The Gaokao: Now Available in Braille

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 21:46
China’s famously difficult college-entrance exam is about to get easier—or at least for one group of test-takers, more accessible.
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All of Australia’s Lavender Not Enough to Satisfy China’s ‘Bobbie Bear’ Appetite

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 21:17
There’s not a lot of intellectual property sewn up in a teddy bear. That’s an unpleasant lesson that Robert Ravens is having to learn after making one of China’s must-have consumer items.
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China’s Weibo raises $285m in US IPO

FT China Feed - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 21:07
China’s Twitter-like microblogging company sold at its lower end share price as falling technology stocks and competition concerns unsettled investors
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Picture China: Beijing Film Festival, Visit From Syria, Fishing

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 20:22
The day's China news in pictures: the 4th International Film Festival is held in Beijing, a Syrian opposition leader shakes hands at the Foreign Ministry, a man fishes next to a lake and more.
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Internationalizing Your China WFOE

China Briefing - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 18:48

Transferring WFOE equity ownership from China to Hong Kong or Singapore may provide greater trade flexibility and tax incentives for China-based enterprises.

The post Internationalizing Your China WFOE appeared first on China Briefing News.

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China’s Cyberporn Crackdown Not Really About Porn

China Digital Times - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 18:22

The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications, a branch of China’s main media regulator, recently announced a new crackdown on pornographic online content, a measure the Global Times notes is essential for China’s “cyber development”:

Bu Xiting, an official at the Communication University of China, sees the campaign as a sign of the government’s determination to create a healthy cyberspace.

“[It] shows that China is taking an important step toward the rule of law in the virtual world,” Bu said.

He said that as China has built up the biggest population of netizens amid decades of breakneck Internet development, forums, websites and online game ads have wielded bad influences by touting themselves with sexual hype, which is why the government needs to step in.

China launched a sweeping campaign against the spread of online porn on Sunday.

The cyberspace raid, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” will involve thorough checks on websites, search engines and mobile application stores, Internet TV USB sticks, and set-top boxes, the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications said in a circular. [Source]

For a full translation of the announcement, see China Law Translate. At Foreign Policy’s Tea Leaf Nation, Zhang Jialong warns that this most recent crackdown has little to do with porn, and much to do with bolstering the party’s new media influence:

Chinese authorities have put would-be free speech advocates on notice: Step away from the computer. As an April 14 article in Communist Party-run news portal Seeking Truth avers, from mid-April until November, government offices nationwide will be striking out at online media in a dedicated campaign called “sweep out porn, strike at rumors.” An April 16 headline on state news service Xinhua declares the move is in response to “calls from people in all walks of life.” But at its core, this is about going after rumors — party parlance for destabilizing falsehoods  – in the name of going after porn. In other words, it’s about ensuring that party organs, and not the Chinese grassroots, have the loudest voice on the country’s Internet.

This latest campaign has been months in the making. On Feb. 5, the Central Propaganda Department (CPD), the party organ tasked with censorship and information dissemination, ordered an investigation of “pornographic and vulgar information” — one whose main target was actually a variety of online columns, infographics, and trending or recommended reading. Interpretation of the actual meaning of “pornographic and vulgar information,” of course, rests entirely with the CPD. [...] [Source]

While pornography sweeps and anti-vulgarity operations are not uncommon in China, this most recent one comes amid an ongoing central government campaign to increase control of the Internet. Over the past year, the Xi administration has done much to rein in online public opinion by launching rules to build a “favorable online environment” and punishing violators, publicly humiliating influential social media users, and creating a legal means to punish broadly defined “rumor-mongers.”

Another post from Tea Leaf Nation notes that the Sina Weibo hashtag #扫黄打非·净网2014# (sweep out yellow, strike at rumors · clean web 2014), created to aid in the crackdown, seems to be backfiring, instead “allowing users to find (blurred) pornography more easily”:

The Chinese government’s latest effort to bring the country’s social web under control appears to be backfiring. A new phase in a government crackdown on undesirable online content announced March 28 — called “sweep out yellow, strike at rumors” (the former referring to pornography, the latter including opinion contrary to the Communist Party line) — has become a hashtag on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, bearing the same name. It appears to be an astroturf campaign: authorities have encouraged the hashtag, even if they did not generate it, by inviting netizens to get in on the anti-porn action through “joint monitoring and reporting.” And join they have, by labeling not-quite-pornographic material with that tag in what looks an awful lot like a bid to taunt censors. [...] [Source]

