Archive | February, 2013

China’s anti-Japanese Riots – a Genuine Protest?

28 Feb

Shortly after leaving China, in September 2012, I heard the news of an outbreak of Anti-Japanese riots throughout the country. The cause of the dispute was a territorial conflict between the two countries over a tiny set of islands in the East China Sea; known as the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese, and the Senkkaku islands in Japanese. Both countries have repeatedly claimed that they are the rightful owners of the Island.

The small and uninhabited rocks are of interest to both countries as they are located near an important shipping lane for exports, and are thought to have mineral supplies. The conflict escalated into a serious of anti-Japanese protests last year after Japan purchased the islands in a private sale from their owner.

Over the weekend of the 15th of September, riots broke out in 80 cities across China, many of them continuing through to the following Monday and Tuesday. Some of protests escalated into violence and arson, with many Japanese buildings, cars and shops completely destroyed in the process.


Whilst riots are not uncommon to China – thousands take place every year up and down the country – they are rarely allowed to escalate to escalate to such a level. The role of the government-run police therefore was questionable in this instance.

On face value the demonstrations appeared to be the result of hundreds of thousands of angry Chinese citizens, each holding the nationalist territorial claims over the islands of high importance. However, my suspicions are that the Chinese government had some (if not complete) involvement during the protests.

My first justification for this viewpoint, which is briefly outlined above, is that Chinese authorities were notably more tolerant of the anti-Japanese protests than they have been towards any other form of activism in the past. China is not alien to protests, with many occurring each year. Already this calendar year thousands of Chinese citizens have protested over newspaper censorship and North Korea nuclear testing among other causes.

However, these protests are rarely allowed to reach a level of extreme violence in China. As soon as Chinese government officials catch news of a protest, armoured police arrive at the scene in large numbers and stamp it out. If a demonstration does manage to become extremely violent, as was the case in the environmental pollution protests last year, those involved will be arrested, and usually face a prison sentence.

Yet the images of the anti-Japanese protests in China show a significant amount of constraint on the part of the government, with Government officials allowing violence to take place in their presence.


Why were the holding back? The unnecessarily long period of protesting and laxity of government intervention suggests that, to some extent, the government allowed was allowing the riots to happen.

But what were China’s leaders actually involved?

Tellingly a leader of one of the regional protests was repeatedly identified as Zhu Gu, a CCP member, and the director of a police station in Xi’an. Claims have also been made that government officials instructed protesters to move in front of cameras and encouraged anger on Chinese social networking sites prior to the events. The actual involvement of the country’s leaders, however, will never be known.

My second justification for suspecting government involvement in the anti-japanese protests is due to the seemingly irrelevant nature of the issue to the lives of China’s citizens. China is no stranger to social injustice and extreme human rights violations. Repeated human rights reports have been filed against China; ranging from forced abortions under the one-child policy, to the 500,000 people enduring punitive detention without trial. In contrast, the conflict over the islands, even to the most extreme nationalists in China, is frustrating at best. Their daily standard of living will not be altered whether China has ownership of the islands or not, and their human rights will remain unchanged. Many Chinese people have actually expressed dismay at the outbursts. Thus it seems puzzling as to why Chinese citizens turned out in their thousands to cause mass destruction over an issue of such questionable relevance to their own lives.

What would be in it for the Government?

The riots were timed in a period of political instability in China, with a forthcoming leadership transition. It was evident that when the new CCP government took office, China could face public opposition against another era of communist party rule. Calls for democracy are not scarce in China. Thus it might have made sense for the government to use China’s national identity as a way of uniting its citizens and directing anger away from China’s leaders and towards Japan’s.

A second theory is that China has strategic interests in the Islands due to their supposedly rich oil and mineral reserves. If China is contemplating entering into a stronger level of dispute with Japan over the islands, their efforts might appear more legitimate when backed by the strong national interest of their citizens. This nationalism within China can be best demonstrated by the manipulation of an outbreak of riots throughout the country.

The western world will probably never know how sincere the events of last September were; all we can do is speculate. However judging on China’s observable characteristics there appears to be more to the Japan-China dispute than what meets the eye of the television cameras.



