Beijing is besieged by smog again as you can see in these views of Beijing CBD, one from two hours ago, one from January 17. The 300+ meter tall China World Phase Three is actually still standing, even if you can not see it. Xinhua says Beijing has been hit with a sandstorm today, a sandstorm that has raised the AQI to 500+ in Beijing and several other cities in the region.
This winter’s sustained smog siege is the worst I have seen it in the eight winters in a row I have spent here. Something more than just emissions levels (weather patterns perhaps?) must have changed.
People’s awareness of the situation has clearly changed. The Wall Street Journal looks at the uproar over the refusal to release soil pollution data in Chinese Authorities Slammed for Labeling Pollution Data a ‘State Secret’:
At least three state-run newspapers have slammed China’s environmental authorities for arguing that soil pollution data is a “state secret” and thus not fit for public consumption, marking the second time in less than two months that state media have come out swinging against the government over environmental issues.
“State secrets is the magic phrase for rejecting disclosure of information. Is it because it involves secrets that it can’t be revealed, or is it simply because you’re afraid of triggering dissatisfaction?” the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily said in on its official account on the Sina Weibo microblogging platform this week. “Covering this up only makes people think: We’re being lied to.”
ChinaFile has a good conversation on the pollution data issue. Elizabeth Economy, Orville Schell, Donald Clarke, Susan Shirk and Isabel Hinton have all weighed in at How Long Can China Keep Pollution Data a State Secret?:
In the end, I think the information will be released. There is little justification to protect data on soil contamination, when the Ministry has already acknowledged the right of the people to have access to air quality statistics. More importantly, I think this is just the beginning. The “public’s right to know” along with the Internet are likely to be the two great transformative political processes of the next three to five years.
Jonathan Watt’s When A Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind — Or Destroy It is looking very relevant today, as is his decision to leave China for Brazil.
THE ESSENTIAL EIGHT
Nobel Literature Prize Laureate Mo Yan Answers His Critics – SPIEGEL ONLINE – nice digs at Ai Weiwei and Liao Yiwu// For the first time since receiving the Nobel Prize in literature, controversial Chinese author Mo Yan has consented to an interview. Many have accused him of being too close to the regime. But he rejects the charge and finds sharp words for his detractors
China Provinces Cut Growth Targets in Sign Debt Concerns Heeded – Bloomberg – Almost half of China’s provinces are setting their growth sights lower in the wake of the central government’s emphasis on the quality of expansion over speed, a sign of an increased focus on tackling rising debt. Fourteen provinces have set lower targets for gross domestic product expansion this year than in 2012 and the other 17 left their goals unchanged, according to Nomura Holdings Inc. The weighted average target has dropped to 9.9 percent from 10.3 percent, Citigroup Inc. calculates.
Asia Unbound » Secretary of State John Kerry on China – going wobbly?// By suggesting that the pivot may be out of favor, Secretary Kerry has also drawn into question U.S. credibility. Officials and analysts abroad have already raised doubts about U.S. staying power in the Asia Pacific; Secretary Kerry’s doubts will only add fuel to the fire.
China should abandon North Korea – FT.com – Considering these arguments, China should consider abandoning North Korea. The best way of giving up on Pyongyang is to take the initiative to facilitate North Korea’s unification with South Korea. Bringing about the peninsula’s unification would help undermine the strategic alliance between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul; ease the geopolitical pressure on China from northeast Asia; and be helpful to the resolution of the Taiwan question. The next best thing would be to use China’s influence to cultivate a pro-Beijing government in North Korea, to give it security assurances, push it to give up nuclear weapons and start moving towards the development path of a normal country. Deng Yuwen is deputy editor of Study Times, the journal of the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China
New leaders to stress economic stability over reform at NPC meeting | South China Morning Post – The annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, beginning on Tuesday, will be a stage for the new leadership to unveil more reform thinking, as Beijing focuses on promoting sustainable growth and social equality, analysts say. But the new administration is also expected to tell deputies that its top short-term priority remains ensuring policy stability, including preventing any sharp rebound in inflation or property prices.
