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Does record-breaking military movie signal an assertive China?

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Recently, a blockbuster movie has grabbed headlines in China, from newspapers to social media. Everyone is talking about Wolf Warriors 2, one of China’s first military action movies. This Monday, the movie set a new record in China’s box office history with total sales of 3.4 billion yuan ($507 million). The movie is still taking in about 200 million yuan each day. Wu Jing, a kung fu movie star and former national martial arts champion, directed, wrote and starred in the film.

The movie is a breakthrough. First, Chinese-made patriotic military movies have not been a popular genre among young people recently. No one including the director himself would have predicted that the film would find such box office success. Second, this movie is the first of its kind to be set outside Chinese borders. It features a former special forces soldier rescuing Chinese people from the hands of Western mercenaries in a conflict zone in Africa.

Some commentators from abroad regard Wolf Warriors 2 as a pure patriotic and nationalist movie indicative of an assertive and aggressive China.

Is it simple patriotic propaganda? The answer is clearly no. It is easy and stereotyped thinking to simply label this movie as public propaganda, but doing so will miss important political implications.

This movie is not top-down didactic, patriotic propaganda by the government. On the contrary, it is a purely commercial movie, rather than a state-initiated propaganda movie. The movie was entirely funded by private investment, a large portion by director and leading actor Wu Jing himself. He found raising the money tough, and many private investors and entertainment celebrities turned down a chance to invest. The director had to mortgage his house to finish the film.

However, to everyone’s surprise, this movie broke all the records in China’s movie history. It is more of a bottom-up approach, as the movie fed a public appetite and met their desire to see a confident and strong Chinese military force which could not only safeguard China’s national borders, but also successfully protect the safety and interests of Chinese people abroad. The latter is something new, but an urgent need for Chinese citizens, as China is increasing its presence abroad, from overseas investment to education to tourism.

This military action movie has important political implications for China’s foreign policy and security policy.

Prior to this movie, for the Chinese public, the functions of the Chinese army were constrained within Chinese borders, from disaster rescues to domestic security. This movie added another dimension to the public’s perception of China’ military. It showed in pictures and with emotions an unfamiliar and unrecognized fact that Chinese soldiers are shouldering more responsibility to safeguard the safety of Chinese citizens abroad. Part of this movie is based on real stories, when the Chinese embassies and navy evacuated Chinese nationals in Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Libya and other conflict zones.

Following the success of this movie, Chinese people will support more defensive military actions conducted by the Chinese army abroad. Its huge profits and political success will lure investment in more action movies with similar themes. As a result, these cultural products will further enhance public expectations and support for China’s military actions abroad, and a more active role for China in the international community as a responsible shareholder.

But is it indicative that China will become more assertive and aggressive? Or that China is ambitious to replace the US and become the next superhero to save the world? The answer is again no.

For observers who have preconceptions, it is hard to recognize and accept that the military actions of the Chinese soldiers that this movie promoted are defensive in nature. The heroes are not fighting to gain something for themselves, or intervening in local conflicts to attack the bad guys. The guidance for the Chinese army at home and abroad is to limit gunfire.

The leading character Leng Feng was a former special forces member. He did not receive any weapons from the Chinese navy, which was sent to evacuate Chinese nationals. A Navy commander in the film repeatedly emphasized that China could not send any troops into the war zone without UN authorization. The movie also raised a thought-provoking question, as Leng decided not only to rescue Chinese but also local African people and bring them to safety zones. The inclusiveness and equality the film promoted is beyond the narrow concept of nationalism.

When Leng and the people he has rescued pass a battlefield on their way to the port in the climax of the movie, Leng holds up a Chinese flag and asks people to throw away their guns. This shows a strong anti-war, anti-violence sentiment that would appeal to the Chinese public. The purpose of the action is to protect and rescue people, not to attack the enemy. This is in sharp contrast to the role and image of Western mercenaries in the film. While the West brings only destruction and war, China brings construction and trade.

The film is also not a simple replication of a Hollywood superhero movie. The director indeed hired the Captain America: Civil War production team for combat scenes and stunts. Many viewers said the movie is of Hollywood quality. But the purpose was not to produce another Hollywood movie, but an enthusiastic Chinese movie which could appeal to a Chinese audience and echo Chinese culture and values.

The director certainly adds creativity with the underwater fight, jeep racing and tank scenes. In that regard, foreign technology is one of the tools, not the result. The dedication and efforts of the director earned respect and support from Chinese viewers.

To understand this movie, we need to understand that ordinary Chinese people expect and support a strong Chinese military presence to offer protection and rescue when they are abroad. This urgent need is in line with the Chinese government’s increasing commitment to safeguard security and peace as a responsible power in the international community.

Source: Global Times

China, US can jointly shape international order

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

“International order” means the rules, or in other words, universal values, concepts and mechanisms, in global governance. It is shaped by major powers and followed by smaller countries. Rising powers are always attempting to break these rules and re-establish a new order that reflects their values.

