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ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks


Today we are starting a new feature, linking this blog with another of our publications, the ZGBriefs Newsletter. Every Friday, we will highlight articles from the ZGBriefs newsletter that we consider the "must read" articles of the week.

Herewith are this week's:

The good, the bad and the exiled? China's Class of '77 (CNN)

In this article, Jaimie FlorCruz, CNN's Beijing correspondent, reflects on his time as a student at Beijing University beginning in 1977, and some of his fellow students. These include Premier Li Keqiang, disgraced former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, and exiled dissident Wang Juntao. It's an interesting look at the university careers of these three men, and the different paths they took beyond the academy walls.

When I enrolled at Beida in the fall of 1977, the university was steeped in the political ferment that followed Chairman Mao's death and the start of Deng Xiaoping's reforms.

My classmates, many of whom had worked on farms or in factories during the Cultural Revolution, were viewed by many as China's crme de la crme. They belonged to the storied "Class of '77" who passed the first college entrance exams held after the Cultural Revolution.

During the four years I spent at Beida, I met many other fascinating fellow students who went on to become important players in China's divisive political scene.

Among them was Bo Xilai, once one of the most powerful politicians in China, now disgraced and sentenced to life in prison for corruption and abuse of power.

Kept women (Aeon Magazine)

One of the unfortunate features of society in "old" China (pre1949) was the practice of having multiple wives, or concubines. When the Communist Party came to power in 1949, it was banned. With the relaxation of state control over the private lives of individuals (somewhat), coupled with the economic prosperity, this practice has made a comeback (albeit not officially sanctioned) in modern China. This article is a rather in-depth look at the modern phenomenon of mistresses in China today.

Shanshan's $550 shoes came from her lover, but the soles of her feet, as hard as leather, came from her childhood. 'We used to play barefoot in the village,' she told me. 'All the girls in the karaoke bar had feet like this.'

At 26, Shanshan has come a long way from rural Sichuan, one of China's poorer southern provinces, famous for the 'spiciness' of its food and its women. Today her lover, Mr Wu, keeps her in a Beijing apartment that 'cost 2.5 million yuan ($410,000)', and visits whenever he can find the time away from his wife.

Inside the world of China's "shadow banks" (Marketplace)

In the West there is often concern about the financial health of China's banking system, and rightly so. However, there may be something more worrying than the Chinese banking system, and that is the 'shadow banking' system, an 'off-the-books,' totally unregulated banking system that a Chinese think-tank suggests is already at 40% of GDP.

"I began making cigarette lighters 20 years ago," continues Huang. "Four of my family members each put in $1,500 and lent it to me without interest. That's what we call a Wenzhou loan."

Thanks to his Wenzhou loan, Huang Fajing made a fortune selling cigarette lightersChinese media now call him the 'lighter king.'

On his road to cigarette lighter fame and fortune, the Lighter King watched on as more money flowed into Wenzhou. Over time, loans were no longer limited to just family and friends. The 'Wenzhou loan,' says Huang, became a lot less innocent.

"Bigger groups of lenders began to form. They pooled money together and took turns taking out loans. Then they started lending money with very high interest rates - to strangers."

Image credit: Maidens all in a row, by Dai Luo, via Flickr

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio