Muslims are forbidden from eating pork.
This case, once again, demonstrates the lack of seriousness of the halal industry in China.
The conclusion remains the same from Paris to Beijing: the halal market does not reassure consumers.
Muslims are forbidden from eating pork.
This case, once again, demonstrates the lack of seriousness of the halal industry in China.
The conclusion remains the same from Paris to Beijing: the halal market does not reassure consumers.
Ma Jiajia was too busy setting up a sex toys store, Powerful, to attend her college graduation ceremony in Beijing in 2012.
Now Ms. Ma is unveiling a social contact app for customers to meet and share tips about her store’s products. At just 22, she is part of China’s trend-setting, post-1990 generation that is giving shape to enormous social and cultural changes: Sex, she says, should be openly talked about, “fun” and “funny,” not “dirty” or “depressing” and relegated to the far corners of people’s minds. Her app, with its bright colors and playful icons, is a symbol of that shift.
What happens after people meet is up to them, Ms. Ma said.
“The technology puts people in touch. What happens later isn’t a question of technology,” she said in an interview in her black-and-pink decorated store in the city’s Gaobeidian district, balancing on her knees a computer with a prototype of the app’s yellow interface, the color a play on a Chinese word for pornography.
Ms. Ma is alluding to an open secret: Millions of young Chinese are plunging enthusiastically into the world of social contact apps, often location-based and with a hookup element, a dozen people said in interviews.
“On the one hand there’s the new technology, and on the other hand there’s sexuality and desire, and these two are coming together and producing new possibilities,” said Song Shaopeng, a scholar of Marxism and history at Renmin University of China in Beijing.
While WeChat is an established market leader, Momo is rising fast with about 50 million users by July, said the company’s spokeswoman, Wen Yajuan. “Mo” is part of a Chinese word meaning “unfamiliar” or “stranger.”
Lin Yang, 24, said he hooked up last year with a woman he met on Momo. They had sex but “not at home,” he said, declining to be more specific.
Assignations often take place in hotels rented by the hour, several people said.
Mr. Lin, who works at a tech start-up in Beijing, said he initially questioned why a woman would get involved in casual sex. “I don’t really understand how girls think,” he said.
“Then I thought, if I am doing it, why shouldn’t they?” he said by telephone. “I think they’re exploring their sexual freedom. She was so open and free.” He is currently seeing another woman he met on Momo.
Xiao Bao, 24, a graduate student in gender studies, who asked to be identified only by her nickname, has hooked up about four or five times since she broke up with her last boyfriend. Sex was in a hotel, she said, adding, “You don’t always take it all the way.”
“But it’s exciting,” she said. “There’s no love. It’s about sex.”
The app hookup scene, with its high degree of secrecy and anonymity, offers opportunities to explore different kinds of sexuality.
Currently Xiao Bao is dating Sun Sun, a female medical student who used to date men. (She also asked that only her nickname be used.) Sun Sun has tried to hook up via an app called The L, but “I haven’t succeeded yet,” she laughed.
Intrigued, I joined Momo. A friend took a photo of her pewter-furred, caramel-eyed cat. We registered me as Fifi, with the cat as my image. Several nearby men quickly offered a “Ni hao” — Chinese for “Hello.” One, who called himself Dezz, was direct — and persistent. He wrote in English, not uncommon among the technically savvy. I told him I was a reporter. That didn’t deter him.
“Wanna try it out?” he wrote.
I demurred, explaining I was married. Not a problem. Plenty of women using Momo, he wrote, are in relationships, but “they feel boring that’s why they looking for a new kick.”
At Momo’s offices in a glossy Beijing office tower, Wang Li, the wispy-bearded chief operating officer, was wearing a T-shirt, jeans and flip-flops. His business card gave his English name as Wanderlust.
Mr. Wang, who is from a small town in Shanxi Province, says he is aware that hooking up is part of the app’s attraction, but believes there’s more to its popularity — the serious issue of growing loneliness and anomie amid fast-paced urbanization.
Growing up, he and his family knew all their neighbors, but all that has changed. “Over these past two years particularly, social changes have been so incredibly fast as people move to cities and towns,” he said. “Chinese people are fairly introverted,” he said, and in a new environment, “They tend not to make friends with their neighbors.”
“I’ve myself lived in many districts in Beijing and never got to know any neighbors,” he said. “With this technology I can contact them.”
Then there’s how the app can help people who may have married the wrong person find new life partners, Mr. Wang said.
“Chinese people didn’t have choices before and people are getting to middle age and realizing they don’t actually get on with their spouse, because they got married for reasons other than love,” he said. “The younger generation has more choices, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Mr. Wang said the app offers three types of contact: individuals making friends with others, forming groups like sport or restaurant clubs (Ms. Wen, the Momo spokeswoman, said there are 700,000 registered groups) and locating resources like bars or shops.
The company patrols the app to maintain moral standards, Mr. Wang said. Log on and you will be warned that administrators will delete pornography or other inappropriate content, including soliciting for sex.
“If both parties are willing to meet, we don’t interfere,” he said. “But the situation is that things aren’t always that polite or respectful and we don’t want that in our app, so we expel the ‘ugly customers.’
“It’s like at a party,” he said. “If someone drops his pants, well, we’ll kick him out. And we are strict.”
“The numbers of identified cases are still small, but this number could rise given the social demographics in play,” Lisa Rende Taylor, chief technical adviser for the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), said, noting that in the past marriage trafficking to China had only been known from countries bordering China (Burma, Laos and Vietnam).
In China, government figures for 2012 indicated that there were 117.78 newborn boys for every 100 newborn girls.
It is estimated there will be 24 million more men than women at marrying age by 2020.
In 2012, at least three suspected cases of marriage trafficking were reported from Cambodia, with hundreds more from the region. Most cases go unreported.
Though Pakistan likes to play that card, analysts say, China could never replace the billions in aid that Washington provides. Nor is China likely to risk its own bid to become an economic superpower.
Just days after the U.S. accused the ISI of aiding insurgent attacks against U.S. targets in Afghanistan, Chinese Vice Premier Jianzhu appeared in Islamabad reassuring Pakistani leaders that China backed Pakistan’s efforts to protect its sovereignty.
The vice premier’s comments apparently referred to Pakistani worries of a future U.S. airstrike or targeted ground operation against Taliban-allied insurgents in the tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan.
But could Pakistan ever afford to turn away from the U.S. as an ally and replace it with China, which Islamabad routinely calls its “all-weather friend?”
Such a move is highly unlikely.
