couple years.  There are as many as six of them at each intersection, they aren’t red light traffic cameras (topic for another article altogether, though). Here’s a photo I took of the cameras. Do you really think these are there to make your 10 minute drive to the Applebee’s safe from terrorists? Do you?

On another note, I was recently at a ball game: they now ask you to rise twice to sing the national anthem and pledge your allegiance. As a child, I only remember this occurring once, normally at the start of the game. It was recently revealed that the NSA, according to a former high-ranking official there, is building “dossiers” on MILLIONS of American citizens and may be routinely spying on countless Americans on U.S. soil, in clear violation of our laws and principles as a nation.

Moving on… The New York Times recently claimed: “Cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations.” That’s just last year. And that number is quite conservative, as it does not include shadow wiretapping programs such as the NSA’s project(s). Is it paranoid to think you’re being watched…. when you are actually being watched?

America has turned into a full-blown police state. Our economy is sick, and politicians refuse to fix it, choosing instead to fund outrageous, scary, illegal programs which violate our rights and our privacy. Ironically, one of the few sectors where recent grads are finding work is in law enforcement and government-sponsored surveillance.

All of these things would be bad, but I would still have hope if Americans were getting outraged — if they were demanding answers and asking for a rollback of the new surveillance cameras, the warrantless wiretapping programs, the new invasive TSA procedures, etc. But they aren’t. Most people I talk to just don’t care, and they think I’m some kind of weirdo for interrupting them from their reality TV and 40-ounce high-fructose corn syrup soda. It’s the apathy and indifference that scares me more than any headline about the government watching us.

I don’t see a bright future for us unless we begin to care, and begin to demand accountability. In the history of the world, the combination of a) totalitarian police state b) rapid rollback of civil rights c) blind nationalistic pride and d) a public that doesn’t care has NEVER led to improvements in the quality of life. Instead, it normally leads to mass injustice and misery. I hope people begin to speak up. I hope they email and call their Senators. I hope they share articles like this one with their friends, since the establishment broadcast media refuses to cover the police state’s rapid growth — maybe they are in on it, or maybe (more likely) they realize that viewers want Kim Kardashian segments, not NSA whistleblowers like William Binney. Sad, but true. http://www.businessinsider.com/why-im-leaving-americas-crazed-police-state-2012-7? Go to the original article…

As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged. Issues like this need more than just one opinion. And do feel free to add links to useful sources and stories!


China Spends Billions on Internal Security
OUR DEFENSE DOLLARS AT WORK

 

Paul Joseph Watson, Infowars.com. Monday, July 30, 2012:

It’s not just the Department of Homeland Security that is gearing up for the prospect of civil unrest in America. The U.S. Army also recently purchased a stock of riot gear including batons, face masks and body shields.
As we reported last week, the DHS has put out an urgent solicitation for hundreds of items of “riot gear,” in preparation for expected unrest at the upcoming Republican National Convention, Democratic National Convention and next year’s presidential inauguration.
In a previous solicitation, the U.S. Army also put out a contract for riot gear to be delivered to the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York.
The contract, which was eventually awarded to A2Z Supply Corp, included requests to supply riot shields, face shields, batons and body protection.
Fears that the U.S. military would be used to quell domestic unrest in violation of Posse Comitatus have raged over recent years.

A recently leaked US Army Military Police training manual for “Civil Disturbance Operations” outlines how military assets are to be used domestically to quell riots, confiscate firearms and even kill Americans on U.S. soil during mass civil unrest.  Read more…

 

Some links to follow:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv7EEhsCf7E http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_police_officers_are_employed_in_the_United_states#ixzz1iA6aaI4H External Security:
http://www.wallstats.com/blog/total-military-and-national-security-spending-in-the-us-federal-budget/

Taiwan and China Are Reuniting. Now!

President Xi Jinping targets making China a developed country by 2050 and achieving unification with Taiwan by 2049

Beijing has also recently waived the entry permit requirement for Taiwanese planning to travel to China, while establishing a pilot free trade zone in Fujian province and encouraging young Taiwanese to start businesses there.

