Welcome to my page

Shanghai Image copyright AFP
Image caption Shanghai is set to rival London and New York as the world's largest financial centre

A warm welcome to my new page here on the BBC News site. This will be the home for my thoughts on events and issues seen from here in China.

It'll also be where you can see my television reports and hear my radio stories. There will, occasionally, be stories from elsewhere in Asia too.

There are many cliches that are repeated about China. You'll hear the refrain that it is already a "superpower", it is "the workshop of the world", a "threat", China's rise is "unstoppable", China's "dominance" is just around the corner, and its ascent is happening while the 'east is rising' and the west is in 'decline.'

You'll also hear that what is just around the corner is China's "coming collapse", its incredible economic growth is ultimately "unsustainable", and when it hits the buffers the Communist Party, which has predicated its authoritarian rule on delivering ever rising living standards, is doomed.

Senior Communist Party figures sometimes say they are frustrated at "simple" foreign views of China.

In a rare television interview in Washington earlier this year Vice Premier Wang Qishan complained that much US reporting of China is biased. He said "it is not easy to really know China because China is an ancient civilization and we are of the Oriental culture."

China's rulers like to play up the fact their nation is huge, ancient and oriental, with the clear implication that it is opaque to Western minds.

Using China's history and culture as a shield to deflect criticism may be politically convenient, but it's as cliched as the simplistic views about China.

Limited press

The interview by Wang Qishan was rare.

China's Communist leaders almost never offer themselves for questioning. Their decision-making is hidden from view.

They oversee the world's biggest system of media controls and its most sophisticated internet blocks.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Beijing's Tiananmen Square is well known for being the focal point of pro-democratic protests in 1989

Control of information is one of the most important ways the Communist Party maintains control over 1.3 billion people.

While China complains foreign reporting is simple or biased it doesn't allow free access to some parts of this country, notably Tibet.

Foreign correspondents are often followed, our telephones and emails monitored, our local Chinese assistants are subject to pressure, people we interview can be harassed and intimidated by the authorities.

There are undoubted challenges understanding this vast and varied country. China is shot through with contradictions.

While its global power is growing its leaders seem ever more nervous about threats at home. They now spend more on internal security than on the military.

The repeated refrain is that China's rise will be "peaceful". But it is developing some of the world's most sophisticated weapons, making its neighbours nervous.

Environmental concerns

Almost 600 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty in the past 30 years. But that has created a society full of inequalities.

China now has over 250 billionaires, while tens of millions still subsist on around a dollar a day.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The world's spotlight was on China in 2010 when it hosted the Olympic Games

Development is hyper-fast, yet many feel aggrieved that progress has been at their expense.

Dirty industries and dangerous practices have poisoned the air, water and food supplies, but China is also spending vast sums to develop clean technologies.

China is, of course, complicated. There is so much more nuance to China and its rise than the cliches.

That is what is fascinating about it. My aim is to try to share some of this with you.

I'm sure it means my thoughts will be riddled with contradictions. You have my apologies in advance but that is the nature of the place.

Thanks for dropping by. If you like it please come again, bookmark the page or add it to your RSS reader, and get in touch if you have any comments.