With nearly $9 billion in annual trade with Pakistan, China is Islamabad’s biggest trading partner, as well as its leading arms supplier. But it could never replace the billions of dollars in economic and military aid that Pakistan gets from the United States, as well as billions more in loans from international lenders heavily influenced by the U.S., including the IMF and the World Bank.
If Pakistan thinks China will compensate for the loss of American ties, they are overestimating. The kind of economic assistance that Pakistan gets from the U.S. cannot be replaced by the Chinese. And the Chinese recognize that they cannot do it.
Yet even if the notion of China becoming Pakistan’s dominant foreign benefactor is unrealistic, Pakistan doesn’t hesitate to use its strong ties with Beijing — and the prospect of deepening those ties — as leverage against Washington. The tactic becomes particularly evident during moments of crisis in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
After the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011 in Abbottabad, a secret, unilateral operation that Pakistanis decried as a blatant breach of their country’s sovereignty, PM Gilani was welcomed by Chinese officials in Beijing with a gift of 50 JF-17 fighter jets. PM Gilani also heard comforting words from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who advised the U.S. to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Clearly Pakistan is playing that card, whether it’s the China card or the Saudi card. They would like to show themselves, and the U.S. and the rest of the world, that they have other friends if the U.S. seeks to make trouble with them.
Pakistan’s ties with China date to 1950, when Pakistan became one of the first countries to recognize the communist government of the People’s Republic of China.
Beijing has invested heavily in several major infrastructure projects in Pakistan. They include nuclear power plants, gold and copper mines, major highways and the construction of a deep-water port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, envisioned as a future strategic site for Persian Gulf oil destined for China.
China also sees its alliance with Pakistan as a valuable counterweight to its chief South Asian rival, India. For its part, Pakistan has looked for ways to ratchet up the relationship. In an unusual decision announced in September 2011, officials in Sindh province said they would require all students in sixth grade and higher to learn Chinese, beginning in 2013.
While Pakistan’s ties with China have grown stronger, its relationship with the U.S. has been weakened by deep mutual distrust.
Lawmakers in Washington have threatened to freeze all economic and military aid to Islamabad if Pakistan doesn’t act against the Haqqani. The network uses the North Waziristan tribal region along the Afghanistan border to launch suicide bombings and other strikes on U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan and Kabul.
Some Pakistanis believe that with China’s backing, their country could withstand whatever punitive action Washington takes.
China has said it considers Pakistan as a core interest…. China has made it clear that Pakistan is a trusted ally. So anything done against Pakistan would be considered an act against China.
Other experts, however, say China’s ambitions to become an economic superpower supersede its relationship with Pakistan. Though Pakistan and its role in South Asia are important, China takes care to avoid undermining crucial, complex ties with the U.S. and the West.
China’s relations with the US are extremely important. They have investments in the U.S., and US multinational corporations are investing in China. And the Chinese have long-term goals of becoming an economic giant on a global scale. So they are not going to act in favor of Pakistan and in the process disrupt their relations with the U.S.
China also has its own counter-terrorism concerns involving Pakistan: Islamist Uighur separatists who Beijing says train in northwestern Pakistan and then slip across the border to carry out attacks in the Xinjiang region. China has been pressing Pakistan to clamp down on Uighur separatists training in tribal regions along the Afghan border. In late July, Uighurs conducted a series of ambushes on police and firefighters in the western Chinese city of Kashgar, leaving 22 dead.
The Pakistani government’s perception that China comes to do business without any preconditions and that it doesn’t have any counter-terrorism concerns is not altogether right.
Despite what the Pakistanis would wish to convey to the West, the relationship with China is not as deep or as free-ranging as Pakistanis would want the USA to believe.
by Amartya Sen
The steadily rising rate of economic growth in India has recently been around 8 percent per year (it is expected to be 9 percent this year), and there is much speculation about whether and when India may catch up with and surpass China’s over 10 percent growth rate. Despite the evident excitement that this subject seems to cause in India and abroad, it is surely rather silly to be obsessed about India’s overtaking China in the rate of growth of GNP, while not comparing India with China in other respects, like education, basic health, or life expectancy. Economic growth can, of course, be enormously helpful in advancing living standards and in battling poverty. But there is little cause for taking the growth of GNP to be an end in itself, rather than seeing it as an important means for achieving things we value.
It could, however, be asked why this distinction should make much difference, since economic growth does enhance our ability to improve living standards. The central point to appreciate here is that while economic growth is important for enhancing living conditions, its reach and impact depend greatly on what we do with the increased income. The relation between economic growth and the advancement of living standards depends on many factors, including economic and social inequality and, no less importantly, on what the government does with the public revenue that is generated by economic growth.
Some statistics about China and India, drawn mainly from the World Bank and the United Nations, are relevant here. Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is 64.4 years. The infant mortality rate is fifty per thousand in India, compared with just seventeen in China; the mortality rate for children under five is sixty-six per thousand for Indians and nineteen for the Chinese; and the maternal mortality rate is 230 per 100,000 live births in India and thirty-eight in China. The mean years of schooling in India were estimated to be 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. China’s adult literacy rate is 94 percent, compared with India’s 74 percent according to the preliminary tables of the 2011 census.
As a result of India’s effort to improve the schooling of girls, its literacy rate for women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four has clearly risen; but that rate is still not much above 80 percent, whereas in China it is 99 percent. One of the serious failures of India is that a very substantial proportion of Indian children are, to varying degrees, undernourished (depending on the criteria used, the proportion can come close to half of all children), compared with a very small proportion in China. Only 66 percent of Indian children are immunized with triple vaccine (diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus), as opposed to 97 percent in China.
Comparing India with China according to such standards can be more useful for policy discussions in India than confining the comparison to GNP growth rates only. Those who are fearful that India’s growth performance would suffer if it paid more attention to “social objectives” such as education and health care should seriously consider that notwithstanding these “social” activities and achievements, China’s rate of GNP growth is still clearly higher than India’s.
Higher GNP has certainly helped China to reduce various indicators of poverty and deprivation, and to expand different features of the quality of life. There is every reason to want to encourage sustainable economic growth in India in order to improve living standards today and in the future (including taking care of the environment in which we live). Sustainable economic growth is a very good thing in a way that “growth mania” is not.
GNP per capita is, however, not invariably a good predictor of valuable features of our lives, for those features depend also on other things that we do—or fail to do. Compare India with Bangladesh. In income, India has a huge lead over Bangladesh, with a GNP per capita of $1,170, compared with $590 in Bangladesh, in comparable units of purchasing power. This difference has expanded rapidly because of India’s faster rate of recent economic growth, and that, of course, is a point in India’s favor. India’s substantially higher rank than Bangladesh in the UNHuman Development Index (HDI) is largely due to this particular achievement. But we must ask how well India’s income advantage is reflected in other things that also matter. I fear the answer is: not well at all.
