søndag 11. desember 2016

Time for China to release writers, journalists and activists

Today, on World Human Rights Day, our Pen International community of writers, readers, activists and publishers condemn the Chinese authorities’ sustained and increasing attack on free expression and call for an immediate end to China’s worsening crackdown on fundamental human rights.

We cannot stand by as more and more of our friends and colleagues are silenced. Where is the voice of Ilham Tohti, the Uighur scholar and Pen member currently serving a life sentence, when his life’s work has been about creating peace and dialogue in China? Where is the voice of veteran journalist Gao Yu, who spent close to two years in prison and is now under house arrest? Where is the voice of publisher Gui Minhai, who disappeared from his holiday home in Thailand and is now being held incommunicado? Where is the voice of Nobel peace laureate and former president of the Independent Chinese Pen Centre, Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year prison sentence and the voice of his wife, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest for over six years without even having been accused of a crime? Read more

China universities must become Communist party 'strongholds', says Xi Jinping

Chinese authorities must intensify ideological controls on academia and turn universities into Communist party “strongholds”, President Xi Jinping has declared in a major address. “Higher education ... must adhere to correct political orientation,” Xi said in a high-profile speech to top party leaders and university chiefs that was delivered at a two-day congress on “ideological and political work” in Beijing. 

Universities must be transformed into “strongholds that adhere to party leadership” and political education should be made “more appealing”, the president ordered, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency. Experts have described it as the latest phase of Beijing’s bid to rein in opposition to its rule. Read more

No country for academics: Chinese crackdown forces intellectuals abroad

As Chinese activist and scholar Teng Biao sat at home on the east coast of America, more than 13,000km (8,000 miles) away his wife and nine-year-old daughter were preparing to embark on the most dangerous journey of their lives. “My wife didn’t tell my daughter what was going on,” said Teng, who had himself fled China seven months earlier to escape the most severe period of political repression since the days following the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. “She said it was going to be a special holiday. She told her they were going on an adventure.”

One year after their dramatic escape through southeast Asia, Teng’s family has been reunited in New Jersey and is part of a fast-growing community of exiled activists and academics who feel there is no longer a place for them in Xi Jinping’s increasingly repressive China. Read more

Increasing China's Food Supply – With Drones

With 1.36 billion people, protein consumption rising, scarce land, and the agricultural workforce declining, China needs to increase productivity. One option is using drones in farming, an industry still performed manually. Although the evolution will be gradual, Chinese farming is mechanizing. Wu Yiyuan from Shenzhen Hi-tech New Agricultural Technologies noted that “starting in 2012, the state government in China issued a policy to support more high tech agriculture including UAVs.” Read more

Khrushchev’s Fate and China’s Future

The fate of the People’s Republic of China as a political project is increasingly dependent on one man – Xi Jinping. Already known informally as “the chairman of everything,” the sixth plenum of the 18th Party Congress recently declared him the “core” of the Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership. Rumors abound that he now intends to violate the party’s own norms of leadership selection at next year’s Party Congress by changing the retirement age in the Politburo Standing Committee and neglecting to name a successor.

Recognizing the extent of Xi’s ambitions, scholars have attempted to better understand his prospects by comparing and contrasting him with a whole swathe of other leaders, including Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping,Chiang Kai-shek, Vladimir Putin, and even the pope. However, in terms of his ambitions, strengths, and weaknesses, Xi most obviously resembles the former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Read more

China's Approach to the Middle East Looks Familiar

Over the past few decades of China’s rise, Beijing’s soft power pitch to the developing east has been an indictment of Ugly Americanism. China had fallen victim to Western and Japanese imperialism, and as a result pledged to act not as a patron but a partner in decolonialism and development. In practice that meant that where U.S. diplomacy had traditionally dealt in toxic aid, contingent on political cooperation, China had typically offered infrastructure-for-energy and other business deals. Read more

The Tsai-Trump Call: The Dynamics in Taiwan

The 10-minute telephone conversation between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. president-elect Donald J. Trump on December 2 — the first such conversation between a sitting president in Taiwan and a U.S. president or president-elect since Washington broke official diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 — has sparked reactions worldwide, ranging from consternation at Trump’s breaking with longstanding policy to hopes for deeper relations between the United States and the democratic island nation. Read more

fredag 9. desember 2016

Da Kinas spedalske ble brent på bål

En junidag i 1951 foreslo en høytstående partifunksjonær i det sørvestlige Kina å brenne til døde et hundretall spedalske. Som formann Maos lydige elev ville han skape et samfunn fritt for sult og sykdom. Helst så fort som mulig. "Men vi kan da ikke gjøre noe slikt," innvendte en kollega. Diskusjonen endte med at de spedalske ble stuet inn i et hus, som så ble påtent. "Ofrene ropte om hjelp, men til ingen nytte. Bare seks av de 110 overlevde´," skriver professor Frank Dikötter i sin bok, The Tragedy of Liberation. A History of the Chinese Revolution, 1945-1957.

China's First Tourist: How President Xi Jinping is changing the travel industry

When he says make room for lovebirds, a park spaces out its public benches along a lakefront. When he smiles after taking a bite of a local delicacy, a national culinary superstar is born. When he has a pint at an English pub, it becomes a pilgrimage for many travelers. As China's president during a time of unprecedented growth and change, Xi Jinping has guided a number of transformational initiatives. But few industries have felt his influence so profoundly as China's exploding domestic tourism sector. Read more

Trump taps Iowa Gov. Branstad for China ambassador

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been picked for the post of US ambassador to China by President-elected Donald Trump. Trump spokesperson Jason Miller confirmed that Branstad had accepted the offer on the transition's daily call with reporters. Miller also said that Branstad will join Trump at his Des Moines rally Thursday, one of the stops on Trump's "thank you" tour of rallies in swing states.

