The effects of poverty on the oppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China
More than 40 different ethnic groups live within China’s Northwest region, known as Xinjiang. The two largest ethnic groups are the Han Chinese and Uyghur Muslims. The two groups do not speak the same language, nor do they share similar traditions. This creates a divide that widens due to the socio-economic disparity between the two factions. The Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, through exploitation and other human rights violations, further exacerbated the issue. Unfortunately, fear of the Uyghurs has given the Chinese government a justification to detain and exploit millions.

The Issue of Poverty

The poverty in Xinjiang is most prevalent of any Chinese province at approximately 6%. However, certain regions suffer more than others. For example, Yutian County has a poverty rate of around 25%. Yet, the region has made great strides forward in poverty alleviation during recent years. In fact, more than 2.3 million people escaped poverty between 2014 and 2018. Xinjiang’s resource-rich areas have caught the attention of the Han Chinese. This, in turn, drives migration and economic growth. Additionally, the government has promoted various industries, employment transfers and citizen relocation, further driving down poverty rates.

Despite this, many Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang suffer exclusion from these benefits. Most prominently, employment discrimination prevents Uyghurs from obtaining jobs in these rising markets. As a result, a disproportionate amount of Han Chinese receives better jobs, furthering the economic disparity between the two groups. Furthermore, the rising number of Han Chinese in the region (currently at 40% of the population) has made the native Uyghurs feel distant from one another. The Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang fear the loss of their culture.

Conflict

Due to the exclusion and poverty that the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang experience, they tend to move closer to Islam. Some even go so far as to commit acts of violence. Regardless of the real reasons for the violence, many Han Chinese believe it is Islamic extremists causing violence. The Han Chinese believe this contributes to instability within the region as the Uyghur’s are fighting for independence. This, in turn, leads to widespread fear and distrust among the population.

The Chinese government responded to these acts of violence by claiming that Islamic extremists caused it. Therefore, the government must “reeducate” the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Since 2014, China has suppressed the Uyghurs’ culture, language and religion in the name of national security, while claiming that the Uyghurs have full freedom. Police stations now occupy every few blocks and cameras are on every street. Some public areas are inaccessible and many people are stopped on the street for identification. Notably, many Uyghurs have had their passports taken and can no longer leave the region.

Crackdown

Since 2017, the government has been detaining approximately 1 million Uyghurs in reeducation camps, with their only crimes being that they are Muslim. Hundreds of camps are present today with 39, having tripled in size from 2017 to 2018. Construction spending has increased drastically by nearly $3 billion in recent years.

Information on exact conditions in the camps is difficult to discern. However, previous detainees speak of a prison-like environment, sexual assault, forced abortions or contraceptives, extreme surveillance and torture. Some say they witnessed people taking their own lives.

Additionally, many Uyghurs in these camps must work in factories across China. They experience exploitation, completely against their will. The products they produce are widespread. Approximately 83 international companies use this forced labor in their supply chain. Moreover, 20% of cotton products around the world came from this forced labor.

Policy, Legislation and Coalition of Aid

Many U.S. companies benefit from this system. Legislation must pass to prevent forced labor and condemn China’s actions. Most recently, the Senate passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S3744) in June 2020. It placed sanctions on many officials responsible or complicit in the detainment and abuse of the Uyghurs.

Particularly, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act emerged in March 2020 but has not passed into law yet. Additionally, many Uyghurs are stuck in U.S. immigration limbo, complicating their ability to seek refuge. Both proposals are crucial in helping significantly reduce the demand for forced labor. Further, people are urging the Chinese government to stop committing human rights abuses.

Many NGOs are working to bring attention to the crisis, as well as aiding the affected Uyghurs. Despite difficulties in offering direct aid, there exists a coalition of more than 250 organizations part of the End Uyghur Forced Labor campaign. The coalition demands companies eliminate any Uyghur forced labor within their production lines, within one year. Companies that agree must sign a pledge — applying pressure to all companies that have not yet signed. Also, the coalition organized advocacy days, began petitions and called on Congress to ban cotton from the Uyghur region. This additional pressure on companies will help end Uyghur forced labor. Hopefully, it will reduce demand for Uyghur labor and prevent their exploitation as well.

Hope Remains

Poverty in Xinjiang has reduced significantly. It will likely continue to decrease in the upcoming years. Additionally, numerous countries have applied pressure on the Chinese government. It is crucial that the U.S. does the same. Many NGOs have worked to raise awareness and apply pressure on governments and companies to eliminate Uyghur forced labor. Despite the many challenges that the Uyghurs have faced, hope remains for conditions to improve, with the support of the global community.

