Live hairy crabs vending machine

Once again, I marvel at the practicality, ingenuity and industriousness of the Chinese people. This is at a subway station in Nanjing. (More photos over there.)


The crab dispenser was designed by Shi Tuanjie, Chairman of the Nanjing Shuanghu Crab Industrial Company, who came out with the idea of a crab dispenser 3 years ago. This is the first live crab vending machine in China, and was installed on October 1 this year. The crabs cost from 10 yuan ($1.50) to 50 yuan ($7.50), depending on size and gender, and customers are promised a compensation of 3 live crabs if their purchase is dead. The machine sells an average of 200 live crabs daily. Shi plans to popularize the machines on a larger scale to airports, residential areas and supermarkets, according to local media.



Mao’s famine

I can’t add much more to this devastating article on the horrors of the Great Leap forward. I’ve never read anything about it that was quite this brutal, and suggest you read the whole thing.

For those who argue it was a natural famine the government couldn’t control, it will be particularly enlightening.

In the summer of 1962, for instance, the head of the Public Security Bureau in Sichuan sent a long handwritten list of casualties to the local boss, Li Jingquan, informing him that 10.6 million people had died in his province from 1958 to 1961. In many other cases, local party committees investigated the scale of death in the immediate aftermath of the famine, leaving detailed computations of the scale of the horror.

In all, the records I studied suggest that the Great Leap Forward was responsible for at least 45 million deaths.

Between 2 and 3 million of these victims were tortured to death or summarily executed, often for the slightest infraction. People accused of not working hard enough were hung and beaten; sometimes they were bound and thrown into ponds. Punishments for the least violations included mutilation and forcing people to eat excrement.

One report dated Nov. 30, 1960, and circulated to the top leadership — most likely including Mao — tells how a man named Wang Ziyou had one of his ears chopped off, his legs tied up with iron wire and a 10-kilo stone dropped on his back before he was branded with a sizzling tool. His crime: digging up a potato.

When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, the local boss, Xiong Dechang, forced his father to bury his son alive on the spot.

And it gets worse. Really. And please don’t say Mao didn’t know.

Mao was sent many reports about what was happening in the countryside, some of them scribbled in longhand. He knew about the horror, but pushed for even greater extractions of food.

At a secret meeting in Shanghai on March 25, 1959, he ordered the party to procure up to one-third of all the available grain — much more than ever before. The minutes of the meeting reveal a chairman insensitive to human loss: “When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”

I applaud China’s post-Mao leaders for ending most aspects of Maoism and seeing that starvation in China came to an end. Thank God Deng won the day. But isn’t it time to let the Chinese people know the truth? As the column says, the government has unclassified huge vaults of documents on the period and many Chinese scholars and researchers know the truth. But alas, their books and reports can only be published in Hong Kong.


Foreign companies doing business in China

To what extent are companies willing to bend over backwards and twist themselves into pretzels to sell their products in China? This depressing article makes it quite clear: they will do anything and everything, even if China’s demands are in clear violation of the WTO. The China market is simply too big and you have to play by China’s rules. Which means your domestic competitors will always gain the upper hand. The government guarantees it.

TIANJIN, China — Judging by the din at its factory here one recent day, the Spanish company Gamesa might seem to be a thriving player in the Chinese wind energy industry it helped create.

But Gamesa has learned the hard way, as other foreign manufacturers have, that competing for China’s lucrative business means playing by strict house rules that are often stacked in Beijing’s favor.

Nearly all the components that Gamesa assembles into million-dollar turbines here, for example, are made by local suppliers — companies Gamesa trained to meet onerous local content requirements. And these same suppliers undermine Gamesa by selling parts to its Chinese competitors — wind turbine makers that barely existed in 2005, when Gamesa controlled more than a third of the Chinese market.

But in the five years since, the upstarts have grabbed more than 85 percent of the wind turbine market, aided by low-interest loans and cheap land from the government, as well as preferential contracts from the state-owned power companies that are the main buyers of the equipment. Gamesa’s market share now is only 3 percent.

With their government-bestowed blessings, Chinese companies have flourished and now control almost half of the $45 billion global market for wind turbines. The biggest of those players are now taking aim at foreign markets, particularly the United States, where General Electric has long been the leader.

