February 14, 2013

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Province by Province, a Portrait of China (February 11, 2013, The New York Times)

The resulting series, China, is a historical document of a country as its villages turn into cities; its cities into megacities. Shot before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the portraits present a diverse nation through its people: yak farmers, gynecologists, television personalities, village chiefs, singing gondoliers, prostitutes, aging revolutionaries, circus stars, bank employees, beggars and trash collectors.


Rule of the Princelings (February 10, 2013, Cairo Review of Global Affairs)

The much-anticipated 18th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November unfolded according to that classic rhythm in the study of Chinese elite politics: predictability giving way to ambiguity, and optimism alternating with cynicism.

Waiting for the Next Act (February 10, 2013, Cairo Review of Global Affairs)

There is hardly any American who knows China as well as Orville Shell. He has been studying the country, visiting it, writing about it, and been fascinated by it, for more than fifty years. He first arrived in Hong Kong, then a British crown colony, in 1961, when China was still an impenetrable, revolutionary nation ruled by Mao Zedong. Even by 1975, when he took his maiden flight into Beijing, China remained, as he would put it, a country lacking advertisements, private cars, fashion magazines, or private property. There was not a single other aircraft moving on its runways, he recalled. It was as silent and dark as a tomb. The young scholar was able to get a rare glimpse of the isolated country by working for a month at the Communist Partys model village, Da Zhai.

Zhuang Zedong, Key to China-US Ping-pong Diplomacy, Dies at 73 (February 10, 2013, Time)

Three-time world table tennis champion Zhuang Zedong, a key figure in the groundbreaking pingpong diplomacy between China and the United States, died Sunday, Chinas official Xinhua News Agency reported. He was 72 and had struggled with cancer since 2008. Zhuang won fame by presenting a gift to American player Glenn Cowan, who had inadvertently boarded a bus carrying the Chinese team at the world championships in Nagoya, Japan, in 1971. Zhuang and Cowan were photographed together, creating an international sensation at a time when China and the U.S. were bitter Cold War rivals.

China's delicate balancing act with North Korea (February 13, 2013, BBC)

North Korea's nuclear test came at an inconvenient time for Chinese diplomats. While millions across China celebrate the Lunar New Year, Beijing's foreign ministry workers were forced to grapple with Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. Perhaps fatigue from the festivities explains Beijing's tepid response to the problem. Foreign Minster Yang Jiechi summoned North Korea's ambassador to a meeting in which Mr Yang voiced his displeasure over the underground nuclear test. A formulaic statement from the ministry then proposed a return to the six party talks – a series of multi-national negotiations aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions

.5 Ways China Could Become a Democracy (February 13, 2013, The Diplomat)

Few have seriously thought about the probability and the various plausible scenarios of a regime transition in Chinauntil now.

100th Self-Immolation Reported Inside Tibet (February 13, 2013, The New York Times)

A former Tibetan Buddhist monk protested Chinese rule by killing himself through self-immolation this month, becoming the 100th person to do so inside Chinese-governed Tibet, according to reports on Wednesday by Tibet advocacy groups. The Tibetan man, Lobsang Namgyal, 37, formerly of Kirti Monastery, set fire to himself on Feb. 3 in front of an office of the public security bureau in a county of Sichuan Province and died on the scene, according to Free Tibet, which is based in London. Free Tibet said in a news release that it had taken 10 days to confirm the self-immolation because Tibetans are too frightened of Chinese state reprisals to speak about protests.


Why do we call it Spring Festival? (February 8, 2013, Rectified.Name)

When the PRC was established in 1949, Mao decided to keep the Gregorian calendar and with it the name Spring Festival to refer to the Lunar New Year. Over time however many of the more colorful customs associated with Lunar New Year such as the burning of the Kitchen God or visiting a temple to pray for luck and fortune gradually succumbed to government campaigns against feudal superstition.

Chinese new year: mass holiday exodus under way video (February 8, 2013, The Guardian)

The world's largest annual human migration reaches its peak on Friday, as millions in China travel home for the lunar new year. With around 200 million people on the move, pressure on the transport network is reaching a critical point. One traveller has devised a head-support sleeping aid to make the long journey home more pleasant

Huang Qi on Blogging the Slow-Motion Revolution (February 10, 2013, China Digital Times)

Ian Johnson continues his New York Review of Books series of interviews with Chinese writers and thinkers by visiting activist Huang Qi in Chengdu. Huang, a human rights activist who uses his website 64tianwang.com to publicize abuses, was among the first people to have been arrested in China for publishing online when he was detained and charged with subversion in 2000. Since he was released from a second stint in prison, he has continued his activism despite severe kidney problems he acquired in detention. Huang offers an optimistic view of human rights in China under the new Xi Jinping administration:

China tightens concert rules after Elton John's 'disrespectful' Beijing show (February 10, 2013, The Guardian)

Chinese authorities have hardened their line on foreign musicians, after Elton John infuriated them by dedicating a performance to outspoken artist and activist Ai Weiwei, according to industry sources. Police arrived to interview the singer shortly after he announced that the performance, which took place in Beijing last November, was dedicated "to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei", according to two sources. One said officers wanted John's manager to sign a statement saying the dedication was inspired only by admiration for Ai's art. John's spokesman declined to comment when contacted by the Guardian.

