China’s Urban Refugees: Leaving Pollution, City Life Behind

Rob Schmitz
Marketplace
Many educated Chinese urbanites have left the city and their jobs for a slower and cleaner life in the mountains of Western China. 

Can China Deliver The Chinese Dream(s)?

Evan Osnos
New Yorker
In dedicating his people to pursue something more abstract and individualized, Xi has succeeded in capturing their attention. Now he faces the challenge of meeting their expectations.  

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}

Media

04.02.13

China Concerto

Jonathan Landreth
Before February 2012, when his name exploded onto the front pages of newspapers around the globe, most people outside of China had never heard of Bo Xilai, the now-fallen Communist Party Secretary of the megacity of Chongqing. But in the years...

Books

03.22.13

Pressures and Distortions

Edited by Ned Kaufman
Pressures and Distortions looks at the design, building, and interpretation of cities from the point of view of their residents.The cities chronicled in depth include examples from China (Shanghai and Shenzhen), Latin America (Bogotá and Mexico City), and Indonesia (Banda Aceh). Shorter sections cover Lima and Rio de Janeiro. The authors show how residents respond creatively to environmental disaster, poverty, housing shortages, and surging urban population. They also show how governments, international relief agencies, architects, and planners can shape better urban environments. Throughout, residents present their experiences in their own words and through careful documentation of their living environments.Pressures and Distortions began in 2008 with the Research Program’s international call for proposals. A competitive process selected four teams, with researchers based in Mexico, Colombia, China, Australia, France, and the US. Each team received a research grant from Rafael Viñoly Architects and worked independently.With over 400 pages, Pressures and Distortions contains more than 500 original full-color photographs, plans, and drawings, as well as a DVD with over 100 video and audio recordings from the streets of Bogotá. —Rafael Viñoly Architects PC

Carbon Copy: Why China’s Air-Pollution Problem Isn’t Unique

Aaron Reuben
Atlantic
“...in relation to the population density we see in China,” biologist Ramon Guardans says, “the U.S. and Europe did a much dirtier job industrializing.” 

Media

03.21.13

The Men Are Louder: A Gender Analysis of Weibo

Does Sina Weibo provide an equal platform for expression for both men and women in China? According to a recent study conducted by Sun Huan, a graduate student in Comparative Media Studies and a research assistant at the Center for Civic Media at...

Viewpoint

03.19.13

For Many in China, the One Child Policy is Already Irrelevant

Leslie T. Chang
Before getting pregnant with her second child, Lu Qingmin went to the family-planning office to apply for a birth permit. Officials in her husband’s Hunan village where she was living turned her down, but she had the baby anyway. She may eventually...

Conversation

03.13.13

China’s Post 1980’s Generation—Are the Kids All Right?

Sun Yunfan, Orville Schell & more
This week, the ChinaFile Conversation is a call for reactions to an article about China's current generation gap, written by James Palmer, a Beijing-based historian, author, and Global Times editor. The article, first published by Aeon in the U...

Will The Middle Class Shake China?

Evan Osnos
New Yorker
A decade after recognizing that the middle class might be a signpost on the way to redemption, the government is failing to enact the will of the people it needs most, and thus it risks losing its greatest bulwark against the change it fears.&...

The Balinghou: China’s Generation Gap

James Palmer
Aeon Magazine
The raft of criticisms being levelled at the generation of children born in the 80s has very little to do with the actual failings of the young, but is a symptom of the yawning, and unprecedented gulf between young urban Chinese and their parents.

Could Electric Cars Reduce China’s Smog?

John Sudworth
BBC
Looking at BYD Auto Company, China's central planners, and Warren Buffet's investment in the future of electric cars in China...

Conversation

03.08.13

Will China’s Property Market Crash, and So What If It Does?

Dorinda Elliott & Bill Bishop
Dorinda Elliott:At this week’s National People’s Congress, outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao proclaimed that the government kept housing prices from rising too fast. Really? I wonder what my 28-year-old Shanghainese friend Robert thinks about that. He and...