The current international order was established by the US after WWII. Many believe that the order is now challenged by China, a rising power, and also by the US itself, as practices by US President Donald Trump are challenging and even destroying the current order.

The US is indeed confounded by some problems, and China is dissatisfied with the current order and is actively participating in international governance.

But Beijing will not replace Washington. This is determined by the nature of current international order.

At the beginning of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the country was excluded from the UN and didn’t participate in the establishment of the post-WWII international order. Even if Beijing now is regarded as challenging the order, it has never deviated from the current system, especially the principle of sovereign equality. For instance, mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty is at the core of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence put forward at the Bandung Conference in 1956. China has been gradually contributing to the current international order since it joined the UN in 1971.

It has taken Beijing quite a long time to adapt to international rules on sovereign security, human rights and other sensitive agendas. While China once maintained silence on security affairs, it is now playing an important role in UN peacekeeping operations, arms control and other fields. China’s increasing power is the fundamental reason for the shift.

But China is still dissatisfied with the current order. The rules represent mainly Western values, and, given political and cultural divergences, China regards many of the rules as unjust and unreasonable.

Shifts in economic strength have not been reflected by the current order. Under the current order, China has not obtained rights and discourse power that can match its strength and influence. Therefore, Beijing wants changes, but is suppressed by Washington.

China is dissatisfied with US double standards.

While Washington requires other countries to obey the rules, it does not act in accordance to the rules on most occasions, especially when the situation is unfavorable to it. Washington proposes to shape liberal and multilateral global institutions, but it has established an alliance system that excludes China.

As a result, Beijing is playing a more active role in international affairs, but this is regarded as a challenge to the current order and Washington. For instance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and other Chinese initiatives are believed to be an effort to counter US interests. China also put forward a number of rules about the sea, outer space and the Internet that are different from US.

But Beijing has no intention to target Washington, and the conditions are immature for it to replace Washington in shaping the international order.

To begin with, China’s hard power is not strong enough, and China doesn’t have enough resources to provide public goods for the current order. Soft power is also significant in global leadership, and more efforts are needed to make Chinese values and the Chinese model win approval from other countries. Meanwhile, China is still a beneficiary of the current order. It has to be admitted that the US-led security system has to some extent facilitated peace and stability in Asia.

Therefore, even if China is dissatisfied with the current international order, it will not replace the US in making new rules in Asia and the whole world. China is not rewriting the rules, but is attempting to have a higher status in rule-making. Therefore, there is enormous room for Beijing and Washington to negotiate and cooperate.

The US can transfer some power to China so that the two countries can jointly shape the international order. In the meantime, China should clarify that it is an upholder of the current order. China is just trying to reform the rights granted to developing countries.

The author is director of the Center for China-US Cooperation, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. This article is an abstract of his recent speech delivered in Center For China And Globalization.

Source: Global Times

No impact from calls for boycott of China

Indian businesswomen choose lighting fixtures in an exhibition in Yiwu, East China’s Zhejiang Province. File photo: IC

Despite reports of rising calls in India for boycotting Chinese goods in the wake of an ongoing military stand-off between China and India in a border area, Chinese traders’ exports of small commodities to the Indian market have remained unaffected so far, several domestic manufacturers said on Tuesday.

Industry insiders warned that since exports to India only represent a small portion of Chinese total trade volume, a boycott would only make India’s economy suffer.

“Our exports to India have grown steadily in the last two months and I have not felt any sentiment of hostility or a so-called boycott from Indian clients,” Ying Daijun, chairman of Shifeng Decorative Lighting Co in Yiwu, East China’s Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times Tuesday. The company’s exports to India account for 30 percent to 40 percent of its total revenue.

Also, the orders for lights used in one of India’s largest festivals, Diwali, which is at the end of October, are almost the same as the sales volume last year, Ying said, adding that the ordered items have already been packed and are on their way to India.

A sales representative of a decoration maker based in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, surnamed Pan, also said that the firm’s exports to India, which generates about 30 percent of its annual income, have not posted major fluctuations.

“Actually, there might be some small gains in recent months as an array of Indian traditional festivals loom,” he told the Global Times on Tuesday.

In terms of the potential sales decline following a boycott, Pan said that he is not worried. “Of course we sincerely hope that things do not get worse, but on the other hand, we have been exploring newly rising markets and have gained footholds in some [countries], which would dilute [the negative influence] and make up for the Indian market,” he said.

Ying agreed. “Our clients are spread globally, and when one market shrinks, another one will rise,” he said.

As bilateral tension mounted after the ongoing military stand-off on the border area, Indian media reported that the country’s political parties, as well as organizations and individuals, have called for its citizens to stop purchasing Chinese products.

