Leaking State Secrets is Way Easier Than You Think

In the midst of the Chen Guangcheng story exploding, I came across this story ((Apologies, I don’t remember where I first saw it, probably via someone on Twitter)). It is not related to Chen Guangcheng, but it is so absurd that I thought it was worth sharing (and it’s been too long since we ran a translation anyway).

Translation: Fujian Man Sentenced for Filming Secret Military Plane

Mr. Huang, a disabled man from Yongtai, didn’t listen to the warnings of passers-by, and filmed and uploaded video of a military aircraft at the Jixu airport. Little did he know he was violating the law. Several days ago, the Yongtai Country Court found Huang guilty of intentionally leaking national secrets and sentenced him to one year and two months in prison, with a suspended sentence of 1.5 years.

In August of 2009, Huang was driving his cart to Cangshan district, to visit his son who was working in Huangshan. As he drove past Yixu airfield, he got curious, and used a digital camera to film an Yixu road sign, the airfield, and several military planes. As he was filming, a pedestrian warned him: “You can’t film that, they’ll arrest you,” but Huang didn’t care, and kept filming, in total filming for over one minute.

After he returned to Yongtai, he put the video onto his public [QQ, probably] space online, and titled the video: “On the way to Huangshan, Fuzhou, I passed Yixu airport military planes, and got very excited seeing them up close, because it was my first time seeing a plane, so I filmed them…” He also wrote: “I am not a spy!” Before it was deleted by the relevant organs, this video was viewed more than 15,000 times.

This video was appraised by the Air Force’s Fuzhou secrecy committee, and found three classified items and three secret items, constituting serious breaches of national and military security.

The Yongtai Court held that the accused Mr. Huang had violated regulations in the Protecting National Secrets Law, as he clearly knew that his video of Yixu airport related to classified military secrets, yet he still distributed it via the internet, which is serious enough to be considered intentional dissemination of state secrets. In light of his confession, his expression of regret, and his disability, the court handed down the aforementioned sentence.

Comments

Now, it goes without saying that Mr. Huang certainly had some opportunities to avoid his predicament here, but I still find it ridiculous. Warnings from a random pedestrian or no, was it so irrational for Huang to assume that secret military vehicles might be kept somewhere that isn’t visible to anyone passing by on the road? Might the authorities at least have posted a sign that said “No Photography” or something? Railroading some poor farmer who got excited at seeing army planes seems like a poor way to protect national security. I’m not a general ((Yes, my name is Custer, har har shut up.)) or anything, but if those planes were important military secrets, maybe they should be hidden? If a disabled man can stumble across them on his way to somewhere totally different, how secret could they really be?

The story reminds me of my own most recent brush with this kind of illogical mentality. Several weeks ago, I went to one of the Beijing offices that deals with petitioners to get a pickup shot for our film. It’s totally tangential, and I just needed a shot of the building, from the street, for a couple seconds — just enough to show that the place exists. Predictably, though, my footage was spiced up by a plainclothes officer who came running over and explained to me that I couldn’t take any pictures of the building because it was a national organ, and therefore a secret.

Of course I’m grateful that he was kind enough to turn that boring footage into something a bit more interesting, but the logic behind this baffles me. We’re talking about a gigantic building with a clear sign labeling what it is in the middle of one of the most populous cities on earth. It’s clearly labeled in online maps. It has its own official website. What damage could an exterior photograph of the building possibly do?

That’s not the point, of course. It’s all about control, not logic.

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In Chen Guangcheng Case, Following the Money

I have long wondered exactly what role money and corruption played in Chen Guangcheng and his family’s de-facto imprisonment in Dongshigu. In the video Chen released yesterday, he addresses this question directly.

A full English translation of this video can be found here, and I recommend you read all of it, but here is the relevant section:

I remember when they humiliated me last August in the Cultural Revolutionary style, they told me, you said in your video that 30 million yuan was spent on (your house arrest), that was the 2008 figure — now the amount is more than double that and that’s not even including bribery money for officials in Beijing. Some of the hired guards have complained that they make so little since most of the money has gone to others.

