China’s Notorious City Management Officers in Legal Limbo Despite Expanding Role

Zhou Qijun, Sun Liangzi and Li Rongde
The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has been charged with regulating the force that earlier was under the sole purview of local governments

China’s New Tool for Social Control: A Credit Rating for Everything

Josh Chin and Gillian Wong
Wall Street Journal
Beijing wants to give every citizen a score based on behavior such as spending habits and filial piety, which can bar citizens from loans, jobs, air travel

Books

04.03.13

From the Dragon’s Mouth

Ana Fuentes
From The Dragon’s Mouth: Ten True Stories that Unveil the Real China is an exquisitely intimate look into the China of the twenty-first century as seen through the eyes of its people. This is one of the rare times a book combines the voices of everyday Chinese people from so many different layers of society: a dissident tortured by the police; a young millionaire devoted to nationalism; a peasant-turned-prostitute to pay for the best education for her son; a woman who married her gay friend to escape from social pressure, just like an estimated 16 million other women; a venerated kung fu master unable to train outdoors because of the hazardous pollution; the daughter of two Communist Party officials getting rich coaching Chinese entrepreneurs the ways of Capitalism; among others.   —Penguin{chop}{node, 3048, 4}

Books

01.31.13

Tombstone

Yang Jisheng
An estimated 36 million Chinese men, women, and children starved to death during China’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and early ’60s. One of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century, the famine is poorly understood, and in China is still euphemistically referred to as the “three years of natural disaster.”As a journalist with privileged access to official and unofficial sources, Yang Jisheng spent twenty years piecing together the events that led to mass nationwide starvation, including the death of his own father. Finding no natural causes, Yang lays the deaths at the feet of China’s totalitarian Communist system and the refusal of officials at every level to value human life over ideology and self-interest.Tombstone is a testament to inhumanity and occasional heroism that pits collective memory against the historical amnesia imposed by those in power. Stunning in scale and arresting in its detailed account of the staggering human cost of this tragedy, Tombstone is written both as a memorial to the lives lost—an enduring tombstone in memory of the dead—and in hopeful anticipation of the final demise of the totalitarian system. —Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Books

10.03.12

Chinese Characters

Angilee Shah and Jeffrey Wasserstrom (Editors)
Though China is currently in the global spotlight, few outside its borders have a feel for the tremendous diversity of the lives being led inside the country. This collection of compelling stories challenges oversimplified views of China by shifting the focus away from the question of China’s place in the global order and zeroing in on what is happening on the ground. Some of the most talented and respected journalists and scholars writing about China today profile people who defy the stereotypes that are broadcast in print, over the airwaves, and online. These include an artist who copies classical paintings for export to tourist markets, Xi’an migrant workers who make a living recycling trash in the city dumps, a Taoist mystic, an entrepreneur hoping to strike it rich in the rental car business, an old woman about to lose her home in Beijing, and a crusading legal scholar.The immense variety in the lives of these Chinese characters dispels any lingering sense that China has a monolithic population or is just a place where dissidents fight Communist Party loyalists and laborers create goods for millionaires. By bringing to life the exciting, saddening, humorous, confusing, and utterly ordinary stories of these people, the gifted contributors create a multi-faceted portrait of a remarkable country undergoing extraordinary transformations. —University of California Press{chop}

Books

09.19.12

Two Billion Eyes

Ying Zhu
With over 1.2 billion viewers globally, including millions in the United States, China Central Television (CCTV) reaches the world’s single largest audience. The official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, CCTV is also a dynamic modern media conglomerate, fully reliant on advertising revenue and aggressively competitive both within China and on the global media scene. Yet this hugely influential media player is all but unknown to the west. Two Billion Eyes tells its story for the first time.For this unprecedented look inside CCTV, noted Chinese media expert Ying Zhu has conducted candid interviews with the network’s leading players, including senior executives, noted investigative journalists, and popular news anchors, as well as directors and producers of some of CCTV’s most successful dramatic and current affairs programs.Examining the broader story of CCTV in a changing China over the past quarter century, Two Billion Eyes looks at how commercial priorities and journalistic ethics have competed with the demands of state censorship and how Chinese audiences themselves have grown more critical, even as Party control shows no signs of loosening. A true inside account of one of the world’s most important companies, this is a crucial new book for anyone seeking to understand contemporary China.    —The New Press

Books

04.25.12

The Tree That Bleeds

Nick Holdstock
In 1997 a small town in a remote part of China was shaken by violent protests that led to the imposition of martial law. Some said it was a peaceful demonstration that was brutally suppressed by the government; others that it was an act of terrorism. When Nick Holdstock arrived in 2001, the town was still bitterly divided. The main resentment was between the Uighurs (an ethnic minority in the region) and the Han (the ethnic majority in China). While living in Xinjiang, Holdstock was confronted with the political, economic and religious sources of conflict between these different communities, which would later result in the terrible violence of July 2009, when hundreds died in further riots in the region. The Tree that Bleeds is a book about what happens when people stop believing their government will listen. —Luath Press Limited

