China

I’d Like Rice With That: McDonald’s to Give Restaurants in China a Makeover

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 03:26
McDonald's Corp. is looking to beef up its image in China to lure diners amid an economic slowdown that could send them looking for cheaper alternatives.
Categories: China

Four New Citizen Activists Sentenced

China Digital Times - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 03:03

Four members of the New Citizens Movement civil rights and anti-corruption group received prison sentences on Friday, Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee reports:

Ding Jiaxi was sentenced to three-and-a-half years, Zhao Changqing got a two-and-a-half year sentence and Li Wei and Zhang Baocheng got two-year terms, the Haidian court in Beijing said on its microblog. They were charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

But Sui Muqing, a lawyer representing Ding, said the real reason for the convictions was that the activists had pressed for government officials to disclose their assets.

“It’s nothing but an announcement to the world that we can’t mention asset disclosure and that calling on officials to disclose their assets is a crime,” Sui told Reuters by telephone. [Source]

Sui walked out of Ding’s trial last week, calling it “unabashedly illegal.” Also last week, the New Citizens’ cofounder Xu Zhiyong lost an appeal against his own four-year sentence. Despite these blows, many connected with the movement expressed defiant optimism.

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One Blogger Released, Another Sentenced

China Digital Times - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 02:17

Due to a “serious illness,” outspoken blogger and Chinese-American venture capitalist Charles Xue has been released on bail after almost eight months in prison. From Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee:

 Charles Xue, also known as Xue Manzi, was detained in August on a charge of visiting prostitutes, an accusation that activists said stemmed from China’s efforts to rein in social media.

[…] Xue was released on bail because he was sick, Beijing police said on its official microblog. State television showed Xue on television on Wednesday night confessing to his crime, saying he was extremely sorry to his wife and children.

[…] In a separate case, a court jailed popular microblogger Qin Zhihui for three years on Thursday on charges of defamation and affray after he confessed to spreading rumors about the Chinese government, Xinhua state news agency said. [Source]

See more on Qin’s case via CDT.

The New York Times’ Chris Buckley scrutinized Xue’s transformation from a man who ”once embodied the raucous energies testing Internet censorship in China” to “a contrite prisoner endorsing the government’s determination to cleanse and control the Web”:

“I believe it was entirely appropriate that I was punished by the law,” he said. “I think these events were an agonizing lesson for me, and I hope that Big V’s and little V’s active on Weibo will take this as a warning that with every posting you must consider your responsibility to society.”

Mr. Xue, 61, also said that he had not considered group sex a crime because he “had lived in the United States for 34 years, and had been deeply influenced by Western values,” Xinhua, the state news agency, reported. Mr. Xue grew up in China and migrated to the United States, and he won fame in China as a canny investor in Internet and telecommunications companies.

For now at least, how much of Mr. Xue’s confession was heartfelt can only be guessed at. But the form it took was familiar. Since Mao’s time, extravagant accusations against the party’s ideological adversaries have often been followed by detention and then equally extravagant public confessions and endorsements of the official line. [Source]

More recently caught up in the rumor crackdown is an Urumqi resident detained “after he forwarded an untrue rumor that was created abroad” about the shooting of a young Uyghur by police. Critics of the campaign, meanwhile, argue that the government itself is “the biggest online rumor mill in China.”

The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer explained that the current waxing of the battle against rumors is part of a two-pronged drive, together with a similarly controversial crackdown on online pornography:

The drive, to “sweep out porn, strike at rumors,” will run from mid-April until November, the party’s news portal Seeking Truth declared this week.

[…] Several academics and media insiders declined to comment on the campaign, except to say that strict instructions to back it had come down from the top levels of the party. “I absolutely support this campaign; I’m not supposed to add anything more than that,” said one academic, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of official retribution.

[…] “The dark current of pornographic information is still flowing on the Internet,” the People’s Daily warned in an editorial. It complained about illegal and foreign Web sites, pornographic marketing and obscenity posing as sex education. “Cracking down on Internet pornographic information matters to the physical and mental health of the youth; it matters to promote our core socialist values,” the editorial said.

