Almost everyone loves a good crime story or murder mystery, and the Chinese are no exception.

Zhou Haohui, a 41-year-old school teacher, has written a series of potboilers called “Death Notice.” In fact, American readers can get a taste of the books when Doubleday publishes the first of three of the novels later this year.

Set in Chengdu, which is known as the home of the Chinese pandas, “Death Notice” follows Capt. Pei Tao as he and other detectives attempt to track down a shadowy vigilante who sends letters, or death notices, to people he believes have gotten away with crimes.

One of those is a wealthy woman who ran over a roadside vendor with her BMW, killing him. But she escapes punishment because of her husband’s political connections.

The vigilante sends her a death notice and kills her.
The novel has some Chinese twists. For example, Pei seems to be a lone wolf in the early chapters of the book but falls into line when his maverick behavior is criticized by his commanding officer. Also, the investigative task force lives together in the same dormitory, a common practice for Chinese police on an important case.

But there are some real-life crime mysteries that have confounded police in China.

In 1995, a 19-year-old chemistry major at one of China’s top universities in Beijing was poisoned, leaving her blind and mentally impaired. Investigators determined that he was poisoned with thallium, a heavy metal used in Chinese rat poison. A culprit was never charged, although the chief suspect was her roommate, a student from a well-connected family. A few years later, Chinese suspected the roommate had secretly moved to the United States. An online petition demanded that President Obama have her arrested and sent back to China to face prosecution.

www.supchina.com, a favorite website among China watchers, have pieced together some of the most famous cases.

Among the most notorious was The Black Dahlia of Nanjing, a former capital of China.

Nanjing University student Diao Aiqing, 19, was cut up into more than 2,000 pieces, which were deposited in plastic bags around the campus. Diao had been just three months into her freshman year at the Adult Education College of Nanjing University when she’d gone missing.

As supchina put it: “Police were at a loss about what had happened after Diao had angrily left her dorm, saying she was going for a walk. She’d argued with her roommates over a petty infraction that university administrators had chosen to collectively punish the dorm for, but Diao’s fellow students had no serious motive nor explanation for how or why she would meet such a gruesome demise. And the remains, such were their piecemeal state, offered few clues.”

If you’re looking for some summer reading, see more at https://supchina.com/2018/05/30/china-unsolved-the-black-dahlia-of-nanjing/
https://supchina.com/2018/05/30/china-unsolved-the-black-dahlia-of-nanjing/

Claire Chennault, someone whom few people in the United States know but should,  may be the most beloved American in China.

During World War II, Chennault headed a secret operation in Kunming called the First American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers.

By December 1941, Kunming, a vital capital of a southwest China province that borders what is now Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, had suffered attacks by Japanese bombers for almost three years. The punishing raids were part of an assault on China that the Roosevelt administration interpreted as a threat to American interests in the region.

The president, bound by the 1939 Neutrality Act, responded with a covert operation. Months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor pulled the United States into war, a group of almost 100 pilots recruited from the U.S. Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marines resigned from their services and volunteered to defend China against Japan.

Chennault, a retired U.S. Army Air Corps pilot who had become an adviser to the Chinese air force, dispatched two squadrons to Kunming, which became the group’s permanent base. When the American Volunteer Group landed, the city was still smoldering. Japanese bombers had hit Kunming that morning, and about 400 Chinese had been killed.

For the next seven months, the Flying Tigers destroyed almost 300 Japanese attacking airplanes in what was considered a miracle in China and still remembered today.

Time hailed the American pilots as “Flying Tigers.” The nickname stemmed from the flying tiger emblem that Walt Disney Studios had created for the volunteer airmen two months earlier, and it is how they have been known ever since.

In his memoir Way of a Fighter, Chennault wrote: “Japanese airmen never again tried to bomb Kunming while the AVG defended it. For many months afterwards, they sniffed about the edges of the warning net, but never ventured near Kunming.”

During a recent trip to the city, my friend Jay and I journeyed to the Flying Tigers Museum, which took a taxi ride, a bus ride, and an adventure with a gypsy cab.

There we met the curator of the museum, a 70-something woman, Mrs. Jungbo, who expressed her gratitude to us as Americans for what Chennault and his airmen accomplished so many years ago.

She opened the doors of the various rooms that housed historical documents and photographs. She insisted that we take two books about the air group and wouldn’t take a contribution.

Then she escorted us back to our hotel, which was more than an hour away and paid the gypsy taxi for the trip.

All of this because she and her family remembered the heroic deeds of Americans so long ago.

At a time when many countries don’t recall how much the United States did for them, it was a good feeling to know that some people in Kunming still remember.

Getting to see a doctor in China isn’t easy.

After I had a persistent cough, however, I had to see a physician.

Almost everyone goes to a hospital to see a doctor. That’s the way the system works.

What is interesting is how the healthcare system forces Chinese to do something they abhor: standing in lines in an orderly manner.

The Chinese are good at a lot of things but waiting in a line is not one of them. But everyone seems to accept the burden, with few people trying to skirt the queue.

After getting a number and an hour of waiting, I saw a young physician who analyzed my problems and ordered several tests, including blood work and an EKG.

Unfortunately, the hospital closes for more than two hours for lunch, and you have to wait until 2:30 p.m. to take the tests.

The EKG took a few minutes, and the results were returned immediately.

The blood tests were a different matter. They took about two hours to get the results.

After you get the results, you stand in line for another number to see another doctor.

The physician diagnosed my problem as an upper-respiratory infection and provided me with a prescription for a variety of antibiotics and cough medicine.

Unfortunately, you have to stand in another line to pay for the drugs. In fact, almost everyone has to pay up front for any procedures.

The total cost for the various procedures was about $70, which by U.S. standards is excellent. For many Chinese, however, insurance covers only about 70 percent of the total cost, and residents have to wait for reimbursement, which can be a significant hardship for many.

Although I got good care, I had two beefs. First, I couldn’t see a specific physician. Everyone sees who’s up next. Second, it took six hours from entering the hospital for me to get the medicine I needed. That’s about the same as in the United States, but I don’t have to spend all that time in the physician’s office waiting for the tests and the prescriptions in the United States.

Note: It would have been impossible to navigate the Chinese healthcare system without a translator. The same probably would be true if someone from China entered a hospital in the United States.

The adage goes that you don’t want to see sausage or laws being made.

The same can be said about reading or watching news. If you know something about a subject, you likely will be dismayed by the news.

For me, that is the case when it comes to U.S. coverage of China.

For the past three years, I have studied the language, history, economics, and politics of China. I’ve traveled throughout the country, spending months in four separate trips.

Now I have to endure sophomoric accounts about China.

Axios.com, a prominent website for Washingtonians, has been shouting from the rooftops for the past week.

Here is an excerpt: “Trump showed you can turn China into a villain on trade. But a smart politician could turn China into a unifying villain on virtually every topic — a reason to move fast and together on infrastructure, immigration, regulations, space, robotics, 5G, and next-gen education.”

Turning China into a unifying villain? That sounds like something straight out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook–not the left–when dealing with the former Soviet Union. More important, China’s politicians are a lot smarter than the Kremlin geriatric ward of the 1970s and 1980s.

Axios and other media outlets often miss the point.

What China has most of all is patience.

For example, the country has committed itself to a massive public transportation system. In a recent visit to Luoyang, a “small” city of two million people, I saw the project of building four subway lines at a cost of billions of dollars. The roads of the city have come to a virtual standstill during rush hours because every major road is a building site. The project began in 2016 and won’t be finished for another year at the earliest. In the past decade, China has built nearly 2,000 miles of subway lines–more than the systems in the United States and Great Britain combined.

Drivers may honk their horns in occasional frustration, but nearly everyone I talked to understands that the public transportation system will cut traffic and lure many tourists to this attractive town, which boasts a number of top-flight locales, such as the Longmen Grottoes and the Shaolin Temple. Simply put, the locals are proud! Here is some background information about the city’s building plans: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-09/19/c_136621169.htm

Remember the massive infrastructure program President Trump touted during the campaign? It remains mired in Congress because the Democrats apparently don’t want to give Trump a win before the midterm elections.