Elizabeth Lee
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in China
For many years, gender equality and women’s rights in China have been a problem, mainly for women. Various restrictions still take place, even today. Income discrepancies and traditional gender roles in the country aimed at placing and keeping women inferior as compared with their male counterparts.

For example, women who have children do not always receive support from their supervisors and often lose their pay when on maternity leave. From occupational rights to issues such as property rights, men in China have always (and unfairly) been the more supported gender for years. Unfortunately, this continues to this day.

Discrimination in the Workplace

Women of the past and present in China, have dealt with unfair employment practices. They have had to jump over unnecessary hurdles just to keep up with their male counterparts. The Chinese government claims to better prioritize the promotion of gender equality, and therefore women’s rights in China. Particularly — in the workplace, however, recent research says otherwise. Of the job listings in the Chinese Government’s civil service job list, 11% stated preferences for men. The percentage was higher in jobs preferring men from 2018 to 2019, at 19%.

This information was identified by the Human Rights Watch, which also discovered that fewer than 1% of these job postings offered offered support to women. This has caused many women to surrender to traditional gender roles. For example, staying at home, not working and being dependent on the male of the house. Notably, only 63% of the female workforce worked in 2017.

Patriarchal Oppression

China’s history has seen a higher focus on men being the core of not just their families but the country’s overall success and growth. Post Confucius era, society labeled men as the yang and women as the yin. In this same vein, society views Yang as active, smart and the dominant half. This, compared with Yin, which is soft, passive and submissive. These ideologies are not as prominent today but persist enough that there is a problem.

The tradition begins at birth with boys being the preferred children compared to girls in China. A consensus opinion in the country is that if one has a male child versus a female child, they believe the son will grow into a more successful member of the family. The sons are more likely favored because the issue of pregnancy is a non-factor and they can choose almost any job they desire. Of course, this is something that does not support efforts for gender equality nor women’s rights in China.

A survey done just last year found that  80% of generation Z mothers did not have jobs outside of the home. Importantly, most of those surveyed were from poorer cities. The same survey found that 45% of these stay-at-home mothers had no intention of going back to work. They simply accepted their role of caring for the house. Gender equality and women’s rights in China have shifted toward cutting into the history of patriarchal dominance within the country.

Women’s Rights Movement in China

Since the Chinese government is not completely behind gender equality in China for women, the feminist movement is still active and stronger than ever. In 2015, the day before International Women’s Day, five feminist activists were arrested and jailed for 37 days. They were just five of an even larger movement of activists fighting against the traditional gender role ideology that has placed females below males. These movements have begun to make great progress towards gender inequality within the country. From 2011 to 2015, a “12th Five Year Plan” had goals of reducing gender inequality in education and healthcare.

The plan also was to increase the senior and management positions and make them accessible for women to apply for said positions. Xi Jinping, the current President of the People’s Republic of China, has proclaimed that the country will donate $10 million to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. During the next five years and beyond, this support will help the women of China and other countries build 100 health projects for women and children. March 1, 2016, the Anti-domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China took effect. This law resulted in the improvement in legislation for gender equality in China. In June of that year,  ¥279.453 billion was put forth toward loans to help women, overall.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in China
‘Ice boy’ brought pity and awe when he first appeared in a viral photo back in January 2018 with his hair completely frozen and his cheeks intensely red, having walked an hour to school in freezing temperatures. The viral photo was just a glimpse into child poverty in China, a major ongoing issue. Wang Fuman, then 8, lived in extreme poverty with his sister, father, uncle and grandmother in the Yunnan province for his entire life. One can see an inside look at their dilapidated hut in an interview with the South China Morning Post, showing barely any furniture, a leaking rook during precipitation and limited supplies of food.

Where Fuman is Today

Fuman, now 10, is currently living in a new home thanks to the efforts of foreigners sending cash donations, heating items and much-needed supplies to the struggling family. One particular family involved in this effort is his new American friends from California. Carolyn Miller and her family took action to help the family after hearing about its news. They have since frequently connected with Fuman and his family through phone calls and belated birthday presents, promoting cross-cultural relations and understanding in the process.

However, the inevitable truth still remains: there are 96 million more ‘Ice Boys,’ girls and adults living in poverty in China according to the UNICEF PPP $3.20 data, and most of them lie in the western half.