Lee Kuan Yew claims that unification is inevitable

Lee Kuan Yew at the release of his previous book, Sept. 16, 2013. (File photo/Xinhua)

Lee Kuan Yew at the release of his previous book, Sept. 16, 2013. (File photo/Xinhua)

In his latest book, One Man’s View of the World, Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew says that Taiwan’s unification with China is only a matter of time and that efforts to separate the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will only make the process more painful for the people of Taiwan. Unification has become a political taboo in Taiwan and as the former Singapore leader has been a friend to the country in the past, his frank remarks are difficult for many to accept. Moreover, the painful process of unification with China, as Lee describes it, is a reality the Taiwanese have already witnessed due to political disputes between pro-independence and pro-unification camps and the loss of its global competitiveness.

Three questions arise from Lee’s prediction in his book: Do people want unification? Will we see unification? Should there be unification? Whether one supports unification or independence for Taiwan has become akin to a religious belief that leaves little room for a rational exchange of views between parties on opposing sides. Calling Lee’s remarks interference in Taiwan’s internal affairs, pro-independence supporters mostly dodged issues raised in his statements rather than responding to them. Regarding the probability of Taiwan’s unification with China, Lee said the decision would not be made by the will of Taiwanese people but as a result of economic factors and the international situation. Lee said further that gradual and inevitable economic integration will serve to bring Taiwan and China closer and to become codependent. He also said that it was unrealistic for pro-independence supporters to pin their hopes on an intervention by the United States if war with China should break out. Read more…

Taiwan to submit letter of intent to join AIIB

This means that Taiwan will have to ask China’s permission to join. What will China request in exchange? I’m guessing it will only be a small, technical concession. The concession – whatever it turns out to be – will have later implications for reunification, of course.

53.9% of the interviewed support the government of Taiwan to negotiate with China based on the 1992 Consensus under which Taipei and Beijing acknowledge there is only one China, but agree to disagree on its definition.

Cars with Taiwanese license plates hit the road in Fujian

MAKING ROOM FOR TAIWAN

U.S. imperialists invaded China’s territory of Taiwan and has occupied it for the past nine years.

Taiwan and China Shake Hands

A short while ago it sent its armed forces to invade and occupy Lebanon. The United States has set up hundreds of military bases in many countries all over the world. China’s territory of Taiwan, Lebanon and all military bases of the United States on foreign soil are so many nooses round the neck of U.S. imperialism. The nooses have been fashioned by the Americans themselves and by nobody else, and it is they themselves who have put these nooses round their own necks, handing the ends of the ropes to the Chinese people, the peoples of the Arab countries and all the peoples of the world who love peace and oppose aggression. The longer the U.S. aggressors remain in those places, the tighter the nooses round their necks will become – Mao Tse Tung, September 8, 1958, at the Supreme State Conference.

Reuniting with Taiwan has been China’s core strategic goal for 60 years. Now the vagrant province is on the glide-path to reunification during President Xi’s tenure. Happily, China has been reabsorbing wayward provinces since Jesus walked the earth and it’s a familiar ritual whose celebrants know their roles.

For all but the terminally deluded like Taiwan’s ex-President Chen Shui-ban, currently languishing in jail for his naivety, reunification was always a foregone conclusion. The Jovian pull of China’s gravitational field is irresistible.

It’s so strong that, during my annual visits to Australia the country’s leading businesspeople – on the front pages of the national press and on their mainstream TV – loudly advocate replacing Australia’s US alliance with a Chinese one. Australia’s continued alliance with the US is a ‘hindrance’ they say, and a ‘danger’.

The same tractor-beam that attracts big, distant Australia draws tiny, close Taiwan closer each day. Heads of both of Taiwan’s major political parties – urged on by their leading industrialists – have already pilgrimaged to The Forbidden City and pledged allegiance to the Emperor.

Like repentant schismatics over the centuries they were sent back to their island-province laden with gold, fine silks, and even finer promises. Promises to upgrade the wealth and status of the Taiwanese elite, to grant privileged access for every Taiwanese industry, and promises to continuing to stream millions of wealthy mainland tourists to keep the island’s hotels and stores filled to capacity. More than 3 million of them will arrive this year, and the program is just getting started.

Taiwan’s banks and insurance companies, savvier marketers than their mainland rivals, get access to China’s conservative, under-insured, increasingly wealthy consumers. Doors closed to foreigners will be opened for Taiwan.

New legislation already promise such obscure benefits as access to China’s inland waterways, the cheapest freight access to the heartland. Soon Taiwanese vessels will sail thousands of kilometres up the Yangtze and the Yalu to deliver Taiwanese cargoes. No outside country – Japan or South Korea – can dream of such access. There’s an exhaustive list of concessions and every item on it has an assigned ‘minder’, a mainland bureaucrat responsible for ensuring that good things happen for Taiwan.

