Archive | May, 2013

Dongtan, Eco-cities and China’s sustainable urban development

16 May

The unparalleled rate of urbanization that has taken place in China since the late 1970s has led to a focus on the need for sustainable urban and development. The percentage of the population residing in urban areas has risen from 18% in 1978 to 38% in 2001 (China Statistical Bureau, 2002), and by 2005 had already increased to 40.5% (United Nations, 2006). Another factor that makes this a pressing concern for China is the fact it is home to 16 of the top 20 polluted cities across the globe (Hald 2009). Furthermore, a recent New York Times (2013) article reported that approximately 1.2million premature deaths in China were linked to air pollution. Fundamental changes are now being introduced to city planning to try and incorporate sustainability (Cheng and Hu, 2009).

The challenge of how to deal with China’s diverse population and physical restricting while still providing sustainable liveable cities is a pressing matter for Chinese authorities. One of the main ways the authorities are attempting to tackle the issues surrounding sustainable urban growth is through the notion of eco-cities (Hald, 2009). An eco-city is the planned construction of a city that takes into account the ecological requirements as well as the social and economic requirements of an urban landscape (Hald, 2009). They are and combat the issues surrounding the growth of cities and introduce a notion of sustainable development head on. The rapid growth of cities can result in numerous problems including unemployment, strain on urban infrastructure such as water, electricity and transport, and over-crowding and a lack of housing (Cities Alliance, 2007). Furthermore, poverty, deprivation and increasing polarisation are key issues facing China’s authorities, brought about by rapid urbanization.

The eco-city of Dongtan was seen as a paradigm for Chinese sustainable development. Dongtan is situated in the East of Chongming Island, near Shanghai. In 2005 the project was taken on by Arup, an international engineering and design company. In order to be successful as a city, Arup realised that Dongtan had to be commercially sustainable as well as ecologically sustainable to try minimise commuting times and distances (Castle, 2008). Through a number of meeting carried out in 2005, Arup realised the main aims of the project: the city was to run off renewable energy sources, water was to be recycled and reused, preserve the wetlands surrounding the area by creating a buffer-zone surrounding the city, and ban all fossil-fuel powered vehicles to try and protect the air quality (Castle, 2006). Additionally, in order to realise this last point, all housing was to be constructed within a seven minute walk of a public transport service. The plan was to try and construct a city that was linked by a vast array of bicycle paths, pedestrian routes and public transport (Hald, 2009). For visitors driving into the city, there would be parking facilities on the outskirts of the city and then public transport provided from there.

Dongtan is a project that received huge amounts of media attention due to its pioneering approach to sustainable development (Hald, 2009). If Dongtan is to prove successful as a zero-carbon emissions sustainable city then it could be used as an archetype for sustainable development both in China and across the globe (Cheng and Hu, 2009). Although the plans all seem very impressive, Dongtan has yet to be constructed. Many people are sceptical it will ever be completed and cite the fact it is simply too ambitious a project to take on. Others cite tension between the constructors – Arup – and local authorities in Shanghai for the cities slow progress. Either way it seems a shame this extravagant and innovative approach to combatting pollution and sustainable urban development has yet to be finished. Only once its completed can we truly see how successful it is and whether it can be used as a prototype for other cities.

The issue with eco-cities like Dongtan is that there are still questions as to whether they actually address the problems surrounding sustainable urban development. By building an eco-city such as Dongtan, yes it provides a sustainable approach for that city, but does it really help the issues of over-urbanization and huge pollution facing the rest of China. Eco-cities are seen as a way of reducing threats to the natural environment while at the same time providing a liveable urban environment (Alusi et al, 2011). The problem is that eco-cities do little to address the problems facing all the other cities in China and as such offer little as a model for sustainable development. In order to combat the problems facing existing Chinese cities not a model needs to be developed that can shift these pre-existing cities into a way of operating in a more sustainable manner. Simply constructing new eco-cities fails to address the real problems.

References:
China Statistical Bureau. 2002. Statistical Yearbook of China 2002.
United Nations Population Division. 2006. World Urbanization Prospects
2005, New York.
Cities Alliance, The. 2007. Livable Cities – The Benefits of Urban Environmental
Planning. Washington D.C.: The Cities Alliance.
Castle, H. (2008). Dongtan, China’s Flagship Eco‐City: An Interview with Peter Head of Arup. Architectural Design, 78(5), 64-69.