It’s been a great opportunity for all of them to make money. As I understand, the township gives team leaders money to hire guards and each guard is supposed to get 100 yuan per day. Those team leaders tell potential hires that they get only 90 of the 100 yuan. Since most farmers get 50 to 60 yuan working in the field, and the guard job is considered safe and comfortable with meals included, of course people are willing to take it. In just one team, with more than 20 guards, the team leader gets 200 yuan extra per day. How corrupt is that?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that corruption was involved, of course, but from what Chen describes it sounds as though part of the motivation for Chen and family’s detention could be economic. Or, to be more specific, part of the motivation for Chen’s continued detention could be economic. I imagine the initial decision to keep him under house arrest was motivated primarily by petty vindictiveness, but from Chen’s description, it seems his detention has created an economy of sorts in his small village and beyond.

This is Dongshigu, the village where Chen and his family live. As you can see (note the scale in the map) it is quite small, and surrounded by farmland. As Chen himself notes, his imprisonment has created hundreds of well-paying jobs for local villagers, not to mention plenty of opportunities to make money on the side (I’m sure all those guards get hungry). As Chen also explains, anyone above the bottom of the guard organization is probably making additional money on the side by skimming from the money that’s handed down to pay the guards.

In other words, there’s an economic impetus for many people in the village participate in and perpetuate the imprisonment of the Chen family. And in a small farming village, the difference between 50 RMB a day and 90 RMB a day can be enormous. It’s no surprise the Linyi authorities haven’t had any trouble finding guards or — as far as I’m aware — met much resistance from villagers in the surrounding area.

But the village economy is small potatoes (figuratively) compared to what it sounds like the Linyi officials have done at higher levels. Within the Linyi budget, it seems the folks tasked with “maintaining stability” have been able to draw huge amounts of money to fund the Chen family’s continued imprisonment, and it’s doubtful anyone there is interested in seeing that budget shrink again. So, in addition to the legal risks associated with releasing Chen Guangcheng, many officials may also be worried releasing Chen would result in massive cuts to the local stability maintenance budget. With the exception of Ron Swanson, who is fictional, government officials in any country tend to want to maintain or increase the funding for their departments, and the only way security officials in Linyi can do that is if they continue to hold Chen Guangcheng.

Moreover, from Chen’s description of what his captors have said, it certainly sounds like Linyi officials are paying bribes to higher officials in Beijing to turn a blind eye, and that puts them in a rather dangerous position. Anytime they decide to stop paying those bribes, they risk some disgruntled Beijing official actually doing something about Chen’s detention as revenge for having cut off the flow of cash into his pocket. And even if they were to release Chen’s family first and then stop sending the bribe money, there’s no guarantee Beijing officials wouldn’t be annoyed, and no reason why Linyi couldn’t still be held responsible.

Of course, there are even stronger political reasons for Linyi officials to detain Chen and his family, and for the central government to pretend they don’t know what’s happening (which I expect they will continue to do). But it seems that Chen’s detention has also become a way for some officials in Linyi and Beijing to line their pockets, and that could be just as difficult a hurdle to overcome as the politics.

All of this raises an interesting question: what happens now that Chen is free? In the short term, it certainly seems Linyi is doubling-down on its extralegal detention strategy, as members of Chen’s family seem to remain under close guard. But in the longer term, things are less clear. With Chen free, continuing to hold his innocent family may become a significant a political liability, and the advantages to restricting their freedom when Chen is already speaking freely about his imprisonment and treatment seem minimal. Chen’s escape will most certainly shift the political benefit/risk balance in holding his family, and that’s something Linyi officials are probably already wondering about.

That said, Chen’s escape doesn’t do much of anything to change the economic situation. A lot of people from farmers all the way up to high level local and national officials stand to lose significant sources of income if the Chen security detail is downsized or eliminated completely. How much of a factor will that play in Linyi officials’ decision making if Beijing doesn’t decide to step in and make the decision for them? It’s hard to say.

On a somewhat related note: I strongly encourage everyone to follow the stories of Chen’s family, especially Chen Kegui, and the activists who helped him escape, especially He Peirong, who has not been on Twitter or Gchat since yesterday morning and is apparently under arrest in Nanjing.

Chen Guangcheng Escapes, But Chilling Signs for His Family

For those of you who live in the wrong hemisphere or don’t have a Twitter account, here’s the big news: Chen Guangcheng has escaped. According to activists, he is now somewhere “100% safe” in Beijing, though it’s not clear where. There has been some speculation that he might be inside some embassy; so far, the US Embassy has declined to comment and as far as I’m aware no one else has been asked.