There were 34,977 Weibo posts in the first SECOND of the New Year (February 11, 2013, Shanghaiist)

Sina has released some frankly staggering Spring Festival statistics. In the first second of the new year there were 34,977 posts on Weibo, a new record for the microblogging service. Over 700,000 posts were made within the first minute of the Year of the Snake.

Beijing half empty as 9 million leave for Spring Festival (February 11, 2013, Shanghaiist)

More than 9 million people have left Beijing for the Spring Festival, returning to their ancestral homes to celebrate the holiday or escaping the festival rush for a vacation, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport. A survey last month found that Beijing currently has a population of 20.69 million, the departure of over 9 million residents means that the capital's inhabitants have been nearly halved for the Spring Festival holiday. Most travelers are assumed to be non-native residents (numbering 7.74 million according to last month's statistics) returning to their original homes.

Internet Users Have One Word for Father of Great Firewall (February 11, 2013, China Real Time)

The new year hadnt even shuffled out of its old skin when the man known as the father of Chinas Great Firewall found himself bathing in venom from Chinese Internet users unhappy with his Year of the Snake greeting.

China's spectacularly awful Spring Festival Gala (February 13, 2013, Foreign Policy)

Seen by as many as 1 billion people annually since 1983, China Central Television's Spring Festival Gala is one of the most watched non-sports TV events in history. And it's terrible: a Chinese variety show featuring saccharine songs, skits with most vestiges of humor or originality censored out, and (this year) performances by both Celine Dion and Yanni. For the latest Bloggingheads.TV episode, I spoke with Brendan O'Kane, a Beijing-based blogger at Rectified.name, about the show and the mangled wasteland that is Chinese television.

Fewer relatives, but what to call them still confuses (February 14, 2013, Shanghai Daily)

Chinas decades-old family planning policy has had the effect of shrinking family trees, leaving younger people with fewer relatives. However, the rules that dictate which titles are used to refer to different relatives are still boggling the minds of the younger generation. In traditional Chinese families, where all brothers live under the same roof with their parents even after they are married and have children of their own, the terms "aunt," "uncle" and "cousin" are far from enough to address everyone. []Some of these words are already being phased out, as the oldest members of the one-child generation born in the 1970s have now become parents themselves. Their children know nothing of aunts, uncles and cousins, since their parents come from single-child families themselves. A poll of 489 people conducted by Xinhua news agency found that 72 percent of respondents could not address their relatives properly. While fewer than 20 percent of respondents said they could manage to address most people properly with their parents' help, nearly 40 percent said that even their parents often argue about what to call a distant aunt or uncle.

80-metre 'Colon Tower' squirms above Beijing (February 14, 2013, Shanghaiist)

In what can only be a natural progression from the Big Pants and the Big Toilet Seat, Beijing architects have graced the capital with the Big Intestine. A recently-completed 80-metre office tower in Beijing's Daxing district has earned the nickname 'Colon Tower' because of its twisting, cylindrical shape.

Kobe Bryant joins Weibo, 80,000+ fans almost instantaneously (February 14, 2013, Shanghaiist)

Kobe Bryant, my American colleagues inform me, is a 'basketball' player. He is also very popular in China, as is evidenced by the fact that his official (verified) Weibo account already has over 80,000 followers, despite having precisely zero posts.


Healthy Food For Your Kids in China: Where To Start? (February 13, 2013, My Health Beijing)

In your never ending quest for safe foods for your family while here in China, have you ever considered buying only organic foods? How about becoming vegetarian? These options may have seemed unlikely before China for some of you, but many expats choose these options as a natural conclusion to their search for balance and health. But does either option truly provide a healthier alternative? Id like to offer my medical and personal opinion.

One H5N1 patient dies in SW China (February 13, 2013, Shanghai Daily)

ONE of two people confirmed by the China Ministry of Health to have contracted highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 died in a hospital in southwestern city of Guiyang this morning. The patient, a 21-year-old woman, died of multiple organ failures in Guizhou Provincial People's Hospital at 9:41am today. The other patient, a 31-year-old man, is still receiving treatment at the hospital. An investigation did not find the two had contacts with fowls before they fell ill, the ministry said.


Top 8 Valentines Day Phrases List (February 14, 2013, FluentU)


China: Should religious freedom be a "core interest"? (February 7, 2013, Forum 18)

What might lead to an improvement in China's freedom of religion or belief record? Are there any long-term factors that would influence China's new political leaders to improve the situation or indeed to go in the opposite direction? Any analysis of such long-term prospects must take into account macro political factors, given that China's political establishment views religious freedom and related human rights through the lens of their perception of their political interests.


The Extraordinary Fall of Bo Xilai (February 10, 2013, Cairo Review of Global Events)

All eyes are on China. Yet, for all the attention the media, politicians, and scholars are paying it, we know precious little about the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party. Synonymous with the state, the party presents a unified face to the world. It appears to be a well-oiled, centralized machine. Thirty years of openness to the world, four U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogues, and hundreds of official press conferences have shed little light on the countrys elite. In 2012, a crack opened in this faade. The greatest crisis the party has faced since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 burst into the open in Chongqing, a southwestern direct-controlled municipality the size of Austria and inhabited by more than 28 million souls.

Image credit: by 浩 严, via Flickr