TIME China

Next Up, Microsoft. McDonald’s, Apple, Starbucks, Already Know China’s Wrath

A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing
A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing, June 2, 2010. China Daily—Reuters

Beijing appears to be reciprocating Washington's mistrust of Chinese firms

Is no famous foreign brand safe in China? On July 28, four Microsoft offices across China received an alarming set of unscheduled visitors: Chinese government investigators who appeared to be looking into whether the American software firm had violated Beijing’s controversial anti-trust laws, according to Chinese media. A few days before, it was McDonald’s and KFC’s turn in the spotlight. The U.S. fast-food companies’ supply chains were roiled when one of their major meat suppliers in China was accused of using expired meat. In May, the Western pharmaceutical industry came under scrutiny when GlaxoSmithKline was charged with running an extensive network of corruption in China to push their drugs into the market.

Foreign coffee and cars have also been targeted, with Chinese state media launching shaming campaigns against Starbucks and Jaguar for setting higher prices in China than in much of the West. Official Chinese press have even accused U.S. tech firms like Cisco of possibly being coopted by U.S. intelligence agencies intent on tracking Chinese customers.

Not even Apple — which assembles most of its gadgets in China through subcontractors and counts on voracious Chinese demand for its high-end products — is safe from the mud-slinging. On July 28, China’s official Xinhua news agency referred to “Apple’s immorality” in selling devices through which consumers’ personal data could potentially be mined. Earlier this month, state broadcaster CCTV had deemed the iPhone a conceivable “national security concern” for China.

Nor is this the first time this year that Microsoft has been fingered in China. In May, Beijing began forbidding central-government purchases of the company’s newest Windows 8 computer software because of potential security concerns. As for the Monday surprise visits by officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Microsoft isn’t saying much. Beyond a standard issuance from a company spokesperson — “We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have” — the American software giant declined to comment further to TIME, citing the “ongoing and sensitive nature of this situation.”

The pace does feel like it has quickened in terms of foreign firms being accused by Chinese officialdom of a slew of misdeeds: monopolistic behavior such as price-fixing, cavalier treatment of Chinese consumers and general financial misconduct. Still, some Chinese analysts contend that plenty of domestic firms are being pursued by local regulators, too. Certainly, Chinese consumer confidence has waned recently, with a steady supply of exposés of shoddy, unsafe or fake products. One local survey found that 80% of more than 3,000 people polled considered China’s food safety wanting.

Mao Qiying, an IT analyst with a large following on Chinese social media, also contends that Chinese tech firms like Huawei and ZTE have a tough time entering the U.S. market because of Washington’s concerns that these Chinese firms could be coerced into doing Beijing’s bidding. “The Chinese government,” Mao says, “is more lenient towards Western tech giants compared with the American government’s attitude toward Chinese tech companies.” In May, the U.S. charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American computer networks from across the Pacific Ocean.

Chinese officials have accused the U.S. of national-security hypocrisy in the post-Edward Snowden era. As for the Chinese consumers themselves, even Xinhua, which on Monday linked tech companies like Apple to a “U.S. surveillance addiction,” conceded that commonly used anti-virus software employs similar technology to the tracking systems in Apple devices. Fears over an American invasion of Chinese privacy haven’t dampened iPhone sales in China either. Last quarter, Apple enjoyed a 28% hike in greater China revenues.

Meanwhile, on Chinese social media, some users were scathing of Beijing’s attempts to censure foreigners for potential antitrust violations. On July 28, China announced that by the end of 2013, the nation boasted 155,000 state-owned enterprises with total assets amounting to $17 trillion. “Will anyone investigate the government’s monopoly on the water, power or petroleum industry?” wrote one microblog wag.

with reporting by Gu Yongqiang/Beijing

TIME China

Think Your Flight Delays Are Bad? Try China, Where the Military Hogs Most of the Skies

Airplanes At The Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Air China aircraft stand parked at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China, on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Even in this era of jam-packed commercial air travel, the armed forces still control most of China’s airspace

Last week, I flew in and out of Shanghai over two days. Both flights idled on the tarmac for more than one hour. I felt rather lucky.

