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By Mark McDonald - International Herald Tribune - The Global Edition of the New York Times
October 18, 2012
China was at the center of one of the harshest exchanges during the U.S. presidential debate on Tuesday night, with President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, both flashing their tough-on-Beijing credentials. But the politician who really knows about China was not on the stage, although he had tried to be.
Jon M. Huntsman Jr., who campaigned for the Republican nomination, has solid connections to both candidates: He served as the U.S. ambassador to China under Mr. Obama until April 2011, and when Mr. Huntsman abandoned his campaign in January, he immediately endorsed Mr. Romney.
As they prep and do role playing for their final debate, both candidates might do well to recruit Mr. Huntsman for a lay of the land on China. The debate, set for Monday in Boca Raton, Florida, will focus on foreign policy issues, with China one of the selected topics.
In a fascinating new interview with Isaac Stone Fish of Foreign Policy magazine, Mr. Huntsman was asked about the differences between the two candidates in their approach to China.
"Well, they differ in some senses in the levers of power that are being pulled," he said. "I think Obama has chosen more the soft levers of power, and Romney is at least articulating some of the hard levers of power, where in reality, we need a combination of both.
"During campaign season, you never want to talk about anything except the hard levers of power. But we're also trying to get over 10 years of war in the Middle East that have set us back enormously economically and diplomatically, and in terms of loss of life. And that's a reality that we're not having a conversation about."
Beijing canceled Mr. Huntsman's visa last month, he told Mr. Stone Fish, as he was preparing to travel to China to make a speech. (This probably has not happened very often in peacetime diplomacy, a country refusing entry to a former ambassador, especially for fear that he would give a speech.)
"Why? Because I talk too much about human rights and American values, and they know that," said Mr. Huntsman, who speaks Mandarin. "And at a time of leadership realignment, the biggest deal in 10 years for them, they didn't want the former U.S. ambassador saying stuff that might create a narrative that they would have to fight. I understand that.
"But when the transition is done, the crazy American ambassador will be let back in, and I can say whatever I want. As they used to tell me when I was over there was 'Women zhongguo ye you zhengzhi' -- 'We have politics too in China.' "
Mr. Huntsman said he was subsequently approved for entry -- to attend a board meeting. No speechmaking.
A condensed excerpt from Mr. Stone Fish's interview:
Put yourself in the shoes of the moderator at the upcoming foreign-policy debate on Oct. 22. What do you think he should ask about China?
What are the core philosophical drivers that inform the thinking of the candidates? What are our national interests at play? How do we maximize our position in the Asia-Pacific region, understanding that China is the centerpiece geographically. And fourth, given that it is the relationship of the 21st century, how do we intend to sustain the cyclicality that is inherent in a large, complicated relationship?
Are you surprised that China hasn't become a bigger issue in the campaign?
Beyond it being used as a political tool rhetorically, we've had very little talk of China at a time when we ought to be having a substantive conversation, because it is the relationship that will matter the most in the 21st century.
What's your understanding of what Chinese officials think about all this rhetoric and what's behind it? Do they see this as one of the downsides of democracy, or of Americans playing into the fears of American decline?
I think it's happened for so long that they've grown to expect it during the election season. I think it affected them more in the earlier years, but now they've grown accustomed to the political cycle, just as we've grown accustomed to the leadership cycles in China, where they do the same thing to us. We just have a bigger megaphone. And they tend to be a little more sensitive, because face still matters a whole lot in terms of human interaction.
The current U.S. ambassador to China, Gary F. Locke, revealed Wednesday that he had traveled last month to a Tibetan area of western China where "dozens of Tibetans disaffected with Chinese rule have set themselves on fire," as my colleague Edward Wong reported.
Mr. Locke visited two Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Aba Prefecture of Sichuan Province. He went there, he told The Times, "to see it for myself."
The visit, which came during a wider trip to Chongqing, was noteworthy if only for the fact that Beijing permitted it. The area is tightly controlled by Chinese security forces and the issue of Tibetan autonomy and Buddhist activism is a highly sensitive one for Beijing.
Mr. Locke only revealed his trip on Wednesday. And for those belonging to the there-are-no-coincidences-in-politics school of thought, it was five years ago on Wednesday -- Oct. 17, 2007 -- that the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington.
The award was met with fury and outrage from Beijing, and one senior official called it a "farce." The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who has lived in exile since 1959, is particularly reviled by the leadership in Beijing.
President George W. Bush attended the elaborate ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda and called the Dalai Lama "a man of faith and sincerity and peace."
By Damian Grammaticas | BBC World News
October 08, 2012
China's Communist rulers are trying to force the country's jailed Peace Prize laureate into going into exile by putting pressure on his wife, who is not well, the BBC has been told.
