Archive | February, 2014

Panda Diplomacy

28 Feb



Panda’s are commonly seen as being a pivotal symbol of China, however, beyond their cuddly exterior can be seen high levels of diplomatic and political clout. The practice of ‘panda diplomacy’ began in 1957 when Mao Zedong gifted a giant panda to the Soviet Union as a thank you gift for being the first country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Further Pandas have been sent to the USA, North Korea, Mexico, Spain and the UK among others (Duggan, 2014).


A recent example of this can be seen through the two giant pandas which have recently been gifted to Belgium amid the diplomacy row which can be seen. The pair of 4 year old pandas were greeted by the Belgian prime minister along with a large crowd of around 2,500; many of whom were excited children with national flags and panda face paint on (Mingxin, 2014). Many Belgians already consider them as celebrities, with the pair putting their name to their own twitter account (BBC News, 2014). However the arrival has sparked controversy, with it leading to arguments between the Flemish and French Belgians due to the choice of zoo which the Pandas now call home (BBC News, 2014).


China managed to negotiate a contract worth £2.6 billion for the supply of salmon meat from Scotland at the same time that they were seen to gift pandas to Edinburgh zoo in 2011, in addition to Land Rover Cars and peterochemical and renewable energy technology (The Guardian, 2011). The arrival of pandas in Canada and France also coincided with contracts to supply China with uranium oxide (Duggan, 2014). An additional reason for pandas being lent to these locations is to try and extend research as to how pandas can be bred in captivity in order to try and increase the number of pandas which can be found with only 1,600 pandas currently being left in the wild and around 300 in captivity (Duggan, 2014).


However, is it right that pandas are being used to secure such lucrative deals even if the research which can then be carried out on them may be beneficial in the long run?






BBC News, 2014, China Pandas arrive in Belgium amid diplomacy row, BBC news online, Available at:, [Accessed 28/02/2014]

Duggan, J., 2014, China’s cuddly ambassadors with diplomatic clout, The Guardian Online, Available at: [Accessed 27/02/2014]

Mingxin, B., 2014, China’s giant pandas arrive at new home in Belgian zoo, Xinhaunet, Available at: [Accessed 28/02/2014]

The Guardian, 2011, Giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang arrive in Scotland – in pictures, The Guardian online, Available at:, [Accessed 28/02/2014]


Lego Building it’s future in China

28 Feb

Danish toymaker Lego’s profits rose 9% to 6.12 bn kroner ($1.12bn; £673m) in 2013 as the firm expands beyond its signature building blocks.

Rising sales were helped by increasing demand from China, which Lego highlighted as a future “core market”.

The privately-held firm, which only reports profits annually, also saif it hired 1,355 workers.

Profits from the hugely successful Lego movie were not included.

Lego is the world’s second largest toymaker, behind Mattel, the maker of Barbie.


Central Bank of China Intervenes to Lower CNY

28 Feb

China’s central bank has begun helping the country’s exports this year. It has unsettled traders by intervening heavily in currency markets for the last week, pushing the CNY down steadily.

On this Tuesday, the fall continued, bringing the currency’s loss against the US dollar for the year  to 1 percent. However,  the CNY increased 3 percent against the US dollar last year. The recent decline also interrupts what had seemed to be a steady rise in the Chinese currency, which had been eroding the competitiveness of Chinese exports. The Chinese government hope to increase the export for keeping the growth of Chinese economy.

The performance of China stock market may be the worst stock market in the world during the past several years and the future of it is still negative. On the other hand, more and more investment come from China to other countries.  Although the Chinese economy is still growing faster than almost any other countries, the pace is slowing. China may not be the economic engine in the world. Hence,  The domestic market cannot support the continue economic growth. It should rely on the growth of other countries.

Therefore, the lower CNY is the strategy of Chinese government to keep the continue economic growth.

Chinese population in the USA.

28 Feb



Percentage of Chinese population in the U. S. states (data source: 2000 Census); major Chinatowns in the U. S.