Child Poverty in Eastern Versus Western China

The eastern half is where the vast majority of people reside as it bears more habitable conditions. The western half juxtaposes this as its population is scattered throughout the many inhospitable mountains and desert areas. This results in the majority of child poverty in China being located in the western half while the eastern half is home to financial hubs like Shanghai, Shengzhen and Guangzhou.

Mass Migration

For people like Fuman who live in the Yunnan Province and for the other people who live in remote areas in provinces of the western half, a lack of opportunity causes mass migration from small villages where former rural villagers come into cities in droves. Many of these remote, small villages end up losing millions of people, leaving the villages as shells of their former selves. According to CNBC, in 2000, China had 3.7 million villages based on research by Tianjin University. That number dropped to 2.6 million, a loss of about 300 villages a day, by 2010. Usually, only one to three families remain in these small villages. In some cases, the villages become completely deserted. This leaves the villages with immense labor deficits, which impacts those without the means to migrate, just like in Fuman’s case. These villages that once comprised of numerous jobs like teachers, construction workers, retail workers and others are all gone, leaving those who stayed behind to resort to subsistence farming as their only means of survival. This is why children like Fuman have to travel long distances and often in harsh, icy cold conditions just to go to school, which was what sparked Fuman’s ‘Ice Boy’ viral photo in the first place.

Despite these facts, Fuman and others remain optimistic about the steady progress that is occurring. People like Miller and her family do a great service to make life easier for families like Fuman’s. Raising awareness is integral to extending help to more people like Fuman, as it brings an increase in attention for child poverty in China. People are noticing more and more children in extreme poverty through similar viral posts and videos, attracting an increase in donations and aid for children in those circumstances. Fuman’s story shows that simply donating cash relief aid and basic supplies can indeed make the difference for child poverty in China.

– Justin Chan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in XinjiangMore than 40 different ethnic groups live in China’s northwest region known as Xinjiang. The largest of these groups are the Han Chinese and Uyghur Muslims. The two groups do not speak the same language or share similar traditions, creating a wide cultural divide. Socioeconomic disparities and the Chinese government’s exploitation of the Uyghur further exacerbate the divide between the two groups. Poverty in Xinjiang, China has contributed to the oppression of Uyghurs and given the Chinese government a justification to detain and exploit millions.

Poverty in Xinjiang, China

The poverty in Xinjiang, China is the highest of the Chinese provinces at approximately 6%. However, certain regions within Xinjiang face more poverty than others. Yutian County, for example, has a poverty rate of around 25%. Even so, the region has made great strides in poverty alleviation in recent years, lifting 2.3 million out of poverty. Xinjiang’s resource-rich areas have caught the attention of Han Chinese, driving migration and economic growth. Additionally, the government has promoted various industries, employment transfers and citizen relocation. This has the result of further driving down poverty rates.

Unfortunately, many Uyghurs are excluded from the benefits of reduced poverty. Employment discrimination prevents Uyghurs from getting jobs in these growing markets. As a result, a disproportionate amount of Han Chinese receive better jobs. This furthers the economic disparity between the two groups. On top of this, the rising number of Han Chinese in the region has made the native Uyghurs feel distant from one another and worry their culture is disappearing.

Conflict

The unhappiness caused by exclusion and poverty in Xinjiang, China pushes many Uyghurs closer to Islam. They increasingly support Xinjiang’s independence from China to create East Turkestan. Some even commit acts of violence. Despite the fact that Chinese policy and Uyghur poverty cause much violence, many Han Chinese believe it results from Islamic extremism. This leads to widespread fear and distrust among the population, further driving exclusion.

The Chinese government agrees with the Han Chinese, claiming that Islamic extremists cause violence. It specifically argued that it must “reeducate” the Uyghur Muslims. Since 2014, China has been suppressing the Uyghurs’ culture, language and religion in the name of national security. All the while, it claims that Uyghurs have full freedom. Police stations and cameras now line the streets of Xinjiang. Some public areas are full of razor wire, and the police stop people on the street to see their ID. Furthermore, the government has taken passports from many Uyghurs, preventing them from leaving the region.

Crackdown

Since 2017, the government has reportedly detained approximately a million Uyghurs in reeducation camps. Detainees’ only crime is their Muslim identity. Hundreds of camps exist today, 39 of which tripled in size from 2017 to 2018. Construction funds for these camps have increased by nearly $3 billion in recent years.

Although China’s secrecy makes information on the exact conditions in the camps difficult to discern, previous detainees have spoken out. They speak of a prison-like environment, sexual assault and forced abortions or contraceptives, extreme surveillance, torture and more. Some say they witnessed people taking their own lives.