Airport delays are such a constant in China that a mere one-hour wait is practically a gift from the aviation gods. International flight monitors put Chinese cities at the bottom of a list of on-time takeoffs at major airports worldwide. On July 21, nearly 200 flights leaving from Shanghai’s two airports, Pudong and Hongqiao, were cancelled. Around 120 more planes were delayed from takeoff by two or more hours.

The same day, a notice attributed by state media to the Civil Aviation Administration of China warned that a dozen airports in eastern Chinese metropolises would suffer even more serious delays through August 15. The reason? An unnamed “other user” would be hogging the skies. That aerial monopolist is thought to be the Chinese military, which even in this era of jam-packed commercial air travel still controls most of China’s airspace. On July 23, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, tweeted a picture of dejected looking passengers camped out on the floor of the airport in Dalian, a port city in northeastern China. The cause, according to the paper, was mass cancellations stemming from “planned military activity.”

On Monday, Jiao Xuening, a resident from the southern city of Shenzhen, described on his Chinese social-media account how he had been stranded at a Shanghai airport for almost six hours. “At first I was disgruntled,” he wrote. But then he listened to a stream of flight cancellations over the loudspeaker. “I was told my flight was merely four hours delayed and was not cancelled, so I became happy again.”

On July 22, the Shanghai Daily, the state-controlled newspaper in China’s most populous city noted that Pudong airport’s outbound on-time rate had nosedived to 26% the day before. “Shanghai’s air traffic control authority has refused to explain” the Shanghai Daily complained of the delays. “With the authority remaining tight-lipped about the reasons behind this, speculation has been rife on the Internet.”

Such conjecture, though, can be dangerous. Earlier this month, some people had speculated online that a dragnet around a “high-ranking official” had perhaps prompted the grounding of planes in Shanghai. The Chinese authorities didn’t take kindly to such gossip; nearly 40 “rumor-mongers” were detained or “held” for wondering online about the flight cancellations, according to the Shanghai Daily.

The chronic flight delays are a huge hassle. But the opacity surrounding their circumstances also speaks to the inefficiencies of doing business in China. In the first half of 2014, non-financial foreign direct investment in China dipped, compared to the same period the year before. Government paranoia about social instability is such that Facebook, Google and Twitter are inaccessible within mainland China. Major foreign news websites are also blocked by censors. Basic things overseas businessmen expect to do can’t be done.

Then there’s the suffocating air pollution, which has dissuaded some expatriates from traveling to China, much less living here. Now, with the routine airport delays, it’s no longer practical to, say, fly from Hong Kong to Shanghai in the morning, attend a few meetings and then return to Hong Kong by the evening. A Beijing-Shanghai-Beijing run makes more sense by the punctual high-speed train service. But that still means committing around 10 hours to traveling the rails.

In the meantime, customer-service representatives for Chinese airlines are trying to cope as best they can. Political sensitivities are such that the carriers cannot complain about the Chinese air force’s monopoly of the skies. Employees for Air China and China Southern said they were only informed about the continuing air congestion the day after the latest round of delays began on July 21. Air China says it will send text messages to passengers’ cellphones to update them on the latest scheduling. “Most of our customers understand the situation,” said an Air China customer-service staffer in a somewhat beleaguered tone. To cope with the long waits in airports notorious for meager services, the statement attributed to the Civil Aviation Administration of China dispensed further advice: “Flight passengers please bring with you food and water.”

with reporting by Gu Yongqiang/Beijing

TIME China

China’s Campaign Against Corruption Is Huge. Will It Do Any Good?

President Xi has netted more “tigers," or top-level officials, than his predecessor Hu Jintao did during his entire decade in power

Suppose a corruption investigation in the U.S. netted the mayors of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, half a dozen vice governors or mayors, the nation’s deputy top cop, a firebrand TV pundit, state-broadcaster executives, a general who was once one of the nation’s highest-ranking men in green, plus a bunch of oilmen and megarich tycoons. That’s essentially what’s happening in China today. And we have no idea when the storm of investigations will stop.