Next foreign minister tipped to be Japan expert Wang Yi | South China Morning Post– China is likely to appoint an expert on Japan and North Korea as its next foreign minister, three independent sources said, in a measure of Beijing’s resolve to improve difficult relationships with two of its closest neighbours. Barring last-minute changes, Wang Yi, 59, the ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007, was likely to be appointed foreign minister during the annual session of the National People’s Congress next week, the sources said.
人民日报-美丽中国不等于漂亮中国（人民论坛） 清 唱 – 美丽中国，美在内涵。当下，不少地方在谋划如何建设生态文明、打造美丽中国，尤需读懂这个内涵，不要只在漂亮上打转转、做文章。只有加快转变发展方式，进而转换发展思维，拿出一系列标本兼治的策略，才能为美丽中国奠基。为官一任，是造福，还是造孽，群众有明断，各级干部还需警思。
For Gates Foundation, Philanthropy is a Two-Way Street – Caixin –abridged translation of this week;s cover story// Six years after setting up a China office, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates’ foundation is exploring a new way of helping: exporting the country’s innovations in health and agriculture to help other countries. This is a shift from the foundation’s previous China focus, which mostly provided grants to help solve health issues such as with vaccinations and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
City Lights Shine for Equities in China – WSJ.com– China’s next premier has repeatedly pledged to redouble efforts to “urbanize” the world’s second-largest economy and move more farmers into cities. Since November, when he was picked at the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress, Li Keqiang has said that China needs to “push forward” with urbanization, calling it a “huge engine” of economic growth. His words have given the green light to money managers: Many are now jumping into Chinese stocks, wagering that a further expansion of China’s cities will give a boost to consumer spending. That would trickle through to companies from property developers to health-care providers in the form of bigger profits and higher share prices.
Top China Analyst: I Ain’t Afraid of No ‘Ghost Cities’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ– n the aftermath of a construction frenzy that lifted China out of the Great Recession, Western hedge fund managers set off on trips to places like Ordos in Inner Mongolia to view the eerie phenomenon – and spooked themselves into believing that a massive oversupply of real estate meant a Chinese economic collapse was inevitable. What happened? Well, housing prices and sales volumes have been steadily rebounding, to the point where the government is now contemplating new cooling measures. So much for the epic oversupply that bears predicted would wipe out growth. “Hurray for Ghost Cities,” writes the economist and veteran China-watcher Jonathan Anderson in a recent note.
Doubts Over Returns Hit Fundraising in China – Deal Journal – WSJ– Investors are growing skeptical that private equity in China can keep giving them high returns, and local funds are bearing the brunt of their reluctance to pump in more cash. The reasons: China’s market for initial public offerings has stalled, making it harder for private-equity firms to cash out of investments, and investors are growing disillusioned with the idea that China’s economy is in line for continued spectacular growth. Growth has already slowed slightly from previous years.
China Mulls Entry of Housing Fund into Equity Markets-Caijing – China is discussing and preparing detailed rules on introducing the country’s poorly-tapped housing fund into equity markets, said an official with China’s securities regulator Tuesday. Researching works have been going on for a while and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) will join other departments in revamping the Housing Fund Management Rules, the unnamed official with CSRC told the official Xinhua News Agency.
Ambow Education Investors Pursue Lawsuit as Shares Plunge – Bloomberg – believe auditor is PWC, not the usual suspect Deloitte// Ambow Education Holding Inc. (AMBO), a Chinese school operator, was sued by investors who say the company orchestrated a “fake acquisition” to facilitate an initial public offering in the U.S. The shares fell more than 12 percent in New York trading. Byron Brown and other investors are seeking unspecified damages and legal fees on behalf of U.S. purchasers of Beijing- based Ambow’s American depositary receipts in connection with the Aug. 5, 2010, offering, according to an amended complaint filed Feb. 19 in federal court in Los Angeles.
