Toughts, news and small talk mainly concerning China from a berlin perspective


Protests, what protests?

While the Anti-Japanese protests attracted huge attention in mainstream media and the blogsphere, other protests by students held in March run unnoticed.

Ethical corporation reports:

... "The announcement comes as a mass student protest in China stage a Day of Action in six cities to call on the company to cease their "destructive logging practices", according to a statement." ...

... "The students will be boycotting APP products and will be asking companies to follow. Protestors took up positions in front of supermarket shelves featuring APP products in Beijing, Hefei, Nanning, Lanzhou, Harbin and Chengdu. Passing shoppers were told of the company's forestry operations in Yunnan and elsewhere." ...

Background is, a report by Greenpeace-China on the illegal loggings committed in Yunnan by the Singapore-based logging giant APP. Some months later the State Forestry Administration has taken official action:

... ""The investigation is not finished yet, but we have indeed spotted illegal logging in an APP project after initial investigation. We believe that both APP and local governments are responsible for the violation," Wang Zhuxiong, a senior SFA official told the official newsagency Xinhua.

The news comes in the wake of a damning report by Greenpeace on the company's tree felling practices in Yunnan, which was released last November. The environmental group claims that APP sequestered a 1.8 million acre plot in, intensively clear-felled it and replaced it with plantation crops." ...

I don't know if the protests really where "mass student protests", but such news showing a growing concern about environmental protection, an emerging civil society and the cooperation of environmental NGOÕs and the gobernment too easily stay unnoticed, leading to an incomplete picture of China.

Some more Links on the topic: (Chinese)

greenpeace (Chinese) (Chinese)

Xinhua (English)


NGO with Chinese characteristics

A new environmental NGO has been launched recently, Ethical Corporation reports (via CDT). Though de jure a NGO, the All China Environment Federation (ACEF) looks more like a branch of SEPA, the State environmental Protection, as its ties to this organization are more than close:

... "Government news organizations insist on calling ACEF a non-government organization. This is a curious position, as it is clearly a government-affiliated body. ACEF has significant numbers of ex-officials and party apparatchiks among its members and has received major government backing and funding, which is unheard of for a non-official "NGO" in China." ...

Li Hengyuan, ACEF's founding vice-secretary-general, for example is the former Director General, Policy and Law Department, SEPA (if my information on that is correct. Would be thankful for any further information or correction, i.e. couldn't find the ACEF website due to my poor Chinese).

The article concludes that as the number and the activities of green NGO's increased heavily, and the relationship between government and these organizations became closer,

... "These relationships, forged over recent years, may yet be superseded by ACEF - where the government may feel it has more of a controlling influence." ...



Promoting Chinese-Japanese dialogue

The great Global Voices Online is trying to promote Chinese-Japanese dialogue by suggesting the tag cn_jp_dialog for all posts on that topic. More on tags and how to use them see in their post on this.



Evironmental pollution and social unrest

Uncontrolled waste water from Changlin paper mill, in Dongxiang County, Jiangxi

The recent riots in Huankantou in Zhejiang province have highlighted one of the most urgent problems in China today: Environmental pollution and the powerlessness of the local people when the regional authorities don't see a call for action due to financial interests.

Xinhua had sad pictures of severe pollution in March (via CDT).

According to numbers given by Murray Scott Tanner in a testimony presented to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, protests increased by no less than 9% per year:

... "The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) reports that the number of "mass incidents" (e.g. various forms of protest) has skyrocketed from about 8,700 in 1993, to 32,000 in 1999, to about 50,000 in 2002, and surpassing 58,000 in 2003 (See table in Appendix). Especially noteworthy has been the steady rate of increase: protest incidents have apparently increased every year since 1993 (although 2001 data are unavailable), and in no year did they increase by less than 9 percent." ...

Although not every protest is about environmental pollution I would suggest, that also the number of protests out of that motivation, will increase.

Meanwhile there are encouraging signals from the State Environmental Protection Administration, as it more and more supports Chinese NGOs who have environmental protection on their agenda.



How racist is China?

I once was asked by a Chinese friend, if I think that there exists racism in China and she was quite stunned about my answer that, yes, I think their exists racism in China. The recent demonstrations and a commentary at China Herald caused me to think about the topic again. J. Zhang wrote:

"I do not agree with your labelling of these events as racist. Also Chinese people are not racist, however, if you have been in Japan, you would learn what racism really is"

As Fons of China Herald also answered, it is quite difficult to call it other than racist if a whole people are labeled pigs.

I sometimes have the impression, that people whose countries suffered under western (and nonwestern aka Japanese) imperialism and racism think they are immune to it. The above statement that Chinese are no racists, from my experience, is quite representative for Chinese and it reflects that a lot of Chinese don't consider it to be a problem in their country, are not aware that such a thing could exist in China or don't have an idea what racism really is about.