Chinese Migration

27 Feb

During the year of 2009 rural-urban migration accounted for 11% of the total population of China, which is 145 million people (Migration Information, 2012). This figure could be even larger as some workers are hard to trace i.e. the informal economy. The urban population of China has increased over 416% between 1952-1997. According to experts this is the largest migration of people from urban to city to have ever occurred.

            The main reasons for this urban migration is that the Chinese government strongly believe that the more people in urban areas will result in greater national GDP. The employment in rural areas in China is mainly in agriculture and life is difficult and somewhere where the new generation wants to escape.

            Although in the wide scheme of things the promotion of migration has benefitted China economically as a whole, individually the migrators are becoming younger and younger and less educated. The National Bureau of Statistics calculated that children born after 1990 their average age of migration is 17.2 years old. Therefore the teenagers have not completed education and are moving to a city with low expertise and so find themselves with low bargaining power. Interestingly in a survey conducted by the Migration Information Office, 2012, the most frequent answer to why Chinese migrants left was that they were tired of school. As a result they settle in poorly paid jobs and happiness is often reported as reduced. A string of 13 suicides in Shenzhen within a factory owned by Foxconn Technology Group is evidence of this. Crime rates have also increased, in 2012 it was estimated that a 1/3 of urban crimes were related in some way to urban migration.

            Therefore I query whether urban migration is the best policy.



Beall, J., Guha-Khasnobis, B and Kanbur, R (2012). Urbanization and Development in Asia. New York: Oxford University Press.


Hu, X. (2012). China’s Young Rural-to-Urban Migrants: In Search of Fortune, Happiness, and Independence. Available: Last accessed 25th February 2013.


Wingfield-Hayes, R. (2006). China’s rural millions left behind. Available: Last accessed 25th February 2013.




China rising as a peaceful power?

27 Feb

“China’s development, instead of hurting or threatening anyone, can only serve peace, stability and common prosperity in the world” (President Hu Jintao).

China is one of the oldest civilisations and was once the centre of civilisation within both Asia and the world. Chinese Nationalism is therefore formed from the idea of Tianxia – “all under heaven” – where it is the duty of the Chinese people to spread their culture language and values as they are thought of as superior. Chinese culture under Tianxia promotes peace and prosperity and thus ties in with the government’s ideals of a rising peaceful power, thus building on the five principles of coexistence buried deep in Chinese tradition. China has tried to emphasise its role and rise as a peaceful power on the world stage in every aspect of its power.

Politically – at global meetings such as the G20 where prominent Chinese leaders have been quick to emphasise their ‘peaceful rise’, with President Jin Tao claiming that China is a “great responsible power”. Also through their foreign policy showing their cooperation with the US and with the UN over recent issues such as North Korea and imposing sanctions on its neighbour. 

Culturally – via their use of soft power – the Chinese government are using public diplomacy to demonstrate how they are not a threat to the international system. To demonstrate this, they have emphasised their history and tradition which they now see this as a way to exert their soft power influence. For example they have created exhibitions around Asia documenting Zheng He’s exploration –which was peaceful – in comparison to European Colombus’, which was imperialistic and colonial. They are therefore using this opportunity to highlight the differences between their rise and their role on the global sage in comparison to that of the West’s.

Economically – during the most recent financial crisis, China seemed to cooperate with the other leading powers and implemented a very generous stimulus package to boost not only its domestic economy but also the global economy. Furthermore China was the largest contributor to the IMF in 2010.

China’s peaceful rise is deemed so important to the government that they created a white paper in 2011 laying out the future ‘peaceful’ proposals for China. However there are many discrepancies in the document, which states that China wants a peaceful coexistence with its neighbours, but as we have seen recently over disputes in the South China Sea, this policy did not last long. This has led many to claim that China is now stuck in a rut between peace and development – framing the two goals as a juxtaposition for China’s policies.


China white paper pledges peaceful rise:

China’;s peaceful rise is beyond doubt:

Hu Makes 4-point Proposal for Building Harmonious World: 

Five Principles for Peaceful Coexistence:

Teufel Dreyer, June (2007), Chinese Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy Research Institute Newsletter, Vol. 12, No. 5

Xi Jinping – new leader of China

26 Feb

Anonymous is a word that paradoxically can be used to describe Xi Jinping, the new leader of 1.3 billion people and one of the world’s most powerful nations. We know that his father was a communist revolutionary involved in the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, and that his friends from early days describe him as  “supremely pragmatic and a realist” and “exceptionally ambitious”, but not a whole lot more than this.

However, when Xi Jinping was presented as the new general secretary of China’s Communist Party and leader of the nation last November, he was seen by most as being much more at ease and personal  than his stiff predecessor Hu Jintao.

“He talked of people’s desire for a better life, for better jobs, education and health care – and for less pollution. He flashed his chubby smile unlike the ever dour Hu.”

Communist China has of course never exactly been a country of personality politics, but it will be interesting to see what change Xi Jinping’s regime will bring about and whether or not he has a different vision for China.  It is important to note however that the six other members of the Standing Committee (and most likely Xi Jinping himself, we do not know much yet) appear to be quite conservative and not inclined to make any big changes.  2013 will hopefully show what kind of leadership we can expect from China’s new elite.



Infamous Population policies

26 Feb
China is a country famed for many things and unfortunately their attempted control of total fertility rates through the ‘One child policy’ is one of the most notorious things.
Both during the 1950’s and 60’s China had made an attempt to control its population growth rate through family planning policies but when that didn’t work a much more relentless scheme was introduced in 1971 by their leader, following the slogan wan, xi, shao (late, spaced, few).
Initially the rules weren’t as strict and two children were permitted, just below the replacement level. In order to achieve this aim the marriage age was raised to 25 for women and 28 for men and a minimum space of three to four years between children, in the hope that postponement would naturally limit the fecund time a women could have children in.
When the effects weren’t evident enough the more severe one child policy was introduced, limiting the amount of children to one per family and applying just as strictly to urban and rural areas regardless of whether the first child was a boy or not. This led to an average TFR of 1.62 and had a significant impact on social and economic factors both in the short term and the long term.
In rural areas the TFR fell from 5.4 to 1.8, a major reduction between 1971 and 1999. There are regional variations, which were as low as 1.1 in Hong Kong. In order to meet the reductions in the TFR there were extreme and violent measures taken to enforce the policies. (Attane 2002). In some rural areas there was a slight relaxation of the policy in that if the child was a girl then there could be a second birth after five years in the hope of having a boy that was wanted for various cultural reasons.
In total at least 87% of women were forced into using contraception, many of them long term forms to prevent the risk of them becoming pregnant, of which 80% were forced to accept the form of contraception that they were prescribed by the health workers. If the contraception were to fail or not be used then a non- government sanctioned birth could be aborted throughout the pregnancy and regardless of the mothers’ wishes.
Social implications, apart from the obvious degrading abuse of female’s human rights have led to the maternal mortality rate double in the same regions between those mothers who were having a sanctioned birth and those who were forced to give birth in secret at home without any trained medical assistance. The sex ratio is significantly skewed as the proportion of male to female births rose from 1.06 in 1979 at the beginning of the enhanced policy to 1.17 in 2001. (Hesketh, 2005). This is evidence of sex selective abortions and infanticide as couples are so desperate for a male child to carry on the family blood line, look after them in their parents in old age, and work on the family land.
When a couple have had a male son there is then the chance that he will never marry, as there is an estimated 8.5million surplus males in China. The males than don’t become married are usually the uneducated and poorer males that haven’t found a wife due to the competition and so there is a higher chance that they will engage in illegal sexual activity with female sex workers. This is dangerous as there is a higher risk that HIV and AIDS could be caught and transmitted, (Tucker et al, 2005).
In an attempt to beat the ban there was one loophole in the policy as multiple births were still allowed to take place and so many couples especially in rural areas, including Niu Jian Fang and Jiao Na from Henan province in rural central China, took fertility increasing drugs that increase the likelihood of a multiple births. This means that although there would still be a high probability of being sterilised once the pregnancy had finished the couple should be able to avoid the fine that is levied on couples with multiple pregnancies. (Reynold 2007).
Resistance to the policy is still common as the richer couples that are now in urban China have become increasingly willing to pay the fine for the second child so that they may have multiple children. This attempted resistance also includes giving birth in Hong Kong, where over half of births are now to main land Chinese citizens that want their children to enjoy the relative freedoms and avoid heavy fines. This however is putting a strain on the resources of the Hong Kong health service and so is attempting to be banned unless the father of the baby has Hong Kong citizenship already. (BBC, 2012).
These may be just a few of the short term issues but there are still long term issues to come in China as they currently have a large economically active population, that will one day retire. When this happens the dependency ratio may place a huge economic burden on the 15-65 year olds who are still in the labour market, as the proportion of elderly people in the population increases. In China internal and external migration affects how an elderly person is cared for especially in rural areas where many of the elderly’s children move away to the urban areas in search of better jobs. As population is closely linked to economic development, which China has done quite rapidly China will be one of the key countries hit by the phenomenon which will see 80% of the world’s ageing population living in developing regions by 2050. This will inevitably lead to a change in the health priorities as solutions will have to be found including state help to avoid elderly people sinking into absolute poverty and primary healthcare developments to deal with new types of care needed through degeneration, (WHO, 2012).
China may have a chequered past but there have been some positive outcomes in that the population is not far off the 1.2billion population aim that was hoped for at 1.27billion and China has become one of the largest economies in the world. Even though the size of China’s economy is vast this divided by the size of the population to give GDP per capita is one of the reasons China is still classed as a developing nation, as classed by their own embassy in 2010. (Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States)

