News From China – Vol. 3 No. 2

    A Chinese-American journalist in New York posed as a worker to infiltrate a garment shop in Brooklyn, a part of New York City. The shop was one of many “sweatshops” in the city that do not abide by U.S. labor laws, hiring illegal immigrants at low wages for long hours of work in dangerous conditions. Jane H. Lii, a reporter for The New York Times, worked 84 hours in seven days, and was promised that she would be paid in three weeks – $54.24, or 65 cents an hour. (By law, minimum wage in the U.S. is $4.25.) The sweatshop was managed by a Chinese immigrant woman. “When you have an education and speak the language, you can afford to be choosy,” one Chinese worker told Lii. “But for people like us, there aren’t that many alternatives. We have to compromise. If we don’t like what we do, we stay home and starve. (New York Times)
    While China has a low rate of alcohol drinking in comparison with other countries, that rate has gone up sharply in recent years. In 1993, each Chinese consumed 3.4 quarts of pure alcohol, compared with 7.2 in the United States. The people of Luxembourg have the world’s highest rate, at 13.3 quarts per person. Thailand had one of the lowest rates – 0.3 quarts per person. (New York Times)
    Blood for transfusions is so scarce in China that there is now a “blood mafia,” according to Tianjin Evening News. “Vampire gangs” kidnap people, forcibly bleed them several times a week, and then sell the blood to local hospitals. In other instances, the poor, sick, and drug addicts sell their blood either to unscrupulous middlemen known as xue tou (blood heads) or to equally corrupt health workers who operate the blood-donating centers. In many cases, the blood is contaminated with infectious diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis. (Tianjin Evening News)
    China’s ambassador to the U.S., Li Daoyu, said one of China’s longterm economic goals is to “lift China from a state of a long-time poverty and backwardness, which was left over by the old society.” Speaking to students at Rollins College’s Crummer Graduate School of Business in Winter Park, Florida, Li said, “Our target is, by the middle of the next century, to reach a point of catching up with the middle level of a developed economy.” Li said that economic growth and the rapid social development in China are based on the creativity and full participation of people. “Without that, it cannot be imagined that we would have had that kind of progress. So this will be continued, and the participation of people, of course, will be wider and wider.” (Orlando Sentinel)
    More than 45 years after the Communist Revolution in China, nearly half the population still faces traditional prejudices, discrimination in the workplace, abuse at home and pressure to meet society’s expectations. It is true that the Communists ended foot binding, guaranteed women the right of equality, and gave them the right to education and to choose their own marriage partners. Yet today 70 percent of China’s 220 million illiterates over the age of 15 are women. Although barely a third of the salaried labor force, women make up the majority of those laid off by privately owned enterprises. And millions of women do the heavy lifting in the countryside when the men leave to seek better pay in the cities. “The life of a beast of burden is certainly not the liberation that Chinese women have so painstakingly sought,” Li Xiaojiang, a professor at Zhengzhou University, wrote in a book on the subject. (Washington Post Foreign Service)
    Millions of girls in China are either killed at birth or aborted during pregnancy. In urban China, the proportion of all pregnancies terminated by abortion rose from less than 3 percent in 1960 to 30 percent in 1987. In rural areas the proportion rose from virtually none to more than 15 percent. With the one-child policy and the prevalence of ultrasound machines that show the sex of an unborn baby, the ratio of boys to girls at birth has been rising steadily. There are 114 boys born for every 100 girls. Girls are frequently abandoned in train stations, bus terminals, or the steps of city halls by disappointed parents. (Washington Post Foreign Service)
    China claimed success in its efforts to control population growth during the past five years, saying the number of unapproved births dropped to less than 10 percent for the first time. China’s population is aging rapidly, with a peak expected in 2040 of 400 million people 60 or older. The figures came in a report on China’s population from 1991 to 1995 and predictions for the future. It said new births totaled 20 million annually. If this year’s birth rate is the same level, the total population by the end of 1995 will be 1.212 billion, below the planned 1.227 billion. (Economic Daily)
    NutraSweet, an artificial sugar that is one of the most widely recognized brand names in the United States, is making it bid for the Chinese consumer. The market test in Shanghai is in the first phase of a plan to add the 60 million citizens of China’s coastal cities to the global community of regular users of little packets of the non-caloric sweetener. “There is a healthy lifestyle emerging [in China],” said Nick E. Rosa, president of the Deerfield, Ill., company. “Chinese consumers are interested in balance in their diet.” With more Western product grabbing the consumer’s attention, Rosa said, “there is growing concern about the consumption of sugar.” (Chicago Tribune)
    A panda has given birth to twin cubs at a panda preserve in western Sichuan Province. The births brought the number of new cubs at the Wolong Nature Reserve to four. Researchers were caring for one of the cubs because the mother could not care for both. (China Daily)
    U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, a republican from the state of North Carolina, proposed an amendment to ban money for the U.N. Population Fund unless it terminates its pro-abortion activities in China. Helms is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • TIBET 1
    The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, visited the grave of U.S. civil right leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta. King’s wife and son attended the ceremony. The Dalai Lama, who was on a 10-day trip to the U.S. in September, urged the U.S. to “forcefully” promote democracy in China by backing responsible business ventures and using economic leverage to bring about change. (Associated Press)
  • TIBET 2
    China accused the U.S. government of covertly supporting Tibetan independence, focusing on a meeting between President Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama. The accusations came as a result of Clinton’s September 13 meeting with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader. (Xinhua)
    The U.S. has appointed a new ambassador to China, Jim Sasser, who is a former senator from the state of Tennessee. China has accepted the nomination.