北京二手房业主坐地起价 部分报价远超成交价|二手房|跳价|坐地起价_新浪财经_新浪网– secondary home sellers in beijing sticking to prices above the current market, expectations of increases strong// “新国五条”的出台并未改变北京二手房业主的预期。记者了解到，目前北京不少二手房业主将手中的房源以高于市场成交价的价格挂牌，更有一些业主坐地起价，房源报价远远高于市场成交价。尽管这类业主期望值很高，但买方并不买账。“高价挂牌房源面临着较高的成交难度，业主与购房者僵持不下。”链家地产[微博]研究部分析师张旭表示。
POLITICS AND LAW
Social Change Leaves China Struggling to Define Role of Law – China Real Time Report – WSJ– By Stanley Lubman As of March 1, dog owners in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen who disobey a new law mandating the use of “pet restrooms” are subject to an $80 fine. According to another new regulation approved in Beijing late last year, children are required to visit elderly parents “often.” These and other recent legal developments – including a pair of domestic violence cases with wildly different outcomes – illustrate how unprecedented social changes in China are provoking new questions about the role of law in society, and creating problems for law-makers, citizens and courts alike.
习王大动作舆论反应平淡 观望味道浓_多维新闻网 – 【多维新闻】就在两会即将召开之际，习近平、王岐山二人的大动作不断。习近平在中共中央政治局第四次集体学习会议上再次号召全面推进依法治国，王岐山则将重锤砸向了将配偶子女移居国外的“裸官”，而且其中提到维护党章的权威性和严肃性、坚持惩治和预防腐败两手抓两手都要硬等，措辞颇为强硬和坚决。不过，鉴于依法治国甚或反腐强音，都已经是老生常谈，所以在各个舆论场并未掀起多大波澜。民众反响惨淡的事实，无疑给大动作频频的习王泼了冷水。
谈高级干部违纪问题 王岐山“棒打”薄熙来_多维新闻网– 【多维新闻】中共十八届二中全会及一年一度的“两会”召开之际，在推迟一个月之久之后，2月25日新晋政治局常委、中纪委书记王岐山在1月22日十八届中央纪委二次全会上所作的工作报告内容首次向外界公布，王岐山讲话特别强调了高级干部严重违纪违法的问题，被认为是在“棒打”薄熙来。 在上述有中共中央政治局常委、委员，全国人大高级官员，最高人民法院院长，最高人民检察院检察长，全国政协及中央军委委员等中共高层出席的会议上，王岐山强调，一些领域消极腐败现象易发多发，个别领导干部特别是高级干部严重违纪违法，要求加强对亲属和身边工作人员的教育约束，决不允许搞特权。
人民日报- 文章大家毛泽东 梁 衡 – 今年是毛泽东同志诞辰120周年。他离开这个世界将近37年，对他的功过已有评说，但对作为文章家的他还研究不够，这笔财富有待挖掘。毛泽东说，革命夺权靠枪杆子和笔杆子，但他自己却从没拿过枪杆子，笔杆子倒是须臾不离手，毛笔、钢笔、铅笔，笔走龙蛇惊风雨，白纸黑字写春秋。那种风格、那种语言、那种气派，是浸到骨子里，溢于字表、穿透纸背的，只有他才会有。中国是个文章的国度，青史不绝，佳作迭出。向来说文章有汉司马、唐韩柳、宋东坡、清康梁，群峰逶迤，比肩竞秀。毛泽东算一个，是历史群山中一座巍峨的高峰。
央视”醉酒” 清退35亿白酒广告？_21世纪网-21cbh.com – rumors that CCTV pulling liquor ads, starting around the “two meetings”? 40% of CCTV’s ad revenue…doubt it, but if true, beijing run the risk of gorbachev’s disastrous vodka restrictions? and what of CCTV’s budget?//2月27日，在限制三公消费的背景下，有消息指，央视内部人士透露，央视要强退酒类广告已经确定下来了，预计两会后执行，也就是在三月底左右。 据21财经情报独家求证，由于酒类广告占央视广告40%以上，央视找了主管部门做工作，央视白酒风波体现了新的领导层对于白酒此类“醉生梦死产业”的厌恶情绪，这势必将影响白酒业长期发展。
公务消费紧缩：湘鄂情被迫“大众化”|湘鄂情|公务消费|裁员_21世纪网 – 核心提示：2月27日，孟凯承认：“政府对高档公务消费打击力度很大，受政策风向影响，湘鄂情将从高档餐饮转向家庭欢聚餐厅，放弃政府公务宴请这一块。”
徐祥临：官员财产公开暂不宜-财经网 – 官员大面积腐败的原因十分复杂，很多人是被腐败环境裹挟进去的。在目前财经纪律松松垮垮及一些财务规定很不合理的情况下贸然公开官员财产，要么是虚假公开，要么是造成官员队伍内部的极度混乱–徐祥临为中央党校经济学部教授
李天一曾被美国学校开除 很淘气常被同学孤立 – 新闻中心 – 新华网 – alleged gang rapist Li Tianyi expelled from minnesota school shattuck st. mary’s? // 在李双江之子李冠丰因涉嫌轮奸被拘后，关于其种种不良言行的传闻便不断爆出，这当中就包括他在国外留学时的恶行。今日凌晨，记者从李冠丰曾就读的Shat-tuck St.Mary’s （沙特克圣玛丽高中）的工作人员那里证实，李冠丰确因不遵守学校规定被开除。
Under Pressure: China’s “Depressed” Officials – Economic Observer – Most of the officials who commit suicide are between 45 and 56 years old, work on legal and political affairs, and almost all the officials were declared as “suffering from clinical depression”
FOREIGN AND DEFENSE AFFAIRS
China’s Navy Goes Stealth–The Diplomat – In what it called a major step in the “systematic upgrade of its equipment and defense,” the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) on February 25th received the first of an expected 20 Type 056 Jiangdao-class stealth corvettes, a new type of ship that experts say will play a major role in defending China’s territorial waters.
