RSS feed
China blog
14 April 2014 Last updated at 12:38

Talk on HK political reform divides

Chinese and Hong Kong national flags hang before residential buildings in Hong Kong on 4 January 2014 Not all Hong Kong lawmakers attended the meeting to discuss political reform in China

The just concluded weekend meeting in Shanghai between senior Chinese officials and Hong Kong lawmakers has been billed as a landmark event.

The two sides met to discuss the divisive issue of political reform in the former British colony.

CY Leung, the current Beijing-backed chief executive, declared the event "a success", saying it was the first time the director of the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office had met with all members of the city's Legislative Council.

Except not all lawmakers were there.

And the event has been marred by accusations of censorship.

As soon as the meeting was announced, some members of the council's pan-democratic faction, which wants the public or political parties to directly nominate the next chief executive, said they would not attend.

File photo: Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung, left Chief Executive CY Leung (L) said the meeting in Shanghai over the weekend was "a success"

One of them, Claudia Mo of the Civic Party, told me the meeting was "only a show".

She did not think it was worthwhile to spend taxpayer dollars on the trip.

'Tell them the truth'

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.

But after weeks of negotiations, 14 of her fellow pan-democratic colleagues decided they would go, as long as they could meet privately with mainland Chinese officials for a no-holds-barred talk on reform.

A total of 52 out of 70 lawmakers agreed to travel to Shanghai.

Among the democrats was Leung Kwok-hung, the pony-tailed chairman of the League of Social Democrats, who is better known as Long Hair.

He arrived at Shanghai airport wearing a black t-shirt in support of the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of Chinese activists asking the government to reassess the violent crackdown in 1989.

Mr Leung told me he was then approached by an immigration officer who asked to look through his luggage.

He had brought three other Tiananmen t-shirts, as well as gifts for the Chinese officials: two political books and two open letters arguing his case about the Tiananmen protest and the future of democracy in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung Leung Kwok-hung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, decided not to attend the meeting

He was told the items were not permitted in mainland China.

Mr Leung said he was willing to allow the t-shirts to be confiscated, but the not the books or letters.

"I need to tell them the truth. I need to do my duty, to voice the majority opinion of Hong Kong," he said. "We urge the Chinese Communist Party to end one-party rule and introduce universal suffrage in China and to release all political prisoners."

Faced with what he called censorship, he decided to leave.

Three other pan-democratic lawmakers - including Civic Party leader Alan Leong and Labour Party legislators Cyd Ho and Peter Cheung - also decided to boycott the meeting in solidarity.

In the end, only three-quarters of the Legislative Council members, including just 10 democrats, met the Chinese officials.

During the meeting, they reportedly ruled out the possibility of allowing the public to directly nominate the next chief executive, saying this would minimise the risk of a constitutional crisis.

Democrats have long rejected what they call a "small circle" election, in which a group of Beijing loyalists handpick acceptable candidates for the public to elect.

In their minds, the trip confirmed the hard-line attitudes of the Beijing government.


How air domes may help Beijing

Project proposal of London-based architecture and design firm Orproject A London-based architectural firm devised the idea for the "Bubbles" project

On most days, a thick blanket of poisonous smog hovers over Beijing. But one day, China's capital could be dotted with domes filled with clean air.

Orproject, a London-based architecture and design firm, has devised the Bubbles project, a design that envisions massive, balloon-like structures filled with clean air.

The vegetation inside the park would produce clean air for those living inside the buildings on the perimeter of the bubbles, while also providing a smog-free space for residents to spend time in the faux outdoors.

Rajat Sodhi, director of Orproject India, spent a year and a half developing the idea with the firm's Beijing team.

"The seed of this project was the realisation that in developing countries, especially major cities in India and China, the air quality has crossed unacceptable limits." Mr Sodhi explains.

"You really can't step out and be outdoors. You just move from one air-conditioned space to another."

The group decided to design the large domes using patterns found in nature.

"If you look at the structure of a butterfly wing or that of a leaf, it has a dense pattern that allows the structure to be fairly stable and fairly large but using very little material," Mr Sodhi says.

Project proposal of London-based architecture and design firm Orproject The large domes envisioned in the project draw inspiration from patterns found in nature
Mixed reactions

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.

The skin of the rooftop bubbles would be created from ETFE, an extremely durable, lightweight material that will not decompose over time. Each bubble would be filled with gas, allowing it to float.

The entire structure would be shaped and anchored with steel supports.

The project has received mixed reactions since it was first released in January.