Around 35 provincial- or ministerial-level officials have been implicated in an antigraft campaign since November 2012, when Xi Jinping took over as leader of China, according to the Global Times, a Communist Party–affiliated newspaper. Chinese economist and commentator He Qinglian, who now lives in the U.S., writes that in just two years, President Xi has netted more “tigers” — as he has labeled top-level officials — than his predecessor Hu Jintao did during his entire decade in power.

Here’s a sampling of those fingered in corruption investigations over the past few days, some of whom now face prosecution: the former head of the state-asset regulator, the ex-deputy general manager of a state oil firm, the former Vice Minister of Public Security, the top Communist Party official in the southwestern city of Kunming, a top political adviser from Anhui province and three senior cadres from the top central prosecutor’s office. Oh, also China’s version of Sean Hannity. In the first five months of this year, more than 60,000 Chinese government officials — some “tigers” but mostly lower-ranking “flies” — were disciplined, according to state media.

Many of the highest-ranking officials who have been felled by Xi’s antigraft warriors have one thing in common: they were linked to retired security czar Zhou Yongkang, whose own fate is the subject of intense rumor. (Most of his close family is believed to be under detention.) As he ascended to the highest rung of the Chinese Communist Party, the then nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou built a trio of power bases: the state-owned oil industry, the southwestern province of Sichuan and the Ministry of Public Security. A high concentration of the recently disgraced hail from precisely these three sections of society.

Corruption, Xi has thundered in public speeches, poses an existential threat for the Communist Party. But for the anticorruption campaign to really convince the populace, its shackles will have to extend beyond Zhou’s many tentacles of power. After all, Zhou, along with jailed former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, represented a powerful faction within the Communist Party — one that appears to have stood in political opposition to China’s new leader.

The machinations of Zhou and his underlings may prove to be particularly crooked. But economist He writes that “corruption has become a part of the national character of the Chinese.” In other words, Zhou and his men aren’t the only suspicious folks in town. Will any of Xi’s acolytes also fall victim to the anticorruption crusade?

Meanwhile, Xi’s other notable campaign since coming to power has been the detention or intimidation of hundreds of dissidents, lawyers, writers and activists. Some of those now behind bars campaigned against the shady practices that have allowed graft to thrive in China. Government officials, for instance, are still not obliged to disclose their assets, making it much easier to obscure any ill-gotten wealth.

Still, on July 14 and 15, Chinese news media reported that the nation’s anticorruption agents are combing through the personal data of bureaucrats from several provinces and megacities, to see who might have family — and, by extension, bank accounts — overseas. These so-called naked officials, whose assets and relatives have been stripped away to a foreign country, are considered greater flight risks if the antigraft watchdog comes sniffing. Already, Xi has gone after more corrupt top cadres than his predecessor ever did. Perhaps the dismantling of Zhou’s former power bases is just the beginning of an even greater purge.

TIME China

Weirdly, Chinese Journalists Can No Longer Publish ‘Unpublicized Information’

General Scenes as The Boao Forum Opens
Reporters work at computers in the Xinhua press room at the Boao Forum for Asia conference in Boao, China, on April 8, 2014 Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wait, isn't reporting the unreported what journalism is supposed to be about?

Chinese journalists discovered on July 8 that they had been scooped. More than a week before, the press authority had tightened the screws on the nation’s beleaguered press corps by issuing a set of ambiguous rules that give authorities significant latitude to silence reporters.

But it wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that the government, through the state-run Xinhua News Agency, bothered to alert journalists to the new regulations, which ban media from disseminating “various information, materials and news products that journalists may deal with during their work, including state secrets, commercial secrets and unpublicized information.” Got that?

In addition to that frustratingly broad swath of now off-limits material, Xinhua added that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television had specifically banned the “illegal copying, recording or storage of state secrets.”

What exactly constitutes a “state secret,” or a “news product,” or “unpublicized information,” isn’t clear. But in the past, Chinese journalists have been locked up for divulging information in cases that international human-rights groups have deemed spurious.

In April, a 70-year-old reporter named Gao Yu was detained on suspicion of leaking “a secret central-party document” to a foreign website. (In a neat catch-22, the content of a purported state secret often cannot be released to the public because, well, it’s a state secret.) Gao had spent more than five years in jail in the 1990s on another state-secrets conviction. In May, she was paraded on TV apparently admitting to wrongdoing — part of a recent spate of televised confessions in which dissidents and others seem to profess guilt even before their cases have made their way through the courts.