Cheng, H., & Hu, Y. (2010). Planning for sustainability in China’s urban development: Status and challenges for Dongtan eco-city project. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 12(1), 119-126.

Alusi, A., Eccles, R., Edmondson, A., & Zuzul, T. (2011). Sustainable Cities: Oxymoron or the Shape of the Future?. Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Working Paper, (11-062), 11-062.

Hald, M. (2009). Sustainable Urban Development and the Chinese Eco-City: Concepts, Strategies, Policies and Assessments. Fridtjob Nansen Institute.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/world/asia/air-pollution-linked-to-1-2-million-deaths-in-china.html?_r=0

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Nation State or Civilisation State?

16 May

One of the first posts ever made in this blog was an interview with Martin Jacques about China’s future and the possibility of becoming the most influential country in the world. He argues that this will be an extreme challenge to the western world view, because China is modernising but not westernising. He also points out that there is a big difference between the western conception of a state (as a nation state) and the Chinese conception of a state; the Civilisation state.

This article aims to analyse the validity of this argument.

The validity of the Chinese state goes far back and is mainly rooted in the relationship between State and Society. The sense of being Chinese, the identity of China is not rooted in the last 100 years, the years when China could be defined as a nation state. It is more a consciousness developed over the past 2000 years by the development and expansion of the Chinese empire. Most of the rites, beliefs and culture that make China Chinese still stem from this ancient civilisation state. China’s identity is rooted in this period.

Although China has a central Government it is in many senses very decentralised and relies on local governance. The sheer size of the nation can be considered a challenge to the country, it however, equally can be considered a strength. The main focus of the Chinese government is to keep the civilisation together. Although the country is arguably very pluralistic, it still rests upon the same values and to a certain extent on the same race. 90% of the Chinese consider themselves to be part of the same race, the Han; A concept that is found only in China and it has big implications for Chinese politics. The understanding of race for example is one of the explanations for China’s treatment of Tibet. My article will aim to expand on this implication in a further paragraph later on.

As various articles over the course of the last semester showed, the Chinese government and state are very competent in working with the Chinese economy. This is an argument Martin Jacques makes to explain why, although China is not democratic, its state is more supported by the people than in Western Countries.

He argues that while not democratic, the Chinese state is effective in delivering results. Although the GDP growth has been slowing down over the past years, it is still one of the biggest in the world. The government effectiveness, however, cannot yet be observed in other issues such as the environment, since they are not yet sufficiently discussed on a national level. This causes the general public to feel wearier toward the national leaders. The general opinion of the public concerning politics in general remains still positive, which is more than can be said about European governments.

Although supported by its people the government displays a sense of near paranoia concerning popular power, especially when it comes to the Internet.. The internet is even with censorship allowing people of different backgrounds and areas to communicate and exchange view points and this is a development the Chinese government feel  the need to keep a close eye on.

An important argument for the existence of a civilisation state rather than a nation state is the development of the one nation two systems policy. This policy is most famously used in Hong Kong, it was however originally introduced in Tibet as well. The one nation two systems policy rests upon the idea that certain parts of the state, which had different values or systems before, are allowed to upkeep those values as long as they accept Chinese sovereignty and China taking charge of their exterior politics as well has having final say in major debates of exterior politics.

This system was originally offered to Tibet during its occupation. However, as shown in recent uprisings and their brutal down break, it did not work out. (See the self immolations in October 2012). The Chinese government does not hold on to the contract it forced upon the Tibetan people.

The reason for this behaviour can be, at least to a certain extent, traced back to the earlier mention of the understanding of race in China. The Tibetans are considered their own race, different from the Han. When China occupied and subsequently annexed Tibet, they considered themselves to be taking what was rightfully theirs and additionally assumed that the indigenous race, was inferior to their own, and by no means Chinese. Although they claimed that they were liberating Tibet from foreign influences, ultimately for China it can be considered as an issue of reclaiming what was theirs.

Hong Kong presents a completely different situation and can be considered as the most famous example for the one nation two systems policy, especially since the Sino-British Decleration, was largely accepted and held up on both sides. Since the hand-over in 1997 Hong Kong was not only able to keep its capitalist system; it was also able to retain the democratic features its government displayed. This success has numerous reasons. Hong Kong Chinese and Mainland Chinese share the same race for once. Secondly, Hong Kong was not occupied, but formerly ‘owned’ by Britain and so, subsequently returned to the previous owners. Thirdly, Hong Kong still accepts Chinese sovereignty provided the Chinese do not interfere with their development towards more democratic systems.

This analysis aims to show that the ‘civilisation-state’ is in fact a justified system to explain Chinese politics and the Chinese nation as a whole. It does however, hold it’s implications, for example since one nation two system policy is not effective everywhere (Taiwan is a further aspect to argue about…) The argument that the state is justified and upheld by it’s people is equally disputable due to recent developments. None the less, China is a considerably big nation. Although the idea of a civilisation state is disputed it is still a better explanation than the attempt to fit Chinese politics into our western mindsets. China is, after all, modernising but that does not immediately make it more western or more understandable to western people.

 

For reference and further information please consult:

http://www.ted.com/talks/martin_jacques_understanding_the_rise_of_china.html

http://politics.as.nyu.edu/docs/IO/22034/POL-GA-3501.pdf

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120729/jsp/calcutta/story_15782954.jsp#.UZS9FqL0ElN

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2011-04/27/content_12401986.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19929620 http://www.martinjacques.com/articles/civilization-state-versus-nation-state-2/

Nanjing

16 May

Nanjing is currently the capital of Jiangsu province in eastern China, but in the past it has been the capital city of 10 dynasties and was previously the capital city of China. ‘In 1928 Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Kuomintang (the Nationalist Party), a southerner, revived Nanking as the capital city.’ (Hamilton, 2004. p 22). Although it is currently officially known as Nanjing, it has historically been referred to as Nanking; which translated means the southern capital.

Nanjing still plays an important part in China today, despite the fact it is no longer the capital city of China; an example of this can be illustrated by Nanjing housing many universities, one of which is Nanjing University which is currently part of the C9 league which is China’s equivalent of the Ivy League in America. The university can be traced to 1902, at a time when Sanjing Normal School was founded. Other foundations of the University include Nanking University, which was set up in 1888.

 Nanjing also played an import part in China’s history and with foreign relations as ‘on December 13, 1937, Nanking, the capital city of Nationalist China, fell to the Japanese.’ (Chang, 1997, p1). The events that followed are referred to as the raping of Nanking, impacted heavily on relation between China and Japan, in 2011 a cinematic production of the story of Nanking has been narrated in a film called The Flowers of War, which was based on the novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing by Chinese-American author Geling Yan.

 

Bibliography

 

Chang, I.(1997) The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II New York: Basic Books

Fogel, J. A.(2000)  The Nanjing Massacre in history and historiography. University of Michigan Library

Hamilton, W. S. (2004)  Notes from Old Nanking 1947–1949: The Great Transition  Pandanus Books

The Flowers of War (2011) [film] Zhang Yimou China: EDKO Film, Beijing New Picture Film, New Picture Company

Rabe, J. (2000) Good Man of Nanking, New York : Vintage Books 

How soon will China legalize gay marriage?

16 May

The existence of homosexuality in China has been well documented since ancient times. According to one study, homosexuality in China was regarded as a normal facet of life in China, prior to the Western impact of 1840 onwards. (Brett, 1990) However, this has been disputed by many different academics. However, it has been argued that many early Chinese emperors are speculated to have had homosexual relationships, accompanied by heterosexual ones. Opposition to homosexuality and the rise of homophobia, according to the study by Hinsch, did not become firmly established in China until the 19th and 20th centuries, through the Westernization efforts of the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China. (Brook, 1998). Shanghai is far from being a gay-paradise on the level of Amsterdam or San Francisco. However, China’s LGBT community has made remarkable strides in recent decades, and being home to the world’s largest population of LGBT individuals, what happens in China matters to the rest of the world’s queer community (Stokols, 2013). Gay life in China follows geographic and economic divisions, as it does in the U.S.  Large cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and south-western Chengdu are home to large gay populations, with nightlife scenes increasingly open in the last decade. With widespread atheism – meaning that there is very little religious opposition and stigma as seen in the US, legalising gay marriage therefore seems like a logical step. However, due to some key issues, including sham marriages and the family culture, the progression of equal rights is somewhat stunted.

Sham marriages are a massive problem in China. Around 80% of gay and lesbian people in China marry to please demanding parents and to save their careers (Branigan, 2013). Homosexuality was illegal in China until 1997, and was only taken off of the mental health lists in 2001. Therefore there are still very modern conceptions of homosexual people within China. Those without a family often are not respected either by their employers or their families. This comes down to the very basic family culture which Van Sant (2013), picks out in her video (link attached). Men, still the very much leading in the figure are very much pressured into marriage in order to have children so that the family line can continue. This has been made much worse by the one child policy (Lim, 2013).  Men are being forced into marriages, even though they are gay. As many as 16 million men are married to straight women, who have no idea that their partner is gay. This is causing much heartache for all parties involved when the situation is revealed. These marriages of convenience only fuel a vicious circle within china. Legalising gay marriage may be a way forward.

Lesbians, that also want to have children, find it extremely hard to be able to have kids. The Chinese government enforces strict birth control policies on single mothers. Therefore, gay or not, a single woman may find it hard to have a child. Therefore, a woman who is gay but isn’t married may find it increasingly difficult to have a child. Allowing female/male couples to have the same basic rights as heterosexual couples would therefore allow women to be able to have children freely (Branigan, 2013). This is what is being argued for, however due to the fact that homosexual couples cannot get married, there has been an increasing trend in homosexuals, of opposite sexes, meeting online and arranging a sham marriage. This is not only to please families and remain employable, but to also bypass the massive family culture that is resident within China. These couples tend not to last a long and often cause more damage to the individuals than previously thought. Many men/women leave these marriages with severe depression, proving that gay marriage could ‘make practical sense’ (Stokols, 2013).

It’s against this backdrop of widespread and entrenched bias against homosexuals in society that LGBT groups have rallied behind same-sex marriage as a means to an end of raising public awareness and popular understanding of homosexuality (Lim, 2013). China’s gay culture may lack the political dimension that often accompanies queer culture in the U.S., but there is a growing number of civil society organizations involved in LGBT rights and health. A recent poll on popular Internet portal Sina.com indicated over 50% of respondents supported gay marriage (Stokols, 2013).

With this growing gay rights movement, reported in the state-owned China Daily, a Guangzhou-based NGO representing 100 parents of gays and lesbians, or “comrades,” sent an open letter to China’s National People’s Congress, its formal legislature, urging adoption of same-sex marriage benefits. Even though thy never received a response, this example shows how the profile of homosexual marriage has been raised and that it is openly discussed in official media. This is mirrored by Sociologist and activist Li Yinhe, who has submitted a similar petition to the NPC each year since 2003. Although unsuccessful, she has raised national visibility of homosexuality and gay marriage.

The high profile visit by Iceland’s Prime Minister, who is openly gay, has also attracted the attention of many of the LGBT communities across China. Even though homosexual content in movies and on websites is still massively censored, this visit by a high official raised the homosexual agenda through the press.  With this however, it is noted that even though homosexuals are no longer directly harassed, they are by in large ignored by the government and most of the population. However, there is no sign that the issue will disappear in the near future. China saw its first public gay marriage – which is not protected under the law – in the south-western city of Chengdu in 2010. This January, a wedding reception in Beijing’s outskirts held by an elderly gay couple triggered widespread discussion about gay rights in China as well (Lim, 2013).

It is therefore easy to see how marriage equality may be quite possible within China, however, the massive family culture which plays a large part of everyday life in China still seems to be the main barrier. However, this may not be so for long!

Branigan, T. (14th April, 2013), The Guardian, accessed at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/14/chinese-gay-lovers-seek-wife

Brook, T. (1998): The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Hinsch, B. (1990): Passions of the Cut Sleeve. University of California Press, California.

The Huffington Post (27th February, 2013) accessed at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/27/china-parents-gays-lesbians-marriage-letter-_n_2775374.html

Jiang, C. (1st May, 2013), Time World, accessed at: http://world.time.com/2013/05/01/chinas-gays-and-lesbians-stymied-by-lack-of-marriage-equality/

Lim, Z. H. (11th April, 2013), The Atlantic, accessed at: http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/04/for-gay-chinese-getting-married-means-getting-creative/274895/

Stokols, A. (1st May, 2013), Policymic, accessed at: http://www.policymic.com/articles/36313/will-china-legalize-gay-marriage-before-the-united-states

Trifunov, D. (12th April, 2013), Global Post, accessed at: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/130412/china-gay-marriage-gays-marry-lesbians-lgbt

Von Sant, S. (13th May, 2013), Voice of America, accessed at: http://www.voanews.com/content/homosexuals-press-for-rights-in-china/1660023.html

Dissecting the Unique ‘China Model’

15 May

This article endeavors to explore the fundamental tenets of the unique ‘China Model’ of development over the past 30 years. More specifically, this article will argue that, although there is a clear distinction in political ideology and a different approach to the way in which it regulates the market economy compared to the West, the ‘China Model’ have created a market society which echoes the inherent inequality, cultural alienation, social dislocation evident within the majority of Western market civilizations.

Before we begin, it is essential to distinguish the key features of the ‘China Model’, this is a list produced by academic and former Chinese official Zhang Weiwei (2006):

• Down to earth pragmatic concern with serving the people
• Constant trial and error experimentation
• Gradual reform rather than Neo-liberal shock therapy
• Strong and pro-development state
• ‘Selective cultural borrowing’ of foreign ideas
• A pattern of implementing easy reforms first, difficult ones later

The first feature characterized by Weiwei is arguably contestable considering the historical development of China’s market economy introduced by Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s, where the overriding priority of the political elite became distinctly economic, reflected in Deng’s rhetoric at the time:

“China is poor. Poverty cannot demonstrate the superiority of socialism. Our general aim is for everyone in society to become rich and prosperous… Our overall method is to encourage the advanced to take the lead in becoming rich, so that others can follow.”
(Deng 1978 cited in Nolan, 2004)

The first wave of reforms in rural areas between 1978 and 1984 did revitalize the rural areas and freed the peasants and farmers from the oppressive communes during the Maoist period, and markets were introduced to lift incentive and consequently, the income gap between rural and urban areas declined. However, after 1984, the focus became pre-dominantly in urban areas, where market principles of ‘efficiency’ and competition immediately caused excessive inequality among residence. Soon the growing discontent in cities led to the tragic Tienanmen Square protests which ended in the violent suppression of society. Far from serving its people, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) silenced those who tried to voice their concerns over the implementation of market principles and the resulting social polarization and inequality that has not been resolved since.

In 1993, Vice Premier Zhu Rongji and newly elected President Jiang Zemin, both hardline reformers, looked to continue Deng’s legacy, ushering a second period of economic reforms. The focus was on the public sector, abolishing the dual-track system, establishing new regulatory and restructuring in the banking, tax and corporate governance system (Naughton, 104) and strengthening its managerial and fiscal ability (So in Chu,2010: 57). This was ‘the China Model’ in full fruition: retaining and improving the ‘iron hand’ over its expanding economy, the Communist party-state simultaneously introduced further reforms towards a functioning market economy, a stark contrast to the weakened state envisaged and encouraged in neoliberal literature. As growth rates forged ahead many economists predicted bright prospects for China’s future. However, this period also saw a rapid acceleration of the ‘gradual’ approach listed in Weiwei’s characterization, which continued to exacerbate the social problems caused by further market expansion.

Even more worrying was the stagnant rural reforms which resulted in mass migration in the 1990s, where the superior lifestyle enjoyed in cities and the poor and primitive conditions in rural areas further widened the disparities between the divide of urban/rural areas. The ‘pro-development’state, in this context, was only relevant to the urban section of China’s society. As a result, China’s unequal society showed no signs of stopping, and while “migrants may earn more than those who remain in the countryside; their economic and social status is still markedly lower than that of registered urban residents” (Lin, 2012:7). This is a sign of the cultural alienation brought by the market economy where traditional communities are destroyed and considered inferior to the lavish lifestyle that, in reality, only a select few people enjoyed. Many fieldworks conducted in China reflect this trend of behaviour:

“Lui Fanmei is no stranger to public humiliation and discrimination due to her outsider origins. Once while she was browsing in a bookstore, a clerk cornered her and demanded proof of identification, as if implying that a migrant worker would not be buying books, only stealing them.”
(Gaetano 2004: 69)

Statistically, inequality in China became endemic: the Gini Coefficient stood at 0.32 in 1980 had risen to 0.45 by 2001 (Wang, 2008), a report by Lu (2002) showed that even in rapidly developed cities with an enormous middle class, 60-70% of people earn below the average household income. This is the true product of ‘China Model’, although millions have been lifted out of relative poverty by economic growth, the majority continues to struggle with everyday life, reminiscent of the egalitarian foundations which China was founded that has all but vanished along with the shattering of the iron rice bowl replaced by the individualistic and normative material uncertainty of a market society.