In addition to the gravitational pull two recent developments have accelerated the convergence.

President-elect Xi’s campaign to clean up mainland corruption (currently no worse than Taiwan’s, according to Taiwanese investors) adds significantly to the attraction of reunification. Xi is an uncommonly moral man (“a Chinese Mandela” according to Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew). If he can do for China what he did for Shanghai – which has been exemplary in its honesty and efficiency since Xi’s cleanup – it will be a powerful attractant to island Chinese who share mainlanders’ longing for moral leadership.

Japan has hastened reunification by playing its familiar role as aggressor. On a clear day Taiwanese can see the Diaoyu Islands. Taiwanese regard them as ‘theirs’ just as passionately as mainlanders do. They know that only China can enforce their sovereignty in the face of Japan’s grab. The threat to the Diaoyus has done more to weaken the Taiwan independence movement than any event since 1947.

It also helps that Xi has family in Taiwan. Given his genial image a ‘family’ visit to Taiwan is easy to imagine around, say 2020.

Reunification is all over bar the shouting.

The already muted shouting will be reduced to grumbling until Taiwanese public sentiment catches up. Then it’s a matter of implementing the already-agreed negotiation terms. Taiwan is getting a deal so good – Keep your own system while we make you richer – that nearby Okinawans will eye it enviously (see this, for example: http://stratrisks.com/geostrat/10609).

In addition to privileged access to continental China, Taiwan will enjoy a ‘peace dividend’. Most of the island’s $20 billion annual defence budget will be plowed back into shiny new infrastructure. Taiwanese pilots will get new Chinese fighters, their generals promotions and decorations. That’s why Taiwan isn’t pushing for F-16s any more.

The Taiwan schism is the last wound still suppurating after our attacks on China began 200 years ago. Its healing will allow China to accelerate its social reform program and greatly relax its posture in the region and in the world. The celebration will make the Beijing Olympics look like a sideshow.

Signs include:

2013/02/21 22:13:31
The two sides of the Taiwan Strait will soon begin a new stage of interaction in the wake of power transition in the Communist Party of China (CPC), according to local media reports.
Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang has confirmed that its honorary chairman, Lien Chan, will depart for Beijing Feb. 24 for a four-day visit at the head of a delegation of KMT officials and business executives.
Media reports said Lien, a former vice president of the Rwan), is visiting Beijing at the invitation of the CPC’s upper echelons and that he wil

The following comment by a Taiwanese reader on guancha caught our attention.

作為一個贊成統一的台灣人,針對這次選舉結果,想跟觀察網的朋友做如下分享:

1. 這次選舉雖然國民黨潰敗,民進黨大勝,並不意味著多數台灣人趨向支持獨立;根本影響這次選情的原因是:一、馬英九當選總統六年以來的執政無方,政策傾向財團與既得利益階級,根本罔顧台灣多數中產階級與基層民眾的需求與感受。二、連戰所代表的國民黨政商既得利益階層推出自己的兒子連勝文出來競選台北市長,更是加深台灣民眾對國民黨壟斷瓜分兩岸和平紅利的印象,一般老百姓根本無法從中得利,但卻看到這些遊走兩岸的政商人物每個都賺得肥油油的,自然會反彈不願意將票再投給國民黨,這也是為何國民黨連在居絕對優勢的台北市都會選輸的原因!

2. 北京需要重新檢討對台政策,特別是調整目前透過國民黨及富商階層作為對台政策代理人的做法。我之前有建議過,今晚還是要在這邊呼籲,希望中央能考慮是否直接在台灣發展基層組織,聯合台灣左統派,發展在台灣的統一力量!

3. 如果民進黨不能在兩岸關係上給台灣民眾一個放心穩妥的答案,2016的台灣總統選舉綠營未必就能再次獲勝,泛藍勢力也會在島內安定的訴求下,再次集結整合,台灣走向獨立的可能性微乎其微。

4. 在台灣島內,多數人民的首要矛盾問題是經濟與民生問題,但這6年來國民黨在馬英九的領導下完全無能無所作為;統獨問題作為次要矛盾問題,在我的認識,許多台灣人都抱持著鴕鳥心態 — 既或是傾向獨立的綠營支持者,很多人心底也都知道或默認,統一是遲早與無法抗拒的,只能持著消極抵制心態應對。而對大陸人來說,在台灣問題上,統獨是首要矛盾問題,台灣的經濟與民生問題是次要問題。而當台灣人因為自己的首要矛盾問題票投綠營時,會讓許多大陸人認為台灣走向獨立之路,或是刻意想與大陸對抗,這是許多大陸人不了解台灣社會實際情況所產生的誤解與誤讀,希望觀察網的朋友對此點有重新的認識。

Here is my quick translation:

As a Taiwanese who supports unification, I want to share the following thoughts regarding the recent Taiwanese elections with readers on guancha.

