Changing China

Giant on the move

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Spam text-messaging hell


Psst, want a gun? Or an illegal satellite television connection? What about some porn?

It’s all on offer in China, judging by the spam text messages and solicitation calls to mobile telephones in the world’s biggest mobile phone market. Black and gray-market goods have proliferated via free-wheeling texting spam that has become a menace.

Some messages offer increasingly desperate sounding offers for real estate as economic growth pulls back sharply and demand dries up.

But a lot of it is actually quite funny.

More than a few are scams, hoping to snare the gullible in mobile phone-obsessed China.

from MacroScope:

Victory for emerging BRICs?

Emerging market ministers, particularly those from the BRIC economies -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- are painting this weekend's G20 meeting as a victory in dragging them out of the shadows of global policy-making.

The finance ministers' statement included the promise of more money for the International Monetary Fund and regional development banks, on whom struggling emerging economies rely for support.

NPC’s “splash of cold water”


The annual gathering of China’s National People’s Congress, the largely ceremonial parliament that concluded on Friday, was a nine-day stretch of often unremarkable meetings sandwiched between high-profile comments by top leaders at the open and close.But occasionally, unrehearsed dialogue among some of the thousands of delegates provided a glimpse at the rhetorical flare that sometimes enlivens debate.As Reuters correspondent Simon Rabinovitch reports, some off-the-cuff exchanges – like this one involving Vice-Premier Wang Qishan and delegates from Hunan province — got extra mileage once they started being passed around over the Internet after a report on the Economic Observer’s website.Read Simon’s story by clicking here, “Unscripted reply show China’s foreign M&A caution”

China hits home run


China’s upset 4-1 win over Taiwan in the first round of the World Baseball Classic earlier this month was a small but important step for a team that battles for recognition and funding.

Although trounced by Japan and South Korea in earlier matches, the politically tinged match renewed China’s bragging rights over the self-ruled island, which Beijing declares as its own territory and has vowed to bring back to mainland rule, by force if necessary.

Runaway success of China’s parliament


   By Emma Graham-Harrison

   Even US President Barack Obama on his post-election high could only dream of popularity like this. Delegates streaming out of the opening session of China’s Parliament on Thursday morning were pretty much unanimous in praising their leaders’ talent and inspiration.
    “The government has very good policies.”
    “The Premier’s policies were right on the mark.”
    “They laid out all the policies we will need.”
    This is just a sampling of the glowing reviews Premier Wen Jiabao got for his annual report to Parliament, which he reads out word-for-exact-printed word for more than two hours.
    Delegates are supposed to follow on their own copies, although many of them appear to
nod off — maybe into dreams of the “harmonious society,” which the Chinese Communist Party is trying to build.
    The only delegate who told Reuters he wasn’t entranced didn’t blame the premier either.
    “Actually my Chinese isn’t so good so I find it a bit boring,” said a Tibetan “living Buddha”, sipping tea outside the main hall in monks’ robes that photographers swarmed to snap.
    But many of the thousands of “people’s representatives” crammed into the cavernous Great Hall of the People shied away from media like sensitive locals on the streets of Tibet.
    “Just call me Mr Yang. Thank you, thank you,” said one trim, middle-aged delegate who wouldn’t say who he was representing either. I had to listen back to my tape to check whether I’d
missed some dangerously seditious thoughts. But he was just quoting back from the report.
    “The most important thing for overcoming the crisis is stimumlating domestic demand, increasing investment,” he mumbled.

    The next delegate I approached picked up his pace, and when I picked up mine to match, he broke into a shuffling semi-jog across the marble floor to escape my questioning.
    I left my runaway to look for a delegate willing to do anything other than gush about the speech’s succcess, but I finally went back to the office empty-handed.

To the highest bidder?


   By Ben Blanchard
   The fate of two bronze statues looted from China in the 1800s — and which were bought at a Paris auction this week by an anonymous buyer for $20 million each — has sparked intense public interest in China.

   Thanks to a tip, Reuters was the only foreign media to learn about a hastily called news conference on Monday in Beijing where the buyer promised to make a statement.

