Category Archives: Guest Posts

A Guest Post from Asia Catalyst on HIV and AIDS

The following is a guest post by Meg Davis, an anthropologist and the founder of Asia Catalyst.

China’s annual “two sessions” wrapped up this week, and Chinese lawmakers finally considered proposals to establish a national compensation fund for thousands of victims of the world’s largest HIV blood disaster.

Back in 2002, Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote in the New York Times that in Henan, “poverty begat AIDS, but AIDS has begotten previously unimaginable poverty.” For thousands who received tainted blood transfusions while local authorities covered up the epidemic, the compensation fund would be a life-changer.

While government officials maintain only 65,100 people contracted HIV through blood sales and transfusions, AIDS activists have long argued the true number is much higher. A new bilingual report by Asia Catalyst and Korekata AIDS Law Center finds that few of the thousands affected have been able to get compensation.

UNSAFE BLOOD COLLECTION

In the 1990s, state-sponsored, for-profit blood-collection centers used unsafe practices to spread HIV to thousands of people in Henan and other central provinces. Health officials who believed that foreign blood was tainted but that rural Chinese blood was “pure” promoted blood-sales as “glorious” for cash-strapped farmers. “Now [they say] I’m a criminal [because I sold my blood],” said Niu, a man in Henan.*

Back then, selling blood was a big pyramid scheme. Everyone went, you took me or I took you, friends took friends. …[Y]ou had 50 kuai in your pocket and you could get your kid something to eat. …We didn’t know we were going to get sick. If we knew that, who would have done it?

Many of those affected by the epidemic have demanded compensation and an apology for their suffering from hospitals, local authorities, and the courts. However, probably because they fear a deluge of lawsuits from tens of thousands of victims, most courts refuse to try these cases. When local authorities feel directly threatened by demands for compensation, political pressure on lawyers and courts leads to cases delayed, postponed or shut down.

A group of farmers in one province described how they were unable to find a lawyer even willing to represent them locally, and had to bring one in from another province. But that lawyer was run out of town by threats:

The government went through our provincial bar association to telephone our lawyer’s firm in the province where he lived, and told the firm to revoke his license. The blood center expert who came with our lawyer pleaded with him to go home that night.

Telling the luckless plaintiffs “Only you can solve your problems,” the lawyer fled town in the midst of a rainstorm, escorted by a protective group of the people he had failed to help.

Denied their right to sue, blood disaster victims try petitioning. Some have gotten small payouts, but many, including a group turned away from the Ministry of Health on World AIDS Day in 2011, have gotten threats, intimidation, and detention in “black jails.”

UNEVEN PAYOUTS

The report also examines cases where victims have gotten compensation, and finds that amounts have varied. In places like Heilongjiang where the number of people affected is relatively low, compensation has been high, ranging up to 400,000 CNY [~$63,492]. But in Henan and other areas where the disaster hit hardest, payments have been as low as 40,000 CNY [$6,394]. When the money is spent, often victims go back to petitioning and protesting again.

The uneven payouts have created more resentment. Fan, a blood disaster victim in Hubei, said,

Let me tell you, if you look around online, you’ll see that people who got hepatitis B, here in Hubei, they got paid 200,000 CNY [about US$31,750]. We got both hepatitis C AND AIDS, but we only got a couple ten thousand. So I asked the government, I said, if you kill one person you get the death sentence, but if you kill two people you’re not guilty? The more people you kill, the lighter the penalty. What kind of logic is that?

LEARNING FROM THE WORLD’S MISTAKES

Almost every country in the world has faced an HIV blood disaster early in the epidemic. AIDS denialism, the stigma surrounding the epidemic, and ignorance of how the virus was transmitted all contributed to the transmission of HIV through blood supplies. In many countries, the blood disasters affected a few dozen or a few hundred people. In Japan, France and Germany, victims numbered in the thousands. China’s blood disaster affected more individuals than in all other countries combined.

Some countries, such as Japan and France, reacted within a few years with investigations, compensation for the victims, and criminal penalties for officials responsible for the disaster. Others reacted more slowly and less decisively. But no country has taken as long to respond as China, where the blood disaster dragged on for years, while local officials fumbled in a failed effort to cover up the scope of the disaster.

The report calls for an independent investigation in order to obtain a reliable estimate of the number of people infected through the blood disaster. It makes detailed recommendations for a national compensation fund, and calls for a government apology.

For millions of Chinese citizens who still think of HIV/AIDS as a moral disease that stigmatizes those burdened with it, a national compensation fund and a public apology may also go a long way towards creating greater understanding about the epidemic, how it is transmitted and that it can be prevented. With a compensation policy, China has an opportunity to do tangible good on a longstanding social problem.

*All names were changed to protect interviewees against repercussions.