Zhang Xin: China’s Real Estate Mogul

Shachar Bar-On
CBS News
Cultural Revolution child Zhang Xin talks with Leslie Stahl about her transformation from sweatshop worker to self-made billionaire.

Reports

03.07.13

Between the Lines: Listening to Female Factory Workers in China

BSR
Women are crucial to China’s manufacturing sector. While women comprise more than 44% of the overall workforce, they represent about 60% of workers who migrate from rural areas to cities to work in factories. These female workers are diverse, with...

A Streak Of Brooklyn In Beijing

Mitch Moxley
New York Times
Gulou residents have been joined by a new breed of Chinese and expatriate clad in skinny jeans, riding fixed-gear bikes and a loyal customer base for restaurants that offer locavore menu options.

China Could Fix Its Oversupply Of Men By Letting Gays Marry

Gwynn Guilford
Quartz
China has tens of millions more men of marriageable age than there are women.  Legalizing same-sex marriage would help solve China’s hugely problematic gender imbalance.  

China’s Divorce Rate Rises For Seventh Consecutive Year

Michelle FlorCruz
International Business Times
According to a survey by Tsinghua University and lifestyle magazine Xiaokang, a total of 2.87 million marriages ended in divorce in 2012, which is a 7.65 percent increase from the previous year. 

Environment

02.20.13

Air Quality in China: A Snapshot

Nearly five weeks ago, Beijing experienced its worst day of air quality on record: Levels of PM2.5—small particulates that can cause lung, cardiovascular, and respiratory disease—soared to more than thirty times the level considered safe by the...

Media

01.30.13

Chinese Web Erupts With Widespread Calls for Change as Beijing Endures Airpocalypse 2.0

Beijingers are choking on their air—again. Just seventeen days after Chinese cyberspace erupted with complaints about air so bad that it was “beyond index,” denizens of the Chinese capital awoke once again to a city blanketed with smog. Over the...

Books

01.24.13

Shangri-La

Michael Yamashita
The legendary Chamagudao, the Tea Horse Road, winds through dizzying mountain passes, across famed rivers like the Mekong and the Yangtze, and past monasteries and meadows in a circuitous route from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in western China to the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa. Actually a network of roads, trails, and highways, rather than one distinct route, the Chamagudao once stretched for almost 1400 miles (2350 km)—a conduit along which the historic trade between the mighty Chinese empire and the nomadic Tibetans linked remote villages and ethnic groups. The Chinese military needed strong horses for their wars against Mongol invaders from the north, and the fiercely religious Tibetans desired tea for sacred rituals and sustenance. Once tea was introduced into Tibet around the 10th century, demand for it grew. Tea soon became a staple for Tibetans, especially when combined with their other staple, yak butter. But with Tibet’s extreme temperatures and altitudes, tea cultivation on a large scale was impossible. This set the stage for the tea-horse trade, which, by the 11th century, flourished along the Chamagudao, continuing until the 1950s. But getting these prized commodities to their growing markets was no easy feat. To transport the tea over the mountains meant many months of hard and dangerous travel for the hundreds of porters.Today, as Chinese culture merges with and even absorbs Tibetan traditions, the Tea Horse Road is a relic of a vastly different time. The Chinese are rapidly paving dirt roads to make highways for cars and trucks. Soon there will be little evidence of this once vital trade route. Though horses are no longer a military imperative for the Chinese army, Tibet has a new commodity that is in much demand in China. A homely caterpillar infected by a parasitic fungus has replaced the horse trade in Tibet. The yartsa gombu is prized for its medicinal qualities. Now Tibetans nomads drive Land Cruisers and motorcycles instead of horses, thanks to the profits they make collecting and selling the miracle mushroom worth more than gold. So trade continues, even though relics of the tea-horse trade are becoming harder to find. Following the Chamagudao, this book is a rare intimate look into the changing world of Tibet—both ancient and modern, sacred and commonplace, the rarefied and the gritty—before the legends and mysteries of the Tea Horse road disappear into the Tibetan mist. —White Star {chop}

Chinese Man Seeking Overdue Wages, Kills Himself, Injures 7 in Explosion

Wang Yuanyuan, editor
Xinhua
A man in south China’s Guangdong Province ignited explosives on his body, killing himself and injuring seven others, official media said.