1. Even though the KMT has been handed an utter defeat and the DPP candidates won triumphantly, the results do not necessarily mean that Taiwanese are somehow turning pro-independent. The fundamental reasons for the DPP success are: 1. Ma Yin Jeou’s failures over last six years to provide anything of value to Taiwan’s middle and lower class and the perception by the vast majority of Taiwanese people that its administration is beholden to the vested interests and wealthy. 2. The perception that KMT is corrupt when the KMT selected the son of Lian Zhan [rich Taiwanese KMT politician] to run for the Taipei Mayoral elections. Many Taiwanese see only a few wealthy and connected – including the rank and files of KMT – benefiting from Taiwan’s current relationship with the Mainland, with most average Taiwanese locked out of the Mainland’s economic development.

2. The central government in Beijing needs to reassess its hands-off policy on Taiwan. It currently relies on the KMT and cross-strait businesses to cultivate its image and message in Taiwan. The central government needs to be more directly involved – perhaps through more grassroots organization in Taiwan – to foster a new type of political awareness, message, and image in Taiwan. As I have suggested before, the central government must foster more pro-active, people-to-people contacts to promote unification with Taiwan.

3. If the DPP does not come up with a coherent policy toward the mainland – dropping its pro-independence officially once and for all – then its chance of winning the 2016 Presidential election would be next-to-nil.

4. For most people on Taiwan, the most important and pressing issues of the day is economics. The Taiwanese middle class has has its income stagnate for some time, and many today blame their various problems (high unemployment, income stagnation, etc.) on Ma’s policy over the last six years. The issue of independence / unification for Taiwanese is secondary. Most Taiwanese understand that unification is inevitable but do not necessarily see a need to rush. On the other hand, from the Mainland’s perspective, the independence / unification issue is paramount. Economics is secondary. This dichotomy in perspective may lead to misunderstanding – including misunderstanding what the most recent results really means.

Ma less trustworthy than Xi Jinping: poll

By Chen Hui-ping and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer/ Taipei Times

SHAKY SUPPORT:More than half of the respondents said they do not trust President Ma, compared with 34.4 percent who said they are skeptical of the new Chinese leader

And this:

 

Taiwan allows Chinese banks to buy bigger stakes in local lenders | TODAYonline-
Taiwan will ease rules to allow Chinese banks to buy bigger stakes in local banks and permit more Chinese firms to invest in its financial industry, the island’s financial regulator said on Monday, marking a major advance in cross-strait ties.

And this:

BEIJING, June 9 (Xinhua) — Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, will meet with Wu Po-hsiung, honorary chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) later this month, a mainland spokeswoman announced on Sunday.
Wu will lead a KMT delegation from Taiwan on a visit to the mainland from June 12 to 14, according to Fan Liqing, of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office.
Xi will exchange views with him on issues such as relations between the CPC and KMT as well as mainland-Taiwan ties, Fan said.
The spokeswoman said the meeting will be “an important activity” in the high-level exchanges between the two parties under new circumstances.
A press release posted on the KMT official website on Sunday also praised the upcoming meeting as a “new beginning” and said both sides are attaching great importance to it.
KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou will meet with some of the delegation members before they leave for the mainland, the release said.
It described the meeting as a “constructive dialogue” that indicates the two parties’ emphasis on the KMT-CPC platform and their commitment to maintaining and advancing the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties.