Books

04.24.12

Changing Media, Changing China

Susan L. Shirk (editor)
Thirty years ago, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made a fateful decision: to allow newspapers, magazines, television, and radio stations to compete in the marketplace instead of being financed exclusively by the government. The political and social implications of that decision are still unfolding as the Chinese government, media, and public adapt to the new information environment.Edited by Susan Shirk, one of America's leading experts on contemporary China, this collection of essays brings together a who's who of experts—Chinese and American—writing about all aspects of the changing media landscape in China. In detailed case studies, the authors describe how the media is reshaping itself from a propaganda mouthpiece into an agent of watchdog journalism, how politicians are reacting to increased scrutiny from the media, and how television, newspapers, magazines, and Web-based news sites navigate the cross-currents between the open marketplace and the CCP censors. China has over 360 million Internet users, more than any other country, and an astounding 162 million bloggers. The growth of Internet access has dramatically increased the information available, the variety and timeliness of the news, and its national and international reach. But China is still far from having a free press. As of 2008, the international NGO Freedom House ranked China 181 worst out of 195 countries in terms of press restrictions, and Chinese journalists have been aptly described as "dancing in shackles." The recent controversy over China's censorship of Google highlights the CCP's deep ambivalence toward information freedom.Covering everything from the rise of business media and online public opinion polling to environmental journalism and the effect of media on foreign policy, Changing Media, Changing China reveals how the most populous nation on the planet is reacting to demands for real news. —Oxford University Press

Books

04.24.12

China: Fragile Superpower

Susan L. Shirk
Once a sleeping giant, China today is the world's fastest growing economy—the leading manufacturer of cell phones, laptop computers, and digital cameras—a dramatic turn-around that alarms many Westerners. But in China: Fragile Superpower, Susan L. Shirk opens up the black box of Chinese politics and finds that the real danger lies elsewhere—not in China's astonishing growth, but in the deep insecurity of its leaders. China's leaders face a troubling paradox: the more developed and prosperous the country becomes, the more insecure and threatened they feel.Shirk, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for China, knows many of today's Chinese rulers personally and has studied them for three decades. She offers invaluable insight into how they think—and what they fear. In this revealing book, readers see the world through the eyes of men like President Hu Jintao and former President Jiang Zemin. We discover a fragile communist regime desperate to survive in a society turned upside down by miraculous economic growth and a stunning new openness to the greater world. Indeed, ever since the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, Chinese leaders have been afraid of its own citizens, and this fear motivates many of their decisions when dealing with the U.S. and other nations. In particular, the fervent nationalism of the Chinese people, combined with their passionate resentment of Japan and attachment to Taiwan, have made relations with this country a minefield. —Oxford University Press

Books

04.11.12

Protest with Chinese Characteristics

Ho-fung Hung
The origin of political modernity has long been tied to the Western history of protest and revolution, the currents of which many believe sparked popular dissent worldwide. Reviewing nearly one thousand instances of protest in China from the eighteenth to the early-nineteenth centuries, Ho-fung Hung charts an evolution of Chinese dissent that stands apart from Western trends.Hung samples from mid-Qing petitions and humble plaints to the emperor. He revisits rallies, riots, market strikes, and other forms of contention rarely considered in previous studies. Drawing on new world history, which accommodates parallels and divergences between political-economic and cultural developments East and West, Hung shows how the centralization of political power and an expanding market, coupled with a persistent Confucianist orthodoxy, shaped protesters' strategies and appeals in Qing China.This unique form of mid-Qing protest combined a quest for justice and autonomy with a filial-loyal respect for the imperial center, and Hung's careful research ties this distinct characteristic to popular protest in China today. As Hung makes clear, the nature of these protests prove late imperial China was anything but a stagnant and tranquil empire before the West cracked it open. In fact, the origins of modern popular politics in China predate the 1911 Revolution. Hung's work ultimately establishes a framework others can use to compare popular protest among different cultural fabrics. His book fundamentally recasts the evolution of such acts worldwide.                —Columbia University Press

Books

03.08.12

Ballot Box China

Kerry Brown
Since 1988, China has undergone one of the largest, but least understood experiments in grassroots democracy. Across 600,000 villages in China, with almost a million elections, some three million officials have been elected. The Chinese government believes that this is a step towards "democracy with Chinese characteristics". But to many involved in them, the elections have been mired by corruption, vote-rigging and cronyism. This book looks at the history of these elections, how they arose, what they have achieved and where they might be going, exploring the specific experience of elections by those who have taken part in them — the villagers in some of the most deprived areas of China.  —Zed Books

Books

02.27.12

Public Passions

Eugenia Lean
In 1935, a Chinese woman by the name of Shi Jianqiao murdered the notorious warlord Sun Chuanfang as he prayed in a Buddhist temple. This riveting work of history examines this well-publicized crime and the highly sensationalized trial of the killer. In a fascinating investigation of the media, political, and judicial records surrounding this cause célèbre, Eugenia Lean shows how Shi Jianqiao planned not only to avenge the death of her father, but also to attract media attention and galvanize public support.Lean traces the rise of a new sentiment—"popular sympathy"—in early twentieth-century China, a sentiment that ultimately served to exonerate the assassin. The book sheds new light on the political significance of emotions, the powerful influence of sensational media, modern law in China, and the gendered nature of modernity.  —University of California Press