The global financial crisis of 2008 brought to forth the severe structure deficiencies laced within China’s market society that will have profound implications for the future, the CCP have realized the urgent need to address the excessive inequality and dependency on exports and investment for growth that is not sustainable nor fair on the majority of citizens who are struggling to survive while the rich simply gets richer. This is reflected in Hu Jintao’s rhetoric of the ‘harmonious society’ in 2004, but words have been stronger than actions in China’s case as the fundamental issues discussed above have yet to see a comprehensive response from the government.

To conclude, although China continues to adhere to the superiority of socialism, its policies and development over the last 30 years have been vaguely in line with its socialist ideals. Ultimately the tenets of the ‘China Model’ has been solely responsible for a thriving economy, but it has also created a society riddled with inequality, social dislocation, cultural alienation and a threat to the environment. All these issues associated with the emergence of the market society will soon have a detrimental effect on the overall stability of China’s economy, society and consequently on the global economy and the rest of the world.

——————————————–

Gaetano, A. M (2004) “Filial Daughters, Modern Women: Migrant Domestic Workers in Post-Mao Beijing” in Gaetano and Jacka, T (2004) On the Move: Women in Rural to Urban Migration in Contemporary China, Columbia University Press, New York.

Lin, Yifu. Justin (2012) Demystifying the Chinese Economy. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge

Lu, X (2002) Dangdai Zhongguo Shehui jieceng Yanjiu Basogao (Research Report on Social Stratification in Contemporary China. Social Science Literature Press. Peking.
Mao, D.Z in Schram, Stuart (1989) The Thought of Mao Zedong. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Naughton, Barry (2007) The Chinese Economy: Transition and Growth. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. USA.

Nolan, Peter (2004) China at the Crossroads. Polity Press. Cambridge.

So, Alvin & Chu, Yin-wah (2010) “State Neoliberalism: The Chinese Road to Capitalism” in Chu, Yin-Wah (2010) Chinese Capitalisms: Historical Emergence and Political Implications. Palgrave MacMillan. London.

Wang, X (2008) “Income Inequality and Distributive Justice Justice in Hong Kong and Mainland China: A Contemporary Analysis”. Conference on Social Inequality and Social Mobility in Hong Kong. Centre of Asian Studies and the Police Unit. March 14.

Wei Wei, Zhang (2006) International Herald Tribune http://www.sinoptic.ch/textes/articles/2006/20061102_zhang.weiwei_chinese.model-en.pdf

Wu, Yanrui (2004) Chinese Economic Growth: A Miracle With Chinese Characteristics. Taylor & Francis. New York.

The legacy of the Beijing Olympics – a one off or a sign of Westernization?

15 May

Image

It’s one of the international sporting hallmarks for developed countries in the West, and although it took place 5 years ago, the 2008 Olympics was a hugely influential event for China and its development. The world’s media and attention was focused solely on Beijing. But should the Olympic Games be seen as a one off event, or as part of China’s progress to becoming closer to the other Western powers?

China’s main motivation has not been the economic benefits that have typically become the focus for host nations. Instead, it was primarily politically orientated as a gesture to other countries of how far China has progressed as a country (Gottwald and Duggan 2008, pg.340).

Of huge benefit to China in recent years has been joining typically Western dominated organisations such as the WTO and the IMF. It is not by chance that China joining the IMF coincided with the decision to award the 2008 games to them. Previous Olympic Games have been awarded on this basis for countries such as Japan and Mexico, and it is typically seen as a sign of the trade liberalization and the country “opening up” (Rose and Spiegel 2011, pg.653). While huge economic benefit was also gained by China from the games, the diplomatic benefits probably outweigh the financial ones.

One of the major dividing lines between China and the rest of the Western countries has been its record of human rights violations. China has, in the past, been extremely liberal with the how fairly some citizens are treated when their will goes against that of the governments. The protests over a free Tibet showed how swift the CCP were in minimizing the potential for civil unrest, but the use of riot police demonstrated the willingness to quash any form of resistance (The Standard 2008). The relief of the CCP allowing fixed contracts for construction workers seems only small progress (Blecher 2009, pg.74-75).