On top of this, many Uyghurs in these camps must work in factories across China, often against their will. The products they produce are so widespread that approximately 83 international companies use this forced labor in their supply chain. In fact, one in five cotton products around the world rely on this forced labor. These products are therefore the result of severe human rights violations.

Ongoing Efforts to Reduce Violence and Poverty in Xinjiang, China

Many U.S. companies benefit from this system, making it crucial that legislation prevent forced labor and condemn China’s actions. Most recently, the U.S. Senate passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S3744) in late June 2020. This act placed sanctions on many of the officials who complicit in the detainment and abuse of Uyghurs.

Additionally, representatives introduced the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in March of 2020, but it has not passed into law yet. Many Uyghurs are also stuck in U.S. immigration limbo, making it far more difficult for them to seek refuge. Both of these proposals are crucial in helping significantly reduce the demand for forced labor. Both also urge the Chinese government to stop committing human rights abuses against the Uyghurs.

NGOs Step in to Help

Many NGOs have been working to bring attention to this ongoing crisis and help the Uyghurs. Despite the difficulties present in aiding Uyghurs directly, a coalition of more than 250 organizations made the End Uyghur Forced Labor campaign. The coalition demands that companies eliminate any Uyghur forced labor in their production lines within a year. Companies that agree must sign a pledge, and the coalition will apply pressure to all companies that have not yet signed.

The coalition has also organized advocacy days, written petitions, and called on Congress for a ban on cotton from the Uyghur region. Although it’s difficult to determine the exact effects these campaigns have had, this additional pressure on companies will help end Uyghur forced labor. In turn, the group will reduce demand for Uyghur labor and prevent their exploitation.

Poverty in Xinjiang, China has reduced significantly and will likely continue to decrease in the upcoming years. But the Uyghurs do not benefit from this progress. Numerous countries have applied pressure on the Chinese government, and it is crucial that the U.S. does the same. Many NGOs have worked together to raise awareness and pressure governments and companies to eliminate Uyghur forced labor. In spite of the many challenges that the Uyghurs face, there is still hope for conditions to improve with the support of the global community.

Elizabeth Lee
Photo: Flickr

Left-Behind ChildrenChina has undergone swift urbanization and development in recent years. However, reaping the rewards of this progress has not been easy for everyone. In search of better job opportunities, millions of Chinese parents in poverty have left their communities in hopes of creating a better future for their children. However, these parents must leave their children behind to do so. These left-behind children (LBC) may remain with a caregiver, family member, friend or institution, or they can be left entirely on their own.

There are about 70 million left-behind children in China, and they experience many effects of poverty. The average ages of LBC range from 6 to 17. While LBC are more prominent in rural China, the number of LBC has risen in urban areas as well. As a result, many children in China are mentally and physically ill, don’t receive a proper education and are essentially stuck in the cycle of poverty. Parental absence contributes to all of these factors.

Poor Quality of Education

While their parents seek more money in the city, left-behind children are left in inadequate school buildings with limited supplies and ill-prepared teachers. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Lijiah Zhang, an author and journalist who examines China’s left-behind children, stressed that education is the largest problem these children face. “Without their parents, the children are more likely to lose interest in their studies and sometimes drop out of school, the opposite of what their parents hope for,” she said. Indeed, over 13% of left-behind children drop out by the eighth grade. Another reason for dropouts is the household responsibilities some left-behind children must take on, such as agricultural work, which leaves them with no time for academics.

For those who do continue their education, the quality is waning. With teachers lacking incentives and resources, education is a large obstacle for LBC. Educators hired for rural teaching positions are often fresh out of training and possess little teaching experience to offer a proper education. But because they are cheaper to pay, schools that lack funding hire them constantly. The staff is overworked and tremendously underpaid, with some rural educators working over 12 hours a day. This poor teaching quality combined with cramped classrooms and a lack of technology sets rural children up for failure.

High Dropout Rates

Left-behind children dropping out of school perpetuates cyclical poverty. China’s economic expansion over the past 40 years has brought about 800 million people out of poverty, but it has also widened the gap between rural and urban communities. Families in poverty continue to struggle with money, and the number of parents deciding to leave children behind is rising. These children are stuck living with the effects of poverty, and with no parental guidance, they have little means of digging their way out.

Zhang stated that many LBC feel powerless in their situations, which leads to them losing interest in their schooling and dropping out, thus reducing their chances of climbing the employment ladder. Because of the difference in economic opportunities between rural and urban communities, poor children remain poor while the rich stay rich.