Miller cited Branstad's experience in public policy, trade, and agriculture as attributes that led to his selection as Trump's envoy in Beijing. Branstad, Miller said, "has a tremendous understanding of China and the Chinese people, and is someone who very much impressed the President-elect, not just during their meetings on the campaign trail but also in their meetings after the election." Read more

Torture in secret prisons: The dark side of China's anti-corruption crackdown

Party corruption fighters have powerful tools at their disposal, chief among which is the ability to summon any party member to an "appointed time and place," or shuanggui, for investigation. Shuanggui detainees are held in secret, for indefinite periods of time, during which they are brutally interrogated, sometimes fatally, according to a new Human Rights Watch report. "Party leader Xi Jinping has built his anti-corruption campaign on an abusive and illegal detention system," Sophie Richardson, HRW China director, said in a statement. "Torturing subjects to confess won't bring an end to corruption, but will end any confidence in China's judicial system." Read more  The report

torsdag 8. desember 2016

After the Call: Does Taiwan Have a Plan for the Trump Years?

Last Friday’s phone call between U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen — the first presidential interaction between the two sides since U.S. President Jimmy Carter ended formal diplomatic relations in 1979 — has hinted at a possible change to relations between the two sides. Shortly after the Financial Times reported that the call had taken place, I ran through some of the possible implications for both cross-strait ties and U.S.-Taiwan relations. (David Graham in The Atlantic also presents a good round-up of the reasons for the U.S. status quo policy.) Additionally, Shannon Tiezzi discussed the reaction from Beijing, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi putting out a statement that effectively gave Donald Trump a pass and blamed Taiwan for its “little trick.” Read more

The People's Republic of the Disappeared

On November 21, human rights defender Jiang Tianyong disappeared. He was supposed to arrive in Beijing at 6:30 am the following day but when his train pulled into the station he was not onboard. Attempting to file a missing person report at their local police station in Zhengzhou, his family was toldto go to Beijing for answers. At the time of writing, Jiang’s whereabouts remain unknown. Jiang is just the latest victim in Beijing’s terror campaign against the human rights community, which has seen the disappearance of countless individuals into a shadowy network of secret detention. Over the last decade, China has worked to normalize enforced disappearances behind a veneer of the rule of law. Read more

China's Zimbabwe Risk

Zimbabwean politics is at a critical moment. Its 92-year-old president, Robert Mugabe, having led the country for more than 30 years, is vowing to run forre-election in 2018. However, his political party, Zanu-PF, is fracturing. His vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has garnered many followers in the party and is expected to challenge Mugabe in the presidential election. His wife, Grace Mugabe, has also received factional backing within Zanu-PF and is interested in competing for the presidency. Read more

"They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals"

Inside President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal antidrug campaign in the Philippines, our photojournalist documented 57 homicide victims over 35 days. Read more

tirsdag 6. desember 2016

Hollywood transformed: How China is changing the DNA of America’s blockbuster movies

Those worried about Hollywood’s possible evolution into China’s entertainer-in-chief have missed the boat – it has already evolved into that role. It’s hard to miss the Asiatic tint to the past few summers at the multiplex – everywhere you look, films are setting down in Beijing and Macau, sprouting cameos by Chinese stars, and product placements for goods western audiences have never heard of. The producers of World War Z (2013) removed a discussion over whether the zombie apocalypse started in China; Chinese villains were edited out of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End(2007) and Men in Black 3 (2012). When the writers of Battleship (2012) turned in a draft in which aliens only threatened the US, the premise was deemed “too American”. 

These days, movie monsters head straight for the West Coast, laying waste to San Francisco and the Philippines, the better to sweep the entire Pacific Rim, threatening Hawaii and Hong Kong, as did both Godzilla in this year’s big budget remake and the alien gigantosaurs of Pacific Rim (2013) – another ready-made symbol for the invading Hollywood behemoth, perhaps. Read more

In China, Prisoners of Conscience Are Literally Being Butchered

This week, two extraordinary Canadian films — one a chilling documentary, the other a riveting drama based on its findings — were released for sale on iTunes. Directed by Leon Lee, the films illuminate what may be the most depraved of all systematic human-rights atrocities in the world today: China's industrial-scale harvesting of vital organs from prisoners of conscience, to be transplanted into patients paying exorbitant fees for a heart, kidney, or liver made available on demand.

The documentary, "Human Harvest," won the coveted Peabody Awardfor its exposé of an unspeakable crime against humanity. In 1999, Chinese hospitals began performing more than 10,000 organ transplants annually, generating a vast and lucrative traffic in "transplant tourists," who flocked to China on the assurance that they could obtain lifesaving organs without having to languish on a waiting list. China had no voluntary organ-donation system to speak of, yet suddenly it was providing tens of thousands of freshly-harvested organs to patients with ready cash or high-placed connections. How was that possible? Read more

mandag 5. desember 2016

How to read Donald Trump’s call with Taiwan’s president

There are lots of excellent reasons why America should deepen its relations with Taiwan, the raucous, friendly and dynamic island of 25m people that shows that democracy and Chinese culture can co-exist, despite what apologists for one-party rule like to claim. There is one heartbreaking and serious reason why any process of deepening relations cannot include America moving to recognise Taiwan as an independent sovereign state—at least as long as mainland China is governed by its current authoritarian and fiercely nationalist (though nominally Communist) rulers. Read more