Attane, I (2002) China’s Family Planning Policy: An Overview of its Past and Future. Studies in Family Planning 33(1): 103-113
BBC, (2012) Hong Kong to limit mainland China maternity services, BBC [accessed 05/02/13]
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States, (2010). China’s developing-country identity remains unchanged [accessed 05/02/13]
Hesketh, T (2005) The Effect of China’s One Child Family Policy After 25 Years. New England Journal of Medicine 353: 1171-76
Reynolds. J, (2007). Chinese challenge one-child policy, BBC News, China [accessed 05/02/13]
Tucker. J, et al (2005) Surplus men, sex work, and the spread of HIV in China, Editorial Review, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
World Health Organisation, (2012). About ageing and life-course. [accessed 05/02/13]

China’s air pollution

26 Feb


Due to China’s rapid industrialisation, severe dependency on coal, promotion of car ownership, and complete disregard for environmental laws, China suffers from relentless pollution problems. January 2013 showed record levels of pollution in Beijing, admitting an extra 30% more respiratory admissions to hospitals, and an increase in purchase of 40% of dust proof masks. Cars are one of the fundamental reasons for these issues. In 2012, 13 million cars were sold in China, and with the middle class expanding in China, cars have become the norm for these households. The government promotes the purchase of vehicles to keep the economy going, and in turn, a vicious circle has appeared, with residents unwilling to walk in the smog, causing them to drive when they previously would have walked. The Chinese government needs to learn from those in New York and London, and promote public transport, or Borris bikes, rather than driving miniscule distances.


Schools have often been ordered to cancel outdoor activities to reduce youth exposure to the pollution. In 2012, an estimated 8000 residents died prematurely from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xian due to the high levels of air pollution. However, these figures, and the recent record breaking pollution levels in Beijing has finally reached the Government, and there is potential for action to be taken.



Cultural Revolution and its aftermath

26 Feb

It might seem quite awhile ago, approximately 46 years, China’s Communist Party’s leader, Mao Zedong launched the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” which lead to the ultimate destruction of millions of lives, perhaps more apt to describe it as ‘Holocaust of the Chinese.’  This slate of history can never be whipped clean. It was a immense tragedy and catastrophic suffering for the people who went through this ordeal. Countless priceless historical artefacts, monuments and arts were destroyed. Children were encouraged to denounce even their parents if they did not follow Communist ideas.

In this article we would not strive to discuss the atrocities but concentrate on its economical impacts on China. During the ten years (1966- 1976) of Cultural Revolution, almost all economic activities were halted. Education also came to a virtual halt leading to a generation of inadequately educated individuals, causing a lag in technology and skills.  Agricultural production also stagnated and even non-argricultural productions were disrupted by the political activities of the Red Guards and even students. Naturally output at factories were affected due to shortages of raw materials, supplies and even labour. Factories were put under the direction of revolutionary committees, who often had no knowledge of management or how to run an enterprise. Almost all professionals, including doctors, teachers, professors, scientists and technicians, religious leaders,  virtually anyone with expertise or knowledge were denounced and prosecuted. Industry production decreases rapidly. The railway was largely disrupted for they were used by the revolutionists to transport the people around. Furthermore, the import of foreign equipments and machineries were largely curtailed. The economy of China already hit by the Great Leap Forward, is faltering badly.