Moreover, just imagine what would happen in a major U.S. city if there was a plan to build a massive transit system. Protesters would claim the digging was creating a major environmental hazard or desecrating some forgotten trove of bones. Road rage would soar. Cost overruns and corruption would be rampant.

One of the major differences between the populations of the United States and China is patience. At the end of a major endeavor, most Chinese realize that something better will happen.

That’s one of the major weapons China has over the United States—one that most journalists don’t understand.

In a rather neck-snapping series of pronouncements, Marxism has moved to center stage in China.

On the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a high-profile campaign lauding the importance of the German philosopher.

Communist Party newspapers hailed Das Kapital, Marx’s critique of capitalism, as “holy scripture.” State television aired a prime-time documentary and a talk show to celebrate the “greatest thinker of modern times.”

DaTech3.jpgIn a country that has used capitalism in theory to create an economic juggernaut, China was thought in recent years to have become socialist in name only, with little thought given to Marx.

The Wall Street Journal argued that the pro-Marx campaign may be an attempt “to persuade Chinese to keep faith with a Communist government that he [President Xi] says has employed Marx’s ideas to make China prosperous and powerful.”

Marx “lived honestly and simply, and valued affection and comradeship,” Xi said recently in a speech at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. He ordered party members to master Marxist theory as a “way of life” and “spiritual pursuit.”

“The posthumous cult of Marx these days serves to legitimize the present leadership and whatever it claims Marxism to be,” Daniel Leese, a China historian at Germany’s University of Freiburg, told The Journal. “And only Xi Jinping is said to be capable of synthesizing classical doctrine with present realities.”

At the party congress in October Xi declared a “new era” in Chinese socialism, a move seen as his bid to reshape the development model laid down 40 years ago by reformist leader Deng Xiaoping.

Chinese officials have long grappled with the contradictions of their state capitalism and professed Marxism. In the early 1990s, party officials and academics debated alternative political models and contemplated renaming the Communist Party to better reflect its tilt toward state-led capitalism.

The party didn’t change its name but has welcomed capitalists to join its ranks, experimented with political reforms to professionalize the civil service and allowed an expansion of civil society.

But President Xi seems determined to bring the party and the country back to its Communist roots. The campaign started in late April when Xi led his party’s governing Politburo in a study session focused on The Communist Manifesto, the 1848 political pamphlet written by Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels.

A propaganda blitz ensued. State media played up Marx’s purported contributions to China’s present-day prosperity. While the West descended into “a new era of uncertainty and instability,” China’s experience “eloquently proved that Marxism…has opened a pathway to the truth,” the party’s flagship newspaper, People’s Daily, said in a front-page commentary.

Peking University hosted a “World Congress on Marxism,” gathering more than 120 scholars from some 30 countries to discuss “Marxism and the Human Community of Shared Destiny”—a reference to Xi’s signature diplomatic slogan.

To reach younger Chinese, propaganda officials produced videos and comics that focused on Marx’s personality and appearance.

The party’s flagship theoretical journal, Seeking Truth, produced a short video titled “10 Little-Known Facts About Marx.” The video highlighted Marx’s Jewish background and his zodiac sign, Taurus, and explained that his iconic beard was fashionable for his time.

It’s unclear whether this fascination will have a lasting impact on China, but President Xi’s interest in reviving Marx seems more than a passing fancy.

It’s difficult to find anyone in Chengdu, a laidback city in central China known for its pandas and spicy food, who doesn’t know where they were at 2:28 p.m. on May 12, 2008.

That’s when a massive earthquake, one of the worst ever in China, left 87,000 people dead, 370,000 injured, and five million people homeless in the Sichuan Province around Chengdu.

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The earthquake happened during the school day. Substandard construction of the buildings resulted in thousands of children dying in what become known as “tofu schools” because they were so unstable and toppled during the earthquake.