“Gao is the latest victim of China’s vaguely worded and arbitrary state-secret laws, which the authorities repeatedly use as a smoke screen to target activists,” said Anu Kultalahti, China researcher at Amnesty International.

Chinese journalists reacted to the latest government directive with both confusion and outrage. One magazine journalist said she hadn’t heard of the new rules until she was contacted by TIME on Tuesday afternoon. She was left with many questions. “Is there any official list clarifying what is a state secret and what is not?” she asked. “If we want to cover an official’s corruption scandal, is this scandal a state secret? Who knows?”

Another reporter who specializes in investigative journalism saw the June 30 rules as “another shackle imposed on journalists.” He continued, “I have discussed this with other journalists, and the general consensus is that self-censorship within the media will probably intensify. More and more topics will become untouchable.”

President Xi Jinping has unleashed a corruption crackdown that has netted hundreds of errant officials in all levels of government. But covering these graft scandals is a tricky business for reporters, who receive daily government directives on what they can and cannot write about. The June 30 directive further limits journalists, ordering them to sign nondisclosure agreements with their news organizations. They are also forbidden from disclosing certain information to other domestic and foreign-media or websites. Nor can that material be published on social-media forums.

While local journalists clearly face much greater danger, the foreign press has also been squeezed in recent months. The Chinese government has refused to issue new accreditations for journalists from Bloomberg and the New York Times, after both media organizations ran stories detailing the wealth accumulated by the families of top party leaders.

In May, Xin Jian, a Chinese news assistant working for the Japanese financial newspaper, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, was detained in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. The reason for Xin’s detention? She was suspected of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” That’s a charge that could be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

— Beech reported from Beijing

TIME China

On a Wartime Anniversary, China Steps Up Its Anti-Japan PR Campaign

A woman reads from an inscription on the Marco Polo bridge, or Lugouqiao, in west Beijing on Sept. 3, 2013. Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images

Generous coverage of the 77th Marco Polo Bridge Incident anniversary comes amid simmering geopolitical tensions between the two Asian powers

On the evening of July 7, 1937, and into the next day, Japanese soldiers began making their way across the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing, beginning a ruthless eight-year occupation that ceased only with imperial Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II. As far as anniversaries go, 77 may not be a particularly iconic number. But the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that it would be conducting rare live coverage of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident commemoration.

First up in the morning was a “grand gathering” at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing, which was attended by China’s President Xi Jinping. “We firmly take the path of peaceful development and safeguard world peace,” said Xi in a speech, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state media agency. “History is history and facts are facts. Nobody can change history and facts. Anyone who intends to deny, distort or beautify history will not find agreement among Chinese people and people of all other countries.” Xi also unveiled what Xinhua called an “anti-Japan war sculpture.”

The generous coverage of the 77th Marco Polo Bridge Incident anniversary appears to be part of an effort by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to highlight Japan’s brutal wartime past, at a time when geopolitical tensions between the two Asian powers are simmering. Last week, Japan’s hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed through a controversial reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution that allows the nation to engage militarily in order to defend its allies should they come under attack. The notion is known as collective self-defense.

Abe’s administration also issued a report last month that reviewed the process by which a 1993 Japanese government statement was made apologizing for the systematic sexual enslavement of Asian women by the Japanese military. While the review did not result in any overturning of the Kono Statement, just the fact that a reappraisal was conducted enraged both the Chinese and South Korean governments, who have accused Abe and his conservative cohorts of diminishing Japan’s wartime abuses.

Amid a territorial spat over uninhabited isles in the East China Sea, a July 7 Xinhua editorial on Japan opined, “War is hell, but there are always devils who try to spark war and trample peace under foot.” (The editorial did also concede that “Japanese people are respected for their diligence and energy-saving awareness.”)