And this:

Director of cross-strait offices uses high-level forum to unveil initiatives to deepen economic, cultural and social exchanges
  • e7b561c09d934e673d4322183adcb6fb.jpg
Yu Zhengsheng (centre) joins other delegates at the fifth Straits Forum, where the initiatives were announced yesterday. Photo: Xinhua
Beijing has unveiled a basket of initiatives to deepen economic, cultural and social exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, following a high-profile meeting last week between President Xi Jinping and Wu Poh-hsiung, the honorary chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang.
Wu, who is believed to act as a proxy for Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou, also expressed Taiwan’s desire to join Asia’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and to participate in other global activities.
The director of the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun, said yesterday at the opening of a week-long high-level forum on cross-strait exchanges in Xiamen, Fujian province that the mainland would announce 31 measures this week to cultivate cross-strait interactions.
Among the six measures that he disclosed was the access that Taiwanese would be given to 10 categories of accreditation tests on the mainland, as well as the establishment of 10 cross-strait cultural exchange centres on the mainland.
Further, the mainland’s Supreme People’s Court will grant legal status to civil arbitration agreements formulated by arbitration committees in Taiwan.
and this:

THE Chinese mainland has promised to guarantee social welfare for former Kuomintang soldiers who fought Japanese aggressors about seven decades ago.The move is considered part of the mainland’s recognition of the contribution by those soldiers in defending the country’s territory and protecting its people in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression during World War II.KMT soldiers injured or disabled in the war, as well as those who joined the People’s Liberation Army, should enjoy the same treatment as other former service people, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a statement.The government is also providing social assistance to those who were released from the military after the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and did not join the PLA, it said.

Taiwan and China hit a major milestone in bilateral ties on Sunday when their respective heads of cross-strait affairs met for the first time and addressed each other by their formal titles, according to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and local scholars.

Chang Wu-ueh, a noted expert on China, said the demeanor of Wang Yu-chi, minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office director Zhang Zhijun during their meeting in Indonesia has set a precedent for more officials to use their formal titles in future bilateral meetings.

The meeting means a future visit by Wang to China or one by Zhang to Taiwan is no longer inconceivable, said Chang, who heads the Graduate Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University in New Taipei. Read more here….

Mainland-Taiwan submarine cable to start operations

TAIPEI – Taiwan’s communication administrative authority has approved the first submarine communication cable directly linking both sides of the Taiwan Straits, enabling the cable to come into commercial service.

Communication operators in Taiwan told Xinhua on Monday that once put into use, the cable will be capable of carrying cross-Strait communications with a bandwidth of 6.4Tb/s. Operators in Taiwan previously had to use international cables in Japan or the Republic of Korea to connect with the mainland, and the new direct link will improve the quality and speed of cross-Straits communications.

The cable will also facilitate the cross-Straits market for e-business, mobile communications and cloud services.

Yen-Sung Lee, chairman of Taiwan communication operator Chunghwa Telecom, said the cable is expected to enhance the communications market as well as exchanges between people on the two sides.

Taiwan Mobile said in a statement that data collected by the company revealed that the cross-Straits broadband communications market has been growing at an annual rate of 20 to 30 percent in recent years.

The statement said the company is planning to cooperate with mainland partners to explore cloud computing business on the mainland.

A senior executive with Far Eastone, another Taiwan communications company, believes the market demand for telecommunication integration solutions may double next year.

Construction of the cable finished in January with investment from communication operators on both sides. With a length of 270 km, the cable connects the city of Fuzhou in Fujian province on the mainland and Tamsui in Taiwan.

 Xi Seeks Political Solutions on Taiwan After Closer Trade Ties – Bloomberg

China and Taiwan should resolve their long-standing political disagreements, Chinese President Xi Jinping said yesterday, as he seeks to address a six-decade division after forging closer economic ties. China is willing to hold talks with Taiwan on an equal basis under the “One China” principle, Xi said in a meeting with Taiwanese envoy Vincent Siew while the two were attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. “We cannot hand those problems down from generation to generation,” Xi said, according to Xinhua.

Taiwan announces landmark China visit
Officials set date for talks next month, paving the way for first high-level meetings in six decades. A leading politician in Taiwan has plans to visit mainland China next month for the first official contact between the rival states in six decades.Taiwan’s chief policymaker on China announced his impending visit on Tuesday in a press briefing.

Wang Yu-chi, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, is scheduled to fly to the mainland on February 11 to meet his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, leader of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.

“The trip has crucial implications for further institutionalisation of the ties between the two sides of the Straits,” Wang told a press briefing.
– Al Jazeera, Jan 28, 2014

 

China’s top Taiwan official to make first visit to island
Thu, Jun 12 23:33 PM EDT
image

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s top official in charge of relations with Taiwan will make his first visit to the island later this month, state media said, following large-scale protests there against a controversial trade pact.

Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, will become the first head of the body ever to visit the self-ruled island, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Thursday.