Life expectancy in Bangladesh is 66.9 years compared with India’s 64.4. The proportion of underweight children in Bangladesh (41.3 percent) is lower than in India (43.5), and its fertility rate (2.3) is also lower than Pakistan’s (2.7). Mean years of schooling amount to 4.8 years in Bangladesh compared with India’s 4.4 years. While India is ahead of Bangladesh in the male literacy rate for the age group between fifteen and twenty-four, the female rate in Bangladesh is higher than in India. Interestingly, the female literacy rate among young Bangladeshis is actually higher than the male rate, whereas young women still have substantially lower rates than young males in India. There is much evidence to suggest that Bangladesh’s current progress has a great deal to do with the role that liberated Bangladeshi women are beginning to play in the country.
What about health? The mortality rate of children under five is sixty-six per thousand in India compared with fifty-two in Bangladesh. In infant mortality, Bangladesh has a similar advantage: it is fifty per thousand in India and forty-one in Bangladesh. While 94 percent of Bangladeshi children are immunized with DPTvaccine, only 66 percent of Indian children are. In each of these respects, Bangladesh does better than India, despite having only half of India’s per capita income.
Of course, Bangladesh’s living conditions will benefit greatly from higher economic growth, particularly if the country uses it as a means of doing good things, rather than treating economic growth and high per capita income as ends in themselves. It is to the huge credit of Bangladesh that despite the adversity of low income it has been able to do so much so quickly; the imaginative activism of Bangladeshi NGOs (such as the Grameen Bank, the pioneering microcredit institution, and BRAC, a large-scale initiative aimed at removing poverty) as well as the committed public policies of the government have both contributed to the results. But higher income, including larger public resources, will obviously enhance Bangladesh’s ability to achieve better lives for its people.
One of the positive things about economic growth is that it generates public resources that the government can devote to its priorities. In fact, public resources very often grow faster than the GNP. The gross tax revenue, for example, of the government of India (corrected for price rise) is now more than four times what it was just twenty years ago, in 1990–1991. This is a substantially bigger jump than the price-corrected GNP.
Expenditure on what is somewhat misleadingly called the “social sector”—health, education, nutrition, etc.—has certainly gone up in India. And yet India is still well behind China in many of these fields. For example, government expenditure on health care in China is nearly five times that in India. China does, of course, have a larger population and a higher per capita income than India, but even in relative terms, while the Chinese government spends nearly 2 percent of GDP (1.9 percent) on health care, the proportion is only a little above one percent (1.1 percent) in India.
One result of the relatively low allocation of funds to public health care in India is that large numbers of poor people across the country rely on private doctors, many of whom have little medical training. Since health is also a typical example of “asymmetric information,” in which the patients may know very little about what the doctors (or “supposed doctors”) are giving them, even the possibility of fraud and deceit is very large. In a study conducted by the Pratichi Trust—a public interest trust I set up in 1999—we found cases in which the ignorance of poor patients about their condition was exploited so as to make them pay for treatment they didn’t get. This is the result not only of shameful exploitation, but ultimately of the sheer unavailability of public health care in many parts of India. The benefit that we can expect to get from economic growth depends very much on how the public revenue generated by economic growth is expended.
When we consider the impact of economic growth on people’s lives, comparisons favor China over India. However, there are many fields in which a comparison between China and India is not related to economic growth in any obvious way. Most Indians are strongly appreciative of the democratic structure of the country, including its many political parties, systematic free elections, uncensored media, free speech, and the independent standing of the judiciary, among other characteristics of a lively democracy. Those Indians who are critical of serious flaws in these arrangements (and I am certainly one of them) can also take account of what India has already achieved in sustaining democracy, in contrast to many other countries, including China.
Not only is access to the Internet and world opinion uncensored and unrestricted in India, a multitude of media present widely different points of view, often very critical of the government in office. India has a larger circulation of newspapers each day than any other country in the world. And the newspapers reflect contrasting political perspectives. Economic growth has helped—and this has certainly been a substantial gain—to expand the availability of radios and televisions across the country, including in rural areas, which very often are shared among many users. There are at least 360 independent television stations (and many are being established right now, judging from the licenses already issued) and their broadcasts reflect a remarkable variety of points of view. More than two hundred of these TV stations concentrate substantially or mainly on news, many of them around the clock. There is a sharp contrast here with the monolithic system of newscasting permitted by the state in China, with little variation of political perspectives on different channels.
Freedom of expression has its own value as a potentially important instrument for democratic politics, but also as something that people enjoy and treasure. Even the poorest parts of the population want to participate in social and political life, and in India they can do so. There is a contrast as well in the use of trial and punishment, including capital punishment. China often executes more people in a week than India has executed since independence in 1947. If our focus is on a comprehensive comparison of the quality of life in India and China, we have to look well beyond the traditional social indicators, and many of these comparisons are not to China’s advantage.
Could it be that India’s democratic system is somehow a barrier to using the benefits of economic growth in order to enhance health, education, and other social conditions? Clearly not, as I shall presently discuss. It is worth recalling that when India had a very low rate of economic growth, as was the case until the 1980s, a common argument was that democracy was hostile to fast economic growth. It was hard to convince those opposed to democracy that fast economic growth depends on an economic climate congenial to development rather than on fierce political control, and that a political system that protects democratic rights need not impede economic growth. That debate has now ended, not least because of the high economic growth rates of democratic India. We can now ask: How should we assess the alleged conflict between democracy and the use of the fruits of economic growth for social advancement?
What a democratic system achieves depends greatly on which social conditions become political issues. Some conditions become politically important issues quickly, such as the calamity of a famine (thus famines tend not to occur at all when there is a functioning democracy), while other problems—less spectacular and less immediate—provide a much harder challenge. It is much more difficult to use democratic politics to remedy undernourishment that is not extreme, or persistent gender inequality, or the absence of regular medical care for all. Success or failure here depends on the range and vigor of democratic practice.1 In recent years Indian democracy has made considerable progress in dealing with some of these conditions, such as gender inequality, lack of schools, and widespread undernourishment. Public protests, court decisions, and the use of the recently passed “Right to Information” Act have had telling effects. But India still has a long way to go in remedying these conditions.
