RSS feed
China blog
3 December 2014 Last updated at 21:43

Inside China's 'scrap village'

Hidden deep in alleyways on the outskirts of Beijing is Dong Xiao Kou village, also known as China's "scrap village".

From plastic to metal, villagers collect many different kinds of reusable material from rubbish in all corners of the city.

A group of men transport scrap materials along a road  in Dong Xiao Kou Village

The scrap trade began to flourish in Dong Xiao Kou almost two decades ago.

Most of the collectors are city scavengers carrying out their livelihood on tricycles. Those who are better-off drive big trucks to bring in their scrap,

A bicycle is parked alongside a wall bordering Dong Xiao Kou Village

Most villagers in Dong Xiao Kou are from Henan, China's most populous and one of its poorest provinces. Many made good money in Beijing a few years ago but business has been bleak since then.

Some villagers expanded their yards to hold more scrap, built better houses and bought cars. Others still live in makeshift homes made of tin and clip wood.

A flashy car is seen in the middle of a scrap yard in Dong Xiao Kou Village

The government started a project to vacate Dong Xiao Kou this summer to make space for cleaner streets and more properties.

Many factories processing scrap were moved but other villagers in the same trade are still waiting to hear when they will be asked to relocate.

A man stands on top of a truck as he prepares to unload items in Dong Xiao Kou Village

Many still haven't made plans to cope. Ms Liu, 43, a villager from Henan, tells us her story.

"My husband is a scrap collector. We live here in Dong Xiao Kou village because it's much cheaper than the city. Business is not so good now, and everything is becoming more expensive.

"I have two children. The older one is 19 years old. She quit high school and came to Beijing, because she always gets car sick during the long commute. Now she works for a nearby Carrefour Supermarket in Beijing.

"I'm not happy about my family's current situation. We are too poor. We don't even have a furnace. It's ice cold in the house but we don't have any other choice. We have to be here to make a living."

Ms Liu from Henan says her family lives in Dong Xiao Kou Village because it is cheaper than Beijing

Another villager Mr Yan, 50, comes from Hebei province.

"I came to Beijing in the 90s, and my job now is to compress the metal scrap into cubes."

"I am here to make money, but sometimes I don't make enough to smoke cigarettes. I used to smoke three packs a day. I have two children. They are both grown up now, but I don't want to retire yet.

"You know people from the countryside like me can't get used to being idle, so I will keep working here."

Hebei villager Mr Yan speaks to the BBC from his home in Dong Xiao Kou village

Mr Tang, another villager, said: "I came to Beijing more than 10 years ago, and I started my metal recycling business three years ago. The price of metal keeps falling."

"Look, I don't even have much going on here. The toughest thing about living here is that I know the moment I stop working, my family won't have food on the table.

"If they decide to move this village, I will go back to my hometown and raise my children there."

Mr Tang and his daughter enjoy a bowl of rice in Dong Xiao Kou village

Zhang Bang Long, a villager from Shandong province, told us:

"I first came to Beijing when I was 17 and now I'm 35 years old. I run a wood business. When I first came here, it was hard to find my place in this village. Sometimes the local mafia would tear away my residence permit to stop me from stealing their business.

"If this village has to be moved, I will find another space to do my business. It's better than farming back home.

"Working in Beijing is easier. I've got my own truck and my own car. I can make tens of thousands of yuan a year and that's really not so bad."

Zhang Bang Long. a villager from Shandong province, carries materials in Dong Xiao Kou village

Henan villager Ms Wang, 55, said: "All of my grandchildren are born here in Beijing. In 2007 and 2008, we were doing very well, because the economy was strong. Now it's pretty bad. We are all just making ends meet here.

Beijing never felt like home. Today we live in one place, and tomorrow we have to move. To get my grandchildren to school, we need this and that certificate. It's a lot of trouble.

After a few more years, I'm going back to my hometown and raise my grandchildren there."

Dong Xiao Kou Village

Mr Wei, a 29-year-old villager from Hebei, said: "I'm a cleaner. I clean the garbage here every day.

"I didn't go into the scrap trade because when I came here, no one showed me the ropes. It doesn't matter whether I like my job or not, or where I live. It's all the same.

"I'm not dating anyone here. It's hard. I want to make some money, and meet someone back home.

"Ultimately, I need to go home as well because if I have any children, they won't be able to go to school here. There are too many talented people here. I can't stay here forever."

Hebei villager Mr Wei speaks to the BBC from Dong Xiao Kou village

Ms Zhou, a villager from Henan:

"I'm in the plastics trade. My children go to school in my hometown because they can't get the permit to be educated here.