The news of Chen’s escape is fantastic, and it’s important to note here that since Chen was released from prison years ago, there’s nothing illegal about this “escape”. The fact is that Chen and his family were being held illegally, and talk of Chen’s “escape” implies he’s guilty of some crime or evading the law in a way that might be misleading. But Chen is free, reportedly, and that’s a good thing. It should have been true years ago.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Chen’s family, who are mostly incommunicado. Most concerning is the story of Chen Kegui, Guangcheng’s nephew. Yaxue Cao has written an excellent post and interviewed Chen for Seeing Red in China, so I highly recommend you read his full remarks there, but the short version of the story is this: Last night, thugs who did not identify themselves as police burst into Kegui’s home and began beating people. Kegui grabbed two kitchen knives to defend himself with, and probably after slashing some of them, scared the assailants away. Then, terrified, he called the police to turn himself in. While he was waiting for the police, he spoke with Yaxue Cao, and described his situation as clear-cut self defense. (If you speak Chinese, I highly recommend listening to the audio recording of this conversation).

Chillingly, the local government has since released this short news bulletin on the incident, via the Yi’nan County People’s Government Public Information Net:

On April 26, Dongshigu village resident Chen Kegui injured local government officials and staff workers with knives. At present, Chen Kegui has fled, the injured parties are being treated, and the local public security organs are on the hunt for Chen Kegui. The relevant parties will be dealt with according to the law.

That’s the entire report. Unsurprisingly, it mentions nothing of Chen Kegui’s motivations, or that the incident occurred within Chen’s home, which the cadres had entered violently and without warrants. Mentions of this report seem to be being deleted from Sina Weibo, but that likely doesn’t mean much. These will likely be deleted soon, but comments are pouring in on Sohu’s reposting of this story, and they seem overwhelmingly skeptical of the government’s official story, and very supportive of Chen Kegui:

Why would he stab them, why would a commoner want to go stab them, release the facts.

How can you not mention Chen Guangcheng? Please release the location and motive for this incident.

Why would he stab them? Please reveal the truth….

Too bad he didn’t stab them to death.

News items need to have some key elements. A news story like this, without head or tail [missing important details], is obviously covering something up, there’s no way for people to believe it. Does everyone believe in rumors? Because from the completeness of this story, it looks like most rumors are much more thorough than the official reports.

Sohu, please leave the comments up so that the officials in Shandong can see: the people [Chinese people] aren’t that easy to trick.

You’d better release the truth soon, or everyone will just hop the wall [circumvent the GFW] and find out even more truth, and that would be bad!

Is this [Chen Kegui] the hero of legend?

Good, stab these dogfucking rural cadres to death.

Well done citizen, I support you.

You [Chen Kegui] must stay safe. The common people won’t rat you out. These cadres are a band of tyrant thugs.

This is a true hero! The people support you!

Although this shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone, it’s clear from the report that the local government has already deemed that Chen’s actions were not in self-defense. It’s also probable that they’re lying about Chen Kegui having fled, as Chen himself says he called the police and was waiting for them while talking to Yaxue Cao. (And, indeed, fugitives intending to flee arrest don’t generally stop for half an hour to give phone interviews).

So, help from the local government is out of the question. Without intervention by some higher authority, Chen Kegui has no hope for justice. And Chen Guangcheng’s other family members may not be much better off, as they remain in Dongshigu village and reporters and activists haven’t been able to get in touch with them.

Will a higher authority intervene? Chen Guangcheng has already posted a video appeal to Premier Wen Jiabao on Youtube, and it has even been making the rounds on Chinese social media sites, although copies of the video are deleted swiftly when they’re discovered. But if the past ten years have taught us anything, it’s that Wen Jiabao talks a good game when it comes to political and legal reform, but he doesn’t do much of anything.

I will be following this situation as closely as possible in the coming days and weeks, and I strongly urge members of the foreign press as well as foreign diplomats to look into the case of Chen Kegui and find out what is happening to the other members of Chen Guangcheng’s family. The media spotlight will not necessarily help, but if the Linyi government is allowed to pursue its own interests in the Chen Kegui case without any sort of oversight, Chen is well and truly screwed.

(Side note: Now might be as good a time as any to remind readers that American film company Relativity Media has cooperated with Linyi officials, despite full knowledge of Chen Guangcheng’s situation, to film the buddy comedy 21 and Over in Linyi. Relativity Media should absolutely be held accountable for its cooperation with these people.)