Lack of Safety and Health

Because left-behind children do not have parents to protect or guide them, they are more vulnerable to abuse. Forms of abuse include harassment from peers and guardians, sexual abuse and criminality. For example, in 2015 a teacher was sentenced to life in prison for raping 12 of his students, 11 of whom were left-behind children. Many children also experience extremely long walks to and from their schools, some of which take multiple hours. This leaves them alone and vulnerable to anyone passing by.

Living without parental guidance also takes a mental and physical toll on children. Left-behind children are much more likely than non-LBC to have depression, anxiety and behavioral issues due to parental absence. They are also more likely to suffer from chronic loneliness. In a survey of six Chinese provinces, 25% of LBC reported high levels of loneliness, which can worsen mental and physical health. While parental migration offers a chance at economic improvement, child development often deteriorates.

The diets of left-behind children are often also insufficient. According to a 2015 study, left-behind boys consumed more fat and less protein in their diets. This puts them at an increased risk for obesity and stunted growth. Zhang said: “I think the LBC’s diet is worse than non-LBC. Their guardians, usually their grandparents, are mostly very frugal. They also don’t have any idea about healthy diet or nutrition.” Limited nutrition can lead to poor school performance in addition to long-term health risks.

Helping Left-Behind Children

This crisis is well-known, and many organizations are working to aid these millions of children. Save the Children, OneSky and Humanium advocate for and offer direct assistance to left-behind children. So far, Save the Children has helped 310,000 vulnerable Chinese children. Specifically, it provides educational improvements and services to keep them from harm. UNICEF also offers services to LBC in multiple Chinese provinces, including social and emotional development and health administration. UNICEF continues to initiate projects to help these children.

Each year, millions of Chinese children suffer without their parents. The mental and physical health consequences along with the inadequate education they face make their everyday lives an uphill battle. Humanitarian assistance helps thousands of these children, but the causes underlying the crisis continue challenge poverty eradication. 

– Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

Herbal Remedies
The COVID-19 pandemic has created many discussions and debates, especially when it comes to treatments. Though it may take more than a year to create a vaccine, many countries and individuals are using herbal remedies for COVID-19. These remedies have been in their cultures before the new coronavirus and now aid in the prevention and treatment of it. For centuries, especially in countries where medications, prescriptions and hospital visits are inaccessible and/or expensive, people have been creating their remedies. They then pass them on, generation to generation. This article discusses such remedies, both ancient and newly discovered.

Traditional Remedies

When the coronavirus broke out in December 2019, many people in China used various traditional remedies. For centuries, Chinese medicine has been popular across the world. Whether it is with more serious viruses and illnesses, such as COVID-19, or something more common, such as a sore throat. They are believed to alleviate symptoms, reduce the severity of the virus, improve recovery rates and reduce the mortality rate. Herbal remedies for COVID-19 (commonly used) include jinhua qinggan capsules, lianhua qingwen capsules and shufeng jiedu capsules.

In Madagascar, the president endorsed the launch of Covid-Organics, claiming that it was safe enough for children to drink. A key ingredient in these herbal remedies is sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), which is a traditional ingredient that gave rise to the antimalarial drug, artemisinin. According to the WHO, about 87% of African populations use traditional medicine. This is especially prevalent in poor and rural areas where hospitals, pharmacies and health care professionals are difficult to find. It is common to use herbs and roots as replacements for these medications in many countries in the southern hemisphere. Additionally, modern medicine is often unaffordable, which is why many Malagasies and other African populations use traditional medicine.

Modern Remedies

In Kenya, many people are drinking fruity, gingery dawa as a remedy for the coronavirus. In Kiswahili, dawa means medicine. This drink has become especially popular in Kenyan street markets and vendors arrange the ingredients. They include lemon, ginger and garlic. However, each drink is different — some have aloe vera and some have turmeric. Despite the popularity of this remedy, people have still been taking proper precautions, such as wearing masks and washing hands. In a time of uncertainty, dawa brings comfort to many Kenyans. Markets flood the streets of Kenya, with vendors selling various versions of dawa. Understandably so, it is one of the most popular items.

In the U.S., many people are turning to elderberry, zinc and vitamin C. In fact, along with toilet paper, these vitamins were in the top items consumed on Amazon. Elderberry has long been known to be an immune-boosting vitamin. However, it is unclear whether or not it is effective in treating coronavirus. It may, however, bring a sense of comfort — especially in a time of such uncertainty. Many grocery stores now have their vitamin sections cleared out.