The mountains around Sichuan rise more than three miles above the neighboring plains and about 40 miles from Chengdu. They form a wrinkle in the earth’s crust caused by the Indian and Eurasian plates pushing against each other. They’re the same forces that formed the Himalayas.

The towns most affected by 2008’s magnitude-8 earthquake—such as Beichuan, Wenchuan, and Mianzhu—were built near the Longmenshan Fault, a tear in the earth’s crust and a hotspot for quakes. The 2008 event shook buildings nearby for nearly two minutes and was felt 800 miles away in Beijing.

The disaster happened just as China was ready to host the Summer Olympics, a sort of coming-out party for the country.

Over the past decade, China worked to rebuild the homes and lives of those affected. Shiny new roads and sturdy buildings replaced the rubble. Displaced families found new homes. Bereaved parents gave birth to thousands of so-called “replacement children.” Earthquake warning systems were put in place throughout the country.

A nationwide initiative was launched to ensure safe primary and middle schools, injecting about $60 billion toward the goal of making schools safe.

Nevertheless, critics say the Chinese government, which they believe should be held accountable for the inferior buildings, have rejected fair compensation for those affected by the tragedy.

The misuse of money also created a huge credibility problem for the government. At one point, a Chinese celebrity’s photos flaunting her lavish lifestyle on social media became the catalyst for exposing the Red Cross Society’s mismanagement of the Sichuan relief funds.

The woman claimed to be working for a Red Cross subsidiary even as she regularly shared pictures of herself posing with luxury cars at upscale resorts and restaurants. After angry online readers dug into her personal life, it emerged that her boyfriend was a shareholder of an investment-holding group affiliated with the Red Cross.

Ultimately, a variety of people were convicted of embezzling funds. As a result of this scandal and others, Chinese remain reluctant to donate funds to charities.

Ten years later, the memories of what happened still loom large. A government desire to declare “thanksgiving” for what happened after the earthquake created a stir on the internet. Many wanted the victims to be remembered rather than what the government did after the earthquake. See DaTimes at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/10/world/asia/china-sichuan-earthquake-thanksgiving.html

For better and worse, the earthquake changed the region and the country and continues to do so even today.

Mount Everest. The name evokes thoughts of beauty, cold, danger, and many others.

I’m not entirely certain why I decided to trek to the base camp of Mount Everest. Maybe because it was there. Maybe because it scared me to try.

DaTech3.jpgMy journey hardly qualifies as dangerous, but it did involve nearly 40 hours of driving round trip from Lhasa, Tibet, along back-breaking roads. I subjected myself to altitude sickness, which causes the worst headaches almost anyone could ever have. Simple movements like walking over a stone roadway take long and calculated planning because the mind doesn’t snap quickly into even low gear.

The purpose may have been to engage in the journey. Mine included a band of two other Americans, who dabbled in real estate in Indianapolis; an Italian woman who sold insurance in Dubai; a South African man who built sports stadiums in the United States; two Malaysian businessmen; and a Vietnamese couple who worked with computers.

I can rarely talk openly in the United States about my support for Donald Trump, but the Indianapolis couple proudly announced their unconditional praise for the president. Talk about fellow travelers! One of the Malaysian businessmen couldn’t understand why the U.S. media spent so much time tearing down Trump.

The Vietnamese couple, who were in their 20s, wanted to hear about the war from an American perspective. Both were Catholics; she even referred to Ho Chi Minh City as “Saigon.”

The trip to Mount Everest starts with some training in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and home of the Dalai Lama. The Buddhist monks there decided long ago that their monasteries and temples should be built mostly on the top of hills to be closer to heaven. That means that one has to climb hundreds of stairs in a single day in what is generally considered the top of the world, with limited oxygen levels and occasional dizziness.

After two to three days, we start the journey to Mount Everest, climbing into even thinner atmospheric conditions.

The road from Lhasa to the Mount Everest base camp takes about 20 hours and is broken up into two days, with a stop at Xigaze, which is the second-largest city in Tibet.