A recent article in The Guardian has some numbers on racist comments in Internet forums about Condoleecca Rice after her visit in China:

... "He says that of 800 messages he has read about her visit, no less than 70 involved racist comments about her colour: of these, only two were relatively moderate; the rest were vicious, describing Rice as a "black ghost", "black dog", "black woman" and "black bitch". One stated, "You are not even like a black ghost, a really low form of life," and another, "Her brain is even more black than her skin." One writer said: "I don't support racism, but this black ghost really makes people angry, the appearance of a little black who has made good." ...

Actually the research was done by Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese who according to the article strongly opposed statements like those above in an article on the New Century Net website. Encouraging that at least some are aware of the problem.

The numbers are quite interesting, cause they match polls recently done in Europe, which reveal, that an average of 10% of Europeans have racist and anti-Semitic opinions. So China could be considered a rather "normal" country in that concern.

From my viewpoint the main question is not if there exists racism in a country – every human society has the potential for it, and in most societies it exists -, but how a society deals with it. That's a future challenge for Chinese and the Chinese government.



NGO fights for Chinas cultural heritage. Art buisness and politics

Hard times to come for museums worldwide as a Chinese NGO, the China Cultural Relics Recovery Program, funded by the China Foundation for the Development of Folklore Culture (wonder how non-governmental it actually is) is on its way to reclaim Chinese cultural relics, Xinhua reports:

... "The group said it would mainly look for stolen, excavated or looted items between 1840 and 1949. ...
... "The spiritual wealth can be shared (by the whole world), but not the ownership, just like the property rights on software," said Xie Chensheng, a senior cultural heritage preservation expert.
"Ownership of the scattered cultural treasures should belong to Chinese people," he said.
Director general of the program Wang Weiming said the program was a civil movement sponsored by Chinese NGOs and backed by public opinion, historical realities and an international convention to protect cultural relics at their original sites." ...

Wow, lot of homework to do for these guys, as it is estimated, that about a million Chinese treasures are kept in more than 200 museums in 47 countries.

Another recent article (last but one article on the page) concerning Chinese fine arts is about the public hearing of the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) on the request of the People's Republic of China for US Customs restrictions against the import of all Chinese cultural property over 95 years old. That in fact would be an Art-Embargo and is a nightmare scenario for the whole US Asian-art-business. Some doubt that the whole thing is about protecting the cultural heritage of china and bring up more political motives:

"Marc Wilson was the only presenter willing to bring up the unspoken politics many suspect is behind all this: the growing conflict between national and provincial/local officials in China. A New York-based Chinese collector agreed with this position, reporting that the new head of the Cultural Relics Bureau is `trying to make his mark' and `deflect criticism from internal piracy'. `The fact is, construction and development are more destructive than looters,' said Wilson. And `government engagement in art trade' is `ambiguous' at best."



The quest for historical truth

ESWN has two great posts about the conflict about history between China and Japan. First one is about the strategy of the Japanese rightists. He compares them with the one the Creationists (another link) and promoters of Intelligent Design (ID) in the USA use to attack evolution theory:

"If historical revisionism has always been around, then why is there an apparent rise in anti-Japanese sentiments among the Chinese today. That is because the Japanese ultra-rightists have finally figured out a way to push their agenda through. If they used to be an embarrassing bunch of kooks thirty or forty years ago, they are now using the contemporary art of issue-based triangulation to their advantage. If they needed a casebook paradigm to follow, they only have to look at the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) in American schools as a 'scientific' theory on the same basis as Darwinian evolution."

A lot of broadcasts about the recent Anti-Japan demonstrations in China mentioned, that the schoolbooks the whole hubbub is about are only used in a small number of schools. His response:

"It is true that the textbook offered by Japan's Society for History Textbook Reform in 2001 was adopted by only 0.39% of the schools, and the 2005 edition will probably not do very well either. But just look at what is happening to the other books! And how far will the books move the next time? They disappeared the Unit 731 bacterial weapons division in 2001; in 2005, they disappeared the "comfort women" too; what next? How long before every history book in Japan say that the whole war was about liberating the "Asian nations from the western imperialists"? If you believe that this is a non-issue due to the low adoption rate of one textbook, then you are quite wrong about the real intent and the practical results."

In the second one he has some excerpts of an article by Liu Xiaobo dealing with the selective view of the Chinese Communists on history:

... "When it comes to viewpoints about warfare and nationalism, the Chinese people are not better than the Japanese. "The winner becomes the emperor while the loser is just a bandit" is an age-old concept of warfare in China. The arrogance of the Han tribe about owning everything under heaven continues to live on today as nationalism. More particularly, the way in which the Chinese Communists have fabricated history and used lies to rule since seizing power is much worse than how the Japanese rightists are revising their history of invasion; the way in which the Chinese Communists have beautify their totalitarian rule is much worse than how the Japanese rightists have beautify militarism. The way by which the Chinese Communists have ruled with lies has created a basis by which Japan can revise its history in order to fool the new generation of Japanese." ...