Outlook for energy security of China | East Asia Forum – Author: Kejun Jiang, NDRC. Energy security has typically focused on energy imports, but increasingly the security of energy production, energy transportation, the energy environment, energy prices and energy investment have also become important considerations.
Chinese General’s Angry Online Rant Has Japanese Laughing, And Many Chinese Cheering | Tea Leaf Nation – Perhaps fortunately for regional stability, Japanese citizens are not exactly shrinking in fear of a possible Chinese-led bombardment. Whatever Luo Yuan’s intent may have been in making his statement—if he did actually say it—he now has established himself as little more than a screeching hawk in the eyes of Japanese netizens. Luo certainly did not succeed intimidating Japanese citizens into submission.
China’s first lady gives marching orders to military perk | South China Morning Post– But as Xi pushes forward a high-profile campaign to rid the Party and military ranks of corruption and waste, Peng found herself in the news again as a model Party member more than ready to answer her husband’s marching orders. Cai Xiaoxin, a military researcher who has a verified real-name account on China’s social media platform Weibo, wrote on Wednesday that Peng had voluntarily given a flat she owned back to her military unit. According to Cai, the flat was in a military compound in west Beijing, that had been awarded to Peng many years ago.
Sequestration: How China sees the prospect of U.S. military cuts | Marketplace.org– Now that a budgetary doomsday scenario has been laid out for the world’s largest military, you might think China would see this as its golden opportunity to assert itself regionally. Think again, says Jin Canrong, International Relations Professor at Beijing’s Renmin University. “In the coming years the defense budget will be cut, but the military power of the United States is far ahead of China,” says Jin.
Armed surveillance ship claim groundless |Politics |chinadaily.com.cn – BEIJING – The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) on Wednesday said a Japanese media report regarding a Chinese marine surveillance ship that aimed at a Japanese fishing boat with machine-gun near the Diaoyu Islands is a “groundless rumor.”
广州老人街头怒斥军人：军车是用来拉女人的吗？_资讯频道_凤凰网 – video of old man in Guangzhou berating a soldier for a driving around a woman in a car with military license plates
TECH AND MEDIA
China’s Internet is a Giant Shopping Mall [Infographic] | Alizila: News about E-commerce, Alibaba Group, China’s Internet, Alibaba.com and Taobao – It’s well known that the spending power of China’s rising middle class is changing the global retail landscape. Less understood is the enthusiasm Chinese consumers have for shopping on the Internet. After increasing by 55% last year to $194 billion, China’s total online retail spending this year could blow by that of the U.S., making the mainland the world’s largest online shopping market, some researchers are predicting. Check out this infographic to find out how much the average Chinese consumer spends via the Internet, what they buy, and how fast their e-consumption is growing.