For example, the state executive committee of India’s ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) on Monday called for a boycott of Chinese goods such as toys and consumer durables, the Times of India reported.

“The BJP state executive meeting felt that we should boycott their products to teach the neighboring country a lesson,” BJP state general secretary Shobha Karandlaje was quoted as saying in the report.

Limited impact

This is not the first time that India has called for boycotting Chinese consumer goods, said Wu Shunhuang, CEO of Hong Kong-based space-sharing firm Inworks, which has a subsidy in New Delhi, capital of India.

“In the past years, similar movements have also been launched several times, but none of them were able to hurt Chinese manufacturers. So [the actual effect] this time would be more like ‘much smoke and little fire’,” Wu told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Besides, compared with “made in India” products, Chinese merchandise is relatively cheap and of great variety and high quality, especially in terms of more complicated goods which India firms lack key techniques to produce, domestic vendors pointed out.

“Based on my experience, Indian clients are always looking for cheap commodities that their citizens can afford… so it’s hard for retailers to give up Chinese-produced goods that are price competitive,” Pan said.

While domestic firms remain largely unaffected, Indian’s economy might be the one that is actually being hurt, analysts pointed out.

In 2016, China’s exports to India totaled $58.32 billion, and imports from India stood at $11.76 billion. This led to a trade deficit of $46.56 billion.

Exports to India only represented about 2.7 percent of China’s total export volume last year, meaning that the export of small commodities is almost negligible, experts said.

“The economy of India is largely dependent on China,” Wu said. “Boycotting Chinese goods could take a toll on India because the country has to produce the commodities using more labor and materials due to its low level of industrialization.”

Source: Global Times

Sea code shuts out intervention

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is surrounded by journalists at the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its dialogue partners, in Manila, Philippines on Sunday. Photo: AP

Photo: Xinhua

The adoption by China and ASEAN countries of the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea has shattered any reason for non-regional countries to intervene, experts said.

Joint efforts by China and ASEAN member countries have greatly improved the situation in the South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Manila on Monday, stressing that China and ASEAN have the ability and the wisdom to negotiate the COC, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Both sides have successfully drawn up and adopted the framework of the COC in the South China Sea, saying they would begin substantive consultations on the text of the COC within the year after completing preparations, Wang said.

“The COC framework lays the foundation for both China and ASEAN to further negotiate the behavior and activities in the South China Sea, but does not resolve the disputes. In other words, it can help relevant countries peacefully resolve their disputes,” said Xu Liping, a researcher on Southeast Asian affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The framework confirms that the disputes in the South China Sea should be negotiated by China and ASEAN, which prevents intervention from outside countries, Xu said.

External motives

However, Wang said some outside countries prefer to live in the past, turn a blind eye to the positive changes, unwilling to recognize achievements made by the joint efforts of China and ASEAN, and even issue damaging information.

“We have to ask whether some countries are unwilling to recognize that the situation in the South China Sea is stabilizing. Is the further stabilization of the South China Sea not in the interest of these countries?” he asked.

Australia, Japan and the US on Monday urged Southeast Asian countries and China to ensure that the COC is legally binding and said they strongly oppose “coercive unilateral actions,” Reuters reported on Monday.

ASEAN and China should establish a set of rules that are “legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law,” the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a statement after a meeting in Manila.

“This shows that the US, Japan and Australia are very frustrated because their reasons to disrupt the South China Sea situation are dwindling, but they will not give up. They will increase their military presence or try to use some ASEAN members to interrupt the COC negotiations for them,” Xu said.

“We hope non-regional countries will take note of the positive changes in the South China Sea in the past year and respect the efforts that China and ASEAN have made to achieve the results,” and “we don’t want any non-regional countries to continue to tell us what to do,” Wang said.

Regional consensus

At the China-ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting on Sunday, Wang said that ASEAN foreign ministers carefully assessed the situation in the South China Sea and adopted the COC framework.

“This is the current mainstream view of countries in the region,” Wang said.

Professor Aileen SP Baviera from the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines told the Global Times that China and ASEAN have made progress to fundamentally end squabbles, and that if it fails, it would destabilize the region.

“We have cooperated and brought it back on track to resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiations by the parties directly concerned,” and “We should fully appreciate these important improvements and cherish the achievements made by our joint efforts,” Wang said.

The positive change in the South China Sea situation was also reflected in the joint communiqué issued by ASEAN foreign ministers, Wang added.

Speaking at the earlier 7th East Asia Summit (EAS) foreign ministers’ meeting, Wang said improvements to the situation in the South China Sea are more significant than last year’s.

Wang told the EAS meeting that China and ASEAN countries have the ability and wisdom to negotiate the COC.

He added that China and ASEAN will continue to press ahead with negotiations on the COC with the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in the hope of establishing mutually acceptable regional rules.