In the Middle of a Forest, Furiously Attacking Random Trees

You’ve probably already heard about the horrible double-homicide that killed two Chinese USC students last week. It’s a bit of an old story now, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s worth examining the response to it. For the sake of brevity, here’s a very condensed version of what happened:

  • The AP initially reported that the two students were in a $60,000 BMW when they were shot.
  • The Chinese internet explodes with condemnations and assertions that they deserved to be murdered, that their parents were probably corrupt officials anyway, etc.
  • Some net users point out that the car they were in was used, and while it can cost as much as $60,000 new, this particular model was from 2003 and had been purchased used for about $10,000. The AP updates its story.
  • The AP reporter (Greg Risling) is criticized, some of his private correspondance is published online, etc.

Now, there are a bunch of distracting side issues here. Some people feel Risling shouldn’t have even mentioned the make of the car the victims were in in the first place. Then there’s the highly questionable ethics of some of Rislings critics, including a Columbia Journalism School student named Angela Bao who published private correspondance with Risling despite Risling’s express statement in his first email that she did not have permission to do so.

But in the larger picture, that should all be irrelevant. What Risling’s critics are actually upset about — and rightfully so — is that the family of these victims is being criticized and cursed unfairly. Some blame Risling’s article for implicitly suggesting victims were richer than they probably are, and thus inspiring this public backlash against their families. But that is entirely missing the point. Would it be acceptable to curse the families of the murder victims if they really had been wealthy? Obviously not. The AP certainly committed a regrettable error in initially publishing the $60,000 number ((although it later ran a follow-up, also by Risling, that corrects the error)), but the problem here is not with the AP, it’s with the Chinese people who believe rich people deserve to be murdered.

That people with money should be murdered is, of course, a completely indefensible position, but it’s not too difficult to understand. In fact, I don’t think anyone who has lived in China any time over the past few years is surprised at all by the fact that many people have this response. Money and corruption have become inexorably linked in the minds of many here, and luxury cars have become an especially potent symbol of oppression because they seem to keep running over poor people.

China’s wealthy are moving abroad in droves, and I have a feeling it’s not all about food safety and better education systems. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for China’s wealthy, many of whom really are involved in corruption, but when the court of public opinion is suggesting that owning a $60,000 car is enough to justify the murder of your children, well, why stay in that environment when you don’t have to?

But the problem isn’t the money or the nice cars, or even the fact that the nice cars seem to keep running over children. The problem is justice. The problem is that when a tragedy like the one I just linked occurs, the public has no faith whatsoever that justice will be served. And why should they when it often isn’t? If a case becomes high-profile enough (like the infamous “Li Gang” incident) the courts may be pressured into setting down some actual jail time, but everyone knows that if you have enough money or the right connections, almost anyone’s life is for sale. Or, to put it another way: if Bo Xilai’s wife felt sure she would get away with murdering a wealthy citizen of the United Kingdom (allegedly) ((Frankly, she probably could have gotten away with it if her husband wasn’t such a thorn in the side of Zhongnanhai)), what chance does the poor victim of a hit-and-run traffic accident have for justice?

The thirst for justice is evident as misdirected anger in the initial public response to the USC shootings, and it’s also evident in the reaction to this recent case in which a Chinese student in the US raped a landlord, and following his arrest, his parents attempted to bribe the victim to get her to reverse her testimony. The parents were, of course, arrested, and if you read through the comments, you will see that the online response to this news is almost unbridled joy and schadenfreude. There is a huge appetite for “corrupt people get their just desserts” stories because there are so few of them here.

In the wake of the USC case, if you’re criticizing the AP or the victim’s families, you’re missing the forest for the trees. The real problem in America is that there was a homicide, and it needs to be solved so the killer can be taken off the streets for good. The real problem in China is that the widening income gap goes down extra hard when it’s taken with the knowledge that the wealthy have more rights than you do. In fact, with enough money, they probably have the right to kill you.

That’s a problem that has to be solved if China is to avoid outbursts of class warfare, and I’m not talking about Fox News’s red herrings, I’m talking about actual violence. In the past few years there have already been a few hit-and-run cases that resulted in mass incidents a sort. Recall, for example, the 2010 incident in which a man stuck a pedestrian and then got out of the car and beat him, shouting, “I’ve got money, I’d rather just beat you to death and pay the compensation!” Soon enough, he found himself locked in his car, surrounded by a mob of angry people.

In that particular case, he got lucky — he was rescued by police, and he hadn’t actually beaten his victim to death. But you’ve got to wonder, what might have happened if the victim had died on the scene before police arrived? What if the victim had been a child? If this were to happen tomorrow and the police were a little slower to arrive?

If people aren’t confident that justice will be served by the system, it’s only a matter of time until someone decides to take it into their own hands on the street.