But the protection of socialist values also apparently involves a clampdown on criticism by journalists and fiction writers. [Source]

Many suggest political motives for the tightening of online controls since Xi Jinping came to power. From The Financial Times’ Charles Clover:

Michael Anti, a Chinese journalist, says that under Hu Jintao, the previous Chinese president, the Communist party tolerated bloggers as long as they confined their wrath to local officials. “It was a way to control the provinces,” he said. But after Mr Xi came to power the mood changed.

“The new attitude is that if you attack any officials you attack the whole Communist party,” Mr Anti said. [Source]

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Categories: China

A Film-Noir Hit in China

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 00:18
Director Diao Yinan’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” finds a receptive audience at home.
Categories: China

25 Years Ago: Students March for Democracy

China Digital Times - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 00:01

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the nationwide, student-led democracy movement in China, and the subsequent military crackdown in Beijing. To mark the occasion, CDT is posting a series of original news articles from that year, beginning with the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15 and continuing through the tumultuous spring. The full series can be read here.

From the April 18, 1989 New York Times:

Several thousand students marched through the capital in predawn hours today, chanting democratic slogans and singing revolutionary songs as they mourned the ousted Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang and called for a more democratic government.

The demonstration was the most significant sign of unrest in China since student demonstrations for democracy were crushed more than two years ago.

One student leader announced to a cheering crowd that the students had three demands: an official reappraisal of Mr. Hu, an apology from the Government for various unspecified mistakes, and a ”collective resignation,” apparently of all the country’s leaders.

Later, other student leaders added further demands, such as democratic elections, the release of China’s political prisoners, and freedom of the press.

[This series was originally posted on CDT in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of June 4th.]

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Yu’e Bao Finds ‘Leftover Treasure’ in Deposits

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 22:50
A new report shows the rise in Chinese consumers that have lately flocked to Internet giant Alibaba’s investment offerings, spurning traditional offers from the country’s banks.
Categories: China

Picture China: Film Festival, Weibo Listing, Formula One

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 22:30
The day's China news in pictures: people dress in costumes at the Beijing International Film Festival, China's Weibo begins trading on the Nasdaq exchange, a race car driver signs autographs ahead of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix and more.
Categories: China

China admits widespread soil pollution

FT China Feed - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 22:21
At least 20% of agricultural land, including large swaths of the southern rice basket, is contaminated by industrial pollutants, according to document
Categories: China

Yuan Depreciation Is Deeper Than You Think

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 22:00
The U.S. Treasury has been up in arms about China’s move to devalue the yuan. But China's currency has depreciated this year even more than they think.
Categories: China

Understanding China’s Youth Consumer Marketing

China Briefing - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 21:49

In this China Briefing exclusive interview, we talk with Kevin Lee of China Youthology about the country's youth market and how their preferences are shaping consumer trends in China.

The post Understanding China’s Youth Consumer Marketing appeared first on China Briefing News.

Categories: China

China Car Sales Stall, But Wealth Gets Gas

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 21:40
As China’s privately owned car manufacturers struggle for survival, their owners appear to be doing just fine.
Categories: China

Chinese Footwear Group Tries to Win Back Workers Who’ve Walked Out

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 20:44
A major footwear maker for brands like Adidas and Nike offered to make disputed social-insurance payments to settle a four-day strike.
Categories: China

Global carmakers seek China inroads

FT China Feed - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 20:40
Executives head for Auto China 2014 in Beijing conscious of the importance of the Chinese car market to the fortunes of global companies
Categories: China

China’s Urban Scavengers Go Wild for ‘Toon’

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 20:31
China has no shortage of polarizing foods, from its “stinky tofu” to the equally stinky durian fruit. Now, as springtime starts to spill across the country, many are going wild about a similarly love-it-or-hate-it edible: the Chinese toon.
Categories: China

Heard in the Hutong: The Cars Beijingers Covet

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 20:04
As the Beijing Auto Show comes to town, China Real Time hit the streets to hear which cars Beijingers are coveting—and how they feel about the traffic and pollution that come with them.
Categories: China

Mercedes Revs Up for the Chinese Grand Prix

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 18:48
The team has dominated the first three races of the 2014 season.
Categories: China

