My top picks from this week's ZG Briefs .
Researcher-scholar Andrew Skokals takes a look at the less well-known effects of China's breakneck urbanization on China's ethnic minorities.
While China's efforts to forcibly relocate farmers to new cities does not target ethnic minority areas specifically, the policy has unique consequences because such populations are even less prepared for the move to urban life than their Han counterparts. In border regions of China: in Xinjiang, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu provinces for example, efforts to urbanize nomadic peoples are proving difficult and controversial. Human Rights Watch estimates that 2 million Tibetans have been moved as part of similar programs in Tibet alone.
Writing on the regions of Qinghai and Tibet, Skokals puts the urbanization plans within the context of control:
While China's urbanization has been concentrated in eastern coastal cities, current plans aim to increase the pace of urbanization in western regions in order to boost GDP and living conditions. However, programs to urbanize and "settle" semi-nomadic groups are also part of China's longstanding efforts to solidify control over border regions rich in natural resources and land. Already the influx of Han settlers into Tibet and Xinjiang is making these groups increasingly marginalized, even in their own "autonomous" prefectures and counties. In Tongren, development in the county seat is expanding into the surrounding countryside, and the small city is bustling with hotels and workers pouring in from the surrounding villages to sell thangka paintings to tourists.
Property Measures Drive Divorces in China (WSJ's China Real Time Report)
The divorce rate is on the rise in China, but it doesn't necessarily indicate trouble at home. Many experts think part of the reason for the climbing divorce rate is tax policy, which levies a capital gains tax on home sales:
"The larger-than-usual rise in divorces could be attributed to the property policies," said Li Ziwei, vice president of the Beijing Marriage and Family Building Association. "People are thinking of their own interests, and if a divorce enables them to save on paying taxes, or to qualify to buy an additional home, who's to judge them?"
In March, China's State Council, or cabinet, said it would strictly enforce a 20% tax on profits from the sale of the seller's second or subsequent home. Typically, most sales are taxed at only 1% to 3% of the home's value. In days following the announcement, staff at marriage registration centers in Shanghai and Nanjing said that there was a rush of divorces and had to extend their opening times. So far, however, only Beijing city has implemented this capital gains tax.
Chinese students a new funding source for U.S. high schools (The Los Angeles Times)
This is, perhaps, one of the biggest 'sleeper stories' of the year Chinese students lining up to enroll in US high schools.
Yosemite High School once offered six wood shop classes. Now there are three.
Things got worse when a new high school opened in a neighboring district and many students transferred. Campus enrollment is down from 1,100 five years ago to about 700 today.
School officials are now looking to a faraway place for salvation. As soon as next fall, Yosemite High could welcome 25 students from China who would pay $10,000 or more in tuition to enjoy an American public education amid mountain scenery. They would boost revenue and inject an international flavor into a school with few immigrant families.
A Professional Photographer's View of Xinjiang, China (Far West China)
Sometimes its good to set aside stories of politics and social issues and just enjoy some great photography. This post at the blog Far West China fills the bill. It's an interview with a professional photographer about his work in Xinjiang. And for no extra cost, we get to see some of his great photos.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Xinjiang, in my humble opinion, is a photographer's paradise. Travelers with even the simplest camera phone can take great photos, but professional photographers can produce stunning results.
After years of traveling around Xinjiang, China with a puny little pocket camera, I have finally crossed over to the wonderful world DSLR and I love it! Definitely worth the investment and I hope to share the results with you this year. (I'm learning, so be gracious!)
Last month I connected with a professional photographer named Antony Watson who recently led a photography expedition here to Xinjiang.
Intrigued by the expedition and mesmerized by his photographs, I asked if he'd be willing to share his experience and tips for amateur photographers like me and he graciously agreed.
Hopefully you'll enjoy this as much as I did and learn a little something as well.
Image credit: Street Scene Kashgar, by Stefan Geens, via Flickr
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