The newest crackdown has also set its crosshairs on slash fiction. Offbeat China notes that this has angered many of the “rotten women” who often write and read the genre:

Slash fiction is a genre of fan fiction that focuses on the interpersonal attraction and sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same sex. In China, slash, or dan mei (耽美) in Chinese, goes beyond fan fiction, and is used exclusively to refer to male-male slash. Believe it or not, slash is more popular than one would expect in China, and sex scenes are a big part of Chinese slash stories.

[...] The majority of readers, as well as writers, of slash in China are straight young girls who identify themselves as “rotten women (腐女).” [...]

[...] In their eyes, slash is but a victim of the country’s system-wise discrimination against homosexuality. As one female netizen 咖啡呆丶LM commented: “This is not cleaning the cyberspace. This is pure discrimination. I may never see a rainbow flag fly above China in my life time.” [Source]

After describing the politics behind the campaign and the contrast between China’s official anti-porn stance and the prevalence of black market retailers and sex workers, Lily Kuo also notes that some see this crackdown as a means to discriminate. From Quartz:

[...] Others believe the anti-porn moves are more aimed at sexual minority groups than mainstream porn. In the past. the government has shut down sites offering advice or information to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgender people in China as well as sites containing erotic gay fiction. Less ominous is the possibility that Chinese officials simply launch these campaigns with little intention of stamping out the industry. Instead, it provides an occasion for the government to flex its muscles over China’s internet firms and require them to fall in line. [...] [Source]

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Urbanization: Where China’s Future Will Happen

China Digital Times - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:48

In a special report at The Economist, James Miles examines urbanization in China, described by economist Joseph Stiglitz as one of “‘two keys’ to mankind’s development in the 21st century.” The report’s introduction lays out first the scale—China’s urban population grew by a “United States plus three Britains” in thirty years—and then the tremendous importance of China’s urbanization for the future of the country as a whole:

Getting cities right will help China to keep growing fast for years to come. Getting them wrong would be disastrous, bringing worsening inequality (which the World Bank says has approached “Latin American levels”, although Chinese officials insist it has recently been improving), the spread of slums, the acceleration of global climate change (cities consume three-quarters of China’s energy, which comes mainly from coal) and increasing social unrest.

[…] All the most important reforms that Mr Xi needs to tackle involve the movement to China’s cities. He must give farmers the same property rights as urban residents so they can sell their homes (which is currently all but impossible) and leave the land with cash in hand. He must sort out the mess of local-government finances, which depend heavily on grabbing land from farmers and selling it to developers. He must loosen the grip of state-owned enterprises on the commanding heights of the economy and make them hand over more of their profits to the government. He must move faster to clean up the urban environment, especially its noxious air, and prevent the growth of China’s cities from exacerbating climate change. And he must start giving urban residents a say in how their cities are run. [Source]

A leader accompanying the report offers more specific prescriptions:

The challenge for Xi Jinping, China’s president, and his team is as immense as the cities themselves. But there are two obvious steps for them to take. The first is to give farmers property rights and thus the ability to sell their land. If the market were allowed to operate, prices would be high. Overall, China has less habitable space than America but four times as many people. Much of the country is mountain or desert, unusable for development. High prices, reflecting this shortage, would force urban planners to regard land as a scarce resource and to use it efficiently. That would discourage them from allowing American-style sprawl and encourage them to build dense, energy-efficient European-style cities in which people walk, cycle or take public transport to work.

The second necessary step is to open up decision-making. One reason why so many Chinese cities are grim is that residents have so little say in how they are planned, built and run. If people had the right to elect their mayors and legislators, they would—assuming they behaved like city-dwellers elsewhere in the world—insist on planning controls to constrain development and improve the environment.

The document unveiled in March called the government’s urbanisation plan “people-centred”. If the next stage of China’s phenomenal urban transformation is to bring prosperity and stability rather than conflict and chaos, the party needs to live up to the phrase. [Source]

Other chapters explore issues such as environmental impacts, economic sustainability, and social division at greater length, while China editor Rob Gifford discussed the report with its author in a video conversation:

See more on China’s urbanization via CDT.

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HRW: Allowing Blind Access to Gaokao a Breakthrough

China Digital Times - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:18

After publishing a report looking at the many educational barriers facing people with disabilities in China last year, Human Rights Watch has praised the Ministry of Education’s recent decision to make braille and electronic college entrance exams available to the blind:

The Chinese Education Ministry’s decision to provide Braille or electronic exams for national university entrance will improve access to higher education for candidates who are blind or have visual impairments, Human Rights Watch said today. Up to now, students who are blind or partially sighted were effectively barred from mainstream higher education because no provision was made to accommodate their disability.

“Making exams accessible to the blind would help to minimize discrimination against and maximize respect for people with disabilities in China,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an important breakthrough after years of advocacy by disability rights advocates in China.”

[...] “Much remains to be done to end the discrimination and exclusion of people with disabilities in China,” Richardson said. “Truly implementing this initiative would be an important step toward building a more inclusive society.” [Source]

While highly controversial and sometimes bewildering, China’s gaokao college entrance exam does much to determine the futures of the millions of high school students who take it each year (9 million in 2013).

Also see “What’s it Like to be Disabled in China,” an examination of disabled life and public attitudes, via CDT.

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National Security Commission Meets for First Time

China Digital Times - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 15:56

Following months of speculation since its announcement in last November’s wide-ranging reform blueprint, China’s new National Security Commission met for the first time this week. President Xi Jinping, whose leadership of the body has been read as both evidence of and a boost to his personal political power, said that the commission will provide comprehensive oversight of both foreign and domestic aspects of national security amid an unprecedentedly diverse and complex array of challenges. From Chris Buckley at Sinosphere:

Mr. Xi listed areas that could come under the commission’s oversight: politics, homeland security, military affairs, economic policy, culture, science and technology, information, the environment and natural resources, and nuclear safety. The national security system, he said, must be “centralized and unified, effective and authoritative.”

In theory, then, China’s National Security Commission could be very busy, overseeing issues that the United States National Security Council leaves to others. In practice, there are still many unanswered questions about how the Chinese body will operate, and how it will live alongside the many other party and state agencies and bureaucracies with a stake in security issues. [Source]

Ben Blanchard also reported on the inaugural meeting at Reuters:

While Xi listed areas ranging from economic to nuclear security, he also said the commission had to “take political security as its base” and “seek stability”, references to protecting the ruling Communist Party’s hold on power and dealing with domestic unrest.

“Security is the condition for development. We can only make the country rich by building up military power, and only with military power can we protect the country,” Xi said.

[…] On Monday, Xi urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defense capability, in what state media called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others. [Source]

Experts hailed the “authoritative” new body, according to the state-run Global Times:

“Nowadays, national security involves more aspects beside traditional defense,” Yang Weidong, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times.

[…] Experts stressed that comprehensive security threats require combined efforts from national defense, economy, public security and others, while the previous scattered structure proved to be insufficient without unified leadership.

“The national security system will also contribute to more authoritative foreign policies for China since the decisions will be made based on all-sided consideration in the future,” Yang said.

[…] Experts also suggested that the leading figures of the commission, which also include Premier Li Keqiang and top legislator Zhang Dejiang as deputy heads, showed Chinese characteristics through the combination of the Party, government and legislature. [Source]

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How China’s Near-Defaults Avoided Going Bust

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 14:45
When Shanghai Chaori Solar failed to pay the interest on a bond last month, it was China’s first default on such a bond. Or, more accurately, it was the first time investors didn’t get paid. A look at how a number of other companies have managed to avoid defaulting on their domestic bonds.
Categories: China

Name of the Week: Blackboard Fox

China Digital Times - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 12:09

Hu Jintao’s writing in Qinghai, 2010. (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua)

黑板狐 (Hēibǎn Hú): Blackboard Fox

Hu Jintao, president of the People’s Republic of China 2002-2012. “Fox”(狐 hú) sounds the same as the surname Hu (胡 Hú). Hu Jintao earned this nickname in 2010 while visiting earthquake victims in Yushu County, Qinghai. Hu entered a classroom and wrote on the blackboard, “There will be new schools! There will be new homes!” (新校园,会有的!新家园,会有的!) He then led the students in a recitation of these lines. The blackboard is being preserved in the Qinghai provincial museum.