SOCIETY, ART, SPORTS, CULTURE AND HISTORY
Next wave of Chinese tennis players set to make breakthrough | The Li-Ning Tower If Li Na’s French Open win was the earthquake, then here comes the tsunami. I’ve written before about the crop of Chinese youngsters poised to make a breakthrough in the women’s game, and it looks like it might be happening. Yesterday at the Malaysian Open, 21-year-old Wang Qiang beat former world number 1 and the tournament’s top seed, Caroline Wozniacki 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 for the biggest win of her career
China promotes austerity in schools – Xinhua | English.news.cn– China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) has required schools to shun extravagance and waste, echoing calls from the country’s leaders for thrifty lifestyles and a rejection of pomp. All schools are asked to eradicate pompous decorations and cut the size and number of meetings, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, celebrations and forums, the ministry said in a circular on Wednesday
Elderly population to surpass 200 mln in 2013 – Xinhua | English.news.cn– China will have 202 million elderly people in 2013, accounting for 14.8 percent of the total population, the China Research Center on Aging said on Wednesday. According to a center report, the country witnessed the first peak in its growing elderly population, which included 194 million senior citizens at the end of 2012.
Chinese NPC Rep Calls for Easing Birth Control Policy -Caijing – A Chinese representative to the National People’s Congress (NPC) Tuesday made a proposal in which he suggested the government ease the country’s birth controls amid increasing concerns over an aging society.
China’s rural poor population declines – Xinhua | English.news.cn– China’s impoverished population has declined for the first time since the poverty line was raised in 2011, although poverty alleviation work remains arduous, a government office said Tuesday. The poverty-stricken population in rural areas stood at 98.99 million people around the end of 2012, down 23.39 million compared with 2011, the poverty alleviation office of the State Council said Tuesday.
China’s poor: World-class poverty | The Economist – Here Xinhua is being unfair. Even though 6.3 yuan is now worth only $1 on the foreign-exchange markets, China’s poverty line is in fact considerably higher than the World Bank’s standard. A detailed explanation of this paradox can be found in this post on Free exchange, where the real nerds reside. A simpler version follows.
ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH
Severe drought hits southwest China’s Yunnan – Xinhua | English.news.cn – Farmer Zhao Tingxing waters the drought-hit vegetables in Shilin County of southwest China’s Yunnan Province, Feb. 27, 2013. About 600,000 people are facing shortage of drinking water amid severe drought that hit southwest China’s Yunnan Province for the fourth straight year, and the current drought has affected 5.11 million mu of cropland in the province China’s drought relief authority said Feb. 21, 2013.
China’s Energy and Climate Challenges – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace– China overtook the United States in 2009 as the world’s biggest energy consumer. Now Beijing faces increasing international pressure to take the lead in addressing the global challenge of climate change. In this Q&A, Wang Tao examines China’s approach to tackling climate change. He explains why China needs to become a global leader by enacting robust policies to support the development of clean technology, especially electric vehicle
FOOD AND TRAVEL
Jing Daily: Exclusive Travel Sites Hit The Sweet Spot For China’s Globetrotting Elite – No longer driven by a single-minded focus on spending the majority of their time overseas shopping, some wealthy Chinese tourists — often on their fifth or sixth international jaunt — are spending more on accommodations and experiential travel, a development on which a handful of niche travel e-commerce sites have been quick to pounce. Most recently, one player, HH Travel, has made headlines owing to very high average client spend — 100,000 yuan (US$16,041) per person in 2012.
The Panamanian Connection, Pt. 2: Trouble in Luzhou | 300 Shots at Greatness– Now the first thing that jumps out at you is that “Gold Medal.” It’s off center, the wrong color and printed in a font that looks more 1960s Sci-Fi than 1915 World’s Fair. But then look further down and note that the award was bestowed upon: ORCHARD CITY CANNING COMPANY of Campbell, California for “Assorted Canned Fruits.” When I reached out to the OC Canning Co. for comment, I found this lovely Campbell City historical page, which states, in no uncertain terms, that the award was a BRONZE medal. mWow. Just wow. Luzhou Laojiao took an award it didn’t win, Photoshopped it to look more impressive than it actually was, but forgot to Photoshop out the original company’s name before sticking it on a baijiu package sold all over the country. Good work.