Guest Post: Yiyi Lu and the Flowers of Hypocrisy

The following is a guest post by Mark Connor.

Frequent readers of this website will already know of the bullhorn Chinese nationalism barked by many in the Chinese media. Recent tweeter Hu Xijin of the Global Times is one; so is Eric Li. But though these roaring ideologues are not much different to North Korean leaders in full battle cry, their writings are not exactly the most relaxing way by which to sample Chinese patriotic opinion on political matters.

So if you would like to enjoy your flask of tea while browsing a more restrained and nuanced practitioner of Chinese nationalism, consider the articles of Yiyi Lu, a sometime contributor to WSJ’s China Real Time Report. On occasion she will voice concerns about this or that policy in China, or the tone of Chinese diplomatic language, but in general she hews closely to what we might think of as the CCCP’s ‘core’ values: Tibet, Taiwan, strong government, and so on. One such ‘value’ is that Japan is a remorseless enemy who committed outrageous atrocities in WW2 but about which neither the Japanese populace nor the world at large has as much knowledge as many Chinese think we should.

recent article of hers – concerning western media’s unfairly (to her mind) harsh appraisal of Flowers of War, the gory Chinese war epic focusing on the Rape of Nanking – is a case in point. About the harsh appraisal, she isn’t wrong. The WSJ’s own China Real Time Report memorably claimed the Japanese in that movie were all shown as “monochrome monsters” (see Lu’s article). But to Lu’s thinking, this brought to light a double standard in the western media, and this was that (in her words),

[n]umerous Holocaust movies have been made that portray Nazis as evil incarnate, but one does not see western media describing them as anti-German propaganda that “lacks subtlety.”

Lu of course does have half a point. Japan did commit war crimes for which it has not apologized or made reparations with nearly the art or humility that Germany has. The right cultural pressure could – hopefully – lead to better acknowledgement of these, and might even bring about compensation payments.

Whitewashing history in Japan’s school textbooks

But before we look at her analogy and consider its suitability, let us look first at another of Lu’s examples of western media bias in her article, this time regarding Japan’s school textbooks. As you probably already know, several of these textbooks omit or soft-pedal many of Japan’s atrocities in WW2, the Nanjing Massacre being the most famous. Lu however has noticed that whenever western media write about China’s criticisms of these books, somewhere in the article there is frequently a mention of China’s own omissions and soft-pedalings of wrongdoings committed against its own people. She thinks this is like saying,

when discussing Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews…: “Yes, the Jewish people suffered a great deal during World War II, but Israel has also occupied Palestinian territories and killed innocent Palestinian civilians.”

But this analogy of hers plainly does not work. The reason is that there are two victims – Jews and Palestinians – while in the textbook debate there is only one. The Japanese insulted their Chinese victims by erasing the record; the Chinese government did the exact same thing, and the victims were once again the Chinese.

Lu therefore needs a better analogy – here are two. First, imagine if Saddam Hussein had criticized Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds? As Hussein himself had famously gassed them, the media would have been right to mention this detail in any article on Hussein’s denouncing of Turkey’s actions. Or again, what about when the USSR put in its textbooks harsh words on the earlier Tsarist regime’s mistreatment of the masses, when in fact many punishments in the Soviet Union were much more strict and cruel than those of the predecessor’s? Pointing out clear hypocrisy of this kind is a surely a basic function of the media.

So coming back to China, the real issue does not seem to be who lies about what bad things were done to the Chinese in their textbooks. No, the picture that presents itself is of China needing Japan as an enemy and being prepared to lie to do so. There is little else we can conclude.

Why do countries have or need enemies? Of course the enemies do bad things – this is not in question. But so often are these evil acts of the enemy chanted as mantras of hate by the victims that they come to seem more as deflections of this anger away from one’s own problems, and then on to an outsider, in this case Japan. (Keep in mind that all countries do this, but some are much worse than others.) And from this we could then ask, might not films demonizing a foreign country be performing much the same function?

Flowers of War and the Nazis

At one point in her article, Lu also claims that Flowers of War’s private financing is relevant as this shows it is not the voice of the government, even though just about any other kind of movie on the Nanjing Massacre could not have been made in China’s heavily censored movie industry. This is almost like saying that the man in the straightjacket just so happens to be most comfortable crossing his arms over his body like that.

Her main point, however, as quoted above, is that western critics have given Hollywood’s portrayal of Nazis an easy ride while having shown zero tolerance to how Flowers of Warrepresents the Japanese. It is a little strange that she does not name any of these Nazi-vilifying films, so I have come up with a list myself. Tens, maybe hundreds, have been left out, but most people will probably agree the below are several of the more well-known. (There are others here, too).

Casablanca: Nazis don’t commit atrocities and behave much like a strict, enemy, occupying army. It was also made during WW2, not sixty years later.