Sinica Podcast

01.18.13

China’s Urban Billion

Kaiser Kuo & Jeremy Goldkorn from Sinica Podcast
Lurking silently behind practically every story on Chinese economic growth over the last thirty years has been the country’s unprecedented shift from being an overwhelmingly rural society to what is now a largely urban one, with almost 700 million...

Environment

01.07.13

Car-Driving Officials in China Urged to Get on a Bus

from chinadialogue
China’s new leadership has asked government officials to travel simply and, in normal circumstances, not to close roads to ease their journeys. In a recent visit to the Qianhai area of Shenzhen, south China, incoming president Xi Jinping made sure...

Environment

01.02.13

China’s New “Middle Class” Environmental Protests

from chinadialogue
China’s urban residents (or the new “middle class”) protest on the streets only very rarely. Discontent is expressed almost exclusively online, via angry typing. But this has changed over the last five years—protests have come offline and on to the...

Caixin Media

12.28.12

Uncertain Future for Architectural Treasures

Nestled between mountains and a winding river in a scenic corner of Shanxi province is Zhongyang County, the home of an exquisite Confucian temple built during the Ming dynasty.The colorful wooden temple graced this idyllic valley for hundreds of...

Video

12.20.12

Stars in the Haze

Joshua Frank
Flying kites is the quintessential Chinese pastime. But “wind zithers” or “paper sparrow hawks,” as they are known in Chinese, also have a long history as tools. Over millennia, Chinese have used them for measuring the wind, gauging distances, and...

Infographics

12.19.12

A Comparison of China’s and America’s Richest People

CNPolitics, a Chinese-language news website, recently released this infographic examining the differences between China and America’s wealthiest individuals as reported by Forbes Magazine. As the site notes, China’s relatively recent economic rise...

Features

12.18.12

College Graduates Compete for Jobs Sweeping Streets

from Tablet
Tong Peng spent six months discovering his bachelor’s degree was “worthless” before deciding to apply for a job as a street sweeper.He graduated from college in Harbin in June, 2012, not expecting to find it so tough to find work with a college...

The Struggle of 15-Year-Old Hukou Protester Zhan Haite

C. Custer
ChinaGeeks
A 15-year-old girl has made waves in the Chinese press recently for her fight against Shanghai authorities after she was banned from taking the college entrance examination because she does not hold a Shanghaihukou(household registration). She and...

Opinion: How Cities Can Save China

Henry Paulson
New York Times
Working on urbanization will foster solutions to the challenges the world faces from China's pressure on ecosystems, resources and commodities. ...

Soft Power: China's Wanda Eyes U.S. Hotel, Movie Deals

Terrill Yue Jones
Reuters
Wanda, the world's No 1 movie theater owner, is planning a $10 billion spending spree to make Hollywood film co-productions and buy and build hotels in U.S. cities. ...

Caixin Media

12.03.12

When Hope Dies

A nationwide uproar paralleled the investigation that led to the identification of five street children who suffocated in a large rubbish bin in the city of Bijie, Guizhou province.Officials learned the victims were the sons of three brothers. The...

Caixin Media

12.03.12

Toxic Effects and Environmental Nondisclosure

High-profile talk emphasizing environmental action at the Communist Party’s 18th national congress attracted a lot of attention. News from the November proceedings spurred industry demands for more information and pushed stock prices higher for...

Forced ‘Vacation’ for Man Who Broke Dumpster Death Story

Josh Chin
Wall Street Journal
The journalist who publicized the deaths of five young boys in southwestern China last week, has been forced to take a “vacation.”