For centuries, herbal remedies have treated viruses and infections, including the common cold, influenza, fever, herpes and more. People around the world rely on traditional medicines, which is understandable given the  inaccessibility of modern medicines or medical care in many areas. Though there may be benefits to traditional medicine, it is still unclear whether or not there are any real remedies to the coronavirus. Yet two important factors that these herbal remedies for COVID-19 bring are comfort and hope.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Wikimedia

U.S. and ChinaCOVID-19 has brought nearly all facets of normal life and governance to a screeching halt. On all fronts, from the economy to the military, the coronavirus has changed the way this planet runs. One area that has been heavily affected by the pandemic but does not get as much attention is international relations.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the toughest areas of government. It has become even more difficult to fully engage in with the onset of COVID-19. With more states turning to domestic engagement, the status quo of international relations has been shaken. In no foreign relationship is this more clear than that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

U.S.-China Diplomatic Relations

Current diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China were established under President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has experienced highs and lows. In 2020, it is nearly at an all-time low. The hostile status of this relationship now mainly stems from the ascension of President Xi Jinping of China to power in 2013, and the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Under these two leaders, U.S.-Chinese relations have greatly diminished over the last four years. A rise in nationalism and “America First” policies under President Trump’s administration has alienated the Chinese amidst constant public attacks on the ‘authoritarianism’ of Jinping’s government. For example, China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy over the last two years has been the subject of extensive international condemnation, particularly from President Trump and the United States. In addition, the two countries have been engaged in a high-profile trade war since the beginning of 2018.

More recently, a dramatic escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the two countries was taken in July 2020, when the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, on the basis of technological-espionage on China’s part. In retaliation, China ordered the American consulate in the city of Chengdu to close as well. Another significant strain on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China is COVID-19.

The Outbreak of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, more than 4,600 people have died in China, over a period of nearly nine months. In the same amount of time, almost 180,000 people have died in the U.S. The U.S. government has consistently blamed the Chinese for failing to contain the virus. China has firmly denied these accusations. COVID-19 has seriously damaged the economic and healthcare systems of both the U.S. and China. Both systems have lost nearly all economic gains they’ve made since the 2008-2010 recession. While state economies around the globe also suffer, the decline of the economies of these two specific countries has far-reaching implications. Not only is the global economy in danger, but military alliances and foreign aid are as well.

Global Economy

Nearly every nation on earth has some kind of economic partnership with either the U.S., China or both. For example, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of the U.S. since 1974, but in recent years has engaged in a pivotal economic partnership with China. Continued threats of tariffs and pulling out of trade agreements threaten the balance of these partnerships. These threats could force smaller nations to choose sides between the U.S. and China, should this confrontation escalate.

Military Alliances

While the U.S. enjoys a military advantage over China, China has allied itself with many of America’s adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. These alliances have been solidified in recent years, for example, just before the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019, China, Russia and Iran conducted nearly a week-long military exercise in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway for oil tankers. An American confrontation with any one of these countries could draw China into the conflict, which could spell disaster for the world order.

International Aid

As part of China’s “charm offensive” in the early 2000s, the country began to heavily invest in the reconstruction of the economies and infrastructure in impoverished African states. In exchange, China received rights to natural resources such as oil in these countries. The U.S. also maintains a high level of foreign assistance in Africa. COVID-19 forces the U.S. and China to put more of their respective resources toward rebuilding their own economies. However, the aid they both provide to developing states worldwide diminishes at a time when those states need it most.

It is clear that even before the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe, the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and China was advancing toward a breaking point. The pandemic has, to some extent, halted the diminishing state of relations between the two countries. However, any further provocations similar to the closing of the consulates in Houston and Chengdu could result in a catastrophe. The impacts of this relationship extend beyond the U.S. and China; they affect nations that heavily depend on the aid they receive from both powers.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Pixabay

Education System in ChinaThe People’s Republic of China has a reputation for excellence in its education system. China has around 1.3 billion people in population and has one of the largest education systems in the world. It has more than 500,000 schools alone. The education system in China is not only substantial but also diverse. There are more than 300 million students and over 14 million teachers.

How The Education System in China Works

It is mandatory in China that every child has to have at least up to nine years of the required education. In addition, education is state-run. This means it has a very small association with private providers. Education is divided into three main groups: basic education, higher education and adult education. The basic education for children in China includes primary school which starts from age six to around age 11 or 12 for the average Chinese resident. Thanks to the “Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education,” all basic education is tuition-free. After the nine required years, there is a modest fee for tuition during middle and high school.