The Standard also has an article about the Communists view on history.



First Contact - Chinese Cars for the first time on European streets in autumn

In autumn, Euro Cars will start selling the first Chinese car ever sold in Europe. The company will import the
limousine Zhonghua of Chinese carmaker Jinbei Automotive and have it for sale in roundly 1000 shops around Europe, reports (via CITN)



Laogai becomes german word?

Chinablätter pointed to this today:

The Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) is pleased to announce the addition of the word "laogai" into the renowned German dictionary Duden Die deutsche Rechtschreibung 2004 (23rd edition). In 2003, the word "laogai" was also added into the Oxford English Dictionary. LRF hopes that as awareness about the laogai system in China continues to increase, pressure will grow for the system to be abolished.

Maybe someone sometime used the term laogai somewhere, but I never found it in a german newspaper till now and I duobt that it will become a common one. Mostly journalists write "the chinese gulags" when they reffer to the laogais.



As Many Wars As Nations

Found a very interesting essay by Adam Krzeminski (according to the publisher, one of Poland's leading journalists and chairman of the Polish-German Association in Warsaw), entitled "As many wars as nations". The introduction by the publisher says:

"The Second World War is still being fought. Sixty years after it ended, almost every anniversary stirs up arguments and emotions: D-Day, the Warsaw Uprising, the liberation of Auschwitz, the bombing of Dresden, Yalta, the taking of Berlin, and Potsdam. There can be no single version of this war. When the heads of state stand side by side at the ceremony in Moscow on May 9, each of them will be remembering something different."

Well, the second world war is still being fought in Asia too when one thinks of the nationalistic uproar in China these days, and the euphemistic description and presentation of the Japanese attack on China and the rest of Asia in Japanese schoolbooks.

The essay closes:

"... Europeans will go on living with competing memories and competing myths for a long time to come. What is new is that these competing myths are no longer being fostered in confinement, but in constant dialogue between neighbors, besides which in each country as well as being fostered they are also being debunked. Time will tell if this clash of national myths will ultimately engender a common European view of the Second World War, without dropping the national experiences. Already in many countries the Europeans are gradually ceasing to be victims of autism exclusively fixated on separate images of the past."

Looks as if historical autism will not cease in Asia for some time, as there is no sign that either side is willing to make a step towards a constructive dialogue.

P.S. Particular interesting is one of the links coming with the article: "Myths of the Nations".


Grassroots Growing In China

I wrote about the big plans Pan Yue, deputy environment minister has some time ago, and was quite skeptical if his institution (the State Environmental Protection Administration) really has the power to stand up against those who see economic growth as the only criteria of success and the powerful local administrations. Now I found an interesting article by Elizabeth C. Economy author of "The River Runs Black", in which she describes the growing environmental grassroots movement and its close ties with the SEPA:

Environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are at the forefront of strengthening civil society in China, drawing hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens into environmental activities, forging non-state linkages across provincial boundaries, and establishing the Chinese people as political actors independent of state-directed policies. Environmental NGOs also play a critical role in advancing transparency, rule of law, and official accountability within the Chinese political system. Through this process, they have become a significant force for political reform. ...

... Still, SEPA support for NGOs is very strong. It is common now for high-ranking SEPA officials, such as Pan Yue, to articulate the necessity of environmental NGOs for safeguarding the environment. Pan has also said that within the next two years, SEPA will help to establish an NGO cooperation network and to provide professional training for small grassroots groups. He believes that it is critical to have the Chinese people engaged in environmental protection and to open the decision-making process for environmental issues to make it democratic. ...

Would be interesting to hear more about these guys in the mainstream media. Shows that the Chinese government is not an as monolithic block as which it appears in most of western media.




Reuters reported (via China Digital News):

Protesters smashed a local Japanese supermarket's windows after a demonstration in China against Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council turned violent, Kyodo news agency reported Sunday.

Protesters in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in southwest China broke the windows of Japanese-owned supermarket Ito-Yokado on Saturday, Kyodo said.

Pictures of the Chengdu incident here: Drunk Dream and aqidesign


Death penalty

One example why death penalty never is a good choice (by China Daily):

'Murdered' wife lives, proves husband's innocence

After serving 11 years in prison for the murder of his wife, a "criminal" has been proved innocent following the appearance of his spouse with her second husband and son. ..........
The local court sentenced She to death in 1994, but the provincial court did not approve that until the year after. In 1998, the ruling was changed to 15 years imprisonment for "intentional murder."




News from Hunan University, where "Political Correctness" seems not to be a common term to some (via ESWN):

On March 17, 2005, Hunan Normal University began to offer a class on how to sensationalize news (新闻炒作学). After two sessions, this course has now been suspended due to the public outcry.

Looks as if this teacher took the famous Deng Xiaoping slogan "Seek the truth from the facts" too literal. Just have to love this guy for his bluntness.