China WIll Build the Tallest Building in the World in Just 90 Days

Jesus Diaz
Gizmodo
Sky City and its 2,749 feet distributed over 220 floors will grow in just 90 days in Changsha city, at the rate of five floors per day.

Media

11.19.12

A Conservative Commentator Calls Out Chinese Liberals, and Liberals Shout Back

Speech on the Chinese Internet, it seems, is beginning to thaw once more following the country’s leadership transition. After months of speculation, new Chinese leader Xi Jinping was announced on November 16 at the close of the 18th Party Congress,...

Features

11.06.12

Fragments of Cai Yang’s Life

Chen Ming
The man suspected of smashing the skull of fifty-one-year-old Li Jianli, the owner of a Japanese automobile, has been arrested by police in Xi’an; he is twenty-one-year-old plasterer Cai Yang.Cai Yang came to Xi’an from his hometown of Nanyang [...

From Toys to TV News, Jittery Beijing Clamps Down

Andrew Jacobs
New York Times
As China's capital steels itself for the 18th Party Congress, the government is cracking down on balloons, homing pigeons, Ping-Pong balls and remote-control toy airplanes, anything that could potentially carry protest messages and mar the...

U.S. Rights Official Faults China on Tibetan Suppression

Nick Cumming-Bruce
New York Times
Navi Pillay says she's disturbed by reports of detentions, disappearances and the excessive use of force...

One-Child Policy Up for Reform in China?

Alexa Olesen
Associated Press
The unpopular policy should be phased out, says a Chinese government think tank.

A Third Day of Protests in China Against Refinery Reach Third Day

Andrew Jacobs
New York Times
Hundreds protesting a petrochemical plant's expansion plans, swarmed Ningbo port tossing water bottles at riot police officers...

In China, 'Mad Men' Reflects Reality of Modern Life

Julie Makinen
Los Angeles Times
The 1960s-driven TV drama resonates with ambitious young Chinese professionals.

The Battle for Breakfast

D.W.
Economist
 Chinese love fast food but no Western chain has figured out how to please the hungry in the morning.

Postcard

10.19.12

Desperately Seeking City

Michael Meyer
At the world’s only International Sister City Museum, located in far northeast China, a guide leads a group of Harbin middle school students past displays for each of their hometown’s twenty-seven “twins.” “Our government’s friendship with these...

Books

10.17.12

To the People, Food is Heaven

Audra Ang
In China, life is comfortable for the fortunate few. For others, it’s a hand-to-mouth struggle for a full stomach, a place to live, wages for work done, and freedom to speak openly. It’s a place where few things are more important than food; “Have you eaten yet?” is another way of saying hello. After traversing the country and meeting its people, Ang shares her delicious experiences with us. She tells of a clandestine cup of salty yak butter tea with a Tibetan monk during a military crackdown, and explains how a fluffy spring onion omelet encapsulates China’s drive for rural development. You’ll have lunch with some of the country’s most enduring activists, savor meals with earthquake survivors, and get to know a house cleaner who makes the best fried chicken in all of Beijing. Through her reporting, Ang bites into the gaping divide between rich and poor, urban and rural reform, intolerance for dissent, and the growing dissatisfaction with those in power. By serving these topics to us one at a time through the stories of ordinary citizens, To the People, Food Is Heaven provides a fresh perspective beyond the country’s anonymous identity as an economic powerhouse. Ang plates a terrific, wide-ranging feast that is the new China, a country convulsed by change and propelled by aspiration. Have you eaten yet?  —Lyons Press{chop}

Chinese Netizens Debate the Merits of Owning a Luxury Car

Rachel Lu
One couple asks if they can own a BMW on a combined income of $2,100 a month.

Video

10.16.12

The Rat Tribe

Sim Chi Yin from VII Magazine
The evening sun sits low in the smoggy Beijing sky. Beneath a staid, maroon apartment block, Jiang Ying, 24, is stirring from her bed after having slept through the day. Day is night and night is day anyway in the window-less world she inhabits...