Last week, the Chinese State Archives Administration announced that it would begin releasing confessions by Japanese who were convicted as war criminals by China’s Supreme People’s Court. The full texts of the 45 confessions are being released daily online. China is also applying to UNESCO to have documents related to the Nanjing Massacre and Chinese comfort women (as the women forced to sexually service Japanese soldiers are called) added to the Memory of the World Register — a move that has gained popular support on Chinese social media. Earlier this year, China’s rubber-stamp parliament designated Dec. 13 as a national remembrance day for the Nanjing Massacre.

Earlier this year, I visited Nanjing to tour the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, which ensures that the six-week slaughter that began in late 1937 is not forgotten. The museum welcomes 6 million visitors a year with a permanent exhibition called “A Human Holocaust.” Photos and videos show women disemboweled after they were raped, along with piles of Chinese corpses. A vast graveyard of pebbles represents the lives stolen by Japanese soldiers.

Museum director Zhu Chengshan was scathing in his appraisal of Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, whose grandfather directed industrialization efforts in Manchuria, the northeastern Chinese region that Japan turned into a puppet regime and where imperial soldiers carried out horrific crimes, including biochemical experiments on civilians. “Japan has consistently denied its mistakes and says it loves peace but [these are] empty words,” Zhu said. “A lot of serious criminals were let go and some became the Prime Minister of Japan, like Abe’s grandfather. Abe is taking Japan to the right but there is not just one Abe. There are many other people in Japan like him.”

But Chen Guixiang, 91, a survivor of the Nanjing Massacre, was more forgiving. She recalled, through tears, how her grandmother was murdered by Japanese soldiers. Fearful of being raped or killed, Chen, then 14, hid in a hole for three months, her legs atrophying from the confined space. She shared museum director Zhu’s antipathy toward Abe but didn’t hold an entire nation accountable. “I think the Japanese government was pro-war and evil,” Chen said, “but the Japanese people are good.”

After we talked, Chen shuffled out of the museum, past massive sculptures representing anguished figures brutalized by Japanese soldiers. The number 300,000, which China estimates as the death toll of the military rampage, is emblazoned repeatedly on an outdoor wall of shame. On July 7, People’s Daily posted a picture of this wall on its home page. The day before, a new website was launched to publicize the Nanjing Massacre, a joint effort by the Memorial Hall and official news agency Xinhua. Those who visit the website will be able to light virtual candles to honor the massacre’s victims, so they will never be forgotten.

With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Nanjing

TIME China

What the GSK Sex Tape Says About Surveillance in China

A Glaxo Smith Kline signboard outside their facilities in Shanghai on July 25, 2013. GlaxoSmithKline expects its performance in China to take a hit from Beijing's probe into bribery allegedly carried out by senior staff AFP—AFP/Getty Images

Surveillance, or the threat of surveillance, is a constant

Years ago, when my husband and I were living in Shanghai, a crew of men came to change the smoke-alarm battery in our bedroom. It seemed a lot of people to change a single battery, and they took their time about it. The leader of the battery-changing brigade was a man in a dapper pin-stripe suit. The smoke alarm was above our bed.

The men, all but one in uniforms from our apartment building yet unfamiliar to us, eventually departed. We had a lunch to get to, so we too left a few minutes later. As we walked out the back door of our apartment building, we saw the suited gentleman riding away in a black Toyota Crown, then considered the favored car of the Public Security Bureau. For several nights, my husband and I stared up at that alarm, wondering whether it was doing more than just sensing smoke.

This past weekend, the Sunday Times reported that a video of unknown provenance had circulated showing a British pharmaceutical executive having very friendly relations with a Chinese woman. Mark Reilly is the former China head of GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical company that has been accused by Beijing authorities of bribery involving nearly $500 million. Reilly has been barred from leaving China and charges against him made in May potentially carry a long prison sentence. Other foreign pharmaceuticals have also been targeted in graft probes, presumably part of a nationwide anticorruption sweep by China’s President Xi Jinping.

The sex video, according to the Sunday Times, was “filmed clandestinely in Reilly’s Shanghai flat, [and] was sent by email to senior Glaxo staff including the chief executive Sir Andrew Witty.” The film clip accompanied one of many anonymous emails alleging financial impropriety at Glaxo — emails that were, in some cases, sent to a Chinese regulatory agency as well as company officials. The British newspaper reported on speculation that a Chinese ex-Glaxo employee might have been linked to these whistle-blowing missives but no proof has turned up in the public sphere.