But critics argue that the concept smacks of defeatism. Why bother to rid the air of pollution in cities like Beijing if bubbles of clean air are available?

Others say the plan is simply unrealistic and, at best, would lead to two classes of citizens in polluted areas. Presumably only a wealthy few would gain access to the bubble, leaving the unlucky majority trapped in smog.

Rajat Sodhi believes the reaction comes from those who want to solve environmental problems, though he says that isn't his goal. He's an architect who creates living spaces, he contends. The Bubbles project could work in a variety of locations where people are barred from enjoying green, open spaces for much of the year.

Project proposal of London-based architecture and design firm Orproject The firm's designers say that the project is suitable for hot or cold climates

"You had a whole part of the US affected by the Polar Vortex this year, which made stepping outside impossible," he says. "There were basically no green areas in cities, so the air quality drops because there is no natural regeneration of the air."

This project could exist in extremely hot or cold climates, the designers contend.

"I think this kind of project was meant for any space, because what it fundamentally does is create a controlled environment in the form of a biodiversity park which can sustain clean air throughout the year," Mr Sodhi says.

Chinese government officials have yet to respond to the firm's proposal.


Silencing voices calling for disclosure

Two more activists calling for greater transparency from Chinese officials went on trial in Beijing on Tuesday.

They are the latest in a series of prosecutions linked to the New Citizens' Movement, which wants government officials to disclose their wealth.

Here's my report from the court:

Martin Patience: "Rights groups say the verdict is a foregone conclusion"


Price tag of China anti-corruption drive

A gold Lamborghini luxury sports car is displayed at a mall with a price tag in Beijing, China,  on 17 February 2014 China has seen a decline in the sales of luxury goods since the drive to root out corruption began

Much has been written about China's ongoing crackdown on corruption, but now one of the world's biggest banks has put a price on it.

According to a report published by Bank of America Merrill Lynch this week, the Chinese government's anti-graft campaign could cost the economy more than $100bn this year alone.

That's a lot of economic activity, something not far off the total size of the economy of Bangladesh, which supports some 150 million people (although admittedly not very well).

Macro effects

Many of the micro effects of Xi Jingping's anti-corruption drive have already been well documented of course; a slowdown in the restaurant trade for example, and a big dip in sales of luxury goods.

Over the past year or so, in Shanghai's posh malls and boutique designer shops - once at the centre of the happy merry-go-round of official largesse and gift giving - you've almost been able to hear the sound of the weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But the BofAML report suggests that the campaign is also having a significant and troubling macroeconomic effect.

A labourer, wearing an improvised protective mask, welds steel bars at a residential construction site in Quzhou, Zhejiang province on 3 April  2014. Officials are reluctant to spend public money on projects fearing corruption allegations against them

Since early last year, it says, government bank deposits have been soaring, up almost 30% year on year.

Even honest officials, the report suggests, are now so terrified of starting new projects, for fear of being seen as corrupt, that they're simply keeping public funds in the bank.

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.

The total cost to the economy of the prohibition on government consumption and the chill on administrative spending is an estimated reduction in growth of at least 0.6% this year.

But it could, the report argues, be as high as 1.5% which, by my rough calculation, gives us the figure of about $135bn of lost economic activity.

The report's authors admit their calculations are a "back-of-the-envelope estimate of fiscal contraction", but even if they are only half right it is an extraordinary amount of money and it highlights some of the challenges facing China's anti-corruption crusader-in-chief, President Xi Jinping.

Since taking office more than a year ago he has made the cause his defining goal, warning that official graft and extravagance threaten the very survival of the ruling Communist Party.

Sex trade

Earlier this week, an unconfirmed news report gave a tantalising glimpse of the seriousness of the project, claiming that the Chinese authorities had seized from the family and cronies of just one individual (Zhou Yongkang, the former powerful politburo member) assets worth more than $14bn.

Former Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang in Beijing on 14 March 2012. Zhou Yongkang was a powerful politburo member and head of China's Public Security Ministry in 2003

Taking down such formidable power structures carries very big risks of course.

This week another news report suggests that the former President Jiang Zemin has sent a message to the current leadership, telling them not to let the anti-corruption drive get out of hand.

Evan Osnos in the New Yorker quotes former party elder Chen Yun: "Fight corruption too little and destroy the country; fight it too much and destroy the Party."

Detained suspects gathered in a lobby during an anti-prostitution raid at a hotel in Dongguan in south China's Guangdong province on 9 February 2014 China's sex trade has become a target of the anti-corruption clampdown

The BofAML report gives a clear sense of just how entwined corruption has become with Chinese economic growth.

