June 29, 2020

"The Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population," The Associated Press reports, citing government statistics and documents and interviews with 30 people subject to "what some experts are calling a form of 'demographic genocide.' The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization, and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show."

China's foreign ministry called AP's report "fake news" and claimed "everyone, regardless of whether they're an ethnic minority or Han Chinese, must follow and act in accordance with the law." And there is some truth to that: Since 2014, President Xi Jinping has allowed Han Chinese to have up to two children, or three if they live in the countryside, the same rules applied to Uighurs and other minorities since the 1990s. "But while equal on paper, in practice Han Chinese are largely spared the abortions, sterilizations, IUD insertions, and detentions for having too many children that are forced on Xinjiang's other ethnicities," AP reports.

Fines for having more than three children were tripled in Xinjiang in 2017, to at least three times the annual disposable income of the county, but only minorities are sent to "re-education" concentration camps if they don't pay, their children sent to orphanages, AP says. Han Chinese in the area are offered subsidies to move to Xinjiang and then have more children or intermarry with Uighurs.

"The intention may not be to fully eliminate the Uighur population, but it will sharply diminish their vitality," Darren Byler, an expert on Uighurs at the University of Colorado, tells AP. "It will make them easier to assimilate into the mainstream Chinese population." Joanne Smith Finley at Britain's Newcastle University calls it "genocide, full stop," albeit "slow, painful, creeping genocide." Read more about the campaign at The Associated Press. Peter Weber

July 14, 2019

Amid rising trade tensions with the United States, China's economy continued to slow down in the second quarter, with growth dropping to its lowest level in 27 years, Chinese officials announced Monday.

The economy grew 6.2 percent between April and June compared to a year earlier, matching estimates. In June, retail sales went up 9.8. percent and factory output rose 6.3 percent, while investment gained 5.8 percent during the first half of the year.

Following President Trump's decision to impose more tariffs on Chinese goods, exports to the U.S. fell 7.8 percent in June compared to a year ago. Representatives from the U.S. and China are still trying to craft a trade deal between the two countries. Catherine Garcia

March 5, 2019

After years of rapid economic growth — growth heavily reliant on mounting debt — China is slowing things down and focusing on stability, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced during his annual speech at the National People's Congress on Tuesday.

The government is lowering its growth target to between six and 6.5 percent, following last year's 6.6 percent growth rate — the country's slowest pace since 1990. Li told the assembled delegation of nearly 3,000 representatives that they must prepare "for a tough struggle" and that the "difficulties we face must not be underestimated."

Li acknowledged that the China's tariff-trading skirmish with the U.S. has negatively affected the economy, but the two sides are reportedly inching closer to a deal.

However, The Wall Street Journal also reported that despite scrapping "Made in China 2025" — a plan heavily criticized by the Trump administration, which considers it an attempt to turn China into a global technology leader, while simultaneously harming the U.S. tech industry — Li's remarks likely did not do enough to dissuade the White House of its concerns. Instead, Li said the government would promote advanced manufacturing and "encourage more domestic and foreign users to choose Chinese goods and services." But, per the Journal, there is little evidence that the new policy will significantly reduce subsidies to preferred Chinese companies and sectors, despite promises of greater access for foreign companies. Tim O'Donnell

July 9, 2018

A young Chinese activist named Dong Yaoqiong filmed herself throwing ink on a poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who in March obtained legal authority to stay in office indefinitely, and posted the video online. "I oppose Xi Jinping and his authoritarian dictatorship," she said. "Let's see how he's gonna deal with me."

In a later post on Twitter, Dong shared a photo that appeared to show police waiting outside her apartment. "Right now there are a group of people wearing uniforms outside my door. I'll go out after I change my clothes," she wrote. "I did not commit a crime. The people and groups that hurt me are the ones who are guilty." Since then, her Twitter account has been deleted; her video has been taken offline; and she has disappeared.