The story of Gamesa in China follows an industrial arc traced in other businesses, like desktop computers and solar panels. Chinese companies acquire the latest Western technology by various means and then take advantage of government policies to become the world’s dominant, low-cost suppliers. It is a pattern that many economists say could be repeated in other fields, like high-speed trains and nuclear reactors, unless China changes the way it plays the technology development game — or is forced to by its global trading partners.

Everyone who works with foreign companies trying to sell into the China market is well aware of this phenomenon. What I think is not so well known outside of China is just how much grief these companies have to go through, the concessions they are forced to make, and the rage they feel even as they continue making speeches and putting out press releases about how committed they are to doing business with China and how delighted they are with their Chinese partners.

This exhaustive article makes the point you’ll never get from the press releases or speeches: that these companies will bow and scrape and kiss ass ad infinitum because they are scared shitless of rocking the boat. Even as their piece of the pie is sliced thinner and thinner, the China market is so immense they simply can’t afford not to be there.

The government’s bullying may be illegal and unfair, but for these companies, lured by the sheer size of the market, there really is no other choice but to submit and bite the bullet. Complain or show even a hint of ingratitude and you’ll risk losing all that precious guanxi you’ve spent so many millions building up. But as this article shows, the joke is really on them. All that guanxi was essentially worthless. There was no two-way street, no mutual scratching of backs. The foreigners are forced to give everything, only to get back less and less. And through it all, they remain “committed to China” and “deeply appreciative of our Chinese partners” and full of praise “for the Chinese government officials who helped make our prosperous partnership possible.”

What a Kabuki dance. What two-facedness. But then, what else can they do?

Anyone interested in learning more about the hoops China’s partners are forced to jump through have to read this book.


Is there a Western conspiracy against China?

My former employer The Global Times wants to know.

Is there a “plot” among the Western countries against China? In answer to this, few Chinese people would give a definitive answer. However, actions taken by the West have forced Chinese citizens to speculate about this matter.

Tomorrow will see the ceremony for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, which has been awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who has devoted himself to subverting the government. Furthermore, at the invitation of the Nobel committee, several dissidents who are hostile toward the Chinese government, will converge in Oslo from around the world.

The modern world is much like a sports arena, in which China has passed the first round and qualified for the final. As a newcomer, China may not be well prepared, with sloppy technique, lacking audience support and seeming like a stranger to the surroundings. China has no other choice but to fight on in the competition, strictly following the rules set by others.

Suddenly, boos and catcalls resound from the stands, from the Westerners in the pricey seats. Worse than this, the referee blows the whistle against China, amid jeers from cheerleaders and media, relishing exposing China’s “scandals.” What can the Chinese team do?

…The West has shown great creativity in conspiring against China. With its ideology remaining dominant at present, the West has not ceased harassing China with all kinds of tricks like the Nobel Peace Prize.

It might be advisable for China not to buy the conspiracy theory, for communication would be much smoother if given the benefit of the doubt. However, China has to maintain its independence in thinking and ensure its discerning ability is not swayed by outside powers. As long as China can keep its independent judgment, its security will be ensured even when faced with a conspiracy.

Love the sports metaphor.

This is one kooky editorial. It’s loaded with gems that are typical of the angrier commenters here: the West is intentionally and strategically seeking to hobble China; the West is self-righteous and hypocritical and sanctimonious, going after a benevolent, peace-loving China while engulfing the world in chaos; China must gird its loins and fight against those powers that seek to harm it. These powers wish only bad for China. These powers hate China.

Despite a series of spats and misunderstandings between China and the West, globalization is forcing the country to adapt to co-existing with the “noble countries” in the West. China has to act discreetly, obeying rules set by the West and trying not to disturb their interests when seeking to safeguard its own welfare. Meanwhile, these “noble countries” launch broadsides at China’s actions, even where no wrongdoing exists.

Do they really not get that in the eyes of civilized nations the idea of jailing a dissident for 11 years for seeking democratic reforms is unpleasant? That the civilized nations react the same way to political repression in Myanmar and Zimbabwe and other nations?

One thing I liked about Global Times was their tendency to balance the more hysterical editorials and columns with more sensible voices. I remember editing a particularly vitriolic column by a former general that all but advocated war over the South China Sea. This was tempered by a far less psychotic response that noted the weakness of China’s navy and its utter unpreparedness for war. It urged a more moderate approach, like negotiating. I mention this because I’m hoping they’ll follow this pattern now. Editorials like this, with no balancing voice, will make China appear kukoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Via Shanghaiist, which has its own excellent response to the insanity.