The rise of the Chinese population in the United States is astounding, year upon year hundreds of thousands of the Chinese population relocate to the United States. In 2010 the Chinese-American population was measured as 3,347,229, which is over 1% of the entire population of the US.


In some west coast cities such as San Francisco the Chinese-American population is now as high as 21.4%. This incredible relocation to the United States has resulted in the gradual introduction of Chinese and East Asian culture to America. This is mostly regarded as a good thing due to the onset of ideas such as Confucianism (whereby elders are greatly respected), and an educational focus.


The statistics speak for themselves, and as the Chinese population continues to grow (possibly faster now due to the easing of the one child policy) so will the Chinese population in America. The facts are there, but how will this change the USA we know today?

China’s relationship with Taiwan

28 Feb

The relationship between China and Taiwan (also known as the Cross-Strait Relationship) is complicated, dynamic and often misunderstood. China claims that Taiwan lies under its One China Policy, stating in an official publication that Taiwan is an “inalienable part of China”. However Taiwan and a large part of the international community disputes this.

Brown (2004) argues that Taiwan is no more a part of China than other regional countries such as South Korea. Taiwan has a very different, more advanced economy than mainland China and for a large part a different economy (Brown, 2004). The most influential protector of Taiwan’s sovereign interests is the USA (Lin, 2011). On the other hand, Taiwan does however acknowledge its Chinese heritage and there are currently promising government talks between the two nations (BBC, 2014).

Most literature forms the view that China has a Westphalian view to sovereignty in that it is staunchly hard-lineabout issues relating to what and what is not China (Keat Tok, 2013). The official is that voiced by Deng Xiaoping in that it is one country with 2 systems (Keat Yok, 2013). Taiwan is considered in the 3rd tier of sovereignty, with the mainland being 1st tier and Hong Kong being 2nd tier.

As mentioned previously, Cross Strait relations have been improving. The situation was volatile until the ascension of Ma Ying Jeou to the Taiwanese presidency in 2008. Ma Ying Jeou has introduced a more open relationship with Beijing which has led to a more stable situation.

BBC. 2014. China and Taiwan in first government talks. Accessible online at

Brown, M. 2004. Is Taiwan Chinese? The impact of culture, power, and migration on changing identities. University of California Press.

Chinese Government. 2000. The One China Principle and the Taiwan Issue. Accessible online at

Keat Tok, S. 2013. Managing China’s sovereignty in Hing Kong and Taiwan. Palgrave MacMillan.

Lin, CY. and Roy, D. 2011.  The Future of United States, China, and Taiwan relations. Palgrave MacMillan.

Theo Tritton

Shanghai’s Population Growth

28 Feb


Shanghai is the most populated city in China and also the largest city (proper) in the entire world. The most recent population total estimate is a staggering 23,470,000. The city is a centre of technique, trade, finance, information and culture and also is home to the biggest port in China.  In 1987, when Shanghai’s population was at 11 million, the city’s buildings were particularly old and uninteresting. Today however, as can be seen from the picture above, the city is one of the most modern in the world, full of skyscrapers and futuristic looking buildings. Shanghai Tower for example, which is due to be completed in 2015, is the world’s second tallest building. With Shanghai’s economic growth therefore, it is not surprising that the city attracts many migrants. Many people from poorer rural areas migrate to Shanghai in the hope of better job opportunities and an overall better quality of life (rural-urban migration).

However, this rapidly increasing population is posing risks for Shanghai. The subsequent urbanisation has led to problems such as inadequate land resources and air pollution. There has also been significant pressure placed on the city’s limited farmland as urban development increasingly encroaches upon it. At the end of 2012, agricultural land was less than 2,600 square kilometres and it is continually decreasing. There has also been an increase in the amount of waste flowing into rivers and creeks, resulting in more than half of Shanghai’s rivers and lakes being heavily polluted and much of their soil beds contaminated. Furthermore, increasing pressure is being placed on an already limited resource base to provide more food, housing, highways and landfill sites.

Shanghai therefore needs to ensure it can cope with its increasing population growth in a sustainable way. 