In China, by contrast, the process of decision-making depends largely on decisions made by the top Party leaders, with relatively little democratic pressure from below. The Chinese leaders, despite their skepticism about the values of multiparty democracy and personal and political liberty, are strongly committed to eliminating poverty, undernourishment, illiteracy, and lack of health care; and this has greatly helped in China’s advancement. There is, however, a serious fragility in any authoritarian system of governance, since there is little recourse or remedy when the government leaders alter their goals or suppress their failures.
The reality of that danger revealed itself in a catastrophic form in the Chinese famine of 1959–1962, which killed more than 30 million people, when there was no public pressure against the regime’s policies, as would have arisen in a functioning democracy. Mistakes in policy continued for three years while tens of millions died. To take another example, the economic reforms of 1979 greatly improved the working and efficiency of Chinese agriculture and industry; but the Chinese government also eliminated, at the same time, the entitlement of all to public medical care (which was often administered through the communes). Most people were then required to buy their own health insurance, drastically reducing the proportion of the population with guaranteed health care.
In a functioning democracy an established right to social assistance could not have been so easily—and so swiftly—dropped. The change sharply reduced the progress of longevity in China. Its large lead over India in life expectancy dwindled during the following two decades—falling from a fourteen-year lead to one of just seven years.
The Chinese authorities, however, eventually realized what had been lost, and from 2004 they rapidly started reintroducing the right to medical care. China now has a considerably higher proportion of people with guaranteed health care than does India. The gap in life expectancy in China’s favor has been rising again, and it is now around nine years; and the degree of coverage is clearly central to the difference.2 Whether India’s democratic political system can effectively remedy neglected public services such as health care is one of the most urgent questions facing the country.
For a minority of the Indian population—but still very large in actual numbers—economic growth alone has been very advantageous, since they are already comparatively privileged and need no social assistance to benefit from economic growth. The limited prosperity of recent years has helped to support a remarkable variety of lifestyles as well as globally acclaimed developments of Indian literature, music, cinema, theater, painting, and the culinary arts, among other cultural activities.
Yet an exaggerated concentration on the lives of the relatively prosperous, exacerbated by the Indian media, gives an unrealistically rosy picture of the lives of Indians in general. Since the fortunate group includes not only business leaders and the professional classes but also many of the country’s intellectuals, the story of unusual national advancement is widely and persistently heard. More worryingly, relatively privileged Indians can easily fall for the temptation to focus just on economic growth as a grand social benefactor for all.
Some critics of the huge social inequalities in India find something callous and uncouth in the self-centered lives and inward-looking preoccupations of a relatively prosperous minority. My primary concern, however, is that the illusions generated by those distorted perceptions of prosperity may prevent India from bringing social deprivations into political focus, which is essential for achieving what needs to be done for Indians at large through its democratic system. A fuller understanding of the real conditions of the mass of neglected Indians and what can be done to improve their lives through public policy should be a central issue in the politics of India.
This is exactly where the exclusive concentration on the rate of GNP growth has the most damaging effect. Economic growth can make a very large contribution to improving people’s lives; but single-minded emphasis on growth has limitations that need to be clearly understood.
The mother of China’s PM was a schoolteacher in northern China. His father was ordered to tend pigs in one of Mao’s political campaigns. And during childhood, “my family was extremely poor,” the PM, Wen Jiabao, said in a speech in 2011.
But now 90, the PM’s mother, Yang Zhiyun, not only left poverty behind, she became outright rich, at least on paper, according to corporate and regulatory records. Just one investment in her name, in a large Chinese financial services company, had a value of $120 million five years ago, the records show.
The details of how Ms. Yang, a widow, accumulated such wealth are not known, or even if she was aware of the holdings in her name. But it happened after her son was elevated to China’s ruling elite, first in 1998 as vice PM and then five years later as PM.
Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the PM minister’s relatives — some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making — have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.
In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners. Untangling their financial holdings provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected people have profited from being at the intersection of government and business as state influence and private wealth converge in China’s fast-growing economy.
Unlike most new businesses in China, the family’s ventures sometimes received financial backing from state-owned companies, including China Mobile, one of the country’s biggest phone operators, the documents show. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia’s richest tycoons. The Times found that Mr. Wen’s relatives accumulated shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore entities.
The holdings include a villa development project in Beijing; a tire factory in northern China; a company that helped build some of Beijing’s Olympic stadiums, including the well-known “Bird’s Nest”; and Ping An Insurance, one of the world’s biggest financial services companies.
As PM in an economy that remains heavily state-driven, Mr. Wen, who is best known for his simple ways and common touch, more importantly has broad authority over the major industries where his relatives have made their fortunes. Chinese companies cannot list their shares on a stock exchange without approval from agencies overseen by Mr. Wen, for example. He also has the power to influence investments in strategic sectors like energy and telecommunications.
Because the Chinese government rarely makes its deliberations public, it is not known what role — if any — Mr. Wen, who is 70, has played in most policy or regulatory decisions. But in some cases, his relatives have sought to profit from opportunities made possible by those decisions.
The PM’s younger brother, for example, has a company that was awarded more than $30 million in government contracts and subsidies to handle wastewater treatment and medical waste disposal for some of China’s biggest cities, according to estimates based on government records. The contracts were announced after Mr. Wen ordered tougher regulations on medical waste disposal in 2003 after the SARS outbreak.
In 2004, after the State Council, a government body Mr. Wen presides over, exempted Ping An Insurance and other companies from rules that limited their scope, Ping An went on to raise $1.8 billion in an initial public offering of stock. Partnerships controlled by Mr. Wen’s relatives — along with their friends and colleagues — made a fortune by investing in the company before the public offering.
In 2007, the last year the stock holdings were disclosed in public documents, those partnerships held as much as $2.2 billion worth of Ping An stock, according to an accounting of the investments by The Times that was verified by outside auditors. Ping An’s overall market value is now nearly $60 billion.
Ping An said in a statement that the company did “not know the background of the entities behind our shareholders.” The statement said, “Ping An has no means to know the intentions behind shareholders when they buy and sell our shares.”
While Communist Party regulations call for top officials to disclose their wealth and that of their immediate family members, no law or regulation prohibits relatives of even the most senior officials from becoming deal-makers or major investors — a loophole that effectively allows them to trade on their family name. Some Chinese argue that permitting the families of Communist Party leaders to profit from the country’s long economic boom has been important to ensuring elite support for market-oriented reforms.
