When China woke up to Wham!

  • 9 April 2015
Young children sporting 'Mao' jackets and caps gape at George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley, of the pop group Wham who are visiting the Great Wall as they promote the first-ever gig by a Western pop band in communist China, on 7 April 1985. (DO NOT REUSE IMAGE)
Wham!'s management spent 18 months trying to convince Chinese officials to let the duo play

Everyone who went to see Wham! perform in China in 1985 seems to remember the same details: the dazzling lights, the overwhelming wave of noise when the music began, and the outfits worn by the duo, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley.

In 1985, China was just opening up to the outside world following the tumultuous Cultural Revolution.

At the same time, Wham! were eager to prove that they were the world's biggest pop band. A concert in China was just the ticket.

The duo's manager, Simon Napier-Bell, tried to convince various Chinese officials over lunch that the concert tour was a good idea.

His successful sales pitch hinged on how China would appear to the outside world if George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were allowed to play. Wham!'s presence would be proof, Mr Napier-Bell reasoned, of the Communist Party's desire to welcome foreigners, and much-needed foreign investment.

Read full article When China woke up to Wham!

China's Ili Pika: The 'magic bunny' goes viral

  • 26 March 2015

Everyone on social media is talking about China's "magic bunny", the cutest endangered animal that you have never heard of.

Sixty-year-old retired conservationist Li Weidong has been on a mission for over 30 years to document and protect the highly-endangered Ili Pika - a mysterious rabbit-like mammal only found in China. With less than 1,000 left they are now rarer than pandas.

Read full article China's Ili Pika: The 'magic bunny' goes viral

China breaks the economic bad news gently

  • 5 March 2015
Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the opening of the 3rd Session of the 12th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on 5 March 2015 in Beijing, China
Premier Li Keqiang (R), seen here with President Xi Jinping (L), made the announcement at the National People's Congress

What do you do if you're the leader of the world's second largest economy - and you're set to announce your country's lowest economic growth target in 24 years?

Li Keqiang, the premier of China, faced that question as he delivered a lengthy speech marking the start of China's annual parliamentary session. At the heart of the speech: Beijing's forecast of 7% GDP growth in the coming year.

Read full article China breaks the economic bad news gently

Budget boost for China's military comes with shake-up

  • 4 March 2015
Soldiers from China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) march ahead of the opening session of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, 3 March 2015
The military will get a 10% budget increase

China's National People's Congress will open in Beijing on Thursday. Three thousand or so delegates from around the country will converge on Tiananmen Square, to take part in the annual political gathering.

Around one in 10 of those climbing the steps of the Great Hall of the People tomorrow will be in military uniform, representing the People's Liberation Army (PLA) - the world's largest.

Read full article Budget boost for China's military comes with shake-up

Under the Dome: The smog film taking China by storm

  • 2 March 2015
Child near a power station in Beijing, China (Nov 2014)
For many children growing up in China, pollution has become a normal part of life

Only in China would a documentary on air pollution garner more than 100 million views in less than 48 hours.

Renowned investigative journalist Chai Jing has been widely praised for using her own money - more than 1 million RMB ($159,000: £103,422) - to fund the film, called Under the Dome. She first started the documentary when her infant daughter developed a benign tumour in the womb, which Ms Chai blames on air pollution.

Read full article Under the Dome: The smog film taking China by storm

Is Weibo on the way out?

  • 24 February 2015
File image of a man using the Sina Weibo microblogging site in Shanghai on 29 May 2012
A study found that almost 60% of accounts on Weibo had never posted a message

China's internet watchdogs have threatened to enforce real-name registration before. But this time, they're adamant all Chinese citizens must provide their real names and identification numbers before using social media sites starting on 1 March.

Nicknames can be used on the sites, but only after users hand over their personal details to the government.

Read full article Is Weibo on the way out?

Graffiti, demolition and angst in Shanghai

  • 29 January 2015

Demolition in China is often a sensitive, political subject, touching on the relative powerlessness of local residents in the face of omnipotent local officials.

And while Shanghai has retained more of its old architecture than many Chinese cities, the relentless pace of economic development has still swept large parts of it away.

Read full article Graffiti, demolition and angst in Shanghai

The case against Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang

  • 28 January 2015
Pu Zhiqiang (C), the lawyer for Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, talks to the media at the artist's studio in Beijing on November 14, 2011.
Pu Zhiqiang was famous for his eloquence in the courtroom

Before his detention last May, Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang often posted his thoughts online.

Between 2012 and 2014, Mr Pu wrote thousands of dispatches on weibo, China's version of Twitter.

Read full article The case against Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang

Stem cell donation: Rare China-UK match

  • 19 January 2015

It's an astonishing act of human generosity - one man donating his stem cells to a total stranger living on the other side of the world.

A man working as a driver in Shanghai registered for a stem cell registration drive through his workplace, thinking little would come of it. Shortly after, he received word that his stem cells had been matched, to a boy in England. The needy recipient is just seven years old.

Read full article Stem cell donation: Rare China-UK match

Why China's ruling party is bearing down on 'cliques'

  • 5 January 2015
18th party congress china
State-run news agency Xinhua ran an article identifying three cliques of senior bureaucrats

The Chinese Communist Party acknowledges the existence of dangerous cliques.

It is a rare public admission of the existence of factions within a Communist Party which has, for decades, preferred to project a façade of unbreakable unity.

Read full article Why China's ruling party is bearing down on 'cliques'