The Social Pressures on the Businesswomen of China

28 Feb

Chinese New Year is a time of family in China, with the young men and women of China’s ever expanding social middle class travelling out of the big cities to visit family in more rural areas. With expectation radiating from mothers at home, those who are yet to find a significant other have turned to a rather odd sector which did very good business during late January and early February.

The idea of renting a lover seems almost oxymoronic in design; however for those young people with a decent wage in pocket it’s preferable to facing awkward questions at the dinner table. According to The Huffington Post (2014, available <a href=””>here</a&gt;) this pressure applies in particular to women due to the massive gender imbalance created by the one child policy. This amounts to an extraordinary 20 million more men than women under the age of 30 (Huffington Post 2014) and as a result, the social pressure on women is much higher than for men (due to the comparitively grand selection available). Those women who are single around New Years are called ‘shengv’ which directly translates to ‘leftover women’; a linguistically brutal reminder of the burden they face.

Hence there is now an industry revolving around renting a beau which is growing according to the Financial Times (2014, available <a href=””>here</a&gt;) where successful businesswomen hire men for anything from companionship, purely to show their parents, to sex. The prices are exceptionally fluid with entrepreneurial man for hire Sui Wei admitting (in a similar vein to many others in his line of work) he bases his starting rental charges on how successful the women are, and then add fees based on what actions they require of them. The latter is perhaps the most unsettling part of the story, with CBC news (2014, available <a href=”″>here</a&gt;) reporting acting boyfriend Zhu Ruisen’s charges included $1 each time the couple held hands, while hugs and kisses were to be negotiated with the individual. As for the participation and price of sex, this depends on the individual offering the service. Although this is something both Mr Zhu and Mr Sui do not provide, mainly due to real girlfriends outside of work, the Financial Times (2014) report that this can cost anything from 3000 Yuan to 30,000, the equivalent of approximately £300 – £3000. The financial aim for Mr Zhu (which is again characteristic of the industry) is to charge his clients approximately one month’s salary in total (CBC News, 2014).

How to assess this business is difficult. One could interpret it as an innovative exploitation of supply and demand by those men looking to score a New Year bonus, while one could equally see it as a cynical form of prostitution (as if prostitution wasn’t inherently cynical enough). The individuals interviewed by the news sources above all admitted some feelings of guilt, with Mr Sui admitting a low point was accepting large quantities of money in a traditional red wedding envelope from one client’s parents. The overwhelming truth either way is that with such an imbalance of gender due to the one child policy, and the pressure of terminology like ‘leftover women’ being tossed around, this service is one that will inevitably grow and prosper into the future.

The solution is an almost crippling case of irony, with the procreation of the current generation being the key to addressing the gender imbalance and hence relieving the pressure felt by the successful business women of China. In simple terms; to address the problem of women being forced to act like they have a boyfriend in future, women have to get a boyfriend today. In the meantime, Mr Zhu and Mr Sui will continue successfully making big money for their services, a financial achievement that this free market fan can’t help but admire.

China’s Presence in Britain

28 Feb

chinese investment

With the world’s second largest economy ever growing, is China moving its focus from a dominating export market to investing more overseas? It seems that Britain is one of China’s more favoured locations for investment, falling within the top ten and attracting more than double the investment than any other European nation.

The majority of China’s investment lies within the energy sector, partly due to their soaring demand for natural resources, a demand which is expected to triple by 2030.  It has also invested in companies such as Barclays bank, Thames Water and Diageo.

Increasing trade with China is particularly relevant in Southampton.  The port has recently invested £150m to improve the port’s infrastructure, and this is due to the growing trade with China. It is thought that around 60% of the activity occurring in Southampton’s port is connected to China.

Social Media Ignites Environmental Activism in China

28 Feb


During the Chinese Holiday season this year environmental activist Deng Fei posted a message to his 4 million followers on Sina Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) asking them to post a photo of the river in their home town while they were home for the holidays. The response was phenomenal; thousands posted back pictures of heavily polluted rivers and streams from across the country (Custer, 2013).  While this may not have come as a particular surprise, what is significant is that using the platform of social media it has been possible to turn a local issue into a national one, almost overnight. The outpouring of images prompted local and national news agencies to write stories on the issue which eventually led to the shaming of local governments and reportedly clean-up efforts in some areas (Hook, 2013).