China’s rival Peace Prize

These guys are geniuses.


Top 10 Myths about China

From Evan Osnos at The New Yorker – just go there. This list is excellent.


Wikileaks’ latest: China’s resistance to US pressure over Liu Xiaobo

Wikileaks is the gift that keeps on giving. The latest revelation is about how Chinese diplomats reacted when the US expressed its displeasure over China’s treatment of Liu.

It was just before Christmas 2009, and Ding Xiaowen was not happy.

The United States ambassador had just written China’s foreign minister expressing concern for Liu Xiaobo, the Beijing intellectual imprisoned a year earlier for drafting a pro-democracy manifesto. Now Mr. Ding, a deputy in the ministry’s American section, was reading the riot act to an American attaché.

Mr. Ding said he would try to avoid “becoming emotional,” according to a readout on the meeting that was among thousands of leaked State Department cables released this month. Then he said that a “strongly dissatisfied” China firmly opposed the views of the American ambassador, Jon Huntsman, and that Washington must “cease using human rights as an excuse to ‘meddle’ in China’s internal affairs.”

On Friday, exactly one year after Mr. Huntsman wrote his protest, Mr. Liu, now serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion, will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in a ceremony that he is unable to attend. And if anything is clear, it is that China no longer resists becoming emotional.

In the two months since the Nobel committee honored Mr. Liu, China has waged an extraordinary and unprecedented campaign, domestically and internationally, to discredit the award and to dissuade other governments from endorsing it.

According to the cables, one of Ding’s arguments was that “the most fundamental human rights were to food and shelter,” an area in which China has made “huge progress.” I don’t disagree with him, but also don’t believe that one necessarily precludes the other, i.e., food needn’t come at the expense of human rights. However, Ding’s comment squarely represents the attitude of most Chinese people, one that I fully understand.

I never blogged a lot about Liu or Charter 8 because I thought it was a story of relatively little consequence for China, and the reaction to the petition in China seemed tepid at best. It was the CCP’s handling of his arrest and prickly response to his winning the Nobel prize that got me blogging. I still see it as a PR blunder that damages a government thirsting for soft power.


Guest post: China’s sub-rationalists and Liu Xiaobo

The following is a guest post that doesn’t necessarily represent the opinion of The Peking Duck

Sub-rationalists in Communist China cannot face reality of Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010…..

by Biko Lang

It would have been nice if Taiwan could have sent a small bipartisan delegation of politicians and academics from both the DPP and the KMT to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo this week. With China putting its head in the sand once again and refusing to face reality, the world is left wondering: just what makes Beijing tick?

As some of the WikiLeaks cables have confirmed what many old China hands always knew, many of Chinese Communist Party’s leaders act in a “sub-rational” manner when confronted with thorny issues like Taiwan’s sovereignty or Liu Xiabo’s Nobel Peace Prize.

In a move that rattled Beijing sub-rationalists again, the U.S. House of Representatives stood up for the values of freedom and democracy last week with a bipartisan resolution honoring imprisoned Chinese activist Liu, Nobel laureate.

Earlier in the year, in February, a group of American lawmakers nominated Liu and two other Chinese activists for Nobel Peace Prize consideration, noting in a public letter that “few governments have the courage to brave the Chinese government’s displeasure and honor them.”

The Nobel committee did honor Liu, and what an honor it is!

While China’s new Nobel laureate remains behinds bars and cannot attend the Nobel ceremony in Oslo this weekend, with his wife under house arrest and forbidden to fly to Norway to accept the prestigious award for him, a large part of the world will be celebrating his award. Not present in Oslo, Liu was nevertheless there as a potent symbol. Invisible outside his prison cell, he was very visible in the halls of freedom.

Freedom is borderless, and someday it will come to China, too, That’s exactly what the rulers in Beijing are afraid of.

The announcement earlier in the fall that Liu had bagged a Nobel this year sparked ominous warnings from China that countries who recognized his achievement would have to “take responsibility for the consequences.” Apparently, this was a stern warning from Uncle Hu to the U.S,, France, Germany, Britain, Australia, Japan and, yes, Taiwan.