It is not often that you find corporate bankers discussing the macroeconomic importance of prostitution, but they do so to make a point.

This year, the report points out, the anti-corruption campaign has been stepped up a gear and has targeted the sex trade in dozens of cities.

This has had an adverse impact on some businesses in the service industries, it says.

So perhaps today, Chen Yun would add a third observation to his musings about the difficult balance to be struck when tackling corruption - never mind the Party, fighting graft too hard just might destroy China's economy too.


Piecing together the Maoming protest

People run as riot police officers (back) try to disperse protesters against a chemical plant project in Maoming, Guangdong province, on 31 March 2014 Protests first erupted on Sunday in Maoming, in Guangdong province

State media carry limited details of the protest that erupted in Guangdong province over a planned chemical plant, but the BBC's Beijing bureau has been piecing together what happened using eyewitness accounts and reports from netizens.

In the last few days, a document has been circulating on social media. It asks middle school students to agree to support a paraxylene plant soon to be built near their homes in Maoming City in southern China's Guangdong Province.

Paraxylene is a chemical used in fibres and plastic bottles, but in recent years many Chinese residents have expressed concern over its impact on people's health and the environment.

The Maoming government seemed eager to prioritise the city's development, however.

"To make Maoming a world-class chemical industrial base, the paraxylene projects should be actively and steadfastly promoted, so as to help develop our city and preserve our social stability," the document - which the BBC cannot verify - reads.

By signing the document, people agree to "never participate in any activities that go against or hinder the construction of the project".

Perhaps the Maoming government saw this coming. On Sunday, crowds of protesters turned up in front of the government office with banners calling for a halt to the chemical plant, and violence soon erupted between police and the protesters.

State media have played down the protest but accounts from eyewitnesses, plus images and video circulating on social media paint a different picture.

'Clubs and tear gas'

"Maoming people are very unhappy," said Mr Dong, a local resident who participated in the protest and called the BBC. "Maoming has always been a chemical industrial city. Sometimes walking on the streets, you can't even escape from the awful smell discharged from the chemical plants."

Residents cover their faces as they ride a motorcycle along a street after tear gas was released by police to disperse a protest against a chemical plant project in Maoming, Guangdong province, on 31 March 2014 Police used tear gas to disperse protesters

Mr Dong said that on Sunday morning, protesters started throwing mineral water bottles at the gate of the government building. A few hours later, clashes began and people were beaten by riot police with clubs.

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.

After sunset, furious crowds gathered again in front of the government building and burned what they said was the mayor's car. People also set fire to a police car and the security stand near the gate of the government building.

Mr Dong said police dispersed protesters with tear gas and pepper spray. He said one man fell off his motorbike and died while being chased by police, and an entire floor of Maoming People's Hospital was taken up by people injured in the protests.

Photos and videos Mr Dong gave to the BBC showed police, carrying long clubs and what look like tear gas guns, running after protesters. A video shared by another woman who contacted the BBC showed a woman crying near a man being beaten to the ground with riot police stepping on him.

These cannot be verified - both contacts were unable to identify the specific time and place where the footage was shot, saying they received them from friends caught up in the violence.

In the past few days, however, several more people have called the BBC from Maoming city, telling us that the Meihua area, where protests first took place, has been closed off by police. In some locations, mobile phone services have been suspended, they say.

One man who wouldn't give his name said police had been checking people's phones randomly on the streets in an attempt to delete all videos and pictures from the protests.


Plane relatives: 'Embracing the finality'

One of the relatives of Chinese passengers on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 rubs his head at a hotel in Beijing on 26 March 2014 Chinese relatives, at their hotel in Beijing, have been working together to seek more information

Twenty days ago, they were all strangers to one another. But now the relatives of those on board the missing Malaysian plane have formed a complex support network.

Thrown together by chance, the families come from every corner of China. Some sport fashionable haircuts and carry expensive mobile phones. Others travelled to Beijing from the countryside, their skin tanned brown after working outdoors.

Now they gather daily at a sprawling hotel on Beijing's east side, better known for hosting foreign tour groups than press conferences.

In the past week the families have learned to work as a group, appointing a "representative board" of approximately 10 members to speak for all the Chinese families.

At 02:00 last night, one family member posted a notice on the mobile forum the relatives use to communicate.

"I just finished a draft of our meeting today and put it online," he wrote.

