Today’s China Readings May 21, 2012

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Premier Wen Jiabao seems worried about the economy. Yesterday he urged efforts to maintain growth – Xinhua and his comments made the front page of Monday’s People’s Daily–把稳增长放在更加重要的位置. Some bears are skeptical of the government’s ability to reinvigorate growth, believing that the government gas pedal may be connected through a fuel line with so much leakage that the gas will barely get to the engine now. Recently I have heard from too many very smart people who were not always so bearish that they now believe the tail risk of a serious crisis in China, while still relatively small, has gotten much fatter in the last couple of months.

Beijing appears to be trying to prop up the stock market. The latest attempted fillip can be seen with the news that China Will Speed Up Approvals for Qualified Foreign Investors.  The costs of juicing the stock markets are relatively low in the short- to medium-term, a pop in share prices would be very positive for urban psychology during a time of increasing stress, and the government has levers that may still be fairly effective in artificially moving the market.

The Sunday Washington Post published the interesting “tick-tock” Negotiations over dissident Chen Guangcheng offered rare glimpse into how China’s leadership operates, U.S. officials say (See Politico’s The art of the ‘tick-tock’ if you want to know about this form of journalism).  The Post story  follows the May 9 “tick-tock” in the New York Times in Behind Twists of Diplomacy in Case of Chen Guangcheng and presumably includes some details US officials witheld until Chen and family were safely in the US.

While it is an interesting read, keep in mind that that the Post article makes extensive use of anonymous sources who clearly have an interest in spinning as positive a tale as possible. There also appears to be no input from the Chinese side. That does not mean much of it is not true, but read it with some skepticism.

Saturday’s Washington Post had a must read article about elite Chinese children studying in the US–Chinese communist leaders denounce U.S. values but send children to U.S. colleges. Hong Huang has the best quote in the story:

Hong said she sees no contradiction between the desire for an Ivy League education and the current principles of the ruling party and its leaders: “What part of China is communist, and what part of Harvard is against elitist authoritarianism?”

The Yang Rui “Foreign Trash Bitch-Gate” story has not gone away. Yang Rui announced on his Weibo that he retains the right to sue Charlie Custer, author of a Weibo and blog post calling for Yang’s dismissal. In It’s Not Just Yang Rui, Brendan O’Kane translates several of Yang’s Weibo statements and helps put this mess in a bit more context. Influential people are calling on foreigners to avoid appearing on his show, and as Jim McGregor quipped on Twitter “If Yang Rui keeps up this anti-foreign nonsense they will have to change the show to “Monologue” as no foreigners will want to go near him.”

Toxic food du jour is back, now with video. Enterprising Chinese journalists are out with a report about ginger sprayed with banned pesticides. I guess my daily dose of fresh ginger juice may be doing more harm than good…

If you are interested in arts and culture in China I highly recommend The Great Flourishing: China’s Cultural Rise, Sheila Melvin and Jindong Cai’s excellent blog about arts and culture in China.

Today’s suggested reading:

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