Teenagers Face Pressure
Teenagers in Shanghai are beginning to experience new psychological pressures as schools gear up to turn out graduates capable of competing in the country’s growing market economy. A survey of 1,200 middle school students in Shanghai found that 28.5% felt they were under excessive pressure at school, while another 28% reported having difficulty building relationships with their teachers and classmates. “At present, I seem to live only for studying and sleeping,” confessed one junior middle school student. (New China News Agency)
China will build 12 new airports by the year 2000. Included will be a brand-new international airport in Guangzhou and the overhaul of an additional 10 airports, including the one in Beijing. The project will triple China’s airport capacity to 180 million passengers a year. (Xinhua News Agency)
Environmental Group Approved
China recently approved the nation’s first independent environmental group, “Friend of Nature.” The group, which is expected to have a membership of at least 60 people, receives no funding from the government and has no government-appointed officers on its board.
In the past, China refused to allow such groups, fearing they would foster political activism, but officials appear to have decided that the situation is now serious enough to warrant them. The group’s founder, Liang Congjie, said the aim of the organization is to raise public awareness of environmental issues, which he said is presently very low. (South China Morning Post)
In Beijing, 20,000 children recently participated in the first English contest sponsored by a local private school. The youngest entrant was only five years old, and the oldest was 14, signaling a rising trend in learning English among children. There are more than 1,000 such private schools in Beijing, many of which offer English courses.
“We used to aim at adults and high school students,” said one of the principals, “but now we cater to the needs of younger children, too. (The International Daily)
Sexual Disease on Rise
Venereal disease was virtually eradicated from China 30 years ago. Now, however, there is a sharp rise in sexually-transmitted diseases. The number of people suffering from VD in China doubles every two years. (South China Morning Post)
China’s population will reach 1.2 billion this year – six years ahead of the original prediction. The annual increase is 20 million births, or the equivalent of the population of Taiwan. (South China Morning Post)
US Congressmen Protest MFN Decision
Several members of the U.S. Congress have vowed to fight President Clinton’s renewal of Most Favored Nation status for China. Led by Democrats Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a group of congressmen are working on legislation that would impose other economic sanctions on China until there is human rights improvement. But even supporters of that plan acknowledge that there has been significant erosion in congressional will to take up the issue again.
Last June, Clinton acknowledged that some “serious human rights abuses continue in China,” but extended MFN without condition and pledged to separate linkage between human rights and trade in the future. (NNI)
Reasons for Divorce
In 1989, 287,000 couples in China were divorced, but by 1993 the number rose to 909,000. Some of the most common reasons for divorce are one of the spouses becoming rich or finding a new, richer partner; arguments about household chores or finances; or one of the spouses going abroad to work or study and simply stopping sending messages home. Arranged marriages in rural areas, which are still quite common, are most likely to end in divorce. (China Daily)
Officials Warn About Environmental Protection
Two leading Chinese government officials in charge of environmental affairs warned about the seriousness of the current environmental situation in China. They reported that throughout the country there has been a pursuit of short-term economic gain at the expense of nature. In many places, environment protection is being sacrificed to attract foreign investment, while in others, hazardous waste from Western countries is being imported in growing quantities as a way to generate revenue. They reported that dumping untreated waste into rivers is common in the countryside, while half of all ground water supplies are polluted in cities. Only a handful of China’s 500 main urban areas meet government air quality standards, two of which were ranked among the top ten worst cities in the world for air pollution.
The officials called for greater efforts to bring the situation under control, and reported that the central government would send out environmental protection teams this year to deal with serious offenders. (South China Morning Post)
In some areas of China, 20% of all corruption cases in the past two years involved sexual misconduct. Many cases entailed the use of young women by corrupt officials to seduce business representatives in order to win contracts and make money. One reason given for the dramatic increase in such cases is that many government officials are indifferent toward the established social order and seem to care only about their own financial gain. Another reason is that legal limits on how officials may use their power are unclear. (The Nineties)
Chinese Await Political Asylum in US
More than one year after they boarded a run-down ship in Fujian Province hoping to illegally enter the United States, more than 200 Chinese remain in U.S. prisons hoping for political asylum. The men and women were all passengers on the ill-fated Golden Venture, which ran aground in New York in June 1993. Many were fleeing China’s one-child and forced birth control policies. Others were political dissidents.
A handful have been granted political asylum by the United States, including one man, a pro-democracy demonstrator who became a Christian inside China and went into hiding. He is now living with an American family in the U.S. (NNI)
Video Game Danger
Video games are “man-eating tigers” devouring China’s school children. “Their contents are not only violent and unhealthy, but also pornographic.” (People’s Daily)
Human Rights Agency Calls for Prisoner Release
The human rights agency Asia Watch said 1993 was “without doubt the worst year for political arrests and trials in China since mid-1990 and the aftermath of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.” The group issued a 664-page report documenting more than 1,000 persons known or believed to be presently imprisoned because of their political, ethnic, or religious beliefs. Many of them are Christians. (Asia Watch)
Migration to Cities
Millions of China’s peasant farmers are on the move. One million of them are sleeping on the streets of Guangdong province. They are leaving the countryside to find work in the cities, where they hope to take advantage of the economic boom. Conditions in the countryside are difficult; one in four rural dwellers are without productive employment.