Source: Global Times

China marks 70th anniversary of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region

Horsemen compete in a ceremonial event on Tuesday in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the region’s founding. Photo: CFP

China on Tuesday celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, as experts said the celebration demonstrates the success of China’s regional ethnic autonomy policies.

Inner Mongolia was the first provincial-level ethnic autonomous region in the country.

China’s top political adviser Yu Zhengsheng Tuesday lauded the achievements of Inner Mongolia and expressed his hope that improving ethnic autonomy would bring a better life for people in the region, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, presented a plaque with an inscription by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Monday. It reads, “Building a beautiful Inner Mongolia, achieving the great Chinese dream” in both Chinese and Mongolian.

Yu reiterated the importance of adherence to the leadership of the CPC, which he said was the core to unite and lead people from all ethnic groups, and of firmly sticking to socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Under the leadership of the CPC, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was established on May 1, 1947. The first session of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature, included the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities in the constitution in 1954, Xinhua said.

Covering an area of 1.18 million square kilometers, Inner Mongolia accounts for about 12 percent of the country’s land area. The ethnic Mongolian population is 4.6 million, nearly one-fifth of the region’s total.

Over the past 70 years, the region’s GDP has expanded from 537 million yuan ($78 million) to 1.86 trillion yuan.

“Inner Mongolia set the example for founding other autonomous regions after 1949,” Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic studies at Beijing’s Minzu University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Under the regional ethnic autonomy policy in China, where ethnic minorities live in compact communities, autonomous organs of self-government are established under the unified leadership of the State. Ethnic minorities exercise autonomous rights, are masters in their own areas and administer their own internal affairs, according to china.org.cn.

After China’s reform and opening-up in 1978, Inner Mongolia has also successfully gone through the transition and developed under the market economy, thanks to its advantages in geography and resources, Wu Chuke, a professor at the School of Ethnology and Sociology at the Minzu University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“Also, as the Mongolian population only accounts for around 17 percent of the region, the policy has ensured the development of the minority ethnic group,” Wu said.

“The success of Inner Mongolia’s 70 years of development shows that regional ethnic autonomy suits the conditions of China and Inner Mongolia,” Xiong said, adding that the policy is an exemplar of a management model with Chinese characteristics and Chinese experience.

Various events to celebrate the anniversary include gala evenings, exhibitions and the Naadam Festival, a traditional event with horse racing and Mongolian wrestling.

Trade route

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Beijing on July 21 that Inner Mongolia has two calling cards, that of openness and ecological construction, and this will revise the world’s understanding of the region, Inner Mongolia’s nmgnews.com.cn reported.

Wang was speaking at an event to promote the region held by the foreign ministry. He noted that Inner Mongolia was the main route for trade between Asia and Europe in history, and now it has been brightened with construction under the Belt and Road initiative.

A promotional film was also released, presenting the scenery, culture and development of Inner Mongolia.

Besides its representative animal husbandry, the region could also develop high-tech industries by using its advantages of large space and rich resources, Xiong said.

However, finding a solution to retaining its ethnic diversity as it develops is an issue, Wu said, and preserving the fragile ecology of Inner Mongolia is another problem.

“Moreover, the implementation of regional ethnic autonomy focuses more on the ethnic parts, so in the future, the regional elements, including the ecology, environment and resources, should be paid attention to, together with the cultural, historic and current situation,” Xiong noted.

As Inner Mongolia is long and narrow in shape, regional development needs to be balanced. Even though the eastern part of Inner Mongolia will benefit from the massive border trade with Russia, it is far from the political center of the region, Wu said.

Source: Global Times

The elite social gathering space EQUIS opens

EQUIS opens in Beijing. Photo: Courtesy of EQUIS

EQUIS, one of the newest social lounges, opened on July 30 with a star-studded fashion soiree, where the elite of the city gathered to mark the unveiling of the capital’s most highly anticipated venue.

Designed as a luxurious, contemporary reinterpretation of the ancient tea houses and imperial courts that have formed the heart of Beijing society for thousands of years, EQUIS aims to set new standards of sophistication and style for the capital’s burgeoning social scene.

The exclusive new venue, which is ideally situated adjacent to the Four Seasons Hotel Beijing, is comprised of five distinct but connected outlets spread over a spacious 3,600 square meters, which evokes Beijing’s famed hutong of years past.

EQUIS combines international influences with the world-class service and entertainment standards to create the setting for celebrations, fine dining and drinking in style.

“We are excited to present EQUIS to Beijing,” said Tehau Lejeune, the club director of EQUIS. “Our goal was to create a new, exciting and high-quality venue for the social elite and to break new ground in sophisticated urban lifestyle. We believe we have created a place that is truly fresh, innovative and best in class for nightlife, dining and entertainment in the capital.”

The main attraction at EQUIS for socialites and partygoers will be the carefully curated music and entertainment program. Generally divided into two phases, dinner will feature a more refined, calm atmosphere, while evenings will transition into an exciting, high-energy audio-visual experience with resident DJs and first-class performances.