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Nazis are clear monsters. But note that they get their faces melted off by God at the end, making the effect more kitsch than cruel. Accuracy and realism are not hanging out with the plot in this blockbuster. Also, the bad guys are generally Nazis, not Germans. They have a logo to indicate them which the Germans, though sometimes evil, do not.

Schindler’s List: Nazis are bad but some Germans are good.

Saving Private Ryan: Nazis are no more than enemy soldiers. Inhuman acts are committed by both sides.

The PianistOne of the heroes is a Nazi.

Of the five, Indiana Jones’ Nazis are the only true “monochrome monsters” – the Japanese in Flowers of War are comparable to these Nazis alone. And notice that of the other four movies –Oscar winners all – three have nuanced portrayals of Germans, and, sometimes, Nazis too.

But somehow it is not the lack of recent movies with monster Nazis that seems most to trouble Lu’s point. What no doubt really bothered western critics about Flowers was its pretence to high art. It was submitted as China’s hopeful Oscar nomination, after all. Critics duly applied higher standards.

Japan probably needs to have more pressure applied to it so that it faces up to and admits its part in WW2 atrocities. Unfortunately China is too flawed and unsubtle a cultural voice to effectively do this. No wonder the latest effort drew so much skepticism and even scorn in the west.

 

Guest Post: A Violent Side

From the Beijing News about a patient who attacked his doctor.

The following is a guest post by Elliot Ward.

A spate of recent stories points to part of China’s modern conundrum where seething frustration sometimes erupts in unsettling violence.

One story (Chinese) going around Beijing recently is of a patient who viciously attacked his doctor with a knife, leaving her in serious condition, but alive. The attack was apparently revenge for her failure to cure his throat cancer. To make things more complicated, the attacker had initiated a malpractice lawsuit against the hospital in 2007 and was frustrated that he hadn’t received a ruling and his case was slated for indefinite recess.

It seems like remarkably misdirected anger for someone to attack their doctor, but it’s not an unknown phenomenon here. A quick search revealed several other recent stories (all Chinese) of patients violently attacking their doctors when they didn’t get better. In one case, a man who had received treatment for an STD killed his doctor and then jumped out a window to his death when the treatment didn’t work.

The other story that caught my eye this week is of a fight on a train, where after a seating dispute a passenger was beaten to death by railway staff. That even railway employees are unable to restrain themselves from violence is startling. People getting angry is not surprising, but the extent of the violence over such a seemingly small matter is.

It’s tempting to think of these as isolated, sensationalized incidents, but there is a steady stream of dramatic violence in the news here. Last year there was the series of unstable middle-aged men attacking pre-school children. Then there’s the story last week about the man who kept six women in his basement as sex slaves, ultimately killing two of them.

Some of the violence is so absurd it’s hard to understand, but a lot of the incidents have common themes, like attacks on doctors. For example, one of the regular themes is the self-righteous violence of the privileged, often involving traffic disputes. The most famous recent incident is probably that of Li Gang’s son, who stabbed a woman to death after hitting her with his car [struck two college students with his car and then attempted to flee the scene -ed.] last year. When confronted by passersby the guy apparently said, “My father is Li Gang,” invoking his powerful father to avoid punishment. Two incidents this month even prompted David Bandurski at China Media Project to write an article on the subject.

Then there’s the theme of stress induced suicides. This week’s entry is the story of 3 elementary school girls who attempted suicide apparently as an escape from too much homework. The famous entries in this category are the Foxconn suicides last year and a few self-immolations to protest forced land acquisition.

Another theme is police violence, most famously the illegal detentions and beatings that prompted a high level investigation and the closure of pretrial detention centers around the country a few years back. More common however are reports of special city security teams, or Cheng guan, beating up street vendors.

Perhaps the best blanket interpretation is to chalk it all up to the stresses of a fast changing society. High pressure, competition, a sense of entitlement, frustration—people can only take so much before they crack. Of course, China is far from the only country with incidents of shocking violence (see any of a number of shootings in the US for example), but it’s fair to say: China has a violent side.

Elliot Ward blogs regularly at chinaexperiment.wordpress.com.

Guest Post: What the Chinese Film Industry can do to Compete Abroad

The following is a guest post by Robert Powers.

Hollywood vs. ‘Huai-llywood’

Thursday, September 2 was the day the Chinese mainland saw the release of Inception, British director Christopher Nolan’s dream-minded and quasi-sci-fi thriller about corporate espionage. Released in the US on July 16 and in Hong Kong on July 29, the 147-minute film with a reported production budget of $160 million has made nearly $620 million worldwide as of August 24. Earlier in the week it was even reported that Leonardo Dicaprio stands to make at least $50 million from starring in the film.