A source close to the family has told us that Liu Xiaobo will not agree to leave China as that would lead to his voice being marginalised.
But the source said that Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia is "suffering mentally" because she has now spent two years under illegal house arrest and continues to be detained.
It was exactly two years ago when Liu Xiaobo, a soft-spoken academic, won the Peace Prize for his calls for peaceful political reform in China.
He never collected it as he was already in a jail in China, where he remains, convicted of subversion.
His wife Liu Xia, an even softer-spoken poet and photographer, has been similarly silenced. She's being held in her own flat in Beijing.
She's been there for two years, detained just a couple of days after her husband was announced as the 2010 winner.
And Norway too is, it seems, still being punished. The prize has nothing to do with the Norwegian government.
But China continues to snub Norwegian ministers, diplomats and politicians, according to other diplomats in Beijing.
But the BBC has spoken to an individual in contact with Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia's families, who has given some new insights into the couple's situation.
The individual asked that we don't name them, and told us that Liu Xiaobo is in reasonable health, but his stomach problem "is getting worse".
China's authorities allow only three people to visit Liu Xiaobo in Jinzhou prison where he's being held: his two brothers who can see him about once every six months, and his wife who sees the Nobel Peace Prize winner every two to three months, the source said.
They have to ask for permission in advance and wait for notification.
"They are not allowed to go and visit him together. Only one person is allowed each time. And the police watch them during the entire meeting," our source told us.
"They are forbidden to talk about anything else other than family matters. The police don't want the family to bring in any information from outside to Liu Xiaobo."
The two brothers did visit together once, in September last year. That was to inform Liu Xiaobo that his father had died. He was then allowed a brief visit home to pay his respects before he was whisked back to jail.
His wife, Liu Xia, meanwhile, has not committed any crime in China but is being held in her home.
"There are two policewomen living with her in her apartment. And lots of plain-clothes police watching the compound constantly," our source told us.
"Liu Xia's health is not very well. Mentally she suffers a lot because of the loss of personal freedom and the worries about her jailed husband."
"She is allowed to go out and visit her mother and meet one of her best friends roughly once a month, escorted by policewomen the entire time. Other than visits to her husband, that's it.
"She is not allowed to go anywhere else, not even to the park or shop. And no-one is allowed to even approach her compound, let alone visit her."
The individual added: "What the government is doing to Liu Xia is illegal. They do this routinely to dissidents in order to prevent them speaking to the press and tainting the government's image.
"Her husband is currently the most famous dissident in China, so she suffers tighter control than other dissidents."
His view is backed up by Joshua Rosenzweig, a human rights researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who said he was "not aware of any legal authority for restricting Liu Xia's liberty".
"Her relegation to this ambiguous zone appears to be deliberate, because if you can't treat [her detention] as something sanctioned or even covered by law, then how do you begin to challenge it? Liu Xia effectively ceases to exist, both as a human being and as an issue," he said.
China's government insists Liu Xia is not being held against her will. But Mr Rosenzweig says its aim is to silence Liu Xia, her husband and their families, so there is no news about the jailed laureate.
"One of the few ways the outside world has to learn anything about individuals who have been imprisoned in China is through what their relatives learn and observe during periodic prison visits," he says.
"I don't know the last time that Liu Xia was able to visit her husband, but I am fairly certain that any interaction she has been able to have with him has been under the precondition that she remain silent.
"To the extent that this reflects an official strategy to counter Liu Xiaobo's influence, it would have to be deemed successful. There's only so much interest that can be sustained by a person's continued absence.
"That's why you don't see too many headlines proclaiming 'no news of Nobel laureate again this month'."
And the friend of the family who spoke to the BBC says that, by being so harsh on his wife, China is trying to pressure Liu Xiaobo into cutting a deal to go into exile.
"The government is trying to force Liu Xiaobo to leave China by taking his wife's personal freedom away. At the same time, the government threatens both their families, saying if they try to speak to the media or leak any information their right to visit Liu Xiaobo will be taken away.
"This is very cruel. It has forced the family to keep quiet."
But, the family friend added, Liu Xiaobo will not agree to leave China, despite the fact that his prison term lasts until 2020.
"The government has always wanted Liu Xiaobo to leave China because the fact that a Nobel Peace Prize winner is in jail, is a constant reminder of China's poor human rights situation.
"When previous dissidents have left China their voices gradually fade and their influence disappears. That's why Liu Xiaobo insists he'll stay even if it means staying in jail. Remaining in China is what's significant for him."