Likewise, a vivid reminder of how far China still is from other nations is the heavy censorship of the internet and press regulation. Since the free press has typically been a hallmark of the free press in Western countries, the censorship of the internet has proved hugely controversial. While the country decided to relax censorship during the Olympics (The Guardian), this proved to be only temporary and the CCP returned to typical policy shortly after. As shown across the internet, China has become increasingly adept at manipulating the internet, much to the annoyance of companies like Google (The Economist 2013). This has served to demonstrate China’s lack of progress in terms of liberal freedom that Western countries have begun to value so much.

Overall, China’s “coming out party” (Leibold 2010, pg.1) has been a success for the country and the overall opinion of the country has arguably changed. However, while China may have moved closer to the Western dominated international order, progress will still have to be made. Issues of censorship and human rights abuse in the build-up to the event itself mark the divide of how far China may have to progress to become accepted further by some countries.

 

References

Blecher, Mark (2009) China in 2008: Meeting Olympian Challenges, Asian Survey, 49 (1), 74-87

The Economist, April 6th 2013, “China’s Internet”http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21574628-internet-was-expected-help-democratise-china-instead-it-has-enabled?spc=scode&spv=xm&ah=9d7f7ab945510a56fa6d37c30b6f1709

Gottwald, J. C. and Duggan, N. (2008) China’s Economic Development and the Beijing Olympics, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 25 (3), pg.339-354

The Guardian, August 1st 2008, “China relaxes internet censorship for the Olympics” – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/01/china.olympics

Leibold, J. (2010) The Beijing Olympics and China’s conflicted form, The China Journal, 63 (1)

Rose, A. and Spiegel, M. (2011) The Olympic Effect, The Economic Journal, 121 (553), pg.652-677

The Standard March 18th 2008, “Hong Kong journalists thrown out of Tibet” – http://web.archive.org/web/20080408113253/http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=30&art_id=63248&sid=18107553&con_type=1

 

 

 

China Passes Japan to Become World’s No. 2 Movie Market

15 May

Chinese movie fans led worldwide cinema sales ahead 6% to a record $34.7 billion last year, as the world’s most-populous nation passed Japan to become the No. 2 film market.

Movie-goers in China increased their box-office spending by 36% to $2.7 billion last year, according to new year-end statistics released by the Motion Picture Association of America, the Washington-based trade group.

The growth puts China behind only the U.S. and Canada, where fans increased spending by 6% last year to a combined $10.8 billion, according to the trade group. In Japan, previously the second-largest market, revenue rose 4.3% to $2.4 billion, the MPAA said.

Policy changes in China have increased the number of foreign films that can be released in the country, Mr. Dodd said. The former U.S. senator, a Connecticut Democrat, also said he has shared his concerns with Chinese officials over rules that keep U.S. films from being shown during “blackout” periods to help local productions. “We’ve raised concerned about that to the highest authorities,” Mr. Dodd said. “While it’s vastly improved, there’s always going to be bumps in the road.”

Four movies collected more than $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales last year: “The Avengers,” at $1.51 billion; “Skyfall,” at $1.11 billion, “The Dark Knight Rises,” at $1.08 billion; and “The Hobbit,” at $1.01 billion.

The results underline the gains that Hollywood stands to make by tailoring its product for the Chinese market. A report last year by Ernst & Young suggested that at the current rate of expansion, the Chinese box office wasset to pass the US in seven years. Will we therefore be seeing more chinese style films emerging from Hollywood in the near future?

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/mar/22/china-largest-film-market-outside-us

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/nov/29/china-biggest-film-market-2020

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21891631

http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/trendspotter-pandering-to-chinas-film-market

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Chinese undertaker offers fake funerals for the living – a step too far?

15 May

Chinese undertaker offers fake funerals for the living - a step too far?