If Inception manages to remain atop the Chinese box office for three weeks, as was the case when was released in the US, it will be going head-to-head with Zhang Yimou’s latest, The Love of the Hawthorn Tree, a city-girl meets country-boy love story that will hit theaters Thursday, September 16.

Distribution of the film in China will be shared equally between China Film Group (CFG), the country’s most influential and de facto state-run filmmaking and film distribution enterprise, and the Huaxia Film (HF) Distribution Company, a private enterprise founded in 2004. A Huaxia spokeswoman told the [Chinese media] that Chinese film distribution markets are “divided geographically into different regions,” but refused to say in which regions HF would distribute the film.

“The Hollywood film industry is pretty strong,” said Jiang Defu, general manager of the CFG’s marketing corporation. “Their style of storytelling is attractive and interesting to most people. Hollywood can crush many other countries’ film industries.”

Jiang spoke at length with the [Chinese media] about what he sees as the coming rise of an internationally prominent Chinese film industry – or what he called “Huai-llywood,” referring to CFG’s purported state-of-the-art studios located in Beijing’s Huairou district. But regarding a movie as a means of telling a story, Jiang was adamant about persevering local traditions. “Chinese directors and playwrights are not concerned with a foreign way of storytelling,” he said. “We keep telling our stories to our audiences.”

“We can learn from [foreigner audiences] and appreciate them, but the cultural essence will remain the same,” Jiang said. “We can’t wipe out Chinese culture and let foreign culture rule our filmmaking. CFG has a responsibility to protect our culture. We are shooting Chinese movies not Hollywood ones.”

Professor Yin Hong, director of Tsinghua University’s film and television research center, told the [Chinese media] “American movies possess 70 to 80 percent of the market share of movies seen around the world.” For Chinese films to attain this level of prominence, Professor Yin said it would be necessary for Chinese films to show “unique cultural aspects” and elaborated by saying it would “mainly depend on social, political and economic situations. I still dare say that – ten years from now – Chinese films will be the mainstream around the world.”

Professor Lu Di, a film and television expert at Beijing University’s school of journalism and communication, also told the [Chinese media] that Chinese films would require a more positive bent to reach a wider audience abroad. “The point is about the responsibility of a culture product,” said Professor Lu. “Movies should always be positive and promoting the bright sides of Chinese to the world.”

“Zhang Yimou’s movies like Curse of the Golden Flower belittle Chinese people and give audiences a false image,” Professor Lu added. “I hope [Zhang’s] movies can be totally abandoned. Many of my friends living abroad hold the same negative opinions towards his movies: too dark.”

Jiang also bemoaned Chinese movies that showed an unflattering portrait of life in the Middle Kingdom. “Films should belong to art but many people make them political, like how they used to give prizes to Chinese movies that had this old style and showed a poor China,” he said. “Many foreigners who don’t know much about China thought that was what China was actually like, but when they came, they were surprised and said, ‘How come your country is like ours? Your city is even better than ours. You are supposed to wear cotton-padded jackets!’”

Professor Lu pointed to films by director Fen Xiaogang (A World Without Thieves and If You are the One) as examples of movies that should be promoted abroad. Speaking on the significance of Christopher Nolan, Professor Lu noted that stories where “good guys always defeat evil powers are a positive example for the film industry.”

Chris Berry, a professor of film and television studies at the Goldsmiths-University of London and a noted Chinese film and TV expert, told the [Chinese media] that raising production quality, relaxing censorship and introducing a ratings system would help wonders to help the Chinese film industry compete globally.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), the governmental regulatory body that oversees China’s radio, film and television industries, announced Thursday, August 19 that it would not yet be “appropriate” to introduce a ratings system on the Chinese mainland.

Professor Berry also said that the establishment of a global distribution network for Chinese films would help to improve the industry’s standing. “Critics sometimes claim that people go to Hollywood films because they love them,” he said, “but they also watch Hollywood films because there’s nothing else on at the movie theaters where they live.”

“Maybe it’s going to take something extraordinary that to break Hollywood’s [distribution] stranglehold on a global scale,” he added, “but at least the Chinese government has had the good sense to stop Hollywood companies from being able to take over distribution from inside China itself.”

Jiang was quick to note that China only had one cinema for every 20,000 people whereas the US had one for every 8,000. “In some remote areas there aren’t any cinemas,” he said. “It could be a huge loss economically if we have all these blockbusters and not enough cinemas.”

When asked about the role of the censor in filmmaking, Jiang replied: “All works under cooperation with Chinese companies need to pass the censors. Things that are too bloody and violent need to be eliminated. A pure land should be kept.” He also noted that he considered a film ratings system as its own kind of censorship.