"I have to stay here, because my little business keeps us going. If I go back to my hometown, my children cannot be fed.

"The toughest part of my job is endless chores to do every day from dawn to dusk. It's not easy."

Ms Zhou, a Henan villager, speaks to the BBC from Dong Xiao Kou village

China to send artists for 'rural re-education'

Two men sit near a corn field in Weijian village, in China's Henan province on July 30, 2014. China's villagers could soon be sharing their wisdom with its artists

During Chairman Mao's heyday, he sent millions of young people to the countryside to learn from the masses.

Now in an echo of history, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and TV, says artists, film directors and news presenters will be following the same well-trodden path.

The authorities say they will live in rural areas in order to "form a correct view of art".

It is being seen as a government attempt to educate wayward artists.

Some of the recruits will spend at least a month in a village in order to experience local life.

Others will be sent to areas deemed to be of historical significance to China's revolutionary past.

BBC China Blog

The BBC China blog is where our teams across the country will provide a flavour of their latest insights.

We'll focus on the new and newsworthy, but also use our journalists' expertise to shine fresh light on China's remarkable transformations and upheavals.

Most of the posts will be written or filmed by journalists in our main bureau, in Beijing, or in our other bases in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Please let us know what you think and send us your ideas. You can also follow us on Twitter at @BBCChinablog to keep up to date with our reports.

Among those already drafted into the campaign are provincial TV teams who will be visiting a famous battle site in order to find inspiration for an animated film series.

In a statement, the country's media watchdog says the initiative will allow participants to "unearth new subjects" and "create more masterpieces".

The announcement follows a major speech by President Xi Jinping who told artists, authors and actors that their work should promote socialist values and not carry the "stench of money".

In case they missed the point, President Xi presented his vision of government-approved art.

"Fine art works should be like sunshine from blue sky and breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles," the president told his audience in October.

Since coming to power, President Xi has cracked down on dissent and what he views as Western values.

In the face of tightening controls, many Chinese artists do not feel particularly "warm-hearted" to their leader.

Many will say the biggest problem they face is not their lack of knowledge of the countryside or indeed "the masses", but instead the censorship at the hands of the authorities.


Why has tribute to President Xi's marriage gone viral?

The song, Papa Xi loves Mommy Peng, is a tribute to the love between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan

"China has a Papa Xi

No matter how big the tiger he dares to beat

He fears not the sky nor the earth

We dream of meeting him

China also has a Mommy Peng

The most beautiful flowers should be presented to her

Bless her and wish her well

Families blossom so the country blossoms and the world will blossom"

So begins the music video that is sweeping the Chinese internet. "Papa Xi loves Mommy Peng" is a gushing tribute to the love between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, a famous folk singer.

"Men should learn from Papa Xi

Women should learn from Mommy Peng

Let's love like they do"

In just eight days, the video has been viewed 56 million times on its original website. It has already been reposted in many other major Chinese websites, implying an official endorsement of the video.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Australia (19 November 2014) China's top couple are often to be seen together on foreign trips
China's First Lady Peng Liyuan at a conferment ceremony of an honorary doctorate on her at Massey University  in Wellington, New Zealand (20 November 2014) The Chinese first lady is compared in the music video to a beautiful flower

A band of four musicians in China's central Henan province composed the song after watching President Xi and his wife side by side at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) leaders' conference that Beijing hosted earlier this month.

"This is a simple love song," one of the band members, Yu Runze, explains. "The sweet feeling between the couple is the only thing we want to show."

Xi Jinping is the first Chinese leader to be photographed often with his glamorous wife, Peng Liyuan.

The pair's relationship has been well documented and numerous photos of the couple's early days have been released to the public, giving Yu Runze's band ample inspiration.

The group have released five albums in their hometown, Zhengzhou, but this is the first song to ever gain attention.

"It is every musician's dream to perform at the Chinese New Year gala," Mr Yu explains, referring to the annual state television broadcast every year on Chinese state television to an audience of millions. "We hope this can get us noticed."

Some are certainly paying attention.

China's President Xi Jinping (left), his wife Peng Liyuan and Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove in Canberra (17 November 2014) The president and his wife have brought a touch of glamour to their roles
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Australia (17 November 2014) The pair's loving relationship has been well documented

"I cried watching the video," one Chinese internet user wrote on Weibo, China's version of Twitter. "I'm so touched by their love."