Social media enables for the first time a form of two way communication on environmental issues, instead of the top down one way information from the government which did not reveal the scale or severity of environmental pollution. A good example of this is the smog which chokes many of China’s cities. Until recently in Beijing the only source of public information about harmful toxins in the air came from the readings posted regularly by the Unites States Embassy (Hook, 2013). Following immense public pressure, exerted through social media, the government started posting its own readings; although these are significantly lower than the US embassy readings.

The more open forum provided by social media sites such as Weibo has encouraged other social campaigns and projects which also make use of the technology. In some cases new platforms have been developed to address the issue of environmental degradation. One such example is the “Take a picture to locate a polluter” campaign launched by the non-profit Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPEA). The IPEA takes user uploaded pictures and data from Weibo and uses it to construct an interactive map showing the names and locations of sources of pollution nationwide (Stout, 2013).

Custer, C. 2013 – Tech in Asia: Deng Fei Launches Weibo Campaign to Share Images of Water Pollution

Hook, L. 2013 – The Financial Times: China’s environmental activists

Stout, K. 2013 CNN: Can social media clear air over China?

Have You Heard the Good News?: The Evolution of Religious Freedom in China

28 Feb


China’s stance on religious freedom is notoriously regarded as unjust. However, the Regulations on Religious Affairs (RRA) implemented in 2005 has seen the rise of a remarkably open and empowering attitude in regard to religious activities. Though once regarded as a threat to the Communist regime in China, religion has slowly become an acceptable form of civil society and state control over religious autonomy has been weakened (Tong, 2010).

During Mao’s era religious freedom was curtailed. In a time of reform and modernisation for China, religion was seen as both ‘foreign cultural imperialism’ in the case of Christianity. A line was drawn between religious ‘organisations’ and ‘religion’ itself wherein the CCP sought to increase control over the ‘organisational’ aspect of religious activity. Native religions were also placed under scrutiny; the Mao regime accused Buddhism and Taoism of ‘feudalism’ which contradicted China’s goal of modernisation (Leung, 2005). During the 50’s ‘religious freedom’ was given a party-wide definition. In 1958 Li Weihan interpreted ‘religious freedom’ as a right to belief or not to believe in religion and to be a part of any sect of your choosing. However, he explained that this definition of religious freedom was implemented to encourage people to cast aside religion (Li, 1958l, cited in Leung, 2005). This definition was not revised until 1982, under Deng’s era.

During the Cultural Revolution religious communities suffered heavily. Religious property rights were essentially nullified as churches, temples and other religious sites were occupied and in many cases destroyed. An estimated 8000 Buddhist temples were lost during these years and many religious practitioners and leaders were persecuted (Leung, 2005).

Before the reform period, the state’s policies regarding religion were constrictive and emphasised state control and state-given legitimacy. Religious communities were required to have state permission to practice and were required to perform religious activities in specially assigned areas, thus outlawing home-based activities. This also outlawed wearing religious garments in public, such as that worn by the clergy. Religious communities were also required to be supportive of the CCP. Often the CCP assigned religious leaders who were party cadres in order to quell any anti-party sentiment (Leung, 2005).

In 1982 ‘Document 19’ was issued under Deng’s reform period. It was born of the recognition that by increasing religious rights China could improve its international image and attract more foreign trade. Deng also wanted to break with the legacy of the Cultural Revolution and gain more co-operation for modernisation from non-communist intellectuals and religious leaders. However, the Document was not without its failings. It was not widely obeyed and, although it stated that religious property would be returned to the religious communities to which it belonged, this was not always followed through. The Document also stated that religious communities would be self-sufficient and yet government ministries encouraged Christian churches to seek foreign aid thus undermining this requirement. Religious communities also lacked the ability to communicate well with branches of government as the Document did not rectify the appointment of party cadres as religious leaders. The cadres were patriotic to the CCP (which was within the government’s interests) but they often lacked the skills and training required for good leadership and communication (Leung, 2005). In short, Document 19 was a step in the direction of religious freedom but it was still far from a mirror of how liberal society would define ‘freedom’.