Even so, the business dealings of Mr. Wen’s relatives have sometimes been hidden in ways that suggest the relatives are eager to avoid public scrutiny, the records filed with Chinese regulatory authorities show. Their ownership stakes are often veiled by an intricate web of holdings as many as five steps removed from the operating companies, according to the review.
In the case of Mr. Wen’s mother, The Times calculated her stake in Ping An — valued at $120 million in 2007 — by examining public records and government-issued identity cards, and by following the ownership trail to three Chinese investment entities. The name recorded on his mother’s shares was Taihong, a holding company registered in Tianjin, the PM’s hometown.
The apparent efforts to conceal the wealth reflect the highly charged politics surrounding the country’s ruling elite, many of whom are also enormously wealthy but reluctant to draw attention to their riches. When Bloomberg News reported in June that the extended family of Vice President Xi Jinping, set to become China’s next president, had amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, the Chinese government blocked access inside the country to the Bloomberg Web site.
“In the senior leadership, there’s no family that doesn’t have these problems,” said a former government colleague of Wen Jiabao who has known him for more than 20 years and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His enemies are intentionally trying to smear him by letting this leak out.”
The Times presented its findings to the Chinese government for comment. The Foreign Ministry declined to respond to questions about the investments, the PM or his relatives. Members of Mr. Wen’s family also declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
Duan Weihong, a wealthy businesswoman whose company, Taihong, was the investment vehicle for the Ping An shares held by the PM’s mother and other relatives, said the investments were actually her own. Ms. Duan, who comes from the PM’s hometown and is a close friend of his wife, said ownership of the shares was listed in the names of Mr. Wen’s relatives in an effort to conceal the size of Ms. Duan’s own holdings.
“When I invested in Ping An I didn’t want to be written about,” Ms. Duan said, “so I had my relatives find some other people to hold these shares for me.”
But it was an “accident,” she said, that her company chose the relatives of the PM as the listed shareholders — a process that required registering their official ID numbers and obtaining their signatures. Until presented with the names of the investors by The Times, she said, she had no idea that they had selected the relatives of Wen Jiabao.
The review of the corporate and regulatory records, which covers 1992 to 2012, found no holdings in Mr. Wen’s name. And it was not possible to determine from the documents whether he recused himself from any decisions that might have affected his relatives’ holdings, or whether they received preferential treatment on investments.
For much of his tenure, Wen Jiabao has been at the center of rumors and conjecture about efforts by his relatives to profit from his position. Yet until the review by The Times, there has been no detailed accounting of the family’s riches.
His wife, Zhang Beili, is one of the country’s leading authorities on jewelry and gemstones and is an accomplished businesswoman in her own right. By managing state diamond companies that were later privatized, The Times found, she helped her relatives parlay their minority stakes into a billion-dollar portfolio of insurance, technology and real estate ventures.
The couple’s only son sold a technology company he started to the family of Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, for $10 million, and used another investment vehicle to establish New Horizon Capital, now one of China’s biggestprivate equity firms, with partners like the government of Singapore, according to records and interviews with bankers.
The PM’s younger brother, Wen Jiahong, controls $200 million in assets, including wastewater treatment plants and recycling businesses, the records show.
As PM, Mr. Wen has staked out a position as a populist and a reformer, someone whom the state-run media has nicknamed “the People’s Premier” and “Grandpa Wen” because of his frequent outings to meet ordinary people, especially in moments of crisis like natural disasters.
While it is unclear how much the PM knows about his family’s wealth, State Department documents released by the WikiLeaks organization in 2010 included a cable that suggested Mr. Wen was aware of his relatives’ business dealings and unhappy about them.
“Wen is disgusted with his family’s activities, but is either unable or unwilling to curtail them,” a Chinese-born executive working at an American company in Shanghai told American diplomats, according to the 2007 cable.
China’s ‘Diamond Queen’
It is no secret in China’s elite circles that the PM’s wife, Zhang Beili, is rich, and that she has helped control the nation’s jewelry and gem trade. But her lucrative diamond businesses became an off-the-charts success only as her husband moved into the country’s top leadership ranks, the review of corporate and regulatory records by The Times found.
A geologist with an expertise in gemstones, Ms. Zhang is largely unknown among ordinary Chinese. She rarely travels with the PM or appears with him, and there are few official photographs of the couple together. And while people who have worked with her say she has a taste for jade and fine diamonds, they say she usually dresses modestly, does not exude glamour and prefers to wield influence behind the scenes, much like the relatives of other senior leaders.
The State Department documents released by WikiLeaks included a suggestion that Mr. Wen had once considered divorcing Ms. Zhang because she had exploited their relationship in her diamond trades. Taiwanese television reported in 2007 that Ms. Zhang had bought a pair of jade earrings worth about $275,000 at a Beijing trade show, though the source — a Taiwanese trader — later backed off the claim and Chinese government censors moved swiftly to block coverage of the subject in China, according to news reports at the time.
“Her business activities are known to everyone in the leadership,” said one banker who worked with relatives of Wen Jiabao. The banker said it was not unusual for her office to call upon businesspeople. “And if you get that call, how can you say no?”
Zhang Beili first gained influence in the 1990s, while working as a regulator at the Ministry of Geology. At the time, China’s jewelry market was still in its infancy.
While her husband was serving in China’s main leadership compound, known as Zhongnanhai, Ms. Zhang was setting industry standards in the jewelry and gem trade. She helped create the National Gemstone Testing Center in Beijing, and the Shanghai Diamond Exchange, two of the industry’s most powerful institutions.
In a country where the state has long dominated the marketplace, jewelry regulators often decided which companies could set up diamond-processing factories, and which would gain entry to the retail jewelry market. State regulators even formulated rules that required diamond sellers to buy certificates of authenticity for any diamond sold in China, from the government-run testing center in Beijing, which Ms. Zhang managed.
As a result, when executives from Cartier or De Beers visited China with hopes of selling diamonds and jewelry here, they often went to visit Ms. Zhang, who became known as China’s “diamond queen.”
“She’s the most important person there,” said Gaetano Cavalieri, president of the World Jewelry Confederation in Switzerland. “She was bridging relations between partners — Chinese and foreign partners.”
As early as 1992, people who worked with Ms. Zhang said, she had begun to blur the line between government official and businesswoman. As head of the state-owned China Mineral and Gem Corporation, she began investing the state company’s money in start-ups. And by the time her husband was named vice premier, in 1998, she was busy setting up business ventures with friends and relatives.
The state company she ran invested in a group of affiliated diamond companies, according to public records. Many of them were run by Ms. Zhang’s relatives — or colleagues who had worked with her at the National Gemstone Testing Center.
