China Week: Bicycles, boredom and TV mix-ups

China's week in news is never a simple zero-sum game of winners and losers. But it is not a monolith either. So indulge me just this once with a quick "who's up, who's down" assessment.

Tweet @BBCCarrie if you think I've got it wrong.


Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Li spoke about reform at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin on Thursday

Prime Minister Li Keqiang… if only due to bruised vanity.

A significant part of the audience walked out before the end of his session at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin. Mr Li had been reassuring business leaders that growth was on track and that foreign companies were not being singled out in China's anti-monopoly crackdown. So why did some delegates vote with their feet?

I was not there but some who were say boredom and hunger played their part. The boredom may have been self-inflicted, however, with delegates complaining of sycophancy in the question and answer session after the premier's address. This resonates. I was in the audience when Li Keqiang gave a speech in London in May and it did occur to me then that grovelling questions never help a speaker give their best.

A politician unchallenged on a public platform is like Usain Bolt running the 400m against a hamster. Everyone loses the will to live.


Image copyright AFP
Image caption Condoleezza Rice (L) and Susan Rice (R) got CCTV in a muddle
Image copyright CCTV
Image caption The wrong Rice - Condoleezza Rice's picture on the original CCTV report

China's proud state broadcaster CCTV confused US President Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice with a previous incarnation, Condoleeza Rice, (who served in the same post under his predecessor). "Serving up the wrong rice," as some viewers joked.

It's embarrassing but CCTV has my sympathy as this kind of blooper can happen in any busy newsroom. And getting beyond the joke to the serious part of the story, Ms Rice found her hosts deaf to suggestions that China should join a broad coalition against the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.

President Obama had nettled Beijing last month by saying China had been a global "free rider" for 30 years. And this week the People's Daily, mouthpiece of the Chinese government, shot back that the US should think about how long it was a free rider itself before applying the label to others.

In case its readers were in any doubt about how long, the People's Daily helped them out by explaining that the US became the most powerful nation in the world by being a "free rider" in the First and Second World Wars.

Down (but only in a submariner sense)

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Experts said Vietnam could soon have a credible naval deterrent to China in the form of Russian submarines

Vietnam has reportedly taken possession of two advanced Russian submarines.

A third will follow in November, and three more within two years.

Vietnamese crews are reported to be training in the seas off St Petersburg, rehearsing "sea denial" tactics which allow a weaker power to harry a stronger rival. Which is where this becomes a China story, given competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Asymmetric warfare is, of course, a game the Vietnamese understand well from history ancient and modern. Now they're taking the game from land to sea.

A downer for all of us

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A Chinese woman holds up an anti-Japanese sign during a protest

A glum opinion poll suggests more than half of Chinese and nearly a third of Japanese now believe their nations will end up going to war against each other before the end of the decade.

The Genron/China Daily numbers were 53% and 29% respectively. A record 93% of Japanese said they had a negative view of China, and the percentage of Chinese who saw Japan unfavourably is not much better at 87%.

This really does make me feel down so let's move on to something….


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Could bicycles make a comeback under a clampdown on graft?

The bicycle.

In Beijing, the ever-tighter anti-corruption campaign means officials are having to ride bikes again.

And while we're on the topic of Xi Jinping's anti-graft crackdown, I'm guessing the hotline for reporting mooncake abuse may have helped cut the number of cakes stuffed with cash or jewels rather than lotus paste.

Up, down… or simply through the looking glass?

Image copyright AP
Image caption China has told the Dalai Lama it will decide on his reincarnation

A spokeswoman for the Chinese government reprimanded the Dalai Lama this week for suggesting in a newspaper interview that he might not be reincarnated when he dies.

Despite representing a government which is communist and atheist, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted:

"The title of Dalai Lama is conferred by the central government, which has hundreds of years of history. The 14th Dalai Lama has ulterior motives, and is seeking to distort and negate history, which is damaging to the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism."

Reincarnation politics has a long history, and given that Tibet's exiled spiritual leader will be 80 next year and is worrying about how to avoid being succeeded by a Chinese puppet when he dies, reincarnation politics may also have a febrile future.

So while we're ending on the risers, watch the temperature on this one soar as that 80th birthday approaches.

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