Accessible only to EQUIS members, The Imperial Room is the height of the EQUIS experience and a true “home away from home” for the lucky few, complete with a private and ultra-luxurious lounge, a dedicated outdoor terrace and private party rooms for entertaining and other hosting opportunities. The Imperial Room is home to an extensive collection of rare and special single malt whiskeys, fine cognacs and other spirits including offerings not available anywhere else in China.

EQUIS’ striking interiors pays homage to ancient, timeless Beijing traditions while also celebrating the best of modern China and the world, with dramatic spaces and eclectic vibes created through the carefully selected materials including woven metal, antique timber and the distinct use of glass cubes and mirrors, fireplaces and pieces of genuine Chinese porcelain. Contemporary art installations further create an atmosphere designed to awe and inspire through a multi-sensory experience.

Located in the southwest corner of EQUIS are the library, a quiet haven for handcrafted cocktails, and a spacious private terrace with hand-rolled Cuban cigars and rare, artisanal spirits. The courtyard features an open-air garden that evokes the central courtyards of ancient hutong. Bamboo and manicured foliage paired with beautiful stone walls and comfortable terrace seating make this the best backdrop for a selection of local craft beers, wines and champagnes served on a warm summer night.

Source: Global Times

No problems, no regrets

Xu Yang (back 2nd left) and his Indian classmates on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in New Delhi Photo: Courtesy of Xu Yang

It’s another sweltering night. Liang Yuying wakes up in her sweaty pajamas and finds it hard to fall asleep again. New Delhi’s summer is hot, and it’s even hotter in Liang’s dorm room on the top floor after a whole day’s sunshine.

A PhD student at a top university in New Delhi, Liang has been living in the country for more than two years. Despite the tough living conditions, she doesn’t regret her choice.

Studying in India a new trend

“The professors and lecturers are first-class, and the learning atmosphere is very good,” Liang said.

She said that many of the staff are from world top institutions like Oxford and Cambridge. Compared with the high cost of studying in the West, Liang thinks India is the perfect destination for those who want to broaden their horizons but have limited finances.

Indian universities have been attracting Chinese students for years. Their cost-effectiveness, English language environment, and diverse student and teacher population have made schools around New Delhi and Bombay increasingly popular among Chinese students looking to study abroad in recent times.

“Due to its postcolonial heritage, India is very westernized. Apart from the people’s accent, it’s like a second UK. Most important, the cost of higher education is really low,” said Wang Yuezhou, 18, who has been studying English language in New Delhi for nearly a year.

According to a January report by news portal sohu.com, college tuition at Delhi University averages at around $500 per year, and some programs cost as little as $150 per annum. Expensive degree programs, such as computer science, cost about $3,500 per year.

Famous universities in the UK charge students an average of more than $13,044 a year, and at the most expensive one, the University of Cambridge, fees can reach up to $30,254, according to a July 31 sohu.com report.

Wang will start college life at University of Pune soon. He said he attended many open lectures given by well-known local and internal scholars and experts and is grateful for the opportunity.

“If I decided to go to Europe or the US, then that would be a huge economic burden for my family. Here I can still get what I want with much less money,” he said.

Life on the other side

“Indian locals are very hospitable. They are very happy to help others and friendly to foreigners, including Chinese,” said Huo Wenle, 28, a PhD student majoring international relations in New Delhi.

Huo was not allocated a room in the student dormitory when he arrived on campus for school. With no idea what to do, he stood outside the dorm for quite a while until an Indian student passed by and asked him what happened.

“Once he knew my situation, he just took me to his dorm and shared his place with me until I got my own dorm room days later. I was very touched and felt very supported,” he recalled.

Later, when he had an allergic reaction to an insect bite and became sick, two of his Indian friends took him the hospital. According to Huo, his Indian friends place a high value on family and are very patient and caring toward the people around them. They often have dinner together, and politics is often talked about.

“They are very curious about China and political issues between the two countries, and we can openly discuss it without hurting anyone’s feelings,” he said.

Huo said his friends on campus are open-minded and would like to hear the story from the other side.

Regarding the recent China-India border conflict, Huo said there is little negative influence on his relationship with the locals, which is echoed by many other Chinese students.

“We made it very clear that politics is for governments, which has nothing to do with people. And I don’t feel my Indian friends treat me any differently after the conflicts,” said Zhao Zhiguang, an economics student at University of Pune.

Having lived in India for three years, Zhao gets along with his Indian classmates very well and is often invited to their homes.

Zhu Peiling moved to Pune with her husband and four-year old son in February. As a mother and student, she is happy to have the support and help from the local community.

“Some of the neighbors will teach our son how to dance and play with him. We get along with each other in great harmony. It’s a lovely environment for kids,” Zhu said.