On Wang Wen’s HuffPo Essay

Oh boy. Take a look at this essay by Wang Wen that appears in Eric X. Li’s column in the Global Times Huffington Post.

Before we begin, it’s worth noting that the HuffPo piece fails to mention that Wang Wen is an editor for the Global Times. It does specify that he’s an editor for a major paper, but conspicuously fails to mention that the paper in question is the State-owned Global Times. That seems questionable — doesn’t someone working for the government have a vested interest in its perpetuation, and isn’t that a conflict of interest worth noting? — but let’s move on.

The piece begins with a rundown of the recent coup rumors and a regurgitation of the Party line: China is not the Middle East, there will be no Chinese Arab Spring, the Chinese people want stability, etc. Nothing you haven’t read before a hundred times. But then there’s this:

In my discussions with those in Beijing’s elite circles I find a wide range of opinions. Some are resentful of Bo’s removal and even feel betrayed. Some are euphoric as they see the central government has finally made the right decision. Regardless of the seeming intensity of their views, no one wants to take to the streets. On the contrary, they seem all worried that such a controversial event might drive others onto the streets. In China, without the instigation of the elites, it is impossible for ordinary people to have the channel and willingness for meaningful political protests. As for the Chinese elites, the memory of the Tiananmen Square incident 22 years ago is still fresh in their minds. Radicalism, in the name of any political ideal, has no appeal in reality.

You may want to stop and read this sentence again: “In China, without the instigation of the elites, it is impossible for ordinary people to have the channel and willingness for meaningful political protests.” Absurd classism aside, apparently Wang didn’t get the memo about the protests in Wukan, which were sustained and quite successful despite the lack of patronage from any of Beijing’s elites, or any elites at all. Yet I feel certain they would consider their protests — and the outcome — quite meaningful.

I think Wang is right that intellectuals ((It’s worth noting that the Global Times and other Party-line folks frequently disparage China’s intellectual elite as being out-of-touch with the common people precisely because they DO express interest in fairly radical political change, but Wang seems to have flipped that on its head here because it fits his argument better.)), at least, might be necessary at some point for another Tiananmen-like massive-scale protest to occur. And he’s right that ideals alone aren’t going to get people on the streets. That said, what has that got to do with anything? It wasn’t ideals that sparked the protests in ’89 either, it was the death of Hu Yaobang. By all accounts, the actual protests started rather organically among students ((students attending elite universities, yes, but that doesn’t make them elites)), not as the result of some call to arms from elites. In fact, the strongest early call-to-arms came from the Party itself in the form of the April 26 People’s Daily editorial, which paradoxically attracted more people (including elites) to the cause. The idea that large-scale protests must be organized and channeled by China’s elites is absurd.

Moreover, I’m not sure what the fact that China isn’t about to see large-scale political protests is meant to prove. It’s as much a reflection of the effectiveness of China’s authoritarian controls as it is a reflection of the national mood.

However divisive people’s opinions are, there is one thing they have in common: they all put their hope in the Party to solve problems facing Chinese society. China’s one-party governance structure has matured to a state in which groups with intensely opposing views and interests fight to influence the Party, not to subvert its rule. What they all want is reform that would favor their positions, not revolution that could overturn the entire system. Many aggressively vent their dissatisfaction and satirize the government. There are even many incidents of mass clashes. Yet even the most dissatisfied take their grievances to the authority of the central leadership for redress. It is a reality that can be counterintuitive to the eyes of an outside observer.

What a shock — the people in power don’t want to destroy the system! If Li bothered to talk to any of the non-elite regular people, he might have discovered a different story. In most cases, he certainly wouldn’t have found that the common people are on the verge of overthrowing the government — that’s not what I’m suggesting. But for everyone I’ve talked to who puts all their hope in the Party to solve China’s problems, there’s someone who has completely lost hope in the Party to do anything other than bulldoze houses and drink baijiu. And, of course, most people lie somewhere in between those two extremes. The idea that all Chinese people put all their hope in the Party to solve China’s problems is an absurd fantasy.

Wang is right that the Party is not facing an imminent physical threat of overthrow — there is no mass movement or revolt coming. What it is facing is increasing cynicism, dissatisfaction, and despair. Wang writes, “…yet even the most dissatisfied take their grievances to the authority of the central leadership for redress,” but he wisely leaves it at that. This is probably because he knows discussing the results of that process wouldn’t help his argument much. Yes, almost anyone in China with a serious grievance will attempt to bring it to the central leadership for redress, and when they do, they tend to be met with utter indifference, if not violent repression (see: black jails, etc.).