Moreover, junior secondary school which starts from age 12 to 15. After junior middle school students have finished their mandatory education requirement, they have the option to continue with senior secondary education which is usually a three-year program. These can be followed by other adult educations such as a university for a bachelor’s degree or master’s/Ph.D. program.

Development of The Education System in China

The Chinese education system is not only rigorous but extremely competitive. It has developed at an alarming speed over the last two decades. In addition, the education system in China offers their children many opportunities to thrive in the future. However, it did not always start this way. In the 1950s, the enrollment rate in Chinese elementary schools was below 20% and only 6% for junior secondary school. The country’s main form of education was similar to the Soviet education system. However, as the Soviet paradigm declined China started to change its education style.

By 1978, there were almost 1.3 million primary and secondary schools, a vast improvement just a mere few decades ago. But the steps toward modernization were not yet completed, there were still only about 600 higher learning organizations with only around 117,000 students. Thus, the education system in China was reorganized yet again to the system the country has today. By 1986, the “Compulsory Education Law of the People’s Republic of China” was born. It began executing laws for mandatory education for nine years of a child’s life.

In 2007, the state passed a law that students who were in rural areas were given free tuition for their mandatory nine-year education life. The following year this law was extended to urban living children as well. As of 2018, China has more than 29 million students enrolled in higher education alone, drastically boosting their economy.

COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 being an extremely widespread pandemic has posed some serious challenges for education everywhere. Being one of the first countries to get hit, China took immediate steps to try and solve the education issue during this pandemic. When China got hit, China immediately released an “epidemic prevention, control and containment” response plan. The goal was to handle the pandemic in the smartest and safest way possible, including how education would be affected.

China shut down schools in late January and started advancing their online virtual classes. Along with the new innovation, China did to its online platforms, the country also delays college entrance exams. It banned teaching a new curriculum until the next semester. The country hopes students who had difficulty in accessing online courses would not be hurt by this dramatic change.

Schools currently are open in China, but that may change depending on the state of COVID-19. Until then, China is taking extra precautions with temperatures taken before children go to school. Once they get to school, masks are required and the desks are all three feet apart.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Flickr

China's Poverty Reduction and the Millennium CampaignThe fight against poverty is a massive undertaking. While China’s poverty reduction has helped the United Nations (U.N.) reach its goals, there is still a ways to go. For real and lasting progress to be made on the task of lifting millions above the poverty line, the global community has no recourse but to rely on the collective efforts and data of the global community. However, by synergizing the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and governmental institutions, the uphill battle of poverty reduction remains fierce but not insurmountable.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration

In September 2000, following a three-day diplomatic marathon of deal-making and goal-setting, the U.N. General Assembly approved the United Nations Millennium Declaration. With this agreement, the U.N. adopted more than 60 goals. These goals included improving the environment, encouraging peace and development, promoting human rights, combating hunger and pursuing global poverty reduction. Following this daring declaration, the United Nations Millennium Campaign was put into effect. More than 180 member states agreed to the campaign as a means of achieving these goals by 2015.

Moving The Goalpost

The U.N. claims to have not merely achieved its goals but achieved them ahead of schedule. However, a closer look will reveal how this celebration may have been premature. Yale professor and development watchdog Thomas Pogge pointed out that following the signing of the original declaration, the U.N. rewrote it to reduce only the proportion of the world’s population living on less than $1 a day. Previously, the U.N. had planned to decrease the overall total number of people living in poverty.

It is estimated that this change reduced the goal by 167 million due to population growth. Also, the campaign shifted the focus of what constitutes “poverty” to be based solely on income levels. The World Bank determines extreme poverty by the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day. Changing the variables made it easier to achieve the goal. Additionally, according to the World Bank, the number of people living in extreme poverty is still more than 4 billion.

With the Millennium Campaign’s goals, moving the finish line and still declaring victory makes it more difficult to establish the current standing of global development and progress. This is especially true when it comes to China’s poverty reduction rate. It also, as an unintended consequence, has the potential to dwindle the severity of the current state of global poverty.

In an attempt to show a more impressive poverty decrease, the Millennium Campaign retroactively included data stretching back to 1990. By doing this, the impressive dip in poverty was mainly due to China’s poverty reduction progress during those 10 years.

China’s Efforts

Also, numeric data aside, one cannot underestimate the role semantics plays in perceived poverty reduction. China’s state-run media has proclaimed, “China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty through more than 30 years of reform and opening-up.” And China declares its intention to “lift” even more out of abject poverty.