On the second day, we arrive at the base camp just before sunset. At just about 19,000 feet above sea level, or nearly four times the elevation of Denver, Colorado, I have to think carefully about simple actions like putting one foot in front of the other.

According to history.com, almost no wildlife is found near here, the point at which permanent snow prevents even the hardiest lichens and mosses from growing.

Two of our group feel ill. Ironically, younger people tend to get sick more frequently than older people. At 66, I am one of the few seniors among roughly 200 who have made the trek.

The view is spectacular as the summit of Mount Everest shoots up to more than 29,000 feet above sea level.

The tent is much larger than I expected, accommodating the six remaining members of our crew. Four others had gone on a separate caravan to Nepal.

The tent is decorated in Tibetan colors, with a small fire of yak dung to keep up warm in the 20-degree weather. I didn’t sleep particularly well. But my insomnia was rewarded by a wonderful view of Everest during a full moon.

The unforgettable journey, including the remarkable band of companions, was well worth it!

A young Vietnamese man pulled out his phone and asked me if I knew about what was happening in Korea.

He passed the device to me where the presidents of North Korea and South Korea were meeting on the border between the two countries.

“I feel a lot safer now than I did a few minutes ago,” he told me in Lhasa, Tibet.

DaTech3.jpgFor many people, North Korean President Kim Jong-un is like the crazy uncle who you only see during the holidays. But many like the young Vietnamese man, Kim has loomed over the safety of the region.

Ironically, the Chinese press has spent little time talking about what other countries have labelled an important breakthrough.

In fact, Xinhua, the official government news agency, put the conclusion of a regional government conference as the lead story, with Korea down the list of news events. That story reported on the elimination of loudspeakers spouting propaganda from South Korea along the border, with a note that the Chinese foreign minister plans a visit to North Korea.

More important, The South China Morning Post, a somewhat independent news organization in Hong Kong, posed an awkward headline: “China could be excluded from peace talks.”

Zhang Liangui, a specialist on Korea at the Central Party School, which trains Communist Party officials, said Beijing’s policy on North Korea in recent years could see it excluded from the peace process.

“The stance of China’s foreign ministry has been that [the North Korean nuclear crisis] is none of its business and that North Korea and the U.S. should be communicating directly,” Zhang told The Post. “So now things are out of China’s control, and it is no surprise that it is being excluded from the discussions.”

A senior diplomat in Seoul told The South China Morning Post that both Koreas wanted to dilute Beijing’s influence over the peninsula.

It’s rather ironic since the Korean War was essentially a battle between China and the United States for influence in the region. Moreover, China was a signatory to the armistice that ended the war in 1953.

Whatever the case, those who live near North Korea breathed a significant sigh of relief when the two sides of the Korean conflict met for the first time in more than a decade.

At St. Francis Catholic Church in Xi’an, China, the congregation flowed out into the courtyard for Sunday Mass. Churchgoers include many young parents with children.

The service lasted more than 90 minutes, including a sermon that ebbed and flowed for nearly 20 minutes. Each section of the church has one of the Ten Commandments written in both Mandarin and English for people to ponder during Mass.

The scene was much the same the following week at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Beijing, where the Communist Party allows only state-approved places of worship and the Vatican has withheld diplomatic ties since 1949 when the party came to power.

DaTech3.jpgSimply put, the Catholic Church has endured subjugation and hardship under an atheistic government. It is difficult to imagine how Catholics have survived the vagaries of Communism, imprisonment, economic retribution, and political intolerance. But the church has served as a beacon of resistance for decades.

The status of the Catholic Church may soon change. But it is unclear whether a compromise between the Chinese government and the Vatican will make things better.

The Chinese government and the church have been engaged in discussions to make relations better. In an usual move, the government-controlled press recently published a photograph of Pope Francis meeting Chinese pilgrims in Rome.

