Saturday, January 12, 2008


This week, in a preview of the pagentry of the Olympics if not its news value, a press conference to announce an Olympics art exhibition was held in the Supreme Ancestral Temple of the Forbidden City. It went on for more than two hours, featured lots of food and drink, flowers for the VIPS and made-up boys and girls in a children's singing performance.

Chinese and international artists are invited to submit works of art, which will be judged and then displayed along Beijing's traffic-choked roads, in order to make it "more convenient" for citizens to appreciate the art. Below, He Zhenliang, chairman of the International Olympic Committee's Commission for Culture and Olympic Education, tells the media it's the first time that the IOC has given its patronage to such an event.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The US and China are actually in agreement on this; neither wants to reduce growth. This is unfortunately a typical scene: Landing at Beijing airport in late July, a year before the 2008 Olympic Games, visibility was poor due to smog.

Officials say they are working hard to cut pollution but won't say what's actually in the air and don't in fact regularly monitor two of the most dangerous pollutants: ozone and fine particulate matter. They also like to use averages and indexes rather than talk about specific locations (such as the Olympic village) and they are not very transparent about how and where their monitoring stations are placed. Athletes are worried.

A lot of the pollution comes from outside of Beijing, but it's unclear how hard officials are leaning on the surrounding areas to clean up before the Olympics. Detailed information here. Satellite data has confirmed Beijing is the air pollution capital of the world.

When I first arrived in Beijing in 2005, the view from my apartment window towards Pacific Century Place in Sanlitun, on an ordinary day, often looked like this:

That same view on a bad day looked like this:

Monday, October 15, 2007


Starting Monday, 2,213 delegates meet at the Great Hall of the People to discuss policies in the Communist Party platform and select new leaders. More than 1,100 foreign journalists and more than 800 domestic Chinese journalists are covering the week-long event, known as "Shi Qi Da," shorthand for the 17th Party Congress.

Li Dongsheng, spokesman for the congress, answered questions Sunday evening:

On how the party can attract new members when there are so many other ways to get rich:

More than 73 million people belong to the Communist Party, up 6.4% from the last party congress in 2002. "Many young people as well as many private businessmen are enthusiastic applicants for CPC membership," Li said.

"If we do a good job in admitting new party members from the private sector, we will be able to broaden the popular foundation for our party, enhance the influence and cohesion of the party across the society, we will be able to broaden the coverage of our party's work … we will be able to strengthen the competence of our party members and ensure that there is vitality and vigor in our members."

On combatting corruption:

"Corruption is a global problem. Countries across the world give top priority to the fight against corruption but I don't see any country that has successfully uprooted corruption," Li said. "Progress has been made … the overall situation is good."

In some areas, he added, "corruption is still quite serious. Big cases of corruption occur from time to time." As head of the party, President Hu Jintao has proposed measures to treat "both the symptoms and the root causes of corruption."

On plans for advancing political reform:

"Political reform hinges on the success of comprehensive reform and it is also critical for the fundamental interests of our people. We have advanced political reform without pause," Li said.

"Our political reform is the self-improvement and development of the socialist political sytem. It must be promoted actively yet prudently … we have taken into consideration the national circumstances of China, we have deepened political reform on the basis of our own experience. At the same time we have also drawn upon the achievements of human political civilization but we will never copy the Western model of political system."


In Henan province, Gao Yaojie, 80, avoids other doctors as well as entrepreneurs who seek her endorsement for various cures for AIDS. She also has harsh words for officials who want her approval of their efforts to fight the disease.

She was detained earlier this year trying to get to Beijing to pick up a visa from the US embassy in order to attend a banquet in her honor in Washington. Under pressure, authorities relented and let her receive an award from the nonprofit Vital Voices Global Partnership.

The Central Government's rhetoric on HIV/AIDS has improved recently, but grassroots and provincial level policy are rarely on the same page, details here.


Loosely translated, that is. Discrimination against all sorts of people and problems is wide-spread in China; the story of how one very overweight woman tried to do something about it, here.