Development and discrimination in Tibet

-     By Emma Graham-Harrison
    Beijing has poured money into Tibet over decades of trying to bring the restive region to heel, raising average wages, restoring cultural treasures like the Potala Palace, even paying a monthly stipend to monks who hold  government permits.     Local officials are sensible about this munificence and grateful for the help in running one of China’s poorest regions.     “The support of the government is the reason for Tibet’s development. Without their backing….Tibet could not be its the current position,” Tsering, vice chairman of the regional government, told reporters on a recent officially sponsored trip. Tsering, like many Tibetans, uses only one name.     The sentiments of ordinary Tibetans are more complicated. Many of them resent the political baggage that comes with the funds and the influx of Han Chinese who have followed.     There is little question that life has improved materially for many over the last 50 years, particularly in rural areas where scholars say the harshness of farming life has also kept outsiders away, helping to preserve traditional culture.
    “Life is better now. Every day is like our old New Year,” said 55 year-old Gelek, a farmer who speaks only Tibetan and greeted a foreign visitor the old-fashioned way, by sticking out his tongue.
    He says he makes cash from vegetables grown for sale in Lhasa, has moved into a new house, and eats meat far more often than as a young man.
    But frustrated urbanites face discrimination and often see jobs that are created with cash from Beijing going to Han Chinese competitors.
    “They are very lovable as a people, but they are not really motivated about work,” said one senior Han Chinese intellectual working in Lhasa who works with several Tibetans but shares prejudices common among many outsiders.
    “They start (a project) and then they go off for a drink and sometimes you call, and call and they don’t even answer.”     Many monks and nuns, whose numbers and religious activities are constrained by the government, also resent a ban on expressing their devotion to the man they still revere as spiritual leader — the exiled Dalai Lama, who has been denounced by Beijing as a scheming separatist.     The Dalai Lama denies this accusation, saying he seeks only genuine autonomy within China, not a separate nation. Many Tibetans also appear more interested in religious and cultural freedoms than independence.      But on their right to those freedoms most Tibetans agree. Few have time for Beijing’s ubiquitous assertion that Tibet has always been a part of China, which even led to a dispute over the Chinese version of a Tintin comic book — published as “Tintin in China’s Tibet” instead of just a straight translation of the English title “Tintin in Tibet”.     “They treat us like a child and think they can deceive us. But we know Tibet was once an independent country,” said a monk called Jigme in Tongren, an ethnic Tibetan part of neighbouring Qinghai province.
Photo Credit: Sixty-eight-year-old Tibetan farmer Danzeng Basa adjusts his solar-powered kettle outside his recently built house in a small village outside Lhasa, Feb. 12, 2009. REUTERS/Emma Graham-Harrison

from Left field:

Ice cold in Heilongjiang


Last week I went up to Harbin to check out the Winter University Games, which the city is hoping will act as a springboard to a bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It was pretty chilly at the wonderfully kitsch Ice and Snow Festival, highlights of which you can see above, but up in the mountains the Alpine skiiers were taping up their faces to protect themselves from a wind chill factor of minus 30 degrees Celcius. 

from Environment Forum:

‘Borrowing’ water, Chinese style

"The south has plenty of water and the north lacks it, so if possible why not borrow some?" China's revolutionary communist leader Mao Zedong said in 1952.

That probably seemed a great idea at the time.

But it is causing pollution as well as discontent among farmers facing forced resettlement to make way for a mammoth construction to help the parched north -- the South-to-North Transfer Project. Much of the system, of dams, canals and tunnels, is due for completion in 2013-14.

Talking the same language


    By Ben Blanchard and Ralph Jennings
    What’s in a word? A great deal if you are Chinese or Taiwanese. Despite unprecedented detente in recent months, China and Taiwan sometimes seem as far apart as ever when it comes to language.
    Take, for example, the vexed question of the wording of a future political solution between the two sides.
    China claims Taiwan as its own, and views it as a rebel province to be reeled in, by force if necessary. Beijing says Taiwan has been China’s “since days of old”, and it is only because defeated Nationalist forces fled there at the end of a civil war in 1949, and managed to hold off the Communists, that the island is still run separately. 
    China says it wants “reunification”, to bring back together that which was once whole.
    But for many in Taiwan, that’s the wrong word. They would rather term it “unification”, saying that China, or at least the Communist Party, has never run Taiwan and has no legitimate claim over the island. Hence there is nothing to “reunite”.
    Trouble is, in Chinese the word “tongyi” can be translated as either “reunification” or “unification”. That makes writing about the issue in English tricky for reporters who seek to stay neutral.
    The politics of language go deeper, though. Taiwan, along with Hong Kong, Macau and many in the overseas Chinese world, use the traditional Chinese script, rather than the simplified version used in China and introduced by the Communists.
    Some in Taiwan call their traditional script “correct font,” implying that China uses the wrong words.
    The official spoken language, Mandarin Chinese, is largely the same on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but Taiwanese often eject a mouthful at foreigners who speak in mainland-inflected Mandarin.
    Likewise, mainland Chinese may laugh at foreigners who speak Taiwan-accented Mandarin when in China.
    Taiwanese also love throwing in English and Japanese words when speaking Mandarin, which does not happen much on the mainland.
     Taiwan is proud, too, of its non-Mandarin linguistic heritage. Taiwanese, also known as Hokkien, as made a big comeback since being supressed by the Nationalists and is now widely used in politics, on the television and in pop songs.
    Written Taiwanese, using Chinese characters, is all but impossible for someone who only speaks Mandarin to understand, though they can guess at the gist of it.
    Taiwanese is also spoken in China, in the southern part of Fujian province, the origin centuries ago for many ethnic Chinese people in Taiwan, and is generally called Hokkien. In China though, use of  okkien in public life gets little official backing.
    So while China and Taiwan may talk about moving closer together, they might not always be talking the same language.