Today’s China Readings May 28, 2012

On Sunday evening Guo Songmin, director of research at “国企杂志 (State-owned Enterprise Magazine)” posted to his weibo that big news may be coming Monday and suggested people reach out to their “friends inside the system” to learn what it is ““明天,可能会有重大消息传达,大家多向体制内的朋友打听”. We first got wind of Bo Xilai’s removal in a similar post on Weibo (not by Guo) and the Party does deliver big news to insiders first. Given the crackdown on online rumors Guo would be an idiot to make this up, though of course there are a lot of idiots out there. Assuming Guo’s information is good, my guess is that the news is likely about a decision on the Wang Lijun case. It seems a bit early for the Bo Xilai case…

Economic Observer is one of my favorite Chinese publications. Over the weekend the newspaper provided details of the planned economic stimulus in 拯救GDP (Saving GDP) and late last week it published an English translation of the fascinating Getting onto the Party Congress  about “one entrepreneur’s quest to become a delegate to the Communist Party’s National Congress and how it was more difficult than steering his company’s IPO.”

The Financial Times’ Kathrin Hille and Jamil Anderlini have written the excellent Chen Guangcheng: journey to freedom. This article is more comprehensive than the previous New York Times and Washington Post tick-tocks, though it too is missing the Chinese government’s side of things. Perhaps some day we will learn the details of how Beijing managed the Chen case and who was the ultimate decision-maker.

As he did in his May 13 article about Zhou Yongkang, Jamil Anderlini ends this story with a comment about reformers, writing that “some observers suggest that reformers in the Chinese leadership could seize on Chen’s escape to blame the powerful security apparatus and deal a blow to other conservatives within the Communist party.”

Anderlini’s earlier article about Zhou concluded that “some officials within the party, including premier Wen Jiabao, are trying to push through political reforms that would move China towards western-style democracy while hardliners, including Mr Zhou, are opposed to such a move.”

There is no question there are differences at the top, but I wish someone would produce evidence that the differences are ideological ones as opposed to battles over personal interests and political advantages. Speeches about reform are not evidence someone is a reformer. In the absence of real proof all this talk of reformer vs conservative or hardliner vs. softliner may be misguided, a Chinese version of “Where’s Waldo?” (See my post from April 2010 on this topic–Views On Political Reform And Leadership Splits In China.) Call me cynical, or clueless, but these days “following the money” may be more important for understanding elite Chinese politics than reading tea leaves, parsing speeches or interpreting whispers from interested parties…

We may see debates and eventually reforms around intra-Party democracy, but the idea that anyone at the top is seriously pushing for western-style political reforms seems rooted more in hope, manipulation and confusion than any evidence-based reality.

The Confucius Institute visa controversy is resolved and Beijing is considering allowing tourists to visit for 72 hours visa free. Perhaps we will see a cooling off of the anti-foreigner sentiment?  Meanwhile, expect lots more Chinese vistors to the US as the State Department is adding 100 or so consular employees across China to handle the expected increase in volume now that visa rules have loosened.

Beijing says it wants to encourage private investment in SOEs and 6 Ministries have issued documents about opening up their areas of control to private investment–六部委密集出台文件向民间资本敞开大门. The South China Morning Post’s Wang Xiangwei is not too optimistic, writing in today’s “Wen’s parting shot for private sector” that “investors, however, remain sceptical that genuine change is in the air following so many false starts.” Perhaps I am feeling extra cynical today but I wonder if the moves to allow private investment in SOEs won’t lead to a very profitable wave of asset stripping?

Is Warren Buffett, through his investment in BYD, a part-owner of the manufacturer of the electric car version of the Pinto? A BYD E6 electric taxi exploded Saturday in Shenzhen after being rear-ended at high-speed, killing three and “raising concerns about a possible fatal design flaw in green vehicles”.