They performed recently in Guiyang, Guangxi province, here:


Five families from the Washington DC area visited China recently with their 12-year-old daughters, adopted from Jiangsu province. Their experiences here.

In yet another sign of China's economic boom, prostitution flourishes here.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

At the euphemistically-named Beijing Pop Festival today, a mostly Chinese audience came to see headliner Public Enemy and scores of Chinese bands. Also performing during the two day festival: the New York Dolls, Brett Anderson of Suede, Nine Inch Nails and Cui Jian, China's godfather of rock and roll. In its first year, the festival drew mostly foreigners. Now in it's third year, the event has a majority Chinese audience and the approval of the Ministry of Culture, so long as Public Enemy is referred to in the program as "P.E."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


At the private Young Pioneers Confucius school in Zhengzhou city, Henan province, kids practice how to give each other back massages so they can go home and offer one to their parents. Many parents want their children to study the ancient philosopher to learn how to respect their elders, but many Chinese have no real understanding of what Confucianism means anymore. Experts say they are grasping for something to believe in, in the absence of any real ideology.


Zhou Li, and her husband Wu Youming, a former police officer in Hubei province, both quit their state jobs and say they are happier as writers and painters, even without all the benefits they used to receive from their danwei. But they're unusual. Each year, as college enrollments rise, more and more graduates have difficulty finding jobs they want in the private sector.


In China, a woman kills herself every four minutes. The ratio is even worse in the countryside. That's according to the World Health Organization, which claims that China is the only country where more women commit suicide than men. The true picture is a bit more complex. Statistics differ from region to region and one might ask, why do so many more men in the west succeed at killing themselves? Experts in Beijing cite any number of causes for high suicide rates, from poverty and a lack of education to the stresses caused by migrant work. A chief reason, is the easy access to pesticides.
Here, Sun Jiangbao, disabled in a mining accident, practices exercises in his front yard. His wife Zhao Haixia, committed suicide 10 years ago during the Spring Festival, the biggest holiday of the year and one that often brings out family conflicts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thurston Moore with Sonic Youth, performing in Beijing tonight (Monday). Opening act should have been Carsick Cars, a local punk trio who idolize the seminal alternative rock band from New York but they were suddenly cancelled. The rumor was that someone had told Beijing cultural authorities that Carsick Cars once performed in a "Free Tibet" concert, but 1) I couldn't get this alleged reason for the sudden cancellation of Carsick Cars on the record 2) we don't have any evidence to suggest the ostensible reason is accurate. The irony is that the Chinese band is actually apolitical while Sonic Youth performed in a Free Tibet concert years ago, a source said.

The crowd was young and arty, and very moshy. Have video of the crowd demanding Carsick Cars but don't know how to load it. Moore dedicated one of his songs to Carsick Cars, saying only that the issue was "beyond our control."

Have recently written about the rising divorce rate in China, as women become increasingly financially independent and as the barriers to divorce slowly fall away.

Here's Shu Xin, founder of a Shanghai-based divorce and marriage counseling center, which has a website that has 1 million registered users. Customers who want a session with Shu have to pay $105 an hour or up to $658 a day. He says business is booming.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Second warm day in a row, and locals are admiring and photographing the blossoms on Chang'An Jie, as you drive past Tiananmen Square.

Had another fight withe the bao an, this time the security guard at the diplomatic compound just next door to mine, when they demanded my passport, but not the passport of any other foreigners entering. The guy actually chest butted me. I was so shengqi.

Last week was the on-again, off-again six party talks. They're off again.

Have been writing about soccer stars and petitioners, and how for migrant workers, Chinese New Year isn't always the family-centric holiday it seems.

Only one of their five children made it home to see Zhi Jifang and her husband, Huang Peibing, in Yanyan village, Henan province, for Chinese New Year. Abnother said maybe. The couple used to look after four grandchildren but now only care for one. Their own children are busy doing migrant work in faraway cities and family ties are strained.

Lui Huana, rear, in white shorts, practicing in Kunming, Yunnan province, with the rest of China's national womens soccer team. Couldn't get any closer.