“There are no mysteries regarding censorship or the import process,” Jiang said. “Many journalists ask me these questions. Every country has its own censorship. We have different interpretations about censorship and we don’t dare to interpret it for you because maybe ours could be wrong.”

While a marketing executive for Warner Bros. Asia told the [Chinese media] that Inception had been accepted for general release on the Chinese mainland without any edits for content, a representative at SARFT would not comment on whether or not Inception had been edited for content.

“SARFT is a governmental department, not a company or corporation,” said the representative who would not give a name. “We are just in charge of censorship of films,” adding that “foreign and local films have the same standards” when it comes to editing films for content. SARFT did not respond to a faxed request for an interview regarding the nature of why Inception may or may not have been approved for general release in the Chinese mainland without edits.

Professor Berry noted the problem of getting “government intervention right” when it comes to filmmaking. “Government censorship is one of the main factors driving the demand for pirate DVDs and downloads,” he said, “but without government protection … Hollywood would have taken over.”

Professor Berry also spoke about the difficulty of Chinese film companies finding niches other than martial arts films that would appeal at home and abroad. “The [Chinese film] industry desperately needs to find other genres that global audiences might accept,” he said. “And I don’t think sentimental nationalistic films like Aftershock or Lu Chuan’s Nanjing! Nanjing! are going to work, because audiences outside China are not emotionally invested in those events.”

“I do think that eventually, despite SARFT’s recent insistence that it is not going to adopt a classification system, that the censorship system will change,” Professor Berry added. “How it will change is harder to predict…Twenty years ago who would have thought that China would be the world’s second largest economy today?”

Dai Tian, Ying Kun and Lin Kan Hsuang contributed to this report.

The Intertwining of Sino-American Competition and Cooperation

The following is a guest post by Kaiser Kuo! Enjoy! – Ed.

Here’s a translation of a brief essay on U.S-China relations by Chen Xiangyang (陈向阳), an associate researcher at the World Politics Institute at the China Academy of Contemporary International Relations. The original appeared in Xinhua’s 瞭望新闻周刊 (Liaowang Xinwen Zhoukan, Outlook Weekly). I found this to be a fairly representative perspective from the Chinese foreign policy community, and thought ChinaGeeks readers would enjoy it. Hat-tip to Bill Bishop for linking to the piece on Twitter a couple of days ago. The author’s liberal use of quotes around certain phrases is reproduced in the translation; I’ve added none of my own. Any errors in translation are, of course, mine; corrections and comments welcome!

Translation

In looking at Sino-American relations one should be holistic, dialectical and calm; only through continuous advancement of strategic mutual trust, mutually beneficial cooperation, and appropriate response to and effective management of all manner of crises can we spread the benefits of Sino-American relations to the people of the two countries and to the world.

by Chen Xiangyang

Entering the year 2010, Sino-American relations stand at a “new historical starting point.” This has highlighted the new shift in the relative power of the two countries against the backdrop of the financial crisis, and reflected the “new epoch” that has become increasingly evident in global challenges, and the growth in mutual competitive and interdependent interaction of the great powers.

In looking at Sino-American relations one should be holistic, dialectical, and calm. There remain a number of real problems and long-term challenges between China and the U.S.. Promoting “sustainable development” in Sino-American relations requires continuous advancement of strategic mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation, as well as appropriate response to, and effective management of, all manner of crises.

In looking at the new epoch in Sino-American relations, one mus be wary of “three misunderstandings.”

Misunderstanding 1: Overestimation of the global importance and impact of Sino-American relations, particularly exemplified by the notions of so-called “Chimerica” or “the G2.” In the present multipolar international order, besides America the “sole superpower” and China among the “stronger” states, there is also the European Union, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil and others among the “heavyweight contenders.” Sino-American cooperation alone is not enough; the participation and cooperation of the other “power centers” is required. The G2 theory only sees areas of Sino-American common interest and cooperation, and ignores the profound differences between the countries, “structural contradictions,” “differences in political systems,” and radically divergent external strategic orientations. Sino-American strategic mutual trust remains fragile, and cooperation remains limited. The U.S. is still pursuing global and regional “hegemony” and a “leading position,” while what China is pursuing is multi-polarity and maintenance of independence. The American approach to China’s rise remains a “two-handed” one: On the one hand, the U.S. sings its praises, using “great power responsibility” to harness, “regulate,” and “lead” China, while on the other hand, it guards against China and seeks to keep China down, fearing being overtaken by China.

Misunderstanding 2: Overestimation of the pattern of increase in the influence of China in the bilateral relationship. For a relatively long time, America will still have very long lead in terms of overall strength. The capacity for social adjustment and “self-repair” must not be underestimated. The possibility of the Obama Administration getting clear of its diplomatic difficulties through “clever leveraging of strength” and a “multi-partner plan” cannot be ruled out. If China wants to overcome its weak position and catch up with the U.S. it will require a long-term, concerted effort. Therefore we cannot exaggerate the extent to which “they’ve contracted while we’ve grown” in terms of relative strength in the Sino-American relationship. When dealing with Sino-American relations we should proceed with sober analysis and a clear estimation of our own strength.