This is not the first time a cartoon version of Xi Jinping has surfaced on the internet. In October 2013, a mysterious source created an animated video explaining the roles of world leaders, including a portly Mr Xi. It was republished by many state media outlets.

BBC China Blog

The BBC China blog is where our teams across the country will provide a flavour of their latest insights.

We'll focus on the new and newsworthy, but also use our journalists' expertise to shine fresh light on China's remarkable transformations and upheavals.

Most of the posts will be written or filmed by journalists in our main bureau, in Beijing, or in our other bases in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Please let us know what you think and send us your ideas. You can also follow us on Twitter at @BBCChinablog to keep up to date with our reports.

But other artists have not been so lucky. Earlier this month, a caricature drawing of the Chinese president and other former Chinese leaders by cartoonist Zhi Zhu was pulled from an animation festival in Hangzhou after it was exhibited for just one day.

Mr Zhu complained at the time that he has had problems finding venues for his work.

Even though it is trending across China, the "Papa Xi" video is getting mixed reviews.

"I saw this and for a moment, I though we'd return to the era of [Communist Party founder] Mao Zedong," one viewer complains on Weibo. "Didn't we end hero worship in the 1970s?"

Perhaps China's censors are still reserving judgment on the video. The terms "Papa Xi" and "Mommy Peng" are blocked on Weibo.

Maybe some in the government are questioning the video's declaration that the couple's "love is like a legend".

*****

Entire lyrics , translation by the BBC Beijing Bureau

Papa Xi Loves Mommy Peng

China has a Papa Xi

No matter how big the tiger is he dares to beat

He fears not the sky nor the earth

We dream of meeting him

China also has a Mommy Peng

The most beautiful flowers should be presented to her

Bless her and wish her well

Families blossom so the country blossoms and the world will blossom

Papa Xi loves Mommy Peng

Their love is like a legend

Mommy Peng loves Papa Xi

The country with love is the strongest

Men should learn from Papa Xi

Women should learn from Mommy Peng

Let's love like they do

Sweet love can warm ten thousand families

Men should learn from Papa Xi

Women should learn from Mommy Peng

People with love can win the world

Rap

There is a kind of love called Papa Xi loves Mommy Peng

When together he always smiles and looks at her happily

There is a kind of love called Mommy Peng loves Papa Xi

Hand in hand, her smile is the most beautiful flower


Chinese journalist on trial for leaking state secrets

Chinese journalist Gao Yu, who served a seven-year prison sentence for disclosing 'state secrets' looks on in Hong Kong, 05 February 2007 Gao Yu says she was forced to admit to the crime of leaking state secrets

Chinese journalist Gao Yu goes on trial on Friday accused of leaking an internal Communist Party document. She faces a life sentence. What has Ms Gao done to anger Chinese leaders?

At the time, it was an astonishing confession. Gao Yu, a highly respected freelance journalist, was shown on national television in China, admitting she made a "big mistake".

Her face digitally blurred, she admitted to stealing a confidential Communist Party document and sending it to a foreign news website.

Even then, many suspected that the 70-year-old Ms Gao had been forced into confessing her guilt.

And now we know more: in a recent pre-trial hearing, Ms Gao told the court that she falsely admitted to a crime because police were threatening to arrest her son.

He had been detained at the same time as his mother. She did not know the "confession" would be televised.

'Document No. 9'

Ms Gao is used to fighting with the Chinese authorities. She served more than five years in jail in the 1990s on similar charges of stealing state secrets.

Chinese journalist Gao Yu appears with her son Zhao Meng in Beijing in this 1990 file photo. Zhao Meng, seen here with his mother Gao Yu in a 1990 photo, is said to have disappeared as well

She had been convicted of sending Party documents, including a speech by then-President Jiang Zemin, to a Hong Kong newspaper.

This time, the Chinese government believes Ms Gao sent an internal Communist Party document, known as "Document No 9", to foreign news sites, including the Chinese-language site of the German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

Ms Gao's lawyers are mounting a two-pronged defence.

They will demand the court dismiss the content of her confession, because it was made under duress.

They also want the court to reconsider whether the case is related to state secrets, since the document she allegedly leaked was already widely circulated.

Human rights and media watch groups have decried the persecution of Ms Gao.

BBC China Blog

The BBC China blog is where our teams across the country will provide a flavour of their latest insights.

We'll focus on the new and newsworthy, but also use our journalists' expertise to shine fresh light on China's remarkable transformations and upheavals.