By Damian Grammaticas | BBC World News
23 August 2012
The moment Liu Xiang crashed out of the 110m hurdles was, for millions of Chinese television viewers, one of the most dramatic, heart-rending moments of the London Olympics.
But now many have been left feeling duped after it emerged that almost everyone, except for the television audience, knew Liu, China's great hope on the track, was injured and unlikely to have a chance of wining gold.
What's particularly angered people is that CCTV, China's state broadcaster, knew Liu Xiang was not fit and scripted its whole coverage in advance.
The revelation was front-page news in the Oriental Guardian newspaper. Its headline said: "Liu Xiang knew; Officials knew. Only the viewers foolishly waited for the moment of miracles."
When Liu Xiang hit the first hurdle and fell, CCTV's commentator Yang Jian was almost in tears, his voice choking, his commentary emotional.
"He's 29, an old athlete... he should rest now." Yang Jian told the viewers.
"This is the worst outcome I have thought of today. If an athlete does not have a good leg, it's like a soldier without a gun."
But, the Oriental Guardian says,"Yang Jian's commentary was too perfect to be real." The words, and the tears, were pre-scripted.
It says the deception came to light on Wednesday, when the head of CCTV's commentary team admitted at a public seminar that Yang Jian had heard that Liu had a serious injury.
The paper says CCTV's managers instructed their commentator to prepare four separate scripts to cover all eventualities. "The 'crying' version was one of the four."
Liu Xiang is a national hero in China. He won China's first-ever track and field gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
He was the face of the Beijing Olympics and a stunned nation watched him limp off the track there too, sidelined by the same Achilles-tendon injury.
Liu Xiang, who won China's first-ever gold in track and field, is seen as a hero
The state-controlled English-language China Daily says "the craze that has followed him is similar to Yao Ming's effect on China's basketball... almost all Chinese sports fans' hearts synchronise with the fluctuations of Liu's performance."
It's unsurprising then that so many now feel deceived and angered, emotionally manipulated by CCTV's commentary. The story has drawn well over a million comments on China's weibo micro-blog service.
"I feel truly disgusted. Is it worth the true feelings of so many people? Emotions and deceptions have been perfectly merged. Tears and courage have been downgraded to be worthless. Media that has no bottom line is a rotten entity without hope," wrote one user.
Others were even more blunt, posting comments like, "You lied to us, cheated our feelings. You guys are rubbish," and "Nothing is impossible in this world. We no longer want to be a public that doesn't know the truth."
And it's not just CCTV, but China's government too, that is in the firing line.
"This can only happen in China. Acting and fraud and many skills are learnt from the government," said one user.
"The society has no trust. This original sin does not come from the people. Trust has to be built by a trustworthy government and media," wrote another.
China's government already faces a public that is sceptical about the honesty of what they hear from officials and the official media.
The coverage of Liu Xiang's Olympics seems to have provided one more reason for people to be cynical.
Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore (Editor, Time Out Beijing) | International Herald Tribune Global Opinion
August 21, 2012
Dating is hard at the best of times. In China the stakes are high from the outset: the expectation is that it should lead to marriage; never mind love for love's sake.
A friend recently went on a blind date in Beijing. Arriving at the coffee shop, he found not only the girl but her mother, too. Within minutes she bombarded him with questions: What does he earn? Where did he study? Does he own a house?
Romance in China is often sacrificed to practicality; dating has largely become a commercial transaction. In Beijing parents gather in parks to introduce their children to one another. Singles' clubs set people up according to requirements -- height, income, property. And tens of thousands descend on matchmaking events in cities like Shanghai looking for the perfect mate.
For Chinese men today, being the perfect mate means having a car, an apartment, a good salary and, preferably, a tall stature. Women, meanwhile, must be married by 27; after that they are branded sheng nu or "leftover women." (This derogatory term -- whose prefix "sheng" is the same word used in "leftover food" -- was listed as a new word in 2007 by the Chinese Ministry of Education).
"Marriage in many ways in China is a way of pulling resources," says Roseann Lake, a Beijing-based journalist researching a book on sheng nu. In one direction, at least. "The idea that a woman, no matter how successful she is professionally, is absolutely nothing until she is married -- it still comes down to that."
Arranged marriages were banned in 1950. However, matchmaking -- through work units and family -- was, and still is, commonplace. Yes, China has experienced miraculous growth in the past three decades, but traditions are hard to shake. And Confucian ethics stress that marriage must satisfy societal duty over individual desire.
The one-child policy has further reinforced these expectations. With no welfare system in China, the young are expected to provide for the old: whom you marry matters for your entire family.
These concerns aren't evenly shared, and they expose something of a generation gap. Children of the 1980s and 1990s -- who were born in better economic times and fed on pop music and movies -- are in less of a hurry to get married than their parents were.