Misunderstanding 3: Seeing the intricately complex and developing Sino-American relationship as “single-faceted,” “absolute,” or “static.” Either emphasizing only the cooperative or the competitive facet of the relationship, or mechanically bifurcating cooperation and competition and believing that Sino-American relations will always be, as they have been, bifurcated, will make it difficult to achieve substantive breakthrough.

At present, the various issues and contradictions between China and the United States are still there; moreover, they will continue to develop. The “major developments” in Sino-American relations are all contained in the objective economic interdependency and the subjective mechanized management. Through the efforts of both sides, most of the problems and contradictions can be kept under control, and cannot go so far as to attack overall bilateral relations. In addition to this, Sino-American cooperation and competition are increasingly intertwined: There is cooperation within competition, and competition within cooperation. There is no absolute cooperation or competition. Therefore we should not completely reject competition, and we should strengthen cooperation, manage competition well, and strive for benign competition. Additionally, the “relative weight” of cooperation and competition in Sino-American relations will change at different stages, and though it’s the “coexistence of cooperation and competition, at particular stages it may be “mainly cooperation,” and it may also be “competition stands out.”

At the same time, we must respond appropriately to seven great challenges:

The first is that Sino-American “strategic trust” is still insufficient. Chiefly because deep down the United States looks upon China as a “challenger for hegemony” and a “political anomaly,” the defensiveness, discrimination and prejudice in the American mindset toward China will be as deeply important as ever.

Second are Sino-American “structural contradictions” — in other words, the serious divergence of the two sides’ takes on the international situation and the international order will grow more conspicuous. Although American “unipolar” ambitions have been seriously stymied by the financial crisis, America still does not recognize multi-polarity, and will do all that it can to prolong its global hegemony, anything at all to maintain its primacy. As China continues to accelerate in its rise and attains commensurate great power status, the ranking of the United States and China in the “chart toppers” list of national power will, sooner or later, undergo change. A “ranking” struggle between the two is, I fear, unavoidable.

Third is the contest between “developmental models.” The international financial crisis exposed the shortcomings of the “American model,” and the U.S. has reacted to this by intensifying its “containment” and derision of the “Chinese model.” The divergence in political systems and values between China and the U.S. have perhaps been “magnified.”

Fourth, the contest or chess game for regional spheres of influence will grow more complex and intense, especially in the Asia-Pacific and the region of China’s own “great periphery.” The two sides’ policies in dealing with regional “hot spots” like “the North Korean nuclear issue, the “Iranian nuclear issue,” the Afghanistan and Pakistan issue, the Myanmar issue and so on are not identical. China places emphasis on maintaining “regional stability” and respecting the “legitimate rights of nations,” and America for its part is too self-interested, intending to take advantage of these issues to expand its political influence and even attenuate China’s influence.

The fifth encompasses the competition for so-called “global public space” and “strategic new frontiers” — mainly the development of outer space and network security. America is attempting to maintain its hegemony over outer space and networks, and continues to push for global and regional “anti-missile” systems, to research, produce and deploy “space-based” weapons, to establish a “network command center,” harping on the “China threat theory” in the two great “frontline fields” of space and cyberspace and doing its upmost to preserve in perpetuity the advantage of its “great leadership.”

Sixth are constraints imposed by domestic factors in each of the two countries, to include struggles between the American political parties, between the extreme conservative faction and the extreme liberal faction, and the media and military interest groups, but also including, in China, the flood of public opinion that has accompanied the breakneck process of informatization of Chinese society and the conspicuous strengthening of national power.

Seventh are the international constraints of third-party factors, including the concerns of the European Union, Japan, Russia, India and other “major powers” over the development of Sino-American relations. It also includes the resort, by certain countries bordering China, to the strategy of “great power balancing,” in an attempt to use the United States as a “check and balance” on China, providing a suitable vehicle for the U.S. to “intervene” and to play “balancer” in the “balance of power” game.

(The author is an associate researcher at the World Politics Institute of the China Academy of Contemporary International Relations)

Guest Post: On the Development of Chinese Government

The following is a guest post.

Some Thoughts on the Development of Chinese Government

By Colin Glassey – August 21, 2009

One element of Chinese government which has been poorly presented in English is the way the Chinese system of Imperial government can be viewed as a system that evolved – slowly and fitfully – over 2,000 years. Far from being a monolithic or unchanging system there was change in the Imperial system from beginning to end. The change was driven not only by external forces but was also caused by the Emperors and their powerful advisors with the aid of the official historians who periodically wrote "report cards" about the strengths and failings of the previous dynasty in the form of official histories.