A few minutes later, another family member responded to him. "Take a rest," he urged. "You did well."

Psychologist Paul Yin on the shift in attitude he is starting to see among relatives of passengers

Most of the families' online conversations focus on practicalities, discussing meeting times and strategies they can use to push the Malaysian authorities for more information.

Anyone with writing skills was urged to meet in the hotel's prayer room today to help draft appeals the families will send to Chinese leaders, begging them to help with the rescue.

'Loneliest people'

For now, the relatives refuse to publicly acknowledge the plane might have crashed, killing everyone on board. They prefer to believe the aircraft might have landed safely somewhere. A hijacking, perhaps.

Chinese relatives of the passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 hug each other as they wait for the latest information in Beijing on 20 March 2014 At the hotel in Beijing, some relatives are finding a degree of comfort in shared suffering

But in private, some are slowly and painfully embracing the idea that, after more than two weeks, MH370 is gone.

In the past day, psychologist Paul Yin has witnessed a shift in the outlook of several of the families he is counselling.

"They're embracing that finality now," he says. "The healing process can start."

Dr Yin is in contact with 20 or 30 of the families at the hotel. He is particularly worried about an elderly couple missing their children and grandchildren on board the plane.

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.

"In Chinese culture, when you get to a certain age, the meaning of life has to do with the younger generation; that's why you're here," Dr Yin said.

"And when you have lost that, then it's difficult to find a reason, a motivation to stay around," he said. "Some of the people we may need to put on suicide watch to try to protect them."

Some families found the hotel's atmosphere too stressful and left to return to their home towns.

But others have found they cannot function away from the hotel and the other families, Dr Yin says.

"We do have people who have left and came back the next day because they felt uncomfortable in their home environment."

Outsiders might believe some of the families' extreme anger towards the Malaysian search teams is irrational or unreasonable, Dr Yin says.

"But when you have gone through something that really no one else has gone through, really no one else can understand their emotions."

These people all feel like the "loneliest people on Earth", he says. "And that's why, I think, the families stay on, in this hotel, because at least here they feel like people understand them."


No 'hard politics' for Mrs Obama?

Michelle Obama calls for freedom of speech and unfettered access to the internet

As soon as US First Lady Michelle Obama and her family descended the stairs of their plane in Beijing, the online chatter began.

"Michelle's daughters are not scared of the cold," commented one Chinese internet user, noting that Mrs Obama's teenage girls were not wearing jackets.

"I want the same clothes as the president's daughters!" praised another.

Indeed, as soon as it was announced the first lady would fly to China for a week-long visit, many chose to focus on her travel wardrobe.

Major media outlets questioned how Mrs Obama's outfits would compare with her Chinese counterpart, Peng Liyuan. "It's a fashion face-off!" many proclaimed with glee.

But is the significance of this visit really just cloth-deep?

Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, shows US First Lady Michelle Obama, centre, how to hold a writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, 21 March 2014 Some observers are choosing to focus on the wardrobe of Peng Liyuan, left, and Mrs Obama
'Soft touch'

It seems so, say some critics. They're disappointed that Michelle Obama focused her trip on a feel-good topic, the benefits of education, and not on the weightier issues raised by her Democratic Party predecessor, Hillary Clinton.

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.

On a trip to China in 1995 to attend the UN Conference on Women, Mrs Clinton delivered a fiery speech that listed human rights violations around the world, including many taking place in China.

Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan are both highly-educated women who managed successful careers before their husbands became leaders. Isn't it possible for them to conduct meaningful conversations about their countries' political differences?

Of course it's possible. But any serious conversation will occur in private.

Both Beijing and Washington are eager for the Obama family's visit to proceed smoothly, without making any Clinton-esque waves. This trip is a rare chance for both countries to emphasise their mutual goodwill.

US first lady Michelle Obama, centre, her daughters from left Sasha, Malia, Michelle Obama's mother Marian Robinson, right, and Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for photograph as they visit to Forbidden City, 21 March 2014 in Beijing, China Mrs Obama, centre, is accompanied by her two daughters and her mother, right

"When briefing the media about Michelle's trip, the US side said the first lady was to steer clear of politics, human rights, trade disputes and other bilateral differences - issues better handled via official diplomacy," noted a commentary published by Xinhua, China's state news agency.

"That approach is right. The uniqueness of the role of first ladies is its soft touch and freedom from the knottiness and even ugliness of hard politics."

Some comments on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, asked whether the Chinese president's adult daughter would also meet the Obamas. But they were quickly deleted by censors.

