The politics of toad kings and fairy tales in China

  • 19 August 2016
  • From the section China
Jiang Zemin Matryshyoka dolls Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption China's leaders: From Sun Yat-sen to Jiang Zemin

Old politicians never die in China.

They may "retire" but in the godfather realm of China's Communist Party elite, some never give up influence. And in a political culture which allows the public no direct criticism of those in power, expressing nostalgia for the past is the safest way of attacking the present. So dead or alive, these political ghosts can haunt their successors and present a potent threat.

This week's extraordinary display of so-called "toad worship" is just such a challenge. No wonder the censorship machine is working overtime to crush it.

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption "Happy Birthday Uncle Toad": Many on Chinese social media led tributes to the former leader as he turned 90

"Toad worship" is the cult of former President Jiang Zemin. The worshippers are often young people who weren't even born when Mr Jiang became China's leader in 1989.

Their sharing of his quotes, photos and videos started as mockery. His heavy black-rimmed glasses, huge mouth and high-waisted trousers, make him a gratifyingly amphibian figure of fun.

Image copyright Weibo
Image caption Many on social media made the fond comparison

Read full article The politics of toad kings and fairy tales in China

Rio 2016: Does the Chinese public have a victim narrative?

  • 12 August 2016
  • From the section China
China's team celebrate their silver medal on the podium after the womens team epee fencing event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption According to one poll, more than 80% of the Chinese public think Rio's judges have a sinister bias against China

One week into the Olympic Games and Chinese patriots have a lot of complaints.

A brief shortlist might start with judges biased against Chinese athletes. In all Rio venues, the points of the gold stars on the Chinese national flag were misaligned.

Read full article Rio 2016: Does the Chinese public have a victim narrative?

China show trials: Victory for politics of fear in Tianjin?

  • 5 August 2016
  • From the section China
A wide shot of the Number 2 Intermediate People's Court in Tianjin on 4 August 2016. Image copyright AFP
Image caption China's constitution, in theory, grants its citizens legal protections

History is littered with tragedies in which individuals or nations betray their long-term interests for short-term advantage. This week's show trials in China may be just such a case.

In a world full of danger and drama, the Tianjin trials have won little attention at home or abroad.

Read full article China show trials: Victory for politics of fear in Tianjin?

Could Brexit mean a new UK-China relationship?

  • 4 August 2016
  • From the section China
Afternoon tea

Brexit will mean Britain having to find new economic partners, so what are the prospects of a stronger trading relationship with China?

Afternoon tea in the Shanghai Peninsula Hotel is reminiscent of the days when the British ran the world's greatest trading empire.

Read full article Could Brexit mean a new UK-China relationship?

Hinkley Point: Theresa May's China calculus

  • 31 July 2016
  • From the section World
Artist's impression of Hinkley Point C plant Image copyright PA
Image caption No other major developed economy has invited Chinese involvement in a key nuclear energy project

In explaining its shock decision to delay the deal on Hinkley Point, the government said it needed time to consider all components of the deal, but speculation is growing that China questions may be at the heart of the reassessment.

Under the existing terms of the £18bn project, a Chinese company is to finance a third of the new Hinkley Point C reactors and may later build a Chinese-designed nuclear power station in Essex.

Read full article Hinkley Point: Theresa May's China calculus

Is China the hitch for the Hinkley Point deal?

  • 29 July 2016
  • From the section World
Philip Hammond with Chinese Vice Premier Mai Kai on July 22 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Diplomatic ties: UK Chancellor Philip Hammond on his recent visit to China with Vice Premier, Ma Kai

Does Hinkley Point have a national security hitch?

While others may be professing astonishment over the British government decision to delay this deal on the eve of signing, the Chinese stakeholders are too polite - for now.

Read full article Is China the hitch for the Hinkley Point deal?

China's 'new normal' - a bit too much like the old normal

  • 29 December 2015
  • From the section China
Xu Ming in 17 January 2002 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Xu Ming, seen here in 2002, was once a business ally of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai

The ashes were delivered within two days of the death. No autopsy for the 44-year-old tycoon whose flamboyant career had culminated in a spectacular political scandal and corruption trial.

But Xu Ming was due for release within months and he had recently told friends he was in excellent condition. So when the man who knew so much about the murky connections between China's political and business elite suddenly died of a reported heart attack on a prison toilet, rumours swirled.

Read full article China's 'new normal' - a bit too much like the old normal

China power audit: The hard and the soft

  • 22 December 2015
  • From the section China
President Xi Image copyright EPA
Image caption President Xi addressed the UN on women's rights

It was a typically gritty day of toxic air and toxic politics in the capital of the world's rising power. Plainclothes police were shoving protesters and journalists outside the courthouse; inside a lawyer was on trial.

Only hours earlier, Chinese negotiators had basked in praise from an unlikely quarter.

Read full article China power audit: The hard and the soft

China's about-face on climate change

  • 30 November 2015
  • From the section China
Media captionChina builds the world's largest solar power farm

With a hard pledge on peaking carbon emissions and with ever more ambitious targets on installing renewables, China has become one of the countries to watch at this week's Paris conference.

The Qinghai Tibet plateau is the heart and lungs of Asia. Here, the continent's weather is made and its great rivers are born.

Read full article China's about-face on climate change

China one-child policy: U-turn may not bring prosperity

  • 29 October 2015
  • From the section China
A combination of pictures show a person born in each year of China's one child policy. Image copyright Reuters

For more than three decades, the Chinese government has taken control of the most intimate details and choices in people's lives.

It has issued and withheld baby permits, policed menstrual cycles and ordered abortions.

Read full article China one-child policy: U-turn may not bring prosperity