The 90’s saw a reduction of trust in religious communities. Concern arose that the ‘underground’ movement of ‘illegal’ (that is, not state-approved) religious communities threatened state stability. This notion is not a new one; religious uprisings are significant in China’s ancient history (the yellow and red turban rebellions) and more recent history (White Lotus and Taiping rebellions) (Chung et all, 2006). The Party was also concerned with foreign support for these ‘illegal’ movements, particularly Catholicism and the Dalai Lama in Tibet. Document 19 was acknowledged as insufficient in managing religious activity – yet despite feelings of hostility, Jiang knew that if the CCP cracked down on religious freedom it would be detrimental to international support and finance. The terms ‘Rule by Law’ and ‘Accommodation’ entered the fight for religious freedom. ‘Rule by Law’ required religious activities to be regulated and to ‘accommodate’ socialist ideology, not oppose it. This decision was justified by defining religious activity within the realm of ‘public affairs’ and therefore subject to state regulation (Leung, 2005).

However, in 2001 the Politburo and State Council met together for the National Religious Work Meeting and came to the conclusion that religion could be a ‘stabilising force’ in Chinese society. Waning socialist ideology and disillusionment are partially responsible for this decision; by approving of specific religions and granting more autonomy, the CCP hoped to curtail the attraction of ‘new religions’ and cults which could harbour anti-party sentiment. China was also trying to address its international image regarding human rights violations. Another influence is the Sino-centric religious scholarship which had been emerging since the beginning of the reform period (Leung, 2005).

As aforementioned, native religion also suffered under Mao’s regime and had to be resurrected during the reform period. One such success story is Nanputuo temple in Fujian province. Though now a thriving religious hub and tourist site, the temple had to be rebuilt almost from scratch after the Cultural Revolution. New clergy had to be trained to replace those who were persecuted and the temple, abiding by state rules, had to become entirely self-sufficient. More than three decades on it has been completely rebuilt, is entirely self-sufficient and has around 600 clergymen. It is one of many success stories that show how religious communities have recovered and grown despite tough state regulations (Ashiwa and Wank, 2006).

In 2005 the RRA was implemented to grant more autonomy to religious communities and reduce state control of religious activities. This is part of a wider goal to increase CCP transparency, improve communication between government and society, promote civil society and improve China’s image in the international community. The RRA grants better legal and administrative rights to religious communities and grants permission to practice religious activities outside of the designated areas. It also encourages religious philanthropy and has helped to establish the role of religious communities in civil society. The RRA also readdresses the accusation of religion as a ‘threat’ by allowing the print and circulation of religious literature, including recruitment pamphlets. It has been greeted with mixed feelings in the wider international community as rather than religious ‘freedom’ it awards ‘management’, but compared to China’s history of restrictive religious regulation there is no denying that it will help China on the road to modernisation and cohesion within the international community (Tong, 2010).


Ashiwa, Y., Wank, D., 2006. The Politics of a Reviving Buddhist Temple: State, Association, and Religion in Southeast China. The Journal of Asian Studies, [e-journal], 65 (2), pp. 337-359. Available through: J-Stor website <> [Accessed 27th February 2014].

Chung, J., Lai, H., Xia, M., 2006. Mounting Challenges to Governance in China: Surveying Collective Protesters, Religious Sects and Criminal Organisations. The China Journal, [e-journal], 56, pp. 1-31. Available through: J-Stor website <> [Accessed 27th February 2014].

Leung, B., 2005. China’s Religious Freedom Policy: The Art of Managing Religious Activity. The China Quarterly, [e-journal], 184, pp.894-913. Available through: J-Stor website <> [Accessed 27th February 2014].

Tong, J., 2010. The New Religious Policy in China: Catching Up With Systemic Reforms. Asian Survey, [e-journal], 50 (5), pp. 859-887. Available through: J-Stor website <> [Accessed 27th February 2014].