Crowdfunding Investigative Journalism in China

China Digital Times - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:21

Beijing has long exercised control over information by directly supervising official media outlets, issuing censorship directives, and creating incentives for independent organizations to self-censor. As technology has allowed a huge increase in the cache of publicly available information over the past decade, the government has adapted its measures to leverage the new media landscape. Over the past year, the Xi administration has made moves to reinforce control of traditional and new media by mandating reporters undergo training in the “Marxist view of journalism,” and cracking down heavily on social media. Amid this diverse atmosphere of official propaganda, The Economist looks at the new methods journalists are adopting to report freely:

LIU JIANFENG began his career as an investigative reporter with noble ideals about serving the public interest. After 20 years in the job, even working for some of China’s more outspoken publications, he felt increasingly manipulated. He also believed the public was hungry for fact-based reporting untainted by the state’s agenda. Casting around for a solution, last summer he announced on his microblog that he was becoming an independent journalist.

Five years ago such a move would have been all but impossible. But now, trading on his reputation as an honest reporter, through his microblog on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, and on Taobao, an e-commerce site, Mr Liu raised 200,000 yuan ($30,000). That helped him produce his first long investigative report about a land dispute between villagers and their local government in Shandong, an eastern province. The report, which is available on Mr Liu’s blog, has not (yet) caused him problems. “Writing at length and in detail is a way to protect myself from accusations of malpractice,” he says.

[...] Since a crackdown on microblogs last year, many users have gravitated to WeChat, a smartphone-messaging application. It has emerged as a relatively unconstrained platform for free-thinking opinion. But in mid-March there was a sudden shutdown of dozens of prominent accounts. The “WeChat massacre”, as it became known, was a fresh warning to free-thinkers, though it has not yet scared users away.

Like other journalists, Song Zhibiao uses his WeChat feed to create what he calls “self-made media”. He posts news and commentary on controversial subjects, such as the mismanagement of official coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Around 13,000 people subscribe to his WeChat feed; some donate up to 500 yuan. Despite some financial success, Mr Song sees two hurdles. Relying on donations from a public used to consuming free media is not sustainable, he thinks. And muckraking in China can be risky. If you are on your way “to seek truth”, he says, you may in the party’s eyes be on the road to commit crimes. [...] [Source]

For more on “self-media” and the recent WeChat crackdown, see prior CDT coverage. Last month, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported at length on Liu Jianfeng and the crowdfunding of independent, investigative journalism in China:

“I would like to be an independent writer and social issue observer. With the help of supporters, I will be able to conduct investigations and to reveal the problems during political reforms, and to tell people’s stories during social changes,” Liu said in his July post.

[...] “I didn’t want to work with my hands tied any more,” he said in a phone interview in early February. “I realized I could work individually and independently, without having to affiliate with any publication.”

[...] Liu set up a store on Taobao, an eBay-like platform, where he offered customers “reading access” to his work for 100 yuan (less than $20). Those who pay get exclusive email access to his stories several days before Liu publishes them on his blog, which is fully accessible in China. [...] [Source]

Also see a video on Liu Jianfeng and his search for a new model of investigative journalism, produced by Jonah Kessel for the Committee to Protect Journalists last year.

© josh rudolph for China Digital Times (CDT), 2014. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
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Categories: China

How a Tiny Bird Got Its Own Branch on the Tree of Life

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 14:45
A tiny brown bird with a big voice is making news in the animal kingdom.
Categories: China

Official Puts Demolition Workers On Pedestal

China Digital Times - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 14:29

A district Communist Party secretary’s adulatory tribute to a group of demolition workers last December was “propelled to national levels of scrutiny and ridicule” after the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolitan Daily picked it up on Wednesday. From Austin Ramzy at The New York Times:

Shao Chunjie, a district Communist Party secretary, told a gathering of demolition workers that they were the city’s “kindest, most venerable, most lovable, most capable of moving one to song and tears, most praiseworthy people,” according to a statement posted on an official website.

Mr. Shao’s tribute was fulsome, and all the more striking because the praise was for workers who carry out one of the most controversial policies in China. The removal of residents from their homes to make way for construction projects provides the opportunity for huge returns for developers and local governments, but it also sets off disputes that can turn violent and at times deadly.

[...] “I think the Xinyang secretary’s words are heartfelt,” Yuan Yulai, a lawyer, wrote on his Sina Weibo account. “And that shows the depths to which our society has sunk.” [Source]

Read more about forced demolitions in China via CDT, including a 2012 report on forced evictions by Amnesty International.

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