Skeptics have pointed to the phrase, “lifted out of poverty,” as a purely Westernized regurgitation. China’s preferred usage of “fupin kaifa” (扶贫开发) translates as “assist the poor and develop.” So, while China’s poverty reduction accomplishments are commendable, the translation conveys a larger achievement than what it actually is. However, China does deserve credit for achieving no small feat in raising millions above the poverty line.

The global community has much to be proud of considering how far the world has come in the work of bettering lives. If the mammoth task of combating poverty and promoting development is going to be successful, the goals needs to acknowledge the truth about the current situation.

– Connor Dobson
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Updates on SDG 4 in China
The United Nations defines SDG 4 as the attainment of inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all. According to ​the 2020 reports from UNESCO​, SDG 4 in China has already experienced achievement. UNESCO ​awarded China a nearly perfect score of 99.8 for literacy and 99.5 for lower secondary completion rate. However, not all the data is there. The percentage of children of the official school-age population who are enrolled in primary education remains unknown.

The hole in the data also points to a larger issue – the flexibility of interpretation of SDG 4 in China. What some define as a “quality education,” others see as an unhealthy culture of a rigid, score-driven curriculum.

As China rises as a global superpower, its students bear its weight. Giona Gao, 38, was once a student in Beijing. She has provided The Borgen Project with information about her experiences with the rigorous curriculum that characterizes the Chinese education system.

Unattainable Standards

Gao attended primary school through college in China. She moved to Seattle, Washington in 2013 and now works as an accountant.

When she was in high school, her classmates fretted the day that teachers would evaluate their skills. In Beijing’s elite schools, parents receive sheets with the test scores of each student, including their own child. “The parents are all in the room together and pass it around,” Gao said, “Everyone sees.”

The system places extreme pressure on students to succeed and come out on top. Many students work into the early morning to study for standardized tests.

China Daily declared suicide as the leading cause of death for young people in China. Further research by the South China Morning Post investigated 79 suicides in 2013. Almost 93% of suicides happened following arguments between the pupils and their teachers, or after the students experienced heavy pressure with their studies.

Years have passed since Gao has lived in China, but she remains close with some friends. Her friends have told her that the school system is becoming even more competitive. “They teach faster,” she said. “Even in Kindergarten, Chinese kids’ English is better than American kids,” Gao pointed out.

While it was not her favorite subject, Gao recalls some history classes focusing on relations between the U.S and China. “They wash out our brains,” Gao said. “They really try to teach how great the communist party is.”

Gao stayed in China to earn her bachelor’s degree, but it was not rare for kids to want to apply to international universities in English speaking countries. “Lots of Chinese kids want to go abroad for study. America might be their number one choice,” she explained. “They want to open their eyes and see the difference.”

A Lack of Critical Thinking

Zhiquan Zhu is a Chair of the Department of International Relations at Bucknell University and the author of multiple books on Chinese Affairs, including “​The People’s Republic of China: Internal and External Challenges.”

Zhu describes himself as a product of the traditional Chinese educational system. He taught at Shanghai International Studies University and was the Senior Assistant to Consul for Press and Cultural Affairs at the American Consulate General in Shanghai.

While Zhu believes that the Chinese education system gave him a solid foundation, he explains that he developed many of his critical and analytical skills later when he attended school in the U.S.

Zhu has seen some improvements in Chinese education, but he admits that “test scores still matter the most.” According to Zhu, the Chinese school system should adopt the American liberal arts education style. “China has a long way to go to reform its educational system so that students will become more creative with more independent thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, sense of community, and practical skills, not just focusing on achieving high scores in tests,” Zhu explained.

The Urban-Rural Divide

While China has technically met educational standards for SDG 4 in China, there is still much more that it needs to do to improve. China Quarterly published a study that found that 63% of students in rural China drop out by secondary school.

The urban-rural divide is largely due to Hukou, a household registration system that assigns rights to families based on their birth status. Through this system, better education and healthcare are reserved for those living in urban cities. The Rural Education Action Program reports that the government spent an average of 900 yuan more each year on a student in an urban middle school than on a rural student. The same report found that rural schools lack qualified teachers and adequate teaching facilities.

The ​Rural Chinese Education Foundation is a charitable organization fighting to improve education for rural Chinese students. RCEF​ is currently raising funds to bring better teachers to rural China, provide financial aid to students, and instill a more useful curriculum that students can apply to real life.

According to its website, RCEF believes “education should be practical, inclusive, and socially responsible.” Organizations like RCEF show the potential to fill the gap in Chinese education, securing SDG 4 in China on an even higher level.

– Miska Salemann
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