The more educated they are, the more eager they are to learn from China, according to Xu Yang, who got his master’s degree in New Delhi.

“It’s often the poorly educated people, whose knowledge about China is entirely from some local media, that might hold negative views against China. But they are very few,” he said.

Xu said most of the Indians he meets are very kind and locals often ask him to take pictures with them because of his Chinese face.

Chinese and Indian students wait for class to begin at University of Pune. Photo: Courtesy of Zhao Zhiguang

Feeling at home

Chinese products are available in local shops, and Chinese mobile phone stores are all around, which make Chinese students feel more at home.

“Chinese products, especially phones, have a good name in India. You see signs like Oppo and Vivo everywhere,” said Wang.

He said his Indian friends love Chinese products. Also, China-made daily necessities, ranging from a dustbin to shoes and clothes, are all available in local shops.

“Many of the bulbs that they use for Dewali Festival are made in China, and some people also fly Chinese Kongming lanterns during the festival in New Delhi,” Wang said.

He added that although some voices call for a boycott of Chinese products, most locals still like them. Huo had the same observation. He feels that Chinese products bring Indians closer to him.

“Sometimes when a local finds out that I’m Chinese, they would be pleasantly surprised and talk about their favorite Chinese phone brands with me,” he said.

Zhao also said that those who advocated for a boycott were from radical parties, and the actual boycott only had tens of participants.

“Most locals just stood by and watched. So, the actual effect was very limited,” he said.

Still not without challenges

However, getting friendly with the locals doesn’t mean that living in India is easy. Chinese students have to overcome many challenges. Also, culture shock is inevitable.

The hot weather in summer and poor living conditions are among the biggest challenges of living in India.

India’s tropical monsoon climate makes it one of the most sweltering countries in the world. In some areas, including New Delhi, the temperature can surpass 40 C, and air conditioners are a luxury.

“The only place on campus that has air conditioning is the library. So, I often go there in summer and spend days and nights inside,” said Liang.

She said it gets so hot that her clothes are soaked in sweat within an hour, but she doesn’t complain because her professors “are still there passionately giving their lectures” and they are much older than her.

Others, including Xu, Huo and Wang, agree that the living conditions are not that satisfying compared with their lives in China.

The infrastructure is less developed and electricity and water are occasionally cut, even in cities. The Wi-Fi on campus is also unstable.

As to culture shocks, religion is one of the main generators.

“The first three questions that a new Indian friend would ask me are my name, my hometown and my religion, and when I say I’m not really religious, they are just stunned,” said Huo.

India is a religious country, and almost everyone has a religious belief, while in China many people follow Confucianism and Taoism, which are not considered religions.

“They would ask whether I believe in Confucianism, and I find it hard to explain since our definition of region is somehow different,” Huo said.

Another cultural shock is the different value placed on time and punctuality. Compared with Chinese, Indians have a more relaxed and slow-paced life. Being late is quite common, which sometimes causes problems.

“If they say ‘wait’ for two minutes, it actually means two hours; and if they say ‘two hours,’ then you can translate it into ‘a day,'” said Zhao.

Breaking appointment is also common. Zhao recalled calling a repairman when his apartment toilet didn’t work. The man showed up a week later.

Wang feels the same about the locals. He said he often has to wait for his Indian friends when they plan to go out and has been stood up by them many times.

“It seems that women tend to be more punctual than men in India,” he said. “I prefer to make friends with women.”

However, he is gradually getting used to it. Whenever he makes an appointment with the locals, he will “be mentally prepared.”

“I think it might have something to do with their religion,” Wang said.

“They believe in reincarnation or samsara, so they don’t push themselves too hard in this life.”

Source: Global Times

Choo Waihong’s ‘The Kingdom of Women’ a study of female grit

Choo Waihong Photo: Courtesy of Choo Waihong

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Two Mosuo girls Photo: IC

If there is only one thing that Singaporean author Choo Waihong would want her readers to take away from her book The Kingdom of Women, it would be that a world where women are equal to men is not just possible, it is real, and it thrives in the mountains of Yunnan Province among the Mosuo ethnic minority.

“I hope all the young women who read this book will be inspired and not feel that a more equal world is impossible,” she said.

A former lawyer with one of the top law firms in Singapore, Choo retired early in 2006 after having an epiphany one Sunday afternoon while working overtime at the office.

“Being a lawyer so filled my life that I had no other,” she writes in her book. “I had no family, no significant other, no kids, nothing really to look back on with a smile.”

The odyssey that followed her departure led her to Lugu Lake on the borders of the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan, where she met and fell in love with the Mosuo and their culture, which puts women at the head of the family structure.

Mosuo culture

“It’s possible to have a woman-centric society, and the world does not come to an end,” Choo said during a recent book talk in Beijing .