It is fair to say that most of the changes in the Imperial system of China were largely human directed changes based on a careful analysis of lessons from the past. This "evolution based on the examples of history" is nearly unique in governments (until the American revolutionaries consciously created their new government in the late 1780s). By sharp contrast, the European "method" (if one can call it such) for improving governments was "survival of the fittest". In other words, in Europe, states with good governments "ate" states with less effective systems and so, over time, good governments survived, and bad ones disappeared. (And yes, this is a gross generalization which slights people like Caesar Augustus, Peter the Great, Louis XIV, etc.).

The period of greatest change was usually at the start of a new dynasty as the new Emperor felt singularly unconstrained by the examples and precedent of the past. Based on my reading of Chinese history the following major periods of change are seen:

  1. The creation of the first system by the First Emperor (Shi Huang Di): circa 215 B.C.E. Powerful and effective in the short term but in many ways a failure and condemned by later historians and thinkers. Despite the failures, in broad outlines, the Imperial system of the first Emperor continued for hundreds of years into the Han.
  2. The Han of Emperor Wu Di: circa 90 B.C.E. This marks the point where Confucian ideology gained official (and permanent) approval as the ideology of Chinese government. The Legalist school of the First Emperor was officially "dead".
  3. The response to the Wang Mang usurpation: circa 30 C.E. Wang Mang, a top official took over and ruled for some 13 years. The new "Eastern" Han made a number of changes to prevent any future "Wang Mang" events from happening.
  4. The founding of the Sui Dynasty: circa 585 C.E. Following the collapse of the Han and hundreds of years of warfare between the successor states, the Sui created a new system of government that made significant modifications to the Han system.
  5. The response to the rebellion of An Lushan: circa 810. An Lushan's rebellion nearly destroyed the Tang and only gradually did the Imperial court figure out ways to reassert authority over the provinces. The reforms were not successful but they laid the groundwork for the Song.
  6. The Song founding: circa 965. The Song instituted major – and very long lasting – changes to the Imperial system based on the failure of the Tang government. In many ways the Song system was a remarkable achievement. All later imperial systems were based on the Song.
  7. The Ming founding: circa 1390. The Ming founder was one of the great political thinkers in history and while he kept a great deal of the Song system, he made many changes and then he tried to make them permanent by creating a book of "Ancestral Injunctions" – in some respects this was the first Constitution of China. Political change in the Ming after his death was glacial due to his efforts (for better and for worse).
  8. The Manchu (Qing) government of the Kangxi Emperor: circa 1680. This was the final form of the Imperial system, a hybrid of the Ming system with special Manchu elements grafted on. It corrected some of the obvious problems with the Ming system and it allowed China to expand territorially and economically to the greatest extent in its history.

These eight periods of government change are somewhat inaccurate. To talk about change at these points while ignoring the gradual changes that occurred at other times within the Song or Ming dynasties is – clearly – a generalization. Hopefully the benefits outweigh the costs.

Rating the degree and importance of the changes that occurred is also fraught with guesswork and error. However, in broad terms this is what happened:

  1. The First Emperor (Shi Huang Di) took the government of his home state of Chin (Qin) and imposed it on the other states that he conquered (Han, Zhao, Yan, Wei, and Chu). He set up the basic form of Imperial government. You can't get a bigger "change" than this.
  2. Emperor Wu Di formally accepted the principals of Confucianism in his management of the state. A small change, a mere matter of philosophy, and yet, profound in its implications.
  3. The usurpation of Wang Mang resulted in the rise to power of the direct Imperial family members at the top level of decision-making, especially the male relatives of the mother of the Emperor. Again, a fairly small change but the fall of the Han can be directly traced to this change.
  4. The Sui took their hybrid Chinese/Northern Horse Lord system and imposed it on the whole of China. For a time, women had real power and the Emperor was a military figure. This was a major change in Imperial government.
  5. The An Lushan rebellion forced the Imperial government into a wrenching and long lasting turn away from military power as the basis of the government and towards giving all real power to the educated elite. This was a small change to the system, and none of the Tang emperors were able to fully implement it.
  6. The Song completed the transition started by the Tang and implemented the world's first "modern" government: a bureaucracy based on merit. There is a great deal to admire about the Song system but their military ineffectiveness is a major weakness. This was a huge change to the Imperial system.
  7. The Ming tried to correct the problems of the Song – military leadership becoming a hereditary class, the Emperor by law forced to remain at the center of the government, etc. The problems with the Ming were subtle and took hundreds to years to manifest fully. The importance of the Ming changes grow upon careful reflection.
  8. The Manchu (Qing) in turn tried to correct the weaknesses of the Ming system with a new hereditary military class, the "Banner system", and an expansionist attitude towards their northern and western neighbors. Under the three great Manchu emperors China was the largest, richest, and most powerful state in the world. The changes here were actually quite small. In a real sense the Ming could have "become" the Manchu if they had wanted to.