He will spend four days in Taiwan, Xinhua said, and apart from visiting capital Taipei will also go to three other places, including Kaohsiung in the heavily pro-independence south of the island. China says it will not countenance an independent Taiwan.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since Nationalist forces, defeated by the Communists, fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has never ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control.

But in recent years the two sides have built up extensive economic ties, and in February they held their first direct government-to-government talks, in China, a big step towards expanding cross-strait dialogue beyond trade. Read more at Reuters..

Labor Relations in China

What are Labor Relations in China Like?

Andrew Batson’s Excellent Blog Provides a Glimpse:

Finally, China starts to tackle the high cost of hiring

There was a lot of news out of China last week–stock markets tanking, interest rates being cut, etc–so it’s understandable that some other interesting developments slipped through with little notice. This one is worth highlighting as I think it may well mark the beginning of an important longer-term shift in China’s labor market and policies: the State Council lowered employers’ required contributions to two social insurance programs, injury and maternity insurance, a move it said would save firms 27 billion renminbi a year (see the China Labour Bulletin for an English-language summary). Yes, I know this sounds boring and technical, so why is it important? Because it starts to address one of the biggest but least-known issues in China’s job market: the very high costs employers face to hire workers.

It is not a very well-known fact that China has some of the toughest labor regulations in the world, and some of the highest required contribution rates to social insurance programs. As a result, the “labor wedge”–the percentage of the total cost of an employee that comes from things other than wages–in China is around 45%, as high as in a number of European countries (this is according to an estimate by John Giles in a World Bank paper; see chart below).

laborwedge2

This fact does not square with the widespread perception of China as a nation of sweatshops employing hordes of migrant workers, and indeed is a relatively recent development stemming from the 2008 Labor Contract Law. But China’s problem with these generous worker protections is ultimately the same one that many other developing countries have encountered: strong legal protections and generous insurance programs are so expensive that in practice they only become available to part of the workforce. Effectively China has two labor markets: one for urban white-collar jobs with all the legal protections, and one for blue-collar jobs held by rural migrant workers that generally lack the full set of benefits. As John and his co-authors summarize the issue in their 2013 paper:

China’s urban social insurance system carries heavy burdens for both employers and workers, and may carry significant implications for China’s long–run competitiveness. Moreover, this high implied labor tax wedge likely encourages informalization of the labor market: employers under-report wages and game the system in numerous ways, while workers have incentives to opt out of participation in social insurance schemes. As in other developing countries, high mandated contribution rates provide strong incentive for employers to evade compliance through the use of labor dispatch services and under-reporting of employment and wages.

The IMF in its last Article IV report on China also, very correctly in my view, highlighted this issue and urged the government to change:

Social contribution rates, which are high and very regressive, should also be reduced as they distort the labor market, make growth less inclusive, and favor informal over formal employment.

So economists have for years been flagging this issue as an area where “structural reform” is needed. Having a relatively high cost of employment should, other things being equal, discourage employers from hiring. But there’s been little evidence that this was in fact a real problem over the last few years–instead, it was much more common to hear complaints and anecdotes about labor shortages. So the very high rates of social contributions did not seem like they were imposing much of a cost on the economy: the job market stayed tight and wages continued to grow rapidly. While high hiring costs may have lowered employers’ demand for workers relative to what it otherwise would have been, this effect was not big enough to seriously affect the balance of the labor market.

That has all changed in recent months, as the economy has continued to weaken. With employers finding growth in demand for their products continuing to soften, it’s hardly surprising that their demand for additional workers is also softening. Public data on China’s labor market is limited, but there is much labor data that is collected but not published, and this seems to have been enough to get policymakers worried. The State Council has warned of “growing pressure on employment,” and rolled out a whole series of measures designed to assist the unemployed, such as tax breaks for hiring new workers, cheap loans for small businesses, and support for laid-off workers to start their own companies. The most recent of these moves, the small cut in some social insurance costs, may indeed be a needed reform, but, as is so often the case, the timing of reform is being driven by the economic cycle.

We therefore seem to be at a tipping point in the labor market that is causing the government to look again at the cost-benefit analysis of its labor policies. And as China’s economic growth continues to slow in coming years, I expect the costs of its current set of labor policies will become increasingly apparent. So the balance of its policies should shift more toward encouraging employment, and preferring higher rates of enrollment in social insurance programs to higher benefit levels. European countries have often been criticized for preferring labor policies that reward people who already have jobs at the expense of people who want jobs. China’s latest move is a clear if marginal shift in the other direction: it would prefer that 27 billion renminbi not go to improve the welfare of people who already have jobs, but instead be spent on hiring new workers.

