China Weekly Brief
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January 29, 2011 - February 4, 2011

Political and Internal Development
It is being ever more difficult for the Chinese leadership to get through the maze of a political landscape characterized by weakening ideological shackles and bourgeoning social networks through internet. Besides changing people’s lifestyle, extensive use of on-line activities has created huge space for political communications which evade official monopoly over information in China. In fact, with the increasing popularity of micro-blogging among the Chinese netizens over the past one year, individuals are no more a passive recipient of information, opinions and ideas offered by the state controlled media, but have already begun to play the role of whistle blowers against official and academic corruption, nepotism, anti-people government policies, various form social maladies, natural calamities, food and drug safety, man-made disasters or accidents and simple crime. Increasing number of government departments and party organs are joining the club of micro-bloggers, but the ruling authority’s dilemma in accepting this ever increasing urge of people for free access to foreign media is still evident.

In the history of internet China has already made tremendous success. The total number of netizens of the country is now over 450 million which constitutes about 28.9% of total population. With an average 2.6 hours of surfing a day, Chinese netizens have excelled both Japanese as well as Americans. In terms of viewing hours, internet has become the second largest means of mass communication, next only to television broadcasting. For the last twenty years, on-line activities like surfing through various search engines, news browsing, e-mail, blogging, forum, music, games and entertainments, and instant messaging have become part of regular daily activities of people from all walks of life. According to recent statistics, 353 million netizens use instant messaging tools like QQ, MSN and Google talk, 295 million use blog, and 148 million use forum and bulletin board system (BBS). Micro-blog or Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of social networking site like Twitter, is the latest and fastest growing on-line activity.
The first Chinese micro-blog website was introduced in May 2007, but it began to attract netizens only after the release of “Sina Weibo” by the largest web portal Sina.com of the country in August 2009. According to the 2010 China Micro-blog Annual Report published by Shanghai Jiaotong University on December 28 last year, micro-blogs have emerged as a new platform for communication and spreading information in 2010. The number of micro-bloggers in China reached 125.217 million at the end of October 2010, of which 65 million are regular users. Since the release of the above report, micro-blog has become one of the popular topics of discussion in China. Last issue of Beijing Review and main newspapers carried extensive coverage on the development of micro-blog in China.

The report also says that in 2010 out of 50 most noted news stories 11 have first appeared in micro-blog sites, which include catastrophic mud slid in Zhoufu in Gansu Province, self-immolation of three persons in protest of forced demolition of their houses by local officials in Yihuang county of Jiangxi province. Yu Jianrong, a professor at the Rural Development Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences was the one to expose the forced demolitions of private homes by local officials in Jiangxi on his micro-blog. This also drew attention of the central leadership who took some serious measures against forced demolition.

According to a Sina.com statistics, 60 government departments and 466 media outlets have opened micro-blog accounts by August 2010. It was reported by Xinhua News Agency that at least five hundred micro-blogs are opened by police authorities across China. One official of public security was reported to have said that the new method of communication was effective for mending bruised relations between the police and the public. Besides police departments, Chinese courts are also using micro-blog to solve conflicts caused by miscarriage of justice by the lower courts. According to one report, by October last year 28 courts in Shanghai had already developed a network through micro-blog and had began to post various case related information for public feedback.

Though media censorship and restrictions on internet are not a new phenomenon in China, it is intriguing that amidst this celebration of micro-blog’s contribution to social networking, the authority has once again blocked channels of information about the ongoing anti-regime demonstrations in Egypt. Sina, Tencent and Sohu are all prevented from showing micro-blog posts related to Egypt. CPC’s sensitivity over today’s Egypt reveals that the leadership is most worried about losing its hold over state power.

Economic Highlights
Due to an abnormally low precipitation since October, an estimated 2.57 million residents, 2.7 million livestock and 5.16 million hectares of crops have been badly affected in Shandong, Hebei, Henan, Anhui, Shanxi and Jiangsu provinces. According to China Daily, these provinces contribute more than 80% of China’s total wheat output. The direct economic loss is estimated to 1.04 billion yuan. The drought is worst in Hebei and Shandong, where nearly 400,000 and 320,000 people are facing water shortage. The officials of meteorological bureau indicated that northern China including Beijing would likely to suffer longest winter drought in sixty years if there was no snow or rain by the second week of February.

The State Council has allocated 2.2 billion yuan for farm irrigation and drought-relief equipment, and an additional 4 billion yuan has been earmarked to ensure drinking water supply and water conservation projects in the drought-hit areas. President Hu Jintao called for all-out efforts to combat drought during his inspection tour to Hebei province.

In order to stop frequent occurrence of drought across the country, the Chinese planners have recently decided to invest total 4 trillion yuan for water conservation projects during the next two FYP periods. On January 30, the director of the office of Leading Group on Rural Work under the party central committee said that the CPC central leadership issued the first document on related projects. Some of the projects involve water diversion from south to north. According to the original plan the massive scheme would be completed by 2050.

Foreign Policy/Foreign Relations
The Global Times has extensively quoted from Indian media reporting on foreign currency controversy involving Tibetan religious leader Karmapa and pro-Karmapa statements issued by Tibetan refugees living in India. Ugyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa is the only high ranking exiled Tibetan Lama who got recognition of the communist government of China. Since his arrival to India in January 2000, the Chinese media never criticized him strongly. According to the report, Prof. Hu Yan of Central Party School has commented that it is unprecedented and absurd to accuse that a Tibetan Buddhist monk is engaged in espionage for the Chinese government. An official of CPC Central Committee United Front Work Department has also denied that 17th Karmapa is a Chinese spy. In this connection Global Times mentioned the arrest of Wang Qing by Indian authority in charge of spying and criticized Indian government’s irrational Chinese policy.

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