NBA Plans Basketball Facility in China

The Associated Press
Associated Press
The 120,000-square foot NBA Center in Tianjin port near Beijing will house basketball courts, a fitness center and a restaurant and be part of a mixed-use development with housing for 150,000.

Reports

10.11.12

Standing Their Ground

Amnesty International
The forced eviction of people from their homes and farmland has become a routine occurrence in China and represents a gross violation of China’s international human rights obligations on an enormous scale. Despite international scrutiny and censure...

The End of the Great Migration

Rob Schmitz
Marketplace
China’s great migration started with farmers boarding crowded trains in Sichuan, Henan, and Hubei - poor provinces in China’s interior. A day or two later, they arrived here, along the Pearl River Delta, just north of Hong Kong, and became factory...

Books

10.01.12

Disappearing Shanghai

Howard W. French, Qiu Xiaolong
This book is a photographic exploration of life in the old and rapidly disappearing quarters of Shanghai, with accompanying poems and essays by the author of fiction and poetry, Qiu Xiaolong.The photographs, all taken in a documentary style over a period of five years, represent an intimate and invaluable visual natural history of a way of life in the workers quarters and other central districts of the city that held sway throughout the 20th century and into the early years of the 21st century, before yielding to the ambitious ongoing efforts at urban reconstruction.Mr. Qiu, whose best-known books are largely set in this old city, where his protagonist Inspector Chen walks around in investigations, is suited like few others to provide a lyrical accompanying text whose purpose is to celebrate the life, beauty and texture of this world before it has vanished altogether.No photographer has pursued this subject with more dedication and persistence than Mr. French, whose photographs of Shanghai have been exhibited on four continents. Taken together, the work of these two contributors offers compelling esthetics and lasting historical value for lovers of Shanghai, past, present and future.—Homa & Sekey Books

Shanghai: The Vigor in the Decay

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
This is a story that sounds familiar, that we think we know or can imagine: old houses torn down for luxury malls, ordinary people poorly compensated, an intimate way of life replaced by highways and high-rises.All of this is happening in Shanghai—...

Books

09.19.12

Beijing Welcomes You

Tom Scocca
Within the past decade, Beijing has debuted as the defining city of the now and foreseeable future, and China as the ascendant global power. Beijing is the ultimate representation of China's political and cultural capital, of its might—and threat. For so long, the city was closed off to the world, literally built around the Forbidden City, the icon of all that was ominous about China. But now, the country is eager to show off its new openness, its glory and magnanimity, and Beijing is its star. When Tom Scocca arrived in 2004—an American eager to see another culture—Beijing was looking toward welcoming the world to its Olympics four years later, and preparations were in full swing to create a renewed city. Scocca talked to the scientists tasked with changing the weather; interviewed designers and architects churning out projects; checked out the campaign to stop public spitting; documented the planting of trees, the rerouting of traffic, the demolition of the old city, and the construction of the new metropolis. Beijing Welcomes You is a glimpse into the future and an encounter with an urban place we do not yet fully comprehend, and the superpower it is essential we get to know better.  —Riverhead Books

Video

09.18.12

Last Call to Prayer

Kathleen McLaughlin & Sharron Lovell
China’s Hui Muslims are unique in many respects. The country’s second-largest ethnic minority share linguistic and cultural ties with the majority in China that have allowed them to practice their religion with less interference and fewer...

TED Talk: The Voices of Chinese Workers

Leslie T. Chang
TEDTalks
n the ongoing debate about globalization, what's been missing is the voices of workers -- the millions of people who migrate to factories in China and other emerging countries to make goods sold all over the world. Reporter Leslie T. Chang...

Supporting creativity wins on Chinese crowd-sourcing platform Demohour

Lyn Jeffery and Jason Li. Lyn
88 Bar
Crowdsourcing has been around for awhile (this 2006 Wired article nicely lays out the concept). Over the last three years, crowdsourcing has been applied to fundraising with stunning results on Kickstarter and Indiegogo (“Go fund yourself”), and the...