The fact that China is moving relatively early to make this adjustment–before there has been a big increase in unemployment–to me is a hopeful sign that it could be more flexible in navigating this transition than some other countries. That may not be the most obvious conclusion, since China is after all a Communist country that one might expect to have a strong ideological commitment to social-welfare institutions. But the “socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics” of the past three decades has in fact never been particularly keen on socialist labor market institutions, as a whole host of workers’ rights groups will tell you.

Can You Trust China’s Media?

Can You Trust China’s Media?

Can you – or anyone – trust China’s media? 80% of Chinese do, according to Edelman and Pew surveys over the years. And remember that the Chinese are smarter than us (as Henry Kissinger ruefully observed). How much to we trust our own media?  Well, here are some examples from the UK’s wonderful BBC and the USA.

Under the Guardian headline, Russia Today’s interview on immigrants detention centres in UK faces inquiry we find that it is the sixth ongoing investigation into RT and the third to relate to its coverage of events in Ukraine. Gosh ! Sounds bad. But, reading from EU’s own laws (Relevant legislation includes, in particular, sections 319(2)(c) and (d), 319(8) and section 320 of the Communications Act 2003, and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.) should tell us about their “impartiality” from the start:

This section of the Code does not apply to BBC services funded by the licence fee, which are regulated on these matters by the BBC Trust. Ah yes, so the law applies to “foreign media” but not to BBC, which naturally is regulated by its own rules. Foreign media must be “duly impartial”, but BBC is on a different set of rules. So, the rule of “impartiality” starts out by being partial to BBC?? Rather paradoxical.

Of course, in the US, people are fast realizing that our media are simply untrustworthy. In fact, our trust of our media is lower than that of Soviet Russians’ trust of Pravda before the fall of the Berlin Wall:

Trust in US Mass Media Returns to All-Time Low

Six-percentage-point drops in trust among Democrats and Republicans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After registering slightly higher trust last year, Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report “the news fully, accurately, and fairly” has returned to its previous all-time low of 40%. Americans’ trust in mass media has generally been edging downward from higher levels in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

Americans' Trust in the Mass Media

Prior to 2004, Americans placed more trust in mass media than they do now, with slim majorities saying they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust. But over the course of former President George W. Bush’s re-election season, the level of trust fell significantly, from 54% in 2003 to 44% in 2004. Although trust levels rebounded to 50% in 2005, they have failed to reach a full majority since. (Gallup Polls)

 What About British Trust in their Media?

A 2009 survey by the polling company Ipsos MORI found that only 13 per cent of the British public trust politicians to tell the truth: the lowest rating in 25 years. Business leaders were trusted by just 25 per cent of the public, while journalists languished at 22 per cent.

So…before you wonder about the trustworthiness of China’s media, ask yourself how much do I  trust my own?

Here’s a video about Social Media Landscape in China:

 

China’s One-Child Policy: A History

Most of what we read in the Western press about China’s “one-child policy” is based on myths and silly speculation. Here is a quick primer on the policy and how it came into being:

To understand Chen’s case, it is important to have a broader perspective on that policy objectively.  Lawrence W. Green wrote the following abstract for an article in the Journal of Public Health Policy which provides that:

After years of urging China to take more aggressive action to control its population, the United States government withdrew support from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities on the grounds that that agency supported China’s new policy. The policy provided for the achievement of a norm of one child per couple through economic incentives and rewards, and family planning services including abortion. Charges of forced abortion in the Western press led to withdrawal of the U.S. funds by the Agency for International Development. In this analysis of the policy and its implementation, the alleged incidents of forced abortion were found to be isolated cases of overzealous local functionaries trying to meet quotas. Publicity and public education surrounding the policy and campaigns to implement it provide the best assurances that most people would know that they have options and should not be subjected to coercion for abortion. The Chinese government has implemented new safeguards to prevent and punish cases of attempted abortion against the will of couples. 1

That perspective must be understood, for Western press frequently bashes China whenever the “one-child” policy makes news. For example, in The Telegraph’s latest article about Chen, it referred to the Chinese family planning policy as:

China’s draconian family planning policy

The use of negative emotive words like ‘draconian’ to describe everything ‘China’ or ‘Chinese’ in fact fits the larger pattern of a Collective Defamation in the Western press.