Based on the parents we’ve spoken to for our film, as well as other former petitioners I’ve spoken with for other projects, the process of petitioning is precisely how faith in the central leadership gets killed. People go into the process thinking theirs is a local injustice the central government is unaware of and doesn’t allow. Generally speaking, they come away with the knowledge that what happened to them is happening in many other places, and that the central government is not at all interested in hearing what they have to say.

Moving on, Wang’s essay seems to alternate between what I’d consider to be a few pretty reasonable points and bizarre lapses into near self-parody.

China in the early 21st century is not dissimilar to the U.S. during its Progressive era of the early 20th century. We see a society frequently plagued by chaos and bad news, which has the effect of making people feel hopeless. Yet reality prevails just like it did in America then. Just like the young and growing America weathered its ills 100 years ago and developed, China will, too, enter a new period of long-term prosperity and stability.

Yes, because if there’s anything the Progressive Era in the US is famous for, it’s being followed by long-term prosperity and stability (You know, except for the Great Depression and those two World Wars).

As a matter of fact, those who are familiar with Chinese history might have noticed that political struggles, even at the highest-level, have become increasingly less a matter of “life and death.” Compared with what befell losers in previous political struggles, such as Lin Biao, whose forced defection resulted in a plane crash that killed him and his family 41 years ago, today’s political infighting is much more moderate. Chinese people, as all peoples, like honest and upright officials. They hope that good political leaders end well, and even the not so good ones do not get destroyed completely. I’d like to wish the same for contemporary China that has created the miracle of leading 1.3 billion people out of poverty in one generation.

Well, I’m sure Bo Xilai is grateful that he hasn’t been taken for any plane rides (yet). But the piece ends with a ridiculous straw-man implication — that anyone who doesn’t agree with Wang wants to see China destroyed completely — and a dramatic overstatement. China’s economic policy deserves plenty of credit for lifting most of the population from poverty, of course, but it has taken a little more than a generation, and there are still more than 100 million Chinese living in poverty. I doubt Wang ran into any of them on his survey of Beijing elites, but they do exist, and it is troubling that people like this seem so willing to pretend that 100,000,000+ people don’t exist whenever their existence would be inconvenient for the argument.

It’s especially galling because it’s not like anyone could fault China for only raising 1.2 billion people from poverty in the last 30+ years. That’s still pretty good! I’m not sure why it’s necessary to exaggerate or to suggest that anyone who disagrees with you wants to see China “destroyed completely.” This sort of thing is par for the course in the Global Times, but it is sad to see it creeping into the outside world, especially when it’s not disclosed that the author works in an upper-level position at a state-owned company and almost certainly has personal ties to the Party he is so adamantly defending.

‘Greening’ Beijing

I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I got excited about something going on in Beijing. But I think this is a good idea, full stop. I wish I got to say that more often. Here’s the skinny:

The Beijing municipal government has already announced plans to improve the quality of the city’s air by covering 100,000 sq m of roofs with greenery by the end of this year. “Plants and water have been proven to be one of the most effective measures to degrade and dilute PM2.5,” says Tan Tianying, president of Beijing Green Roof Association.

Plus, as you can see from the image I stole from the China Daily, it also looks good. And if the government is serious about it, it certainly has the resources to implement it on a scale and with a speed that could make green roofs a new trademark of Beijing. It could clear up the air and make many sections of our fair city look a bit less oppressively Soviet. It’s win-win. In fact, about the only thing I dislike about this plan is that green is not a verb.

But, alas, there are some issues with this plan that are not grammatical:

Alas, he’s not wrong. Seemingly by most accounts, China (and the rest of the world) are heading towards serious water shortages and Beijing is such a dry city that an awful lot of water would have to be pumped up to the roofs to maintain gardens for any period of time.

Still, there’s got to be a way to do this. Personally, I’d be willing to cut down on my water consumption by doing things like washing clothes less if the tradeoff was a cooler Beijing with cleaner air and more trees to look at. So here’s hoping this goes well and the government can find some way to expand it without destroying Hebei or making the consumption of water illegal.

My apologies for the lack of updates of late. I’ve been quite busy with work and the film, and most of what’s been going on in Chinese politics has been covered so well and so quickly elsewhere that I haven’t much to add, anyway. Most of my Chinese internet-type reporting is now going to Tech in Asia. That said, I will try to keep this site updated more frequently!