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  • Ferrari recalls 56 autos in China over faulty crankshafts – People’s Daily Online
    Ferrari’s China car owner list would be interesting//
    Luxury sports car manufacturer Ferrari will recall another 56 vehicles imported to the Chinese mainland due to defective crankshafts, China’s quality watchdog said Friday.
  • 人民日报-胡拉惨案恶化叙利亚局势 阿拉伯媒体认为,可能会给西方进一步加大对叙施压提供借口
    People’s Daily P 3 on latest developments in Syria
  • 六部委密集出台文件向民间资本敞开大门 – 政策速递 – 21世纪网
    铁道部、卫生部、交通部、证监会、国资委、银监会等部委先后发布民资进入相关文件,支持民资进入相关领域。
  • Two Monks Burn Themselves in Lhasa-Radio Free Asia
    Some say was not monks but young people. Either way, first protests like this in Lhasa in a while. Grim
  • China Industrial Companies’ Profits Decline 2.2% in April – Bloomberg
    The deceleration in corporate profit growth underscores concerns that the slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy is deepening. China’s State Council said on May 23 that downside risks to growth are increasing and the government will intensify “fine-tuning” policies as needed, signaling it may take more aggressive steps to support the nation’s expansion.
  • Shenzhen Launches Major Land Reforms – Economic Observer News- China business, politics, law, and social issues
    A pilot project aimed at reforming how land is managed in Shenzhen was officially launched on May 25. The pilot, which could see changes to the status of “minor property rights,” is likely to set the path for broader nationwide reforms of land management, according to Securities Times, a financial paper published by the People’s Daily Group.
  • Getting onto the Party Congress – Economic Observer News- China business, politics, law, and social issues
    Summary:One entrepreneur’s quest to become a delegate to the Communist Party’s National Congress and how it was more difficult than steering his company’s IPO.
  • City to Name Airport After Brand of Baijiu – Economic Observer News- China business, politics, law, and social issues
    Officials from the Yibin city government announced at a press conference earlier this week that in addition to moving and rebuilding the city’s airport, they will also change its name to Yibin Wuliangye Airport in honor of the well-known brand of alcohol that is produced in the city.
    The company, which employs thousands of people in the city and submits a large chunk of the city’s government revenue, is a state-owned group with a subsidiary listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange.
  • 拯救GDP – 经济观察网 - 专业财经新闻网站
    Economic Observer discusses the coming stimulus for China’s economy
    导语:5月23日召开的国务院常务会议明确“把稳增长放在更加重要的位置,根据变化加大预调微调力度”。经济学家们纷纷将此次会议看成是中国政府的一次行动信号——为防止经济放缓过快,更多刺激经济政策将出台。
  • Chinese art collectors scramble to buy battered pot from Bristol charity shop – Telegraph
    A badly damaged pot donated to a charity shop has thrilled the art world after it sold for £360,000.
  • AFP: China ex-official held over rapes after web anger
    Police arrested an ex-Communist Party official in central China on suspicion of raping at least 10 underage girls
  • Three die as electric taxi explodes | SCMP.com
    Concerns are raised about possible fatal design flaw in green vehicles after deadly collision in Shenzhen..At about 3am on Saturday, a speeding sports car rear-ended a BYD E6 electric taxi, causing the cab to catch fire, killing the driver and two passengers, according to The Southern Metropolis News
  • New lure for private investment in SOEs |Policy and Regulation |chinadaily.com.cn
    After sweeping economic reforms, which in three decades have lifted China into the world’s second-largest economy, the country is moving ahead with reform of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) by inviting private investment in their restructuring.
  • Tourists may get 3-day visit window |Society |chinadaily.com.cn
    Beijing is considering allowing foreign tourists a 72-hour window to explore the capital without a visa.Fu Zhenghua, the city’s director of public security, has confirmed that authorities are mulling over the move, saying it would represent a crucial sign that Beijing is open to the world.
  • Tiananmen father commits suicide after decades of ‘injustice’ | SCMP.com
    An elderly man hanged himself last week in the run-up to the 23rd anniversary of the June 4, Tiananmen Square crackdown, after growing desperate from what he and others called years of “injustice”.
    Ya Weilin was a 73-year-old retired hospital worker and member of the Tiananmen Mothers, a group largely comprised of victims’ families who advocate a change in the government’s position over the suppression of the pro-democracy protests in 1989.
  • Wen’s parting shot for private sector | SCMP.com
    nvestors, however, remain sceptical that genuine change is in the air following so many false starts
  • Hong Kong plan to create 25 islands threatens wildlife, say protesters | World news | guardian.co.uk