"It is no accident that one of our first trips as a family is here to China," Mrs Obama told a smiling Mrs Peng this morning, before touring the school. "The relationships between the United States and China couldn't be more important."

The value of that relationship is underlined by the careful execution of the Obamas' week-long itinerary. This trip will yield many photo opportunities, but as promised by China's state media, the "knottiness" of hard politics will not be permitted to surface.


Cao Shunli: 'Strong' activist who died under detention

Prominent Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli stands in front of an emblem of the Chinese Communist Party during an interview in the central business district of Beijing 23 March 2013 Ms Cao was detained as she tried to fly to a UN human rights convention

Cao Shunli, 52, was dedicated to promoting human rights in China.

Last Friday it was announced that she had died in a Beijing hospital after being held at a detention facility for several months.

According to the watchdog group Human Rights in China, she had been suffering from tuberculosis, liver disease and other ailments.

Her brother told the BBC that she had been denied medical treatment until it was too late to save her. "The guards saw her getting weaker and weaker until she died," said Cao Yunli. "Her main problem was malnutrition. It was easy to fix."

Countries including the US and Britain have expressed concern over her death.

China's Foreign Ministry on Monday said that the activist's "lawful rights and interests have been protected in accordance with law", without giving further details.

Along with other activists, Ms Cao staged a two-month sit-in outside China's Foreign Ministry over the summer.

She was pressing the authorities to allow the public to contribute to a national human rights report that China submitted to the United Nations. The government did not listen.

Friends of human right activist Cao Shunli stand in front of an intensive care unit where Cao is hospitalized as they are not allowed to go inside of the unit at a hospital in Beijing in this 1 March 2014 file picture Ms Cao's relatives say she was denied medical treatment, but China says her rights were "protected"
'Many friends'

In September, she was stopped by the authorities from flying to Geneva to attend a training programme on United Nations human rights procedures. She was then detained on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

Ms Cao was clearly aware that by protesting against the government she was putting herself in danger.

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.

Her brother says she did not tell her family much about her human rights work because she "wanted to protect us."

Mr Cao says his sister became an activist after she was sacked from her job at a government ministry when protesting over work benefits.

He describes her as a "very kind and strong person" who was sometimes "too naive".

"When she saw homeless people she always gave them money," he said. "A few times she brought homeless people back to her home. I told her this wasn't safe but she didn't care.

"It was only when she passed away that I realised she had so many friends. They all told me she had helped them out."


China's Crimea dilemma

A Crimean man makes the victory sign as he celebrates in Simferopol's Lenin Square on 16 March 2014 after exit polls showed that about 93% of voters in Ukraine's Crimea region supported union with Russia Crimea's move to split from Ukraine puts China in a tricky diplomatic spot

Fireworks exploded over Crimea following an overwhelming referendum decision to split from the Ukraine.

To the east, Chinese diplomats are probably burying their heads in their hands. Crimea's lightening-quick referendum saddles China with a diplomatic dilemma.

The country's communist leaders have often repeated China's respect for the sovereignty of all countries, though Beijing is also under considerable pressure to support its ally, Moscow.

"The China-Russia relationship is in its best period in history", China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi proclaimed during China's annual parliament session this month.

Politically, the two states often work together. China has often backed Russia's stance on Syria. China and Russia also conducted joint naval drills last July, the largest joint military exercises in Chinese history.

The countries' economies are also interlinked: China is Russia's largest consumer of oil, overtaking Germany last year.

China's President Xi Jinping (L) and Premier Li Keqiang talk after the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People on 13 March 2014 in Beijing, China Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, will be travelling to western Europe at the end of March
'Resolved politically'

But the Crimeans' calls for separation challenges China's often-stated reluctance to become involved in what it perceives to be other countries' domestic affairs.

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.

Also, the way China responds to Crimean separatism highlights Beijing's refusal to recognise similar demands for political autonomy in its own backyard. If China respects Crimean demands to dictate their own political future, why not those in Tibet, Xinjiang or Taiwan?

Beijing's solution: diplomats are falling back on formal calls for dialogue and restraint.

"The Crimea issue ought to be resolved politically within a legal and orderly framework. The international community ought to play a constructive role in ameliorating the present situation," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Monday.

On Saturday, China abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution that declared the Crimean referendum to be illegal.

But China's attempts to stay at an arm's length from the Crimean issue might only last a few weeks. At the end of March, Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel throughout western Europe.

Mr Xi should begin practicing his tightrope walking skills in preparation for his trip.


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.