In 1993, for instance, the state company Ms. Zhang ran helped found Beijing Diamond, a big jewelry retailer. A year later, one of her younger brothers, Zhang Jianming, and two of her government colleagues personally acquired 80 percent of the company, according to shareholder registers. Beijing Diamond invested in Shenzhen Diamond, which was controlled by her brother-in-law, Wen Jiahong, the PM’s younger brother.
Among the successful undertakings was Sino-Diamond, a venture financed by the state-owned China Mineral and Gem Corporation, which she headed. The company had business ties with a state-owned company managed by another brother, Zhang Jiankun, who worked as an official in Jiaxing, Ms. Zhang’s hometown, in Zhejiang Province.
In the summer of 1999, after securing agreements to import diamonds from Russia and South Africa, Sino-Diamond went public, raising $50 million on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The offering netted Ms. Zhang’s family about $8 million, according to corporate filings.
Although she was never listed as a shareholder, former colleagues and business partners say Ms. Zhang’s early diamond partnerships were the nucleus of a larger portfolio of companies she would later help her family and colleagues gain a stake in.
The Times found no indication that Wen Jiabao used his political clout to influence the diamond companies his relatives invested in. But former business partners said that the family’s success in diamonds, and beyond, was often bolstered with financial backing from wealthy businessmen who sought to curry favor with the PM’s family.
“After Wen became PM, his wife sold off some of her diamond investments and moved into new things,” said a Chinese executive who did business with the family. He asked not to be named because of fear of government retaliation. Corporate records show that beginning in the late 1990s, a series of rich businessmen took turns buying up large stakes in the diamond companies, often from relatives of Mr. Wen, and then helped them reinvest in other lucrative ventures, like real estate and finance.
According to corporate records and interviews, the businessmen often supplied accountants and office space to investment partnerships partly controlled by the relatives.
“When they formed companies,” said one businessman who set up a company with members of the Wen family, “Ms. Zhang stayed in the background. That’s how it worked.”
The Only Son
Late one evening early this year, the PM’s only son, Wen Yunsong, was in the cigar lounge at Xiu, an upscale bar and lounge at the Park Hyatt in Beijing. He was having cocktails as Beijing’s nouveau riche gathered around, clutching designer bags and wearing expensive business suits, according to two guests who were present.
In China, the children of senior leaders are widely believed to be in a class of their own. Known as “princelings,” they often hold Ivy League degrees, get V.I.P. treatment, and are even offered preferred pricing on shares in hot stock offerings.
They are also known as people who can get things done in China’s heavily regulated marketplace, where the state controls access. And in recent years, few princelings have been as bold as the younger Mr. Wen, who goes by the English name Winston and is about 40 years old.
A Times review of Winston Wen’s investments, and interviews with people who have known him for years, show that his deal-making has been extensive and lucrative, even by the standards of his princeling peers.
State-run giants like China Mobile have formed start-ups with him. In recent years, Winston Wen has been in talks with Hollywood studios about a financing deal.
Concerned that China does not have an elite boarding school for Chinese students, he recently hired the headmasters of Choate and Hotchkiss in Connecticut to oversee the creation of a $150 million private school now being built in the Beijing suburbs.
Winston Wen and his wife, moreover, have stakes in the technology industry and an electric company, as well as an indirect stake in Union Mobile Pay, the government-backed online payment platform — all while living in the PM minister’s residence, in central Beijing, according to corporate records and people familiar with the family’s investments.
“He’s not shy about using his influence to get things done,” said one venture capitalist who regularly meets with Winston Wen.
The younger Mr. Wen declined to comment. But in a telephone interview, his wife, Yang Xiaomeng, said her husband had been unfairly criticized for his business dealings.
“Everything that has been written about him has been wrong,” she said. “He’s really not doing that much business anymore.”
Winston Wen was educated in Beijing and then earned an engineering degree from the Beijing Institute of Technology. He went abroad and earned a master’s degree in engineering materials from the University of Windsor, in Canada, and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., just outside Chicago.
When he returned to China in 2000, he helped set up three successful technology companies in five years, according to people familiar with those deals. Two of them were sold to Hong Kong businessmen, one to the family of Li Ka-shing, one of the wealthiest men in Asia.
Winston Wen’s earliest venture, an Internet data services provider called Unihub Global, was founded in 2000 with $2 million in start-up capital, according to Hong Kong and Beijing corporate filings. Financing came from a tight-knit group of relatives and his mother’s former colleagues from government and the diamond trade, as well as an associate of Cheng Yu-tung, patriarch of Hong Kong’s second-wealthiest family. The firm’s earliest customers were state-owned brokerage houses and Ping An, in which the Wen family has held a large financial stake.
He made an even bolder move in 2005, by pushing into private equity when he formed New Horizon Capital with a group of Chinese-born classmates from Northwestern. The firm quickly raised $100 million from investors, including SBI Holdings, a division of the Japanese group SoftBank, and Temasek, the Singapore government investment fund.
Under Mr. Wen, New Horizon established itself as a leading private equity firm, investing in biotech, solar, wind and construction equipment makers. Since it began operations, the firm has returned about $430 million to investors, a fourfold profit, according to SBI Holdings.
“Their first fund was dynamite,” said Kathleen Ng, editor of Asia Private Equity Review, an industry publication in Hong Kong. “And that allowed them to raise a lot more money.”
Today, New Horizon has more than $2.5 billion under management.
Some of Winston Wen’s deal-making, though, has attracted unwanted attention for the PM.
In 2010, when New Horizon acquired a 9 percent stake in a company called Sihuan Pharmaceuticals just two months before its public offering, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange said the late-stage investment violated its rules and forced the firm to return the stake. Still, New Horizon made a $46.5 million profit on the sale.
Soon after, New Horizon announced that Winston Wen had handed over day-to-day operations and taken up a position at the China Satellite Communications Corporation, a state-owned company that has ties to the Chinese space program. He has since been named chairman.
In the late 1990s, Duan Weihong was managing an office building and several other properties in Tianjin, the PM’s hometown in northern China, through her property company, Taihong. She was in her 20s and had studied at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology.
Around 2002, Ms. Duan went into business with several relatives of Wen Jiabao, transforming her property company into an investment vehicle of the same name. The company helped make Ms. Duan very wealthy.
It is not known whether Ms. Duan, now 43, is related to the PM. In a series of interviews, she first said she did not know any members of the Wen family, but later described herself as a friend of the family and particularly close to Zhang Beili, the PM’s wife. As happened to a handful of other Chinese entrepreneurs, Ms. Duan’s fortunes soared as she teamed up with the relatives and their network of friends and colleagues, though she described her relationship with them involving the shares in Ping An as existing on paper only and having no financial component.