Catholics can only legally practice their religion in mainland China in state-sanctioned churches, which are not overseen by the Vatican. Under the current system, bishops are appointed by Beijing rather than the Pope.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association was established in 1957 to ensure state-sanctioned churches toe the Communist Party line, with the state-controlled Bishop Conference of the Catholic Church in China selecting and appointing its clerics.
Most appointments have quietly received recognition from the Vatican over the years, but the Holy See has intervened and excommunicated seven who it deemed to be “illicitly ordained.”

The appointment of bishops has been one of the main sources of contention between the two sides, with Beijing saying it must have a full say in the decisions made by the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Church.

Other issues remain, including whether about 30 “underground” Catholic bishops already approved by the Vatican, but not sanctioned by Beijing, will be formally recognized by the Chinese authorities.

In an interview with The South China Morning Post, Tou Chou-seng, an academic at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan and the island’s former ambassador to the Vatican, said Beijing and the Holy See hoped a compromise over bishop appointments would ultimately lead to a normalization in their relationship. But there was still a long way to go.

“Resolving conflicts over bishop ordination is the first step, but it doesn’t put things right once and for all,” Tou said.“Historically it’s always been a long walk from reaching a bishop ordination agreement to ties being formalized,” he said.

Other Communist countries have tried to establish relations with the Vatican. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited the Holy See in 1989 vowing to build full diplomatic ties, but it took a decade for that to happen.

Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung saw former Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, expressing Hanoi’s wish to build full ties with the Vatican, but they have yet to be established.

He added that increased numbers of underground Catholic churches in China would be more, but a critical indication of the success of any deal was whether it would lead to greater religious freedom.

“If they are continuously treated unfairly after going public, the Holy See would certainly feel apologetic to the underground church,” Tou said.

Whatever happens, it is heartening to see just how strong the Catholic Church is in China despite the numerous difficulties the faithful have faced over the years.

Did Chinese President Xi Jinping just blink in trade war stand-off with US?

That exact headline comes from The South China Morning Post, a leading news organization in Hong Kong.

I guess the U.S. media mavens who screamed about the dumb move Trump made against China had already turned their attention to the next round of bashing the president.

Why analyze some important information when you can focus on the salacious statements of a hooker and an FBI hack?

As The South China Morning Post reports:

In his keynote speech at the [economic meeting of the] Boao Forum for Asia—his first to a foreign audience since starting a second term as leader—Xi pledged to open China’s doors ‘wider and wider’ to the world.

The most notable pledges were the easing of foreign ownership limits in the financial and automotive industries, lower tariffs on imported cars, and improved protection for intellectual property rights.

The next day, China’s central bank unveiled a slew of measures to open up its financial sector to foreign investment, including the removal of foreign ownership caps for banks, as Beijing tried to paint itself as an open economy and a key backer of free trade and globalization.

At the beginning of a two-month stay in China, I visited Chengdu, which most people know as the home base for many of the cuddly pandas. But the city is also the home of one of the largest plants that produces Apple products. It is a massive site, where an estimated 100,000 people work.

The plant is owned and operated by Foxconn, which is the largest, private employer in mainland China with about 1.4 million workers. Ironically, the company is actually based in Taiwan, but it is so good at what it does that the mainland government tends to look the other way.

For more on FoxConn, see https://www.recode.net/2015/4/6/11561130/where-apple-products-are-born-a-rare-glimpse-inside-foxconns-factory

But consider this: What if President Trump decided to hit the Apple and FoxConn operations—as well as others like them that ship electronic goods the United States—with significant tariffs? At least, President Xi may not rule out that possibility.

Even though American consumers may complain about price increases on myriad products, the Chinese president knows a trade war would hurt his country a lot more than the United States.

A final note: My complaints about Facebook have nothing to do with privacy. My bone to pick is how the company has ruined any recognition of proper punctuation.

FB puts a period outside of every quotation mark, such as “I like you”.

That’s all right if you’re in the United Kingdom but not in the United States.

I spend countless hours correcting students’ misuse of punctuation in my classes, which is a product of a poor educational system that fails to recognize rules of a grammar and Facebook. Just sayin’.