Surveillance — or the threat of surveillance — is a constant in China. As a journalist, I may be more interesting to the powers that be than some other foreigners here. But other expat friends who’ve been followed, hacked or otherwise tracked in China include diplomats, NGO staff and businesspeople. Also, artists and academics.

Sometimes, the scrutiny can yield helpful consequences. A diplomat in China remembers commenting to his wife in his then nearly empty apartment that they were out of toilet paper. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door and a bearer of new rolls arrived.

In most instances, it is in no way reassuring to have your email auto-forwarding mysteriously activated or to be tailed by a black Audi while on assignment in the Chinese countryside. Nor are foreigners the only ones subject to such treatment. The days of communist neighborhood-committee grannies poking their noses into residents’ sex lives may be over, but it’s hard to feel completely private in China. Each Chinese citizen still has a dedicated personal file kept by local authorities. The contents are supposed to be secret but a friend who once gained accessed to hers found, among other things, an old high school paper and a copy of a letter from an ex-boyfriend.

As for the smoke alarm, my husband and I eventually paid it no heed. You can’t be on guard all the time or you’ll end up paranoid. Besides, we weren’t hiding anything. Like other foreign reporters, if I work on a sensitive story involving, say, dissidents, I’ll take precautions. But otherwise, my daily life proceeds without incident or spy-sparring guile — no matter who may be watching.

TIME China

Street Fight: Congress Votes to Rename Road by Chinese Embassy After Jailed Dissident

A picture of 2010 Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo is seen at an exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo in 2010.
A picture of 2010 Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo is seen at an exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo in 2010. Berit Roald—Scanpix Norway/Reuters

Beijing is not amused by the “provocative action,” as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo “has been convicted in accordance with the law”

Alert the post office. The official address for the Chinese embassy in Washington may well be changed to 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza. On June 24, the House Appropriations Committee voted to rename 3505 International Place, a strip of asphalt that runs in front of the Chinese mission in northwest D.C., after the jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In 2009, the veteran activist and writer was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion against the Chinese state. Liu, 58, helped draft Charter 08, a pro-democracy petition that called on Beijing to abandon one-party rule and uphold basic human rights. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing labeled the road-renaming movement a “provocative action,” noting that Liu “has been convicted in accordance with the law.”

The bid for the new Chinese embassy mailing address was tacked on as an amendment to the 2015 State Department spending bill. The road in front of the Chinese embassy is federally owned, giving Congress some latitude in deciding its fate. (The D.C. Council will also consider the resolution.) Fourteen bipartisan Congressmen, led by Virginia Republican Frank Wolf, shepherded the provision, which calls for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to institute the name change. A street sign adorned with Liu’s name is planned.

This wasn’t the first time that Congress has used street signs to make a political point. In 1984, the stretch of road in front of the Soviet embassy was renamed after dissident Andrei Sakharov. A few years later, New York City managed to christen a street corner near the then Apartheid-era South African consulate after Nelson and Winnie Mandela.

Liu has served various stints in jail and labor camps or under house arrest. He was locked up for his role in the 1989 pro-democracy protests, which were brutally crushed by the military on the evening of June 3 into June 4 and beyond. This spring, in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, the Chinese government detained dozens of activists, lawyers, writers and others who dared to question the Communist Party’s hold on power. Since Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, his wife, Liu Xia, has been kept under virtual house arrest, even though she has never been accused of any crime. It is the worst season for Chinese rights defenders in years.

The naming of 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza was spurred on by Dissident Squared, an advocacy project that describes as its mission “to rename streets fronting the embassies of closed societies — Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Syria — for imprisoned or murdered dissidents.” In 1981, Anatoly Sharansky, then a Soviet refusenik languishing in a Siberian gulag, had a set of steps near the U.N. in New York named after him. Fast-forward to this past January when Sharansky, now an Israeli politician with the Hebrew given name of Natan, went before Congress to call for the jailed Chinese dissident to be similarly honored. The path from the Sharansky Steps to Liu Xiaobo Plaza runs an unlikely route.