In response, other activists have reposted the video and protested her disappearance by splashing ink on other public images of Xi, posting photos using her hashtag, #InkSplash. Some unverified reports suggest Dong has been taken to Beijing from Shanghai, the site of her original protest. Bonnie Kristian

January 18, 2016

In 2015, China's economy grew by 6.9 percent, the country's slowest growth in 25 years.

In 2014, the economy grew by 7.3 percent. Beijing's official growth target was "about 7 percent," the BBC reports, with Premier Li Keqiang saying as long as plenty of new jobs were created, a slower growth rate would be satisfactory. China's national bureau of statistics also reported the economy grew 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter and 6.9 percent in the third quarter, the slowest quarterly rate in seven years. China is the world's second-largest economy. Catherine Garcia

September 9, 2015

On Tuesday, concert promoter AEG China announced that Bon Jovi shows in Shanghai and Beijing next week "have been canceled for some reason." That reason, according to the Financial Times, is because China's Culture Ministry discovered photos of Bon Jovi performing in Taiwan in 2010 in front of a photo of the Dalai Lama. Bon Jovi had "made a special effort to appeal to fans in China ahead of the show," The New York Times reports, with lead singer Jon Bon Jovi "recording a Mandarin cover of 'The Moon Represents My Heart,' a popular song by the Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng."

It looks like China's Bon Jovi fans will have to make do with that song. It's not clear if people will get refunds on their tickets, which cost between $75 and $600 each, the Financial Times reports. "On Tuesday concert organizers were desperately trying to convince officials to relent on the Bon Jovi concerts but the chances of Beijing overturning the cancelation order are slim, according to people familiar with the matter." Bon Jovi isn't the first Western musical act blacklisted by China over apparent support for the Tibetan spiritual leader. Peter Weber

June 15, 2015

A court in China convicted former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang of massive corruption, but also for passing on classified state secrets to his qigong master, Cao Yongzheng, according to court documents released last week. Cao rose to fame in the late 1980s, when he "gained a reputation as a semi-immortal for his supernatural powers," The Associated Press reports, including soothsaying and curing infertility.

The reliance of Zhou, until recently a member of the powerful Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo, on spiritual figures like Cao isn't that uncommon, AP says, despite the party's tradition of staunch atheism. Along with qigong — a practice of meditation, breathing, and movement, related to tai chi — officials turn to Buddhist and Taoist monks, feng-shui masters, and other spiritual directors. Cao, who became one of China's wealthiest men under Zhou's protection, has fled the country.

Zhou was caught up in President Xi Jinping's two-year-old corruption crackdown, and some conservatives see a connection. "Corruption is only a matter of course when officials abandon Marxism and Leninism for ghosts and spirits," conservative pundit Sima Nan said on his microblog account. "Now the party has distanced itself from atheism for so long as to allow (qigong masters) to have a good life."

But Xi would have a hard time stamping out China's spiritual turn. "The Cultural Revolution has rooted out China's traditional value system, and the introduction of Western values was disrupted to some extent in 1989," after the Tiananmen Square killings, Chinese independent commentator Shi Shusi tells AP. "But human souls need to have a home, so the Chinese have found the home for their souls in those qigong masters." Peter Weber

June 1, 2015

As of June 1, Beijing residents can no longer smoke in restaurants or bars, office buildings, or on public transportation, under legislation passed last November. Violators of the ordinance will be fined 200 yuan ($32), and businesses that allow smoking will be slapped with fines of up to 10,000 yuan ($1,600). After three violations, public smokers will be named-and-shamed on a government website, Reuters reports.

Smoking in public spaces is already supposed to be prohibited nationwide under 2011 health ministry guidelines, but China's 300 million smokers routinely ignore the rules, or shrug off the 10 yuan ($1.60) fine. Beijing, with some of the worst air pollution in the world, appears to be serious this time, rolling out a public anti-smoking campaign and deploying thousands of inspectors. No word on whether China plans to increase the price of a pack of cigarettes from as low as 80 cents. Peter Weber

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