The best-selling author Wang Hailing, who wrote "Divorce with Chinese Characteristics," relays stories of pushy mothers on her micro-blog. One told her daughter to attend blind dates while she's still at a "valuable" age.
Xie Yujie, a 26-year-old resident of Wenzhou, a city of more than nine million some 230 miles south of Shanghai, is unmarried. Despite a promising career as a nurse, her parents remind her daily of her filial duties to find a husband. Xie is looking for love, but her parents chastise her for not been more practical. "Money worship and materialism is the reality," she explained last week.
And so now some single women in Chengdu, in southwest China, pay more than $3,100 for a special training course in how to snag a millionaire husband. In the reality TV dating program "If You Are The One," a 22-year-old model infamously claimed, "I'd rather cry in a BMW than laugh on the back seat of a bicycle."
These are extremes, of course, but the pressures are real. Although China's skewed birth rate means there will be a surplus of about 24 million men in China by 2020, the majority of these bachelors will live in rural areas. In major cities -- where the rate of housing costs to income can reach 12:1 -- finding a good match is a constant worry for educated, ambitious women.
As Chinese Valentine's Day -- this Thursday, Aug. 23 -- nears, preparations for dozens of matchmaking events, most aimed at marriage, are picking up. At the Huanleyuan Culture Club, a singles' club in Beijing -- basic requirement: a college degree; annual membership fee: about $560 -- hundreds will be attending a gala matchmaking event. Ten thousand people are expected at a mass blind date in Guangyuan city, in Sichuan Province.
They'll be looking not just for a fetching smile or that spark of chemistry, but also for the promise of money and connections.
By Jacob Fromer | The Lede | The New York Times
August 17, 2012
Although they come from opposite ends of the Chinese political spectrum, for two months this spring Bo Xilai, a Communist Party official who was dismissed from his post, and Chen Guangcheng, a blind, activist lawyer who fled house arrest in his village, shared one important trait: they were the most closely watched Chinese men in the world.
When Mr. Bo fell from power in March and Mr. Chen made an unlikely escape from house arrest the following month -- eventually seeking refuge in the American Embassy in Beijing -- their stories were documented in minute detail in American newspapers, magazines and Twitter feeds. That is, with one notable exception: on CCTV America's weekend news program produced in Washington by China's state broadcaster, neither man's plight made the headlines. As my colleague Andrew Jacobs reports, CCTV America failed to feature either man's story.
Here is a look at what the program did cover as those major events unfolded.
March 15: Bo Xilai Ousted From Communist Party
What happened: The brash Communist Party chief of the Chongqing municipality in China's southwest was removed from his post. It was the most high-profile dismissal of a Chinese official in years, ending his political ambitions and complicating the once-a-decade national leadership transition that will take place in the fall.
Here are the headlines from CCTV America's China-related stories that weekend:
March 18 News Broadcast: Chinese Special Envoy to Syria Returns From Trip to Damascus; China Concerned About Upcoming North Korean Missile Launch; Chinese Surveillance Ships Return From Diaoyu Islands; Important Commercial Relationship Between Brazil and China.
March 19 News Broadcast: More Concern Over Upcoming North Korean Missile Launch; Chinese Authors Sue Apple; Beijing Subway Overhaul; First Chinese-American Congresswoman.
April 22: Chen Guangcheng Escapes From House Arrest
What happened: The blind rights lawyer scaled the wall of his compound, evaded his guards, and fled with a driver to the American Embassy in Beijing. The result was an intense diplomatic standoff between the United States and China just as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner were preparing to arrive in Beijing for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
Here are the China-related headlines on CCTV America the weekend after Mr. Chen's escape became public:
April 29: New China-Russia Trade Contracts; Strategic Economic Dialogue Ready to Start; Terracotta Warriors on Exhibit in New York.
April 30: Ongoing China-Philippines Naval Dispute at the Huangyan Islands.
May 2: Chen Guangcheng Released From U.S. Embassy
What happened: After days of heated diplomatic negotiations and numerous vacillations by an exhausted Mr. Chen about whether to leave the embassy, the blind dissident agreed to move to a newarby hospital where he reunited with his family and told reporters that he wanted to leave China.
Here is what CCTV America saw as the China-related stories the weekend after Mr. Chen left the embassy:
May 6: Chinese-U.S. Officials Hold Talks at Strategic Economic Dialogue.
May 7: China Consumer Price Index Update; Toyota's Ambitious Plans for China.
A CCTV employee told The Times that the program did record a segment about Mr. Chen that included footage of his stay at the hospital, but no such segment appears in the archived episodes available on CCTV America's Web site.