Books

04.15.10

Superstitious Regimes

Rebecca Nedostup
We live in a world shaped by secularism—the separation of numinous power from political authority and religion from the political, social, and economic realms of public life. Not only has progress toward modernity often been equated with secularization, but when religion is admitted into modernity, it has been distinguished from superstition. That such ideas are continually contested does not undercut their extraordinary influence.These divisions underpin this investigation of the role of religion in the construction of modernity and political power during the Nanjing Decade (1927–1937) of Nationalist rule in China. This book explores the modern recategorization of religious practices and people and examines how state power affected the religious lives and physical order of local communities. It also looks at how politicians conceived of their own ritual role in an era when authority was meant to derive from popular sovereignty. The claims of secular nationalism and mobilizational politics prompted the Nationalists to conceive of the world of religious association as a dangerous realm of “superstition” that would destroy the nation. This is the first “superstitious regime” of the book’s title. It also convinced them that national feeling and faith in the party-state would replace those ties—the second “superstitious regime.” —Harvard University Press{chop}

Books

04.01.10

Chinese Politics

Stanley Rosen
Written by a team of leading China scholars, this text interrogates the dynamics of state power and legitimation in 21st-century China. Despite the continuing economic successes and rising international prestige of China there has been increasing social protests over corruption, land seizures, environmental concerns, and homeowner movements. Such political contestation presents an opportunity to explore the changes occurring in China today—what are the goals of political contestation, how are Chinese Communist Party leaders legitimizing their rule, who are the specific actors involved in contesting state legitimacy today and what are the implications of changing state-society relations for the future viability of the People’s Republic?  —Routledge

Books

04.01.10

Socialist Insecurity

Mark Frazier
Over the past two decades, China has rapidly increased its spending on its public pension programs, to the point that pension funding is one of the government's largest expenditures. Despite this, only about fifty million citizens—one-third of the country's population above the age of sixty—receive pensions. Combined with the growing and increasingly violent unrest over inequalities brought about by China's reform model, the escalating costs of an aging society have brought the Chinese political leadership to a critical juncture in its economic and social policies.In Socialist Insecurity, Mark W. Frazier explores pension policy in the People's Republic of China, arguing that the government's push to expand pension and health insurance coverage to urban residents and rural migrants has not reduced, but rather reproduced, economic inequalities. He explains this apparent paradox by analyzing the decisions of the political actors responsible for pension reform: urban officials and state-owned enterprise managers. Frazier shows that China's highly decentralized pension administration both encourages the "grabbing hand" of local officials to collect large amounts of pension and other social insurance revenue and compels redistribution of these revenues to urban pensioners, a crucial political constituency.More broadly, Socialist Insecurity shows that the inequalities of welfare policy put China in the same quandary as other large uneven developers—countries that have succeeded in achieving rapid growth but with growing economic inequalities. While most explanations of the formation and expansion of welfare states are derived from experience in today's mature welfare systems, developing countries such as China, Frazier argues, provide new terrain to explore how welfare programs evolve, who drives the process, and who sees the greatest benefit.  —Cornell University Press

Books

04.01.10

Myth of the Social Volcano

Martin K. Whyte
Is popular anger about rising inequality propelling China toward a "social volcano" of protest activity and instability that could challenge Chinese Communist Party rule? Many inside and outside of China have speculated, without evidence, that the answer is yes. In 2004, Harvard sociologist Martin King Whyte has undertaken the first systematic, nationwide survey of ordinary Chinese citizens to ask them directly how they feel about inequalities that have resulted since China's market opening in 1978. His findings are the subject of this book. —Stanford University Press

Books

03.15.10

Art, Politics and Commerce in Chinese Cinema

Stanley Rosen
Art, politics, and commerce are intertwined everywhere, but in China the interplay is explicit, intimate, and elemental, and nowhere more so than in the film industry. Understanding this interplay in the era of market reform and globalization is essential to understanding mainland Chinese cinema. This interdisciplinary book provides a comprehensive reappraisal of Chinese cinema, surveying the evolution of film production and consumption in mainland China as a product of shifting relations between art, politics, and commerce. Within these arenas, each of the twelve chapters treats a particular history, development, genre, filmmaker or generation of filmmakers, adding up to a distinctively comprehensive rendering of Chinese cinema. The book illuminates China’s changing state-society relations, the trajectory of marketization and globalization, the effects of China’s stark historical shifts, Hollywood’s role, the role of nationalism, and related themes of interest to scholars of Asian studies, cinema and media studies, political science, sociology, comparative literature and Chinese language. Contributors include Ying Zhu, Stanley Rosen, Seio Nakajima, Zhiwei Xiao, Shujen Wang, Paul Clark, Stephen Teo, John Lent, Ying Xu, Yingjin Zhang, Bruce Robinson, Liyan Qin, and Shuqin Cui.  —Hong Kong University Press