Most of the posts will be written or filmed by journalists in our main bureau, in Beijing, or in our other bases in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Please let us know what you think and send us your ideas. You can also follow us on Twitter at @BBCChinablog to keep up to date with our reports.

"Her trial epitomises the broader deteriorating rights environment, and it brings together several strands in the current crackdown on human rights in China," explains Maya Wang, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong.

"Gao is being tried for leaking state secrets abroad at a time when the government is increasingly worried about foreign interferences in the form of colour revolutions, and when it is increasing control over already limited freedom of expression."

How the trial proceeds, Ms Wang adds, and ultimately, how heavy a sentence the court issues to Ms Gao, will tell us about the authorities' attitudes on these wider issues.

'Reform not democracy'

Her conviction is all but certain. The vast majority of cases that proceed to this level in the Chinese court system, particularly state secrets cases, end up with a guilty verdict.

A selection of Ms Gao's writing on the Deustche Welle website in 2012 and 2013 reveal that she was fearless in choosing her subjects.

Over and over, she writes about internal wrangling between Communist Party elites, like the Party's chairman, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and his perceived adversaries, like former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Mr Zhou is now being investigated for corruption.

At times, Ms Gao expresses admiration for Xi Jinping's sweeping anti-corruption drive, though she is also a pragmatist.

Photo dated 31 August 1995 shows a member of Amnesty International displaying a picture of Chinese prisoner of conscious Gao Yu at a demonstration in Huairou during the Women's NGO Forum. Ms Gao angered authorities in the 1990s and ended up in jail

The corruption drive is also aimed at reworking the Party to give Mr Xi a firm grip on power, wiping out his political enemies along with other corrupt officials.

In May 2013, Ms Gao wrote a commentary about Document No 9, the Party discussion paper she is accused of leaking overseas.

That document urges Party members to resist ideas that could threaten Party rule, including "Western ideas" about the media "that would create havoc for the Party and society by stirring up public opinions".

Party members were also warned about the growth of "universal values" and "civil society" that would establish new political forces outside of the Party.

President Xi "only mentions reform, not democracy," Ms Gao told the BBC in an interview in March 2013.

"This is his political blueprint - to build a highly efficient and clean government, but whether this goal can be reached without democracy, constitution, multiple parties or press freedom is a question."


Beijingers left feeling 'Apec blue'

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the APEC CEO Summit, Monday, Nov. 10, 2014, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) "Apec blue" has become a catchphrase with citizens

Beijing's leaders have done all they can to ensure the capital's skies are clean for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit.

Factories have been closed. Half the city's cars have been barred from the streets. Locals have even been stopped from lighting outdoor barbeques or burning funeral incense.

Exhausted by all the preparations, the city's beleaguered citizens have marked the occasion by coining a phrase of their own: "Apec blue".

Apec blue is something that is pretty, but temporary. A mirage of sorts.

"That boy doesn't really like you," the saying goes, "his affection is just 'Apec blue'".

'We can relax'

Beijing's citizens are certainly paying the price for the government's desperate attempts to engineer "Apec blue" skies.

BBC China Blog

The BBC China blog is where our teams across the country will provide a flavour of their latest insights.

We'll focus on the new and newsworthy, but also use our journalists' expertise to shine fresh light on China's remarkable transformations and upheavals.

Most of the posts will be written or filmed by journalists in our main bureau, in Beijing, or in our other bases in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Please let us know what you think and send us your ideas. You can also follow us on Twitter at @BBCChinablog to keep up to date with our reports.

To ensure the summit passes without a hitch, millions have been forced to take a mandatory holiday. Most offices are shutting down and schools have closed their doors for a week.

"I'm so happy!" smiles a teenaged girl, found wandering through a shopping mall in the middle of the afternoon. "We can all relax! We usually study too hard."

Gleeful students aside, most people in the city are annoyed, not amused by the changes.

The city's nervous government leaders are so eager to ensure that every aspect of Apec will be perfect that almost every area of daily life has been affected.

No-one can buy real estate during this period. Even love is put on hold - Beijingers can't register marriages for a week.

It's not a good time to get sick either. Hospitals aren't taking appointments during Apec.

Even food deliveries have been postponed. Fresh milk and seafood won't arrive in many parts of Beijing while Apec's on.

'How ridiculous!'

These measures are getting out of control, goes the common complaint.

"Our water supply stopped four days ago, and they can't fix the pipes because the digging would generate dust that would affect the Apec meeting," writes one Beijinger on Weibo, China's version of Twitter. "How ridiculous!"