One could argue that the changes in the Imperial system seem fairly small. The differences between the Egyptian Pharonic system, the Athenian Democracy, and the Roman Republic (to take three European governments) are probably greater than any of the differences in the Chinese Imperial system from beginning to end. So – from the perspective of people schooled in huge differences found in European systems of government over 4,000 years of history – the changes in the Chinese Imperial system could be thought of as of little consequence. I believe the changes are very interesting, because I see the modifications as conscious efforts to correct the mistakes of the past on the path toward making a more perfect government, much like we see modern governments trying to react "intelligently" to changes in the world around them. In this limited way, the Chinese governmental changes exhibit a modern mind-set.

I will go futher and argue that the Chinese Imperial government improved over the centuries. At the least, they fixed problems that led to serious breakdowns in earlier years. The Imperial system in its final form was far from a perfect government but it was a system I believe we in the present day can learn from.

Guest Post: The Children’s Palace

The following is a guest post by C.C. Huang entitled: The Children’s Palace: Where nature decides nurture.

Genetic Testing

The movie Gattaca left a deep impression on me as a 1984-esque portrayal of a world where genes mean too much. According to this CNN article, in Chongqing, a “Children’s Palace” was established to help parents decide how to raise their child based on genetic testing.

Previously, DNA testing has more often been used to detect genetic diseases, but now genetic testing is being used to discover what each child is genetically-geared to accomplish. With the One-Child policy, each only child bears an enormous amount of pressure to please the parentals, and this test is just another way to make their child-raising blueprint that much more successful.

The camp itself seems harmless, but what implications might this genetic testing carry with it? A statement from the director of the camp to CNN about a child’s results:

This child is very thoughtful and focused, so I suggest she go into management.

It seems that there is a strong pseudo-science aspect to this whole affair – “thoughtful and focused” are rather vague traits that could be seen in any profession – so why management? If anyone walks into a Chinese bookstore, they can see the massive amount of self-help books on the shelves that many people are poring through, especially about management. With Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People selling very well in China, and other books about people-management filling the shelves, management-type jobs are quite 火 (literally – fire), or popular. So is this “test result” really a scientific result? My first reaction is no, it is purely what a parent would want to hear – an arbitrary construction at worst, an acceptable answer at best.

Other events are probably creating the economic conditions where a camp like this eventually could be in high demand. A primary reason would be the recent crisis where college grads could not find jobs, even if they graduated from the top universities in China. If a parent can pick a major or a profession for a child so that they are the best of that field, this problem could be avoided. The idea of a specialized child-rearing process is no doubt becoming increasingly attractive to parents.

Parenting Techniques

I wonder how Chinese parents feel about the whole “nature vs. nurture” debate. Should genetic nature fully determine the method of nurturing?

Chinese parenting techniques have lead to a paradox in child development literature. Chinese parenting techniques have been characterized as “controlling” and “restrictive.” These styles of parenting have been associated with poor academic achievement in European-American family samples, but Chinese students perform well, if not better than European-American students.

Ruth K. Chao, a Professor of Psychology at UCLA, argues that this way of describing Chinese parenting is ethnocentric and suggests an alternative depiction of “training.” Chao argues that this “training” concept is much more fitting to describe the Chinese parenting model; her studies also show that Chinese mothers were better at employing this technique than European-American mothers.

Now, back to the CNN article. CNN quotes Dr. Blinn as a critic of program saying:

Kids, especially at younger ages, they need to have fun, they need to enjoy themselves, they need to find meaning in life,” Dr. Blinn said. “They need to have rich deep emotional interchange with their families and parents.

“Whether it’s really good for a two- or three-year-old to be sent off to a camp to be genetically tested, you know, and put in this track so early in life, I have some real doubts about whether that’s in the child’s best interest,” Blinn added. “It seems to be more in the parents’ best interest.”

What is this “need” that Dr. Blinn talks about? Is it possible that this genetic testing is not necessarily “bad” for children, but just a modern extension of Chinese parenting techniques? Of course, Chao’s study only measured academic success, not exactly the degree to which a child is “happy.” For Chao, the important concepts emphasized in Chinese parenting are xiaoshun and guan, which imply care and concern for the child that “authoritarian” fails to capture.

On one hand, I would be curious to see what Chinese psychologists say about the genetic testing camp and how it would fit into an explanation of Chinese parenting techniques. On the other hand, I’m not quite sure the conclusions that this camp provides for parents are reliable to construct a “training” course.