TIME China

Welcome to China’s Evergrande, the World’s Biggest Soccer Academy

It has 2,400 boarding students, dozens of pitches and the ambitious aim of transforming China into a global soccer powerhouse

China, the world’s most populous country, tends toward the superlative. So, too, with the Evergrande International Football School in southern China’s Guangdong province, which bills itself as the world’s largest such sporting academy. Photographer Kevin Frayer documented life at the sprawling soccer school, which boasts 2,400 boarding students, dozens of fields, Harry Potter towers and coaches “assigned by Real Madrid,” according to Evergrande’s website.

Conceived of by property tycoon Xu Jiayin — who also has ownership stakes in the nation’s most successful football club — the Evergrande academy opened in the fall of 2012 with the decidedly ambitious aim of transforming China into a football dynamo. (Most of the school’s students are boys, but there are some girls.)

China has cultivated athletic dominance in a mind-blowing array of sports by funneling thousands of kids into state-run athletic schools. At the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, China topped the gold-medal rankings for the first time. But China remains a men’s soccer laggard, having qualified for the World Cup only once.

Whether the Evergrande school will fulfill its motto of “Boosting China’s football and cultivating football stars” isn’t at all assured. (There is another competing private football academy gathering talent in southern China.) Still, in a country where kids rarely gather for a pickup match, just seeing so many children playing soccer together is a definite game changer.

TIME China

Many Chinese Female Officials Are Turning to Graft to Compensate for Career Frustrations

A woman walks past two Chinese paramilitary police standing guard at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on March 4, 2014 Wang Zhao—AFP/Getty Images

Income inequality and poor promotion prospects drive many members of China's dispirited corps of female cadres to corruption

In the world of Chinese officialdom, it isn’t only the men who loot government coffers for the promise of sex. A splurge on 251 designer handbags and $665,000 racked up on beauty-salon treatments and costly face-lifts? That was the work of corrupt female officials, according to a report in the Beijing News documenting 12 Chinese women investigated for graft in the first half of this year. The alleged dirty dozen includes a former inspector of the Sichuan Red Cross and the vice mayors of the cities of Yichang and Nantong.

The Beijing News included photos of the women under investigation, eliciting a predictable — if dispiriting — stream of online commentary on their looks. “An appearance like that and you can still use your looks to get power?” went one typical online post. Of course, if Chinese male cadres were judged on similar physical standards, they might fare even more poorly. But in a country where wanted ads for female secretaries can specify the age (“only mid-20s”) and beauty (“goose-egg-shaped face”) of any applicants, the judgments were hardly unusual.

Chairman Mao famously opined that women hold up half the sky, but socialist equality is hard to find in government hierarchies. Not a single woman has made it to the Politburo’s Standing Committee, which rules China. The 25-member Politburo itself only boasts a couple of women. Despite the fact that Chinese women are ever more educated, communist-era quotas on female political participation aren’t enforced. Notorious Chinese women — such as Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife who helped orchestrate the Cultural Revolution, and Gu Kailai, the murderous wife of disgraced politician Bo Xilai — are sometimes portrayed as the downfalls of their powerful husbands. Their precursor in stereotype is the Empress Dowager Cixi, whose reign over the waning Qing dynasty has been reduced in some Chinese lore to the perils of leaving an empire in a woman’s hands.

In terms of their ability to break public trust, however, modern-day Chinese women may be growing as industrious as their male colleagues. The Beijing News referred to testimony from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate that found a 33% increase in job-related crimes by female government workers, when comparing 2013 with 2009. In his report, Yang Jing, from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s job-related crime-prevention office, wrote:

In order to achieve good results in work, females often have to put in a lot of more effort than males do. When they see that their efforts and contributions don’t match their pay, and that there is no hope for promotion, a lot of them lose their psychological balance. They then turn to using their power to get benefits. They either use their power to help others gain profit or cooperate with male government officials and become their accomplices in job-related crimes.

Yang’s analysis ended with a Mars-Venus take on official chicanery:

Males have power and want sex, so they use their power to trade for sex. Females use sex to gain power, and then use their power for corruption.

— With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing

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