A Chinese funeral parlour has courted controversy by laying on tearful farewells for the living. Last month, 24 pretend funerals were held at the Shimenfeng Celebrity Culture Park cemetery in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The fake funerals were the brainchild of Zeng Jia, a 20-year-old student, who became the first to lie down in a coffin during her fake wake at the end of March.
Despite the absence of genuine cadavers, Ms Zhang said the funeral services were realistic, involving coffins, floral bouquets, mourners, photographers and even emotion-packed speeches from friends of the ‘deceased’.
“The service has two parts – a 20-minute memorial service and a 15-20 minute ‘life-death experience’,” she said. A rendition of a Chinese pop song called “Angel” is also included in the package.
The unconventional services have been widely criticized online for being morbid and disrespectful to the dead. But Ms Zhang insisted the mock funerals were therapeutic.
Should we take a leaf out of Ms Zhang’s book, or is this a bit too morbid for British culture?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/zeng-jia-fakes-funeral-_n_3001589.html
http://metro.co.uk/2013/04/12/fake-funeral-service-proving-popular-after-student-holds-her-own-false-ceremony-3613269/
http://shanghaiist.com/2013/04/11/wuhan_funeral_home_offers_fake_funerals_chongqing_undertaker_giving_dead_spa_treatments.php
http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/odd/news/a472941/spike-in-chinese-fake-funerals-following-students-ceremony.html

Link

Top Gear take a look at China’s ever-expanding car industry!

15 May

Top Gear take a look at China’s ever-expanding car industry!

China is now the world’s biggest market for new cars. Its motorway network will soon rival America’s.  China was not expected to exceed the US market until 2020 but the speed with which the recession affected consumers in the States combined with incentives from the Beijing government to help buyers accelerate the trend.

China’s communist government cut sales taxes on smaller, fuel-efficient cars and spent $730m (£450m) on subsidies for buyers of larger cars, pickup trucks and minivans. Stimulus spending on building highways and other public works also helped to boost sales of trucks used in construction.

China’s love affair with cars began late, but it has more than made up for the delay. In 2000 there were 4m cars for the 1.3bn population and experts predicted that the number would be six times higher by the end of the decade. Instead, it soared 20-fold.

The Chinese car industry was even tested out by Top Gear who give a quite humorous look on the Chinese Car market: the link is below, it is well worth a watch!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01brd8t

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/14/china-worlds-biggest-new-car-market

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/24/china-cars-green-vehicles

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/08/china-us-car-sales-overtakes

Should China continue to fight for rights to the South China Sea?

15 May

Clear across the broad width of Asia, on the western fringe of the Pacific Ocean, lies the third anchor of the Strategic Triangle: The South China Sea. Bordered on the North by Taiwan and China, on the east by the Philippine Islands, on the south by Indonesia and Malaysia, and on the west by Vietnam, the South China sea adjoins some of the most dynamic and powerful states in Asia. Long important as a crossroads for seaborne commerce, these waters are also thought to sit atop substantial reserves of oil and natural gas. While much larger than the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, the South China Sea is like them in two critical respects: its undersea resources are subject to overlapping and contested claims, and the states involved in these maritime disputes appear prepared to employ military force in the defence of what they view as vital national interests.

The Ministry of Geological Resources and Mining of the People’s Republic of China estimate that the South China Sea may contain 17.7 billion tons of crude oil (compared to Kuwait with 13 billion tonnes). In the years following the announcement by the ministry, the claims regarding the South China Sea islands intensified.

China’s optimistic view of the South China Sea’s hydrocarbon potential is not shared by most non-Chinese analysts. A 1993/1994 estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), for example, estimated the sum total of discovered reserves and undiscovered resources in the offshore basins of the South China Sea at 28 billion barrels. The most optimistic western estimates place total oil resources (not proved reserves) in the Spratly Islands at 1-2 billion barrels. If all of this were proven to be economically recoverable, this hypothetically could yield a peak oil production level for the Spratly Islands of 180,000 – 370,000 barrels per day – the same order of magnitude as current production levels in Brunei or Vietnam. However, the rule-of-thumb for frontier areas suggests that the total could be significantly less.

There has been much debate over this area and much political tension, however, is China putting too many eggs in one basket by relying on this potential resource to fuel its ever growing economy?

 

http://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/termsofuse;jsessionid=AF1F616CA7D5FFA68F3DC3B439657903

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/spratly-oil.htm

http://www.cfr.org/china/south-china-sea-tensions/p29790

http://csis.org/files/publication/twq12springbuszynski.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_disputes_in_the_South_China_Sea

Klare, M. T. (2002): Resource Wars – The New Landscape of Global Conflict. Owl Books, New York