Some do find work in the cities, but life there is not all they imagine. In Guangzhou, the central railway station has become a vast labor market. Many end up doing the work that city dwellers refuse. Young girls can become prostitutes, while others are forced to beg. And crime in cities like Guangzhou is on the rise.
Still, many long for the “better life” of the cities and it is estimated that 10 million could quit their farms this year.
New Nuclear Plants
The Daya Bay nuclear plant began operation earlier this year 31 miles from Hong Kong. Guangdong authorities have announced they will build at least two more nuclear plants near Hong Kong. Many are concerned that millions of people living in Guangdong and Hong Kong would be seriously affected if there were an accident. (OMF)
Pre-Marital Sex Leads to Abortion
More than one-fifth of abortions in China result from premarital sex, and the government is seriously considering lifting its ban on giving contraceptives to young unmarried people. (OMF)
Private Bookstores Flourish
Private bookstores are multiplying rapidly and are giving their state-owned counterparts stiff competition. According to China Daily, there are now tens of thousands of private bookstores in China, constituting a large percentage of the nation’s bookstores. Anti-government literature and pornography are forbidden.
Bookstores are permitted to sell Bibles as long as they have been printed inside China with government permission at Amity Press in Nanjing. Private bookstores often buy Bibles for RMB 8 at local government-sanctioned churches and resell them for between RMB 25 and RMB 50. Many Bibles sold at private bookstores are bought by non-Christians interested in knowing more about the Christian faith, whether for academic, spiritual, or other reasons. (CNCR)
New Laws Protect Workers
A new labor law, the first since 1949, provides for a minimum wage, a 44-hour work week, and the right of all workers to organize labor unions. The new laws are in response to the recent rise in the number of fires and industrial accidents. “As state enterprises have been reformed and different forms of ownership adopted, labor relations have changed enormously,” said a front-page editorial accompanying the law. “A flood of new problems and contradictions have arisen.”
The new law gives conditions for companies to lay off workers and insists that all enterprises contribute to a government unemployment insurance fund. All workers should be employed on contracts, enjoy equal treatment regardless of sex or race, have a day off every week, and work no more than 36 hours of overtime a month, with higher pay. (People’s Daily)
Belief in Ghosts and Gods
A survey of more than 1,700 youth found that 4% believe in “ghosts and gods,” 53% do not, 18% believe such beings may exist, and 23% said it was difficult to say clearly. Those most firmly convinced that ghosts and gods are imaginary were Communist cadres in rural townships. Surprisingly, specialists in science and technology were most consistent in expressing a firm belief in these beings. (China Youth)
Confucian Tradition Could Hinder Education
A Canadian professor who has done extensive research on China’s education system warned that the Confucian tradition of elitist education in China could threaten development of a more broad-based system of higher education in the country. A broader system is needed to train the large pool of talent required to build a modern economy and society, said Dr. Ruth Hayhoe.
Dr. Hayhoe, who visited 13 institutions of higher learning in China, learned that universities are asking the central government for permission to increase the number of students allowed to enroll. She said authorities are reluctant to encourage development of private education for fear it will breed corruption. (South China Morning Post)
Coca-Cola in China
Coca-Cola announced plans to invest $150 million in 1994 in five new bottling plants in China. The company expects to have 23 plants in the country by 1996. “People predict confidently, ourselves included, that within a short time China will be the largest soft-drink [market] in Asia,” said Douglas N. Daft, president of Coca-Cola’s Pacific Group.
Coca-Cola says it sold 75 million cases in China in 1992. China’s soft-drink business is dominated by local brands, which hold about 80 percent of the market. (Orlando Sentinel)
In 1993, China experienced a second consecutive year of double-digit growth. Overall, the country’s economy grew by 13% in spite of austerity programs implemented at mid-year. However, inflation also has become a serious problem, registering 19.5% for the year in urban areas. (CNCR)
By the year 2000, private sector production is expected to account for at least 20 percent of China’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the New China News Agency. In 1990, the figure was just 1 percent. Government figures say China now has 18,000,000 entrepreneurs who employ a work force of about 42,000,000. The figure may actually be double that, however, because many private businesses find it politically advantageous to pose as collectives. In the cities, according to a State Council researcher, half the collectives are private; in the villages, nearly 90 percent are. (The Washington Post)
Copyright Thieves Will Go to Jail
China has approved jail terms of up to seven years for copyright pirates. The new provisions to China’s criminal law, passed by Parliament this summer, allow maximum jail terms of three years where large profits are involved and seven years for extremely large profits. The provisions target illicit copying and distribution of books, fine art, audio-visual products, and computer software. (China Daily)