    Creation of 1,500 hectares of land in the region is flawed on environmental and demographic grounds, say experts
  • Wine firm vows to protect Lafite’s image |Companies |chinadaily.com.cn
    The widespread presence of counterfeit Lafite wine in China has pressured its producer to launch a campaign to fight fake products in the country, after the price of Lafite wines tumbled last year.Michel Negrier, export director of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite, told China Daily on Friday that the group has hired legal professionals to fight counterfeit products.
  • 北京市公安局:外籍人士来京将获72小时免签_新闻_腾讯网
    Beijing Public Security says foreigners will be able to visit Beijing for up to 72 hours visa-free
  • Chinese teacher visa controversy resolved|Americas|chinadaily.com.cn
    Within 24 hours of consultations between officials from the Chinese embassy and the US State Department, a revised policy directive was sent out on Friday to clarify the visa status of Chinese-language teachers.
    The new version clarifies that the Confucius Institutes run by accredited US universities and colleges do not need to apply for another accreditation.
  • Environmental protection urged amid economic slowdown – Xinhua | English.news.cn
  • Doing Business in China — Get Paid Upfront
    U.S. consulting companies are increasingly selling their services in China.  This is part of the general trend towards sales into China that we have noted.  In confirmation of this trend, we have recently worked with several U.S. based consultants in selling their services into China. The approach taken by U.S. consultants is consistently naïve and almost guarantees problems in China.The most important issue in selling services to Chinese clients is how to get paid. The payment issue with service providers is far more complicated than with those who sell goods.
  • Israel steps up security ties with China – Boston.com
    After a prolonged chill, security ties between Israel and China are warming up.With Israel offering much-needed technical expertise and China representing a huge new market and influential voice in the international debate over Iran’s nuclear program, the two nations have stepped up military cooperation as they patch up a rift caused by a pair of failed arms deals scuttled by the U.S.The improved ties have been highlighted by this week’s visit to Beijing by Israel’s military chief and a training mission to Israel by the Chinese paramilitary force
  • 中国国安部副部长秘书落入美人计 遭美策反
    Boxun is always entertaining//
    (世界日报) 中、美兩國在香港爆發間諜戰。來自北京的消息說,中國國家安全部一名副部長秘書,在香港落入美國情報機關設下的「美人計」陷阱,與女諜幽會時遭拍照勒索,變節後為美方提供大量重要中國的國家機密,於年初落網。由於此人接近中國高層,掌握國家領導人才能看到的核心機密,因此成為中國近年來最大間諜案,牽涉到350多名官員。據稱,這是自1986年中國國安部北美處長俞強聲叛逃美國事件以來,國安部內部最嚴重的間諜案。有消息指該案令中國最高層震怒,已下令徹查,涉案的國安部副部長已被停職。該名間諜料將遭最嚴厲懲處,以叛國罪處決
  • Chen Guangcheng: journey to freedom – FT.com
    On the morning of April 25, one of them called the US embassy and asked the Americans to take him in. Harold Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser (who was called back just as he was boarding a cruise ship on the Yangtze river), advised that Chen be taken in for humanitarian reasons because of his blindness and his leg injury. By the end of the day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had approved the plan. On the night of April 26, an embassy car set out to pick him up.
    “The activists who were helping Chen were being followed and the embassy car going to meet them was also possibly being followed, but both cars lost the people following them and then they made the transfer,” says a state department official. One person involved in smuggling Chen in says it was “almost as if [the police or state security officers] were helping us to get Chen into the embassy”.
  • Violence Continues to Plague Sanlitun – Beijing – Beijing Blogs Blog | City Weekend Guide
    Because Beijing is a relatively safe place to live when compared to many foreign cities, expats tend to settle into a comfort zone. However, a recent escalation of violence in Sanlitun has brought expat safety concerns to light.
  • Self server: Rise and fall of a Chinese internet fraudster|Society|In-depth|WantChinaTimes.com
    from 2007 he became a leading player in China’s online-gaming industry, with tens of millions of yuan in assets, expensive cars and a luxury house. Yet by the end of 2010 he had been jailed for his involvement in internet crimes.The story of Cai’s rise from poverty was revealed during the recent review of his case by the Chongqing Yubei District People’s Court. Cai is said to have recruited a group of young people born after 1980 into a hacking team called “Knight.” This team attacked the private servers of the online game Legend, forcing the server company to hand over its advertising agency rights.
  • First a Black Hood, Then 81 Captive Days for Artist in China – NYTimes.com
    The policeman yanked the black hood over Ai Weiwei’s head. It was suffocating. Written in white across the outside was a cryptic phrase: “Suspect 1.7.”

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