In Musuo society, all the power lies in the hands of women. The bloodlines are passed down through the women, the finances and property are managed by the women and women see themselves as sexual beings beholden to no man. There is no “marriage” in this society, and the nuclear family does not exist. Instead, they practice what is called a “walking marriage” where the woman can have as many or as few sexual partners as she pleases, and should she become pregnant, the child belongs to her family.

That is not to say that men do not play a role in the community.

“Men are not suppressed,” she ex.

Treated as equals, men do things that the women who are seen as representing “light and life” cannot do. For example, they are the ones who kill animals or handle the deceased.

“It’s not a flip side or female suppression of male. It is a bit more equal because of the way they deal with each other. I think the interpersonal relationship among the Mosuo is quite equal.”

The Mosuo lack fathers by an “outsider” definition of the word.

“In our society, it is important that children have an identity with their father. In the Mosuo world all that matters is that you are born to this matrilineal [line], and if your mother has four sisters you actually have five mothers who will look after you,” Choo told the Global Times.

“It’s one large family with no distinction of birth mother. They are very secure in their structure. [The patriarchal role for the man] doesn’t matter because they are fully functioning.”

In response to the generally held idea that male children need to have role models to learn how to be a man, Choo said that isn’t an issue because the boy’s uncles are present in the household.

Cultural attrition

Having lived many years almost untouched by the outside world, the “Mosuo cosmos,” as Choo likes to call it, is undergoing some rapid changes, due in part to its transition from an agrarian society to one that has opened up to tourism.

But the cost might be too high.

“There is no push [to preserve culture]. I only know of one person who goes to the primary school for an hour to teach the school kids the [Mosuo] language and songs. Outside of this person, there is no sort of organized structure to preserve the Mosuo culture and language.”

Other traditions such as the coming of age ceremonies for both boys and girls, while still performed, are perhaps not as rich as they once were. Known as the Becoming an Adult Celebration, the ceremony is performed during the 13th spring after a child is born, not on the actual day of birth.

During this celebration, a girl will be given a skirt in what is called the Wearing the Skirt ceremony, at the end of which she becomes a “fully fledged person on whom would be conferred all the attendant rights of a grown-up,” writes Choo.

However, when she was once asked to perform a similar ceremony for a young boy, the boy’s mother had forgotten some of details of the rituals entailed in what one local described as “the biggest day of our lives.”

Alternate paths

“I am already very sad about the author’s experience of how the intrusion of tourism and modernity and modern society, is shifting this matriarchal culture away from its structure and values and practices, particularly among the young women,” Victoria Williams from London, who attended the talk, told the Global Times.

“It kind of saddens me a bit that one of those outposts of women in a position of power and control in a community is being undermined by the modern world.”

Gabriel Corsetti, who had been to Lugu Lake before, said he found the author’s experience interesting.

“I think that it is very interesting to see how even though most traditional societies in the world are patriarchal that there are some that are not and so, obviously, it is possible. It has always been possible for human society. It [then becomes] an interesting question why most of the societies in the world went down that path,” he told the Global Times.

Source: Global Times

China continues to push for open markets

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Workers from China and Vietnam load tapioca in a border trade zone in Dongxing, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. File photo: IC

Since President Xi Jinping delivered a staunch defense of globalization and free trade at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January, amid growing protectionist sentiment in the US, China has been pushing for trade liberalization in many multilateral platforms in the past few months and rallying countries to oppose protectionism.

In the latest example, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during a meeting with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) on Sunday in Manila, capital of the Philippines, suggested that China and ASEAN accelerate the implementation of upgrades to the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and jointly safeguard the global free trade system.

Wang further urged that China and ASEAN work together to lead the regional economic integration process and push for expedited negotiations for a sweeping regional free trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday.

The RCEP is being negotiated among 16 countries, including the 10 countries of ASEAN, China, Japan and India.

It just completed its 19th round of negotiations in India at the end of July.

Slow progress

While some media reports suggested that negotiations for the mega free trade deal could be completed by the end of 2017, Chinese experts on Monday raised doubts, citing major differences in market openness and other terms among the countries.

“I doubt that it can be done by the end of this year,” Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Monday.

Bai said that though all the countries are showing commitment to completing the trade deal, the process has been stalled by differences among countries at different stages of economic development. “For example, India has the lowest level of market openness,” he said.

Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, also said that countries like India are reluctant to agree to proposals for wider market openness from countries like Japan.

With such differences, China and ASEAN have a larger role to play in pushing for the deal.

“Both China and ASEAN are pushing for a more neutral proposal, where the RCEP will start out at a lower standard and improve gradually,” Chen said. “We can’t let the two opposite proposals continue to stall the process. We need to move forward, even if that means we have to leave some countries out in the initial stage.”

Defending free trade

Recent negotiations over the RCEP are just the latest effort by China in pushing for regional free trade deals and rallying countries to jointly protect the global free trade mechanism. The US, under President Donald Trump, has been seeking to focus more on bilateral deals, blaming unfair multilateral trade deals and economic globalization for American domestic economic woes.