(1) the actual name in Chinese is not “one child policy”, it’s “family planning policy”. Someone in the West came up with the “one child policy” name as a way to imply that Chinese law would not allow more than 1 child per couple (which is in itself a lie, since people can have more than 1 child, they just have to pay fines).

(2) the actual “family planning policy” was conceived with multiple versions, with 1st version in the 4th 5-year plan of 1970 PRC, which had specific targets for population growth, and went into effect in 1971. The 1st version had no fines at all for having more than 1 child per couple, but instead provided incentives for couples who merely PROMISED to have only 1 child.

The fertility rate in China dropped dramatically from 1970-1979, but it was not enough. China still had a 1% population growth, so the 2nd version of the policy went into effect in 1979-1980, with punitive fines.

(3) What many Western critics call “one-child policy” actually refers to ONLY the 2nd version of the policy, from 1980 onward, while ignoring the previous decade of the policy from 1970-1979. the intent of this was to paint the policy as a complete failure with great cost, because from 1980 onward, China’s fertility rate dropped only slightly, from 2.7 per couple to about 1.9 per couple (babies in lifetime).

However, the 1st version of the policy dropped fertility rate of China from 5.7 per couple to 2.7 per couple in less than 10 years.

The Chinese are Smarter Than Us

“The Chinese are Smarter Than Us,” said Henry Kissinger (Nixon’s China Game), and he’s right. Look at what Anatoly Karlin has to say about that:

Analysis Of China’s PISA 2009 Results

This Featured, Post about China, Human Biodiversity, IQ, Psychometrics, Sociology was written by Anatoly Karlin on August 13, 2012 .
As human capital is so important for prosperity, it behoves us to know China’s in detail to assess whether it will continue converging on developed countries. Until recently the best data we had were disparate IQ tests (on the basis of which Richard Lynn’s latest estimate is an IQ of 105.8 in his 2012 book Intelligence: A Unifying Construct for the Social Sciences) as well as PISA international standardized test scores from cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. However, the problem was that they were hardly nationally representative due to the “cognitive clustering” effect. The Chinese did not allow the OECD to publish data for the rest of the country and this understandably raised further questions about the situation in its interior heartlands, although even in 2010 I was already able to report a PISA representative saying that “even in some of the very poor areas you get performance close to the OECD average.”

As regards Chinese intelligence
Happily (via commentator Jing) we learned that the PISA data for Zhejiang province and the China average had been released on the Chinese Internet. I collated this as well as data for Chinese-majority cities outside China in the table below, while also adding in their PISA-converted IQ scores, the scores of just natives (i.e. minus immigrants), percentage of the Han population, and nominal and PPP GDP per capita.

Reading Math Science Average (native) IQ (native IQ) %汉族 GDP/c (n) GDP/c (P)
China* 486 550 524 520 ~ 103.0 ~ 91.6% 5,430 8,442
China: Shanghai 556 600 575 577 589 111.6 113.4 99.0% 12,783 19,874
China: Zhejiang 525 598 567 563 ~ 109.5 ~ 99.2% 9,083 14,121
Hong Kong 533 555 549 546 557 106.9 108.6 93.6% 34,457 49,990
Macau 487 525 511 508 514 101.2 102.1 95.0% 65,550 77,607
Singapore 526 562 542 543 550 106.5 107.5 74.1% 46,241 61,103
Taiwan 495 543 520 519 534 102.9 105.1 98.0% 20,101 37,720
* Twelve provinces including Shanghai, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu totaling 621 schools, 21,003 students. Results have been released for Shanghai, and later on for Zhejiang (59 schools, 1,800 students – of which 80% were township-village schools) and for the 12-province average.

(1) Academic performance, and the IQ for which it is a good proxy, is very high for a developing nation. Presumably, this gap can largely be ascribed to the legacy of initial historical backwardness coupled with Maoist economics.

(2) The average PISA-converted IQ of the 12 provinces surveyed in PISA is 103.0. (I do not know if provincial results were appropriately weighed for population when calculating the 12-province average but probably not). We know the identities of five of the 12 tested provinces (Shanghai, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu). They are all very high-income and developed by Chinese standards. Furthermore, these five provinces – with the exception of Tianjin – all perform well above average according to stats from a Chinese online IQ testing website.