    China, which would like a consulate in Hawaii, is offering to let American warships call in Hong Kong after the British colony returns to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Beijing will allow Washington to maintain a defense liaison office in Hong Kong in exchange for permitting a Chinese consulate in Honolulu. While the U.S. is eager to maintain fleet access to Hong Kong, it is reportedly “deeply ambivalent” about allowing China to have an official presence in Hawaii. (Far Eastern Economic Review)
    More than 100 million Asian children – some as young as four – are forced to work in appalling conditions to make consumer products for Western nations, an Australian group charged. The Anti-Slavery Society said 104-146 million children are making car parts, jewelry, clothing, toys, food, fireworks, chemicals, and other goods in sweatshops. The society, which is devoted to ending child labor exploitation, estimates that 73 million to 115 million children are working in India alone. Other nations cited by the group as tolerating forced child labor were China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. “The punishments meted out to these children by their owners defy description,” said Paul Bravender-Coyle, spokesman for the Melbourne-based group. “They have been burned, branded with red-hot irons, starved, whipped, chained up, raped, and kept locked in cupboards for days on end.”
    China’s Communist Party will not admit private businessmen as members because they rank as capitalists, an official newspaper said. The last great Communist club could not dilute its proletarian membership by accepting budding capitalists who may be exploiting labor, said the powerful Organization Department under the Party Central Committee. The order not to allow membership by private entrepreneurs was announced by the Organization Department and published in the Organization and Personnel Newspaper and Beijing’s’ Press Digest. (Press Digest)
    Three weeks after Microsoft distributed samples of its Chinese version of Windows 95, pirated versions of the software have swept into the market, a company official said. Microsoft sent out a trial version of Windows 95 in simplified Chinese characters early in August, asking recipients for suggestions on improvements, said Duh Jiabin, Microsoft’s manager for China. A final version of the Chinese software was to go on sale in December. Illegal copies of both the English and Chinese versions of Windows 95 are being sold widely in China, Duh said. He declined to estimate the company’s losses.
    Kellogg Co., the world’s largest cereal maker, has opened a new high-technology cereal plant in Guangzhou. The plant will produce Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and other cereals.
    China has conducted two nuclear tests within three months, according to Xinhua. The announcement did not include any details on the size of the explosions. Australian seismologists said in a report from Canberra that the underground nuclear blasts were detected in western China, site of the country’s main testing base. Diplomats have said they expect at least one more nuclear test by China this year and another three next year. Military experts think China is trying to create lighter, more powerful warheads for its arsenal. Foreigners who held up a banner in Tiananmen Square calling for an end to testing were detained by Chinese authorities, who questioned them for 12 hours and then expelled them from the country. Beijing has said that it supports a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty that is targeted to be adopted in 1996. (Xinhua)
    The existence of confidential Chinese government blacklists barring overseas-based pro-democracy and human rights activists from returning to China has long been suspected, According to Asia Watch, a human rights organization. Until now, however, no conclusive documentary evidence confirming the operation of such a policy has ever come to light. A document, however, was issued secretly by China’s Ministry of Public Security last year titled “A List of 49 Overseas Members of Reactionary Organizations Currently Subject to Major Control.” All those named on the list are identified by the security authorities as subject to government decrees banning them from reentering China. (Asia Watch)
    Motorola Inc. plans to invest between $1 billion and $1.5 billion over five years to expand its operations in China, a state-run newspaper reported. So far, the Schaunburg, Ill.-based company has invested $280 million in its Chinese subsidiary, Motorola (China) Electronics Ltd. That unit, based in Tianjin, began production in 1992, manufacturing pagers, cellular phones, and semiconductor products. (China Daily)
    China has begun excavation for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric project. Officials say China will look to foreign investors for $3 billion to $5 billion, or about 20 percent of the cost. The project, which runs through the Yangtze River valley, near Yichang, should be completed in 2009. The dam will alleviate power bottlenecks in China’s surging economy, raise living standards, control floods, and make river navigation safer. Critics charge there are human rights violations of the roughly 1.3 million people who will be uprooted and relocated, that prison labor may be used during construction, scenic and historic areas will be submerged, and that it is a drain on the national budget. (Associated Press)
    In the 25 years preceding the collapse of communism in Europe, life spans shrank throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, foreshadowing the upheaval that followed, according to demographer Nicholas Eberstadt. The shortening of life spans marked the first time in history that “a group of industrialized societies not at war experienced stagnation and even decline in their life expectancies,” Eberstadt said. “In our era at least, long-term rises in mortality are fraught with political significance. They are a sort of ‘leading indicator’ betokening the fragility of a regime or an entire system.” Eberstadt is a visiting fellow at Harvard University, and based his analysis on figures complied by the United Nations. (Associated Press)
  • HONG KONG 1997
    The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress voted to disband Hong Kong’s elected legislature and councils when China recovers the colony in 1997. China’s Communist government has promised to keep Hong Kong capitalist and allow it a “high degree” of autonomy after 1997, but the vote has caused Hong Kong citizens to be uncertain about their future. Shen Guofang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, expressed confidence that the decision would not disturb the turnover. “There will be no trouble,” he said. “We are capable of making a smooth transition.” (Associated Press)

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