The resulting damage was so massive and the goals that Mao Zedong sought to achieve remains elusive. Mao’s experiment yielded no benefit but almost bankrupt the whole country. It was a dagger in the heart of China’s economy.

Today, capitalism has of course infiltrate China’s economy and people have become more materialistic than in the past. Since Mao’s death, many  reforms were implemented. Notably since initiating market reforms in 1978, China has shifted centrally planned to a market based economy and have since then experienced rapid development in its economy. GDP growth averaging about 10 percent a year has lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty. With a population of approximately 1.35 billion, China has recently became the second largest economy and is increasingly having an influential role in affecting the global economy.

Although the Communist Party affirmed that the Cultural revolution “brought serious disaster and turmoil to the Communist Party and the Chinese people” they have put the blame largely on the gang of four and described Mao’s merit to have outweigh his faults. There is still much scrutiny on this topic by the Chinese government in China and notably at the National Museum of China in Beijing, the cultural revolution is barely mentioned in the historical exhibits. No compensation were awarded or apologies given to the victims of this Chinese Holocaust.


Xing Lu, ‘Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution,‘ University of South Carolina, 2004,

Dongping Han, ‘Impact of the Cultural Revolution on Rural Education and Economic Development,‘ Modern China, Vol. 27, No. 1, January 2001, pp. 59-90.

‘China, Consequences of the Cultural Revolution,’

<; accessed 25th Feb 2013

‘Deceiving a Nation – the Cultural Revolution,’ <>accessed 26th Feb 2013

The World Bank

Green Politicians less likely to be promoted in China

26 Feb

Whilst there has been much furore in recent years about the ever increasing levels of pollution engulfing many of China’s major cities, it seems the issue is of secondary importance to much of China’s leadership. According to research from Economists Wu Jing, Deng Yongheng, Huang Jun, Randall Morck and Bernard Yeung, the agenda of much of the Communist party is focused firmly upon economic growth, often at the expense of environmental quality, and this was often attributed to individual ambition for higher office. Indeed ,  they found that for every additional 0.36 percentage points of local GDP spent on the environment, a party secretary’s chances of promotion would drop by 8.5 percentage points.

It is certainly interesting to read that, in the eyes of the economists, officials who prioritized the environment over boosting the economy through the investment in new infrastructure would be labeled as ‘unambitious’, perhaps explaining the drop in environmental expenditure. Noticeably these views are not representative of the general public. Whilst only 9 per cent of officials believed that a politician who cared more about the economy than the environment should be sacked, an overwhelming 71 per cent of the public believed this should be the case.



The people’s chief?

26 Feb

An interesting short interview with Jing Ulrich, chairman of global markets for China at JPMorgan, from the BBC’s Asia Business Report. The interview focuses on the coming attentions and policies of Xi Jinping, who is set to become president next month.

Social welfare reform is expected to be one of the issues at the top of the new leader’s agenda in the coming months and should Mr. Xi make good his promises regarding education, health and retirement services in particular, he may become a very popular party chief. 

Fresh challenges for ‘the world’s factory’

26 Feb



Pei Changhong, head of the Institute of Finance and Trade Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), believes that countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia will challenge China’s dominance of the world labour market.

Despite China becoming the world’s second largest manufacturer this year, data from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) indicates that China’s labour costs per hour increased from $0.60 to $2.90 between 2000 and 2011. This is now 1.5 times higher than Thailand’s labour costs per hour, 2.5 times the Philippines costs and 3.5 times those of Indonesia, amongst others. It is not only an increase in labour costs that has reduced China’s competitive advantage in this field – increased average land prices in the country have also lead to increasing manufacturing costs.

A very distinct example of this trend is US sportswear giant Nike. In 2000, 40% of Nike shoes sold globally were manufactured in China and 13% made in Vietnam. This changed in 2010 when Vietnam overtook China as Nike’s largest shoe manufacturer, reflecting the worldwide movement to production bases in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) 

The future is not bleak for Chinese manufacturing, however. Many analysts believe that improved quality of labour is developing as a key competitive advantage for China in high-end manufacturing and high technology, and in particular, industries such as clean-energy technology and biotechnology.

The increasing interest in Southeast Asian manufacturing will certainly provide a test for China over the next decade or so, despite its shift towards more skilled and high-end technologies.