But the U.S. House resolution pressed forward and lauded Liu for his human-rights activism, honoring him for his “promotion of democratic reform in China, and the courage with which he has bore repeated imprisonment by the government of China.”

Former U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was to attend the Oslo shindig on behalf of her nation, had previously written to Hu Jintao in May 2009 asking for the release of “prisoners of conscience” including Liu Xiaobo.

Pelosi has always had heart. In 1991, a much-younger but always-idealistic Nancy Pelosi had secretly unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square dedicated “To those who died for democracy [in 1989] in China.”

Liu, it seems, is a hero everywhere but in China.

The U.S. effort to honor Liu and call out China attracted support from both sides of the political aisle in Washington, with both Democrats and Republicans getting behind the bill.

One supporter of the bill said that the bipartisan support reflected the fact that “there’s been a growing understanding among members on both sides of the aisle that this dictatorship is a growing threat to local stability but also to the world. We can’t give the Chinese dictatorship a pass any longer on human-rights abuse,”

So wouldn’t it be nice if Taiwan could have sent a bipartisan delegation of both DPP and KMT leaders to Oslo to honor Liu? Maybe next time.


Zhuang Hua Mei

This is a guest post, and is not your typical opinionated Peking Duck fare. But I found it quite moving, even if it will likely not ignite a lot of discussion.

Zhang Hua Mei

By Edward Stern, a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on becoming a phlebotomist for the Guide to Health Education.

China is currently a driving force in the world economy, a rapidly developing country that appears to be on the brink of dominating on a global scale. This is in large part due to the communist country’s relaxing of formerly rigid business regulations to allow for entrepreneurship and innovation. Private companies may now exist and run business under the watchful eye of the government. With a population of over a billion people, the potential for economic gain through entrepreneurship is truly unprecedented in the history of the world.

Such optimism and freedom was not always the case. Before de-regulation, private business owners were decried as “speculators” and “profiteers,” working against the government and looked upon in disdain. That all changed in 1979, when Zhang Hua Mei received the first legal business license in the People’s Republic of China’s history, becoming the first entrepreneur in China.

After graduating from junior middle school in the city of Wenzhou, Zhang had no job prospects. Her family badly needed her financial support. So at 19 years old, she decided to venture into business on her own. Seeing an opportunity, she carefully invested in buttons and other accessories. At the time, state-run stores were the only ones in business, but their goods were often outdated and overly expensive.

Her self-named business sold these fashionable and relatively inexpensive items with great success. She was making two yen a day in profit, or three times more than she could have made as a government worker.

However, what she was doing was illegal and cause for concern. Setting up shop on a small table outside her front door, she put her freedom and reputation in danger. Classmates would walk by and turn their backs on her. The government could come calling at any time to shut her down and take her profits and wares.

The government did come calling, but instead to offer her a legal way to maintain her business. Wenzhou had been chosen by the government to trial China’s new policies on economic reform. The city’s branch of Administrative Office for Industry and Commerce was giving out business permits to the self-employed. A representative approached Zhang at her house about the new policy. She struggled with whether to accept or not. She was worried that if policies changed she would face greater hardships.

She eventually caved, applied for, and received her permit. Still hanging in her store, it is hand-written in calligraphy and includes the monumental license number 10101. 1,844 business licenses were given in Wenzhou in 1980, and Zhang Hua Mei received the very first one.

Since then, Zhang has continued in the entrepreneurial spirit of her first venture with financial highs and lows. She once lost almost all her money in a failed shoe business, recovered, and then switched back to a business focusing on buttons. Last year, she opened up her company, the Huamei Garment Accessories Limited, being a wholesaler of hundreds of types of buttons and the exclusive agent for a top Chinese button brand called ‘Weixing’.

She competes nationally with other businesses started by entrepreneurs following in her footsteps. By 1987, the number of licenses given to small business owners grew to ten million. Today, there are over 27 million self-employed people in China.

Zhang Hua Mei was the first, an unwitting entrepreneur with no ideas of grandeur, only aspirations to make enough to take care of her family. Little did she know, but her button business would help bring about an economic change in China that is transforming the rest of the world today.


Chinese gossip blogger at odds with censors spills it all

I never would have believed a Chinese blogger would be this outspoken about his freedom-of-speech battles with the Chinese government. This video is must-see.

(Did I mention it’s a parody?)

Via this blogger, of all people.