Ms. Duan and other wealthy businesspeople — among them, six billionaires from across China — have been instrumental in getting multimillion-dollar ventures off the ground and, at crucial times, helping members of the Wen family set up investment vehicles to profit from them, according to investment bankers who have worked with all parties.
Established in Tianjin, Taihong had spectacular returns. In 2002, the company paid about $65 million to acquire a 3 percent stake in Ping An before its initial public offering, according to corporate records and Ms. Duan’s graduate school thesis. Five years later, those shares were worth $3.7 billion
The company’s Hong Kong affiliate, Great Ocean, also run by Ms. Duan, later formed a joint venture with the Beijing government and acquired a huge tract of land adjacent to Capital International Airport. Today, the site is home to a sprawling cargo and logistics center. Last year, Great Ocean sold its 53 percent stake in the project to a Singapore company for nearly $400 million.
That deal and several other investments, in luxury hotels, Beijing villa developments and the Hong Kong-listed BBMG, one of China’s largest building materials companies, have been instrumental to Ms. Duan’s accumulation of riches, according to The Times’s review of corporate records.
The review also showed that over the past decade there have been nearly three dozen individual shareholders of Taihong, many of whom are either relatives of Wen Jiabao or former colleagues of his wife.
The other wealthy entrepreneurs who have worked with the PM’s relatives declined to comment for this article. Ms. Duan strongly denied having financial ties to the PM or his relatives and said she was only trying to avoid publicity by listing others as owning Ping An shares. “The money I invested in Ping An was completely my own,” said Ms. Duan, who has served as a member of the Ping An board of supervisors. “Everything I did was legal.”
Another wealthy partner of the Wen relatives has been Cheng Yu-tung, who controls the Hong Kong conglomerate New World Development and is one of the richest men in Asia, worth about $15 billion, according to Forbes.
In the 1990s, New World was seeking a foothold in mainland China for a sister company that specializes in high-end retail jewelry. The retail chain, Chow Tai Fook, opened its first store in China in 1998.
Mr. Cheng and his associates invested in a diamond venture backed by the relatives of Mr. Wen and co-invested with them in an array of corporate entities, including Sino-Life, National Trust and Ping An, according to records and interviews with some of those involved. Those investments by Mr. Cheng are now worth at least $5 billion, according to the corporate filings. Chow Tai Fook, the jewelry chain, has also flourished. Today, China accounts for 60 percent of the chain’s $4.2 billion in annual revenue.
Mr. Cheng, 87, could not be reached for comment. Calls to New World Development were not returned.
Fallout for Premier
In the winter of 2007, just before he began his second term as PM, Wen Jiabao called for new measures to fight corruption, particularly among high-ranking officials.
“Leaders at all levels of government should take the lead in the antigraft drive,” he told a gathering of high-level party members in Beijing. “They should strictly ensure that their family members, friends and close subordinates do not abuse government influence.”
The speech was consistent with the PM’s earlier drive to toughen disclosure rules for public servants, and to require senior officials to reveal their family assets.
Whether Mr. Wen has made such disclosures for his own family is unclear, since the Communist Party does not release such information. Even so, many of the holdings found by The Times would not need to be disclosed under the rules since they are not held in the name of the PM minister’s immediate family — his wife, son and daughter.
Eighty percent of the $2.7 billion in assets identified in The Times’s investigation and verified by the outside auditors were held by, among others, the PM minister’s mother, his younger brother, two brothers-in-law, a sister-in-law, daughter-in-law and the parents of his son’s wife, none of whom is subject to party disclosure rules. The total value of the relatives’ stake in Ping An is based on calculations by The Times that were confirmed by the auditors. The total includes shares held by the relatives that were sold between 2004 and 2006, and the value of the remaining shares in late 2007, the last time the holdings were publicly disclosed.
Legal experts said that determining the precise value of holdings in China could be difficult because there might be undisclosed side agreements about the true beneficiaries.
“Complex corporate structures are not necessarily insidious,” said Curtis J. Milhaupt, a Columbia University Law School professor who has studied China’s corporate group structures. “But in a system like China’s, where corporate ownership and political power are closely intertwined, shell companies magnify questions about who owns what and where the money came from.”
Among the investors in the Wen family ventures are longtime business associates, former colleagues and college classmates, including Yu Jianming, who attended Northwestern with Winston Wen, and Zhang Yuhong, a longtime colleague of Wen Jiahong, the PM minister’s younger brother. The associates did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Revelations about the Wen family’s wealth could weaken him politically.
Next month, at the 18th Party Congress in Beijing, the Communist Party is expected to announce a new generation of leaders. But the selection process has already been marred by one of the worst political scandals in decades, the downfall of Bo Xilai, the Chongqing party boss, who was vying for a top position.
In Beijing, Wen Jiabao is expected to step down as PM in March at the end of his second term. Political analysts say that even after leaving office he could remain a strong backstage political force. But documents showing that his relatives amassed a fortune during his tenure could diminish his standing, the analysts said.
“This will affect whatever residual power Wen has,” said Minxin Pei, an expert on Chinese leadership and a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California.
The PM’s supporters say he has not personally benefited from his extended family’s business dealings, and may not even be knowledgeable about the extent of them.
In March 2012, the PM hinted that he was at least aware of the persistent rumors about his relatives. During a nationally televised news conference in Beijing, he insisted that he had “never pursued personal gain” in public office.
“I have the courage to face the people and to face history,” he said in an emotional session. “There are people who will appreciate what I have done, but there are also people who will criticize me. Ultimately, history will have the final say.”
The headlines scream like sensational tabloids: “Overcoming the Big Four Emotional Blocks: Leftover Women Can Break out of Being Single.” “Eight Simple Moves to Escape the Leftover Women Trap.” And my personal favorite: “Do Leftover Women Really Deserve Our Sympathy?”
These eye-catching topics do not appear in supermarket-aisle gossip magazines. They are articles about single, professional women published on the Web site of China’s state feminist agency, the All-China Women’s Federation. The Communist Party founded the Women’s Federation in 1949 to “protect women’s rights and interests.”
In 2007, the Women’s Federation defined “left-over” women (sheng nu ) as unmarried women over the age of 27 and China’s Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon. Since then, the Women’s Federation Web site has run articles stigmatizing educated women who are still single.
Take this uplifting column from March 2011 that ran just after International Women’s Day:
Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult. These kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.