The  comes from China Digital Space’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around  and political correctness.

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Minitrue: Shouwang Church, Three Years On

China Digital Times - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 10:59

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. 

State Council Information Office: All websites are to delete the article “Three Years of Outside Services: Letter to the Beijing Shouwang Church Congregation” and related commentary. (April 16, 2014)

国信办:各网清理删除《户外敬拜三周年之际 北京守望教会 告会众书》一文及相关评论。

Shouwang, an unregistered Protestant church, began holding services in public after it was evicted from the restaurant where it had been meeting. “House churches” are not registered with the government, and as such usually congregate secretly.

Read Shouwang’s letter via CDT Chinese [zh].

Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

CDT collects directives from a variety of sources and checks them against official Chinese media reports to confirm their implementation.

Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The original publication date on CDT Chinese is noted after the directives; the date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.


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Shanghai’s Older Generation Hark Back to Mao

China Digital Times - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 10:47

At the Guardian, Sue Anne Tay outlines the situation of many aging Shanghai residents who, after missing out on the spoils of the city’s boom years, find their 20th century brick row houses facing the wrecking ball. In her report, she describes how these lifelong residents are invoking Chairman Mao as a protest symbol of their frustration with the city’s widening class divide. From the Guardian:

East Is Red, the anthem of China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution, was being piped out of the second-storey window of an old house located a few streets south of Xintiandi, Shanghai’s affluent downtown shopping district. The house was part of an old neighbourhood that was being demolished to accommodate the next phase of high-end real estate expansion.

But it was the slogans on the two banners hung outside the house which really caught the attention of the crowd gathered across the street. Angry over the pending loss of his home, one resident had scrawled “democracy begins with rights” on one banner – and launched a nostalgic call back to Maoism on the other: “Chairman Mao, the people miss you! Corrupt officials are scared of you!”

[...] To cope with neglect and injustice, some of Shanghai’s older generation are harking back to old symbols of authority to remind people of the party’s once-utopian roots of class equality, social harmony and corruption-free society as championed by the Great Helmsman himself, Mao Zedong. The death and violence caused by the Cultural Revolution is a blind spot; instead, these residents focus on the nostalgia of what they believe to be fairer and better days from socialism’s past.

Caught in the shifting sands of Chinese megacity development, no one, it seems, is speaking out for Shanghai’s urban poor as they are removed from their homes and priced out to distant corners they never imagined visiting, much less living in. Their call for Mao feels not so much like a genuine cry for history, but for the sense of loss of a community lifestyle – and the city they call home. [Source]

Also see the Guardian’s photo gallery of Chinese “nail houses.” For more on forced demolition and China’s class divide, see prior CDT coverage.

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Overheated property leaves China in a fix

FT China Feed - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 10:29
The Chinese economy is approaching a dependence on property last seen in Ireland and Spain before the bursting of their real state bubbles
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Google Glass, Not Yet on Shelves, Already Sold Online in China

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 04:58
Though Google’s search engine is all but unused in China these days, the company’s latest gadget, the Google Glass , already has some early adopters here.
Categories: China

New Zealand to Vietnam: Where Chinese Tourists Feel Most Satisfied

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 03:07
From nerdy TV shows like "Big Bang Theory" to ancient poetry, there are plenty of factors influencing whether Chinese tourists end up eating cheesecake in Pasadena or, say, admiring a willow tree in Cambridge. But just how happy are they when they finally arrive in their actual destinations of choice?
Categories: China

Billions of Hours Wasted: Candy Crush Comes to China

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 02:27
Fresh on the heels of new data showing China’s economic growth fell to its slowest pace in 18 months comes news that could presage a further drop in the country’s productivity: The massively popular mobile game Candy Crush is coming to China.
Categories: China

Named and Shamed: China Publishes Weekly ‘Officials Behaving Badly’ Report

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:35
Compared to, say, murdering a British businessman, the misdeeds China’s Communist Party members are commonly cited for aren’t necessarily all that eyebrow-raising.
Categories: China

Electricity, Steel Hint at Economic Uptick in China

Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:15
Though China’s economy grew in the first quarter its slowest pace in 18 months, two proxies—production of steel and electricity—point to some resilience.
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