A newly-married couple (C) walk into a restaurant near the China National Convention Center (CNCC), where the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit is being held in Beijing on November 8, 2014 Even marriages cannot be registered in the week of the Apec summit in Beijing

"Apec's impacted me because everything related to the public service has been stalled, including salaries," writes another user. "My salary will only arrive one or two days after Apec is over, because of the bank closure."

Businesses are taking a hit too.

"Fewer customers show up during Apec," groans a local man, handing out pamphlets for his local massage business. "The anti-pollution measures are just designed for foreign leaders."

But even the promise of blue skies has proved to be a disappointment. Hours before the summit's opening ceremony, the city's pollution levels hovered at levels deemed "unhealthy" by the US embassy in Beijing's air monitoring system.

Apec blue, indeed.


China media blasts 'insipid' Obama

Screens in Beijing showing pictures of President Obama during the US mid-terms The Global Times editorial says that the US has grown tired of President Obama's "banality"

Given his party's miserable set of US mid-term election results President Barack Obama will, of course, have been bracing himself for plenty of harsh criticism.

But perhaps he would be surprised to hear that China's state-run media is joining in, with a blistering broadside describing his term in office as "insipid".

Even by the standards of the Global Times, a newspaper with close ties to the Communist Party and known for its strident editorials, the language is blunt.

With Mr Obama due to arrive in Beijing for an international summit in just a few days' time, the article describes him as a man who "dares to do nothing".

US society, it says, has grown tired of his "banality" and, as a result of the mid-terms, "the lame-duck president will be further crippled".

Insults

The Global Times is a tub-thumping tabloid with a circulation of more than 2 million for its Chinese language edition.

China's president, Xi Jinping, and Barack Obama in 2013 China's president, Xi Jinping, and Barack Obama are due to meet again at in Beijing this month

For many readers it is an unchallenged source of news about the outside world and it is often critical of the Western media, accusing it of taking "delight in blind, idle chatter".

The paper has defended China's right to block mainstream outlets - including the BBC, the New York Times and Bloomberg - without any apparent irony - it has been publishing and distributing a US edition of its paper since early last year.

It is safe to say, of course, that it is highly unlikely to be on President Obama's reading list - so he won't, at first hand at least, feel the wrath of its latest rant.

As well as the criticism of his domestic record, it takes aim at his foreign policy achievements: "He has managed to take troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan but left no peace."

Beyond the insults though, the piece appears to be a clumsy attempt to make a wider point about the limits of American democracy and its ability to affect real change.

BBC China Blog

The BBC China blog is where our teams across the country will provide a flavour of their latest insights.

We'll focus on the new and newsworthy, but also use our journalists' expertise to shine fresh light on China's remarkable transformations and upheavals.

Most of the posts will be written or filmed by journalists in our main bureau, in Beijing, or in our other bases in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Please let us know what you think and send us your ideas. You can also use #BBCChinablog to keep up to date with our reports via Twitter.

"That party interests are placed higher than the interests of the country and its people is an inherent shortcoming of Western political systems," it argues.

Sign of insecurity?

And perhaps, on that point, the seemingly discourteous timing is not a coincidence.

What at first reading appears as confidence - "With China's rise, we gradually have the ability to have a clear understanding of the US. The country is too lazy to reform" - may instead be a sign of a deep, underlying insecurity.

As the presidents of two very different political systems stand side by side in Beijing next week, this is perhaps simply an attempt to send an early reminder to Chinese readers not to fret about their country's democratic deficit.

After George W Bush, the US public used to speak highly of Obama, the Global Times tells them, but now "they have reversed their opinions".

Mr Obama, even if the article does find its way onto his desk, is of course unlikely to lose too much sleep over the mudslinging and insults - after all, he gets enough of that at home to keep him more than busy.

And anyway, he could easily counter, at least the American public, unlike the Chinese, gets the chance to express its opinion, however unfavourable it may be.


About this Blog:

Welcome to the BBC China blog, where our teams across the country will be updating you with their latest insights.

The idea is to focus on the new and newsworthy, but also to use our journalists’ expertise to shine fresh light on China’s remarkable transformation and the upheaval it is bringing to millions of lives.

We also hope the blog will offer a new dimension to our coverage, allowing us to explore stories and themes which we cannot easily get to in our usual news stories and features.

Most of the posts will be written or filmed by journalists in our main bureau, in Beijing, or in our other bureaus in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Please let us know what you think, and which subjects you would be interested to know more about. You can also use #BBCChinablog to keep up to date with our reports via Twitter.

Useful links

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.