Last week, following a two-day meeting in Shanghai, trade ministers from the emerging BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – agreed to support a multilateral trade mechanism and fight against trade protectionism.

In early July, at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, which was also attended by Trump, Xi called on members of the G20 to build an open world economy and a multilateral trade regime, the

Xinhua News Agency reported on July 8. In the final communique of the summit, the G20 leaders agreed they would “fight protectionism including all unfair trade practices.”

China also hosted a major conference on the Belt and Road initiative in Beijing in May, and leaders of 30 countries attended the meeting and declared in a communique that they “oppose all forms of protectionism.”

Experts said such efforts from China are necessary for both the Chinese and global economy at a time of rising protectionism sentiment.

“China has to stand up and take a clear-cut stand against trade protectionism, because that’s good for China and for other countries,” Bai said. “So far China has been persistent and has gained support from a lot of countries.”

Source: Global Times

China seeks to upgrade manufacturing by becoming automation leader

A woman walks beside a robot in Ningbo train station, East China’s Zhejiang Province on Monday. Photo: CFP

China’s manufacturing industry revolution is in full swing as more and more factories introduce robots to take the place of human workers.

“Industrial robots will witness a ‘golden period of development’ in the next 20 to 30 years in China with the transformation and upgrading of Chinese manufacturing,” Luo Jun, CEO of the International Robotics and Intelligent Equipment Industry Alliance, an industry thinktank, told the Global Times.

Meanwhile, service robots that can be used as domestic helpers and in hospitals, hotels and nursing homes are becoming increasingly known to the public.

Government initiatives to improve the quality of China’s industries, such as “China Manufacturing 2025,” have sought to support the country’s robot industry.

China, which still relies on imports to meet its demand for robots, lags behind the West in robotic R&D and observers have pointed out that bridging this gap is key to the country becoming a world-leader in the sector.

Unmanned factories

In a workshop in Dongguan, South China’s Guangdong Province, 150 robots do everything on the assembly line from processing raw materials to assembling finished products. Their owner, Vision Tool, specializes in designing and building the stamping implements used by automobile companies, including Volvo, Ford and Tesla, the news site thepaper.cn reported.

Vision Tool is the latest epitome of Dongguan’s automated manufacturing. The first unmanned factory in Dongguan actually appeared two years ago. The Everwin Precision Technology Co introduced 60 pairs of mechanical arms to work 24 hours a day on 10 assembly lines, replacing 650 workers. The factory plans to eventually introduce 1,000 such machines and cut 80 percent of its workforce, the Xinhua News Agency reported in July 2015.

Manufacturers’ demand for robots has led to the factories that produce these products also having to work around the clock.

China has more than 40 robotics industrial parks and 800 robot-manufacturing companies as of March. But most domestically-made robots are medium to low-end products, Xin Guobin, vice minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told the media in March.

Sun Ying, deputy president of the Zhejiang Robot Association and head of a robotics firm in Hangzhou, told the Global Times that her company’s sales revenue reached 200 million yuan ($29 million) last year, up from just 600,000 yuan in 2012 when the company was established.

Sun’s company mainly provides industrial robots for the detection of flaws and measurements to the logistics, automobile and optical communication sectors.

“Most of our robots were sold to factories in southern China in the past, but starting this year, our market has expanded to European countries including Russia, the Czech Republic and Finland following China’s Belt and Road initiative,” Sun said.

Meanwhile, the company is also eyeing the service robot industry, establishing a new branch last year to develop medical robots for nursing homes, according to Sun.

The National Manufacturing Strategy Advisory Committee, a national advisory organ, said it predicts that more than 150,000 industrial robots will be sold in China by 2020, with more than 800,000 in service by then. The committee added that the sector will be worth tens of billions of yuan and will be globally competitive, thepaper.cn reported.

Catch up

As China is a manufacturing power that has long been focused on labor-intensive industries, the transformation of its manufacturing needs robots to improve its automation level, Luo said.

But China has struggled to keep pace with Western countries in developing and researching robots, and the techniques behind core components of industrial robots, such as electrical machinery and controllers, are monopolized by Japan and Germany, according to Luo.

“Even in the domestic industrial robot market, Chinese robot companies only account for 20 percent, and the rest is occupied by foreign or joint venture companies,” Luo said.

Meanwhile Sun said that the low standardization of Chinese factories results in a prolonged research period for Chinese robot companies and a waste of their manpower, as assembly lines vary a lot between different factories in the same industry.

To encourage Chinese scientists to develop robotic technology, China has allocated 600 million yuan for 42 robotics programs this year, the Ministry of Science and Technology said in August.

Luo suggested the government step up efforts to develop next generation robots which use artificial intelligence, in order to narrow the gap with Western developed countries.

Source: Global Times