After knocking some good sense into those misguided women who pursue a higher education, the column accuses educated, single women of sleeping around and having degenerate morals:
Many highly educated “leftover women” are very progressive in their thinking and enjoy going to nightclubs to search for a one-night stand, or they become the mistress of a high official or rich man. It is only when they have lost their youth and are kicked out by the man, that they decide to look for a life partner. Therefore, most “leftover women” do not deserve our sympathy.
Glad we got that straight. Now, why would China’s state feminist agency conduct a scare-mongering campaign against single, educated women?
Curious, I searched the Women’s Federation website and found that it posted its first article on “leftover” women in 2007, shortly after China’s State Council issued an edict on strengthening the Population and Family Planning program to address “unprecedented population pressures.” These pressures include the sex-ratio imbalance — which “causes a threat to social stability” — and the “low quality of the general population, which makes it hard to meet the requirements of fierce competition for national strength,” according to the State Council. The State Council names “upgrading population quality (suzhi)” as one of its key goals, and appoints the Women’s Federation as a primary implementer of its population planning policy.
What better way to upgrade population quality than to frighten “high-quality” women into marrying and having a child for the good of the nation?
The Women’s Federation columns on sheng nu all share the same goal: convince single, educated women to stop being so ambitious and get married already:
The main reason many girls become “leftover women” is that their standards for a partner are too high … As girls are not too picky, finding a partner should be as easy as blowing away a speck of dust.
Some of the columns have been reposted several times over the years and list helpful tips, such as “seduce but don’t pester” and “be persistent but not willful”:
When holding out for a man, if you say he must be rich and brilliant, romantic and hardworking … this is just being willful. Does this kind of perfect man exist? Maybe he does exist, but why on earth would he want to marry you?
Since 2008, local population planning commissions in cities such as Nanjing and Ningbo have carried out “interventions” to address the “leftover women crisis.” Local Women’s Federation branches have arranged matchmaking events for “highly educated, high-quality” women. This March there was a drive in Pinghu, Zhejiang Province, for “leftover women to speedily find conjugal happiness.”
And once a “leftover” woman finds marital bliss, what should she do if her husband has an affair?
The Women’s Federation comes to the rescue, with the headline, “Faced With A Marital Crisis, Women Need to Improve Themselves”:
When you find out that he is having an affair, you may be in a towering rage, but you must know that if you make a fuss, you are denying the man “face” … No man is capable of spending a lifetime being loyal to an outmoded wife who never changes … Try changing your hairstyle or your fashion. Women must constantly change for the better.
In short, it’s the woman’s fault for refusing to get married, and once she is married, it’s the woman’s fault if her husband has an affair. Of course.
Leta Hong Fincher is an American doctoral student in Tsinghua University’s Department of Sociology.
When artist Ai Weiwei disappeared, supporters made online appeals for his return. When authorities handed him a £1.5m tax bill, they sent money to help pay it. And now that he faces an investigation for spreading pornography – his admirers have stripped off.
Internet users began tweeting their nude photographs after Ai announced that authorities had questioned his cameraman over pictures which showed the artist and four women naked.
Many Chinese contemporary artists have taken pictures of themselves without clothes, and the pictures of Ai that have emerged so far do not appear sexually charged. Some suspect that it may be an attempt by the authorities to smear the artist, whose 81-day detention this spring caused international outrage.
Officials accused him of economic crimes but supporters say the authorities are engaged in a vendetta because of Ai’s social and political activism and criticism of the government.
While a couple of internet users tweeted full-frontal shots, others have come up with more decorous – and ingenious – variations on the theme. Some posted pictures of themselves as babies; one photo shows a row of nine unclothed women and one man – with images of Ai’s head superimposed over their genitals and nipples.
Li Tiantian, a Shanghai lawyer who was herself detained earlier this year, appears partially concealed by a picture of a “grass mud horse”, a creature invented by internet users to mock censors; its name is a homonym for a graphic curse.
“It is an expression of support for Ai Weiwei and scorn to the Chinese government. It shows our attitude and anger towards the government’s behaviour,” she said.
“We are simply using an eyecatching way to attract people’s attention. There are so many pornography websites in China: they don’t regulate them, yet say that this is spreading pornography.”
Wen Yunchao, a blogger in Hong Kong who posted two nude photographs of himself, said: “This is a matter that has made many people very indignant. The interpretation of people’s naked bodies in itself is an individual freedom and a form of creative freedom. Also, we don’t see any pornographic elements in [Ai's] photographs. So we are using this extreme method to express our protest.”
Zhao Zhao, the videographer who took the original pictures of Ai last year, told Reuters that Beijing police interrogated him about them for about four hours, telling him the photographs were obscene.
Ai told the news agency that police had also questioned him about the pictures. He said they did not have a hidden political meaning and were not meant to criticise the government, but noted that authorities might nonetheless see them as a “rebellious act”.
Separately, the artist has encouraged supporters to call bloggers and commentators he described as leaders of the “50 cent” – pro-government – internet users, tweeting their phone numbers.
One of them, Wang Wen said he had received between 100 and 200 calls and innumerable messages and that another man had received about 1,000 calls. He complained that posting the number was not fair, but refused to comment further.
“China and India clearly will be the countries with the largest population of older adults in absolute terms. However, Chinais ageing more rapidly than India because of its one child policy,” Chatterji added.
The over-60 population will rise from 165 million to 439 million in China and from 93 million to 323 million in India from 2010 to 2050.
India’s overall population is expected to exceed China’s in the same period.
Over 65 percent of Asia’s elderly population will be women.
In many developed countries pensions and social security schemes are tied to employment, which cannot be easily replicated in Asia where most people work in the informal sector.
Informal sector means workers are not in the social security program. Half of the elderly people will not have income when they retire.
A universal pension scheme may be a solution.
Chronic illness has eclipsed communicable disease due to people living longer.
Greater life expectancy without the bonus of increased health may be increasing to such an extent that we are on the verge of an epidemic of frailty.
Beyond physical frailty, the number of dementia patients in the Asia-Pacific region will rise from 14 million in 2005 to 24 million in 2020 and become as high as 65 million by 2050, estimated Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), an London-headquartered NGO.
Depression is also fairly common among older adults.
Experts cite loneliness, disorientation, a sense of abandonment and lack of self-worth as causes of depression and poor mental health, as people become less active.
A key to ensuring the elderly receive the care they need is to ensure they have a solid support network – one that is slowly shrinking.
Social isolation of this population – as the family size shrinks and migration leading to older adults living by themselves – will be a major concern.