Traditional Food and Poverty
While China boasts the world’s second-largest economy and a growing number of billionaires, the country’s impoverished population continues to suffer. Although the national poverty rate fell from 10.2 percent in 2012 to 3.1 percent in 2017, China still estimated that over 16 million rural people were living below the poverty line in 2019.

The Chinese government, under the leader Xi Jinping, has made great strides in poverty reduction. A major goal is to eliminate extreme poverty in China by 2020. Efforts to aid the country’s poor include planning for road and housing construction in rural areas, as well as education. This is mainly because rural areas are home to most of China’s poor population. One practice occurring in the Gansu province of China adopts a less traditional approach. Here, traditional food and poverty link in a way that aims to help the rural poor.

The Gansu Province

The Gansu Province is a rural area in northwestern China and home to about 26 million people. Gansu is predominantly an agricultural area, yet frequent earthquakes, droughts and famines have strained the area’s agricultural output and economy.

Poverty is a significant issue that faces the residents of Gansu, but the Chinese government is taking note. Local authorities have been combating poverty from all angles. They recently adopted a rather unconventional approach to fight economic concerns. The local Gansu province authorities plan to teach residents how to make a traditional Chinese noodle dish from scratch.

Lanzhou Beef Noodles

Lanzhou beef noodles get their name from the province’s capital city and are a traditional and famous meal that people eat widely across China. Making the dish from scratch involves the combination of flour and water to create the chewy noodles. The noodles also include clear broth, beef, cilantro, green onions and chili oil.

Gansu government officials announced in 2019 that they planned to teach as many as 15,000 impoverished people how to make these noodles from scratch in an effort to reduce poverty in rural areas. This practice has two main focuses— teach residents how to cook a cheap, traditional and hearty meal and then use this knowledge to facilitate employment. Employment could be through an established noodle shop in the area or by opening their own shop.

Traditional Food and Poverty

While the noodle initiative in the Gansu Province may seem unorthodox, similar programs have occurred in other parts of China. Noodles, in all different varieties, have long been a vital part of cultures around the world. The names of different noodles often even mark certain historical persons or events. Noodles also serve as a way to commemorate specific events in one’s life, such as a birthday or a new year in other cultures.

Additionally, the link between traditional food and poverty is one that is gaining increasing attention as the world examines the nuances of poverty. One study on the traditional “poverty cuisines” of Arab food in Israel, connects the act of cooking and consuming these meals to empowerment in the face of adversity. This study alleges that food choices can allow autonomy and room for preservation and creation of identity.

In examining the link between traditional food and poverty, opportunities for both economic and ideological growth arise. The noodle-making efforts in the Gansu province and across China are a strong example of how food can influence social change. Speaking about the efforts to teach noodle-making in China, NPR reporter Yuhan Xu updated an old proverb, stating “Give a man a bowl of noodles and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to make noodles and you feed him for a lifetime.” Let this new proverb be one that people consider in the fight against global poverty.

Elizabeth Reece Baker
Photo: Pixabay

Improvements for Deaf People in China
There have been many improvements for deaf people in China, especially in the areas of education, language and health care. Providing a sense of self-worth and pride, deaf individuals globally are seeing a shift in their impairment. While people once considered deafness a weakness, this disability has become a model of strength and purpose.

China’s population of 1.3 billion includes 27.8 million who suffer from hearing loss. This figure involves an estimated 11 percent of people older than 60 years of age and 20 million in the elderly segment, who suffer from moderate to severe hearing problems. The Ministry of Health has identified 115,000 children under the age of 7 with severe to profound hearing loss. Further, 30,000 babies are born with hearing impairment each year.

The Challenges

Improvements for deaf people in China are still an ongoing process. Deaf students face significant challenges such as education, language and acceptance. Parents of deaf children fought against their children learning Chinese Sign Language (CSL) for the stigma of not being normal. Parents preferred a more mainstream learning environment.

Moreover, deaf students were at a disadvantage when applying for colleges. These students fell behind their hearing peers, despite the schools expecting them to keep pace. Fortunately for deaf students, soon came the introduction of bilingual learning; students could still learn CSL, as well as spoken and written Chinese. Also, to their benefit, adapted materials included the availability of the National Higher Education Examination.

Still, China has made significant progress. In the past decade, there has been an increase in education accessibility for schools exclusively for deaf individuals, as well as schools for all other forms of disability.

Programs Launched and Progress

The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised China for the improvements of the programs for deaf people. The population of focus includes children with deafness, growing children with hearing loss/problems and the elderly community.

As of 1999, China has initiated the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) on the recommendation of the Central Government. The UNHS involves screenings offered in hospital-based programs. Newborns from low-income families receive pre-screenings for hearing-aids, as well as pre-screenings for cochlear implants. Additionally, China provides free hearing aids to deaf or hearing-impaired adults over 60 years of age. To date, over 400,000 individuals have benefited from these programs.

Hearing Screening Process

There are three categories in the hearing screening process. The first category includes large cities with extensive resources that provide UNHS hospital-based programs. This has lead to the screening of 95 percent of babies. The second category involves targeted screenings of high-risk newborns. Within one month of birth, newborns may visit early screening centers upon referral. The last category consists of the wide dissemination of questionnaires and simple tests. These tests, that community doctors provide, monitor each child’s hearing.

According to the UNHS, hearing loss in babies ranges from three to six per 1,000 births. The Otoacoustic emissions/Automated Auditory brainstem response methods perform screenings. These methods (OAE/AABR) offer a simple pass/fail result or a referral-based result, depending on the recommendation of extensive tests.

The Impact

The improvements of deaf people in China continue today, including in areas of educational and career opportunities. China is encouraging feedback from the deaf community in decision making. Further, these efforts ensure a more inclusive and informed environment, that does not highlight limitations and welcomes diversity.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

Chinese Re-education Camps
Currently, China is holding Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. China is holding them captive in its re-education camps without trial, with the excuse that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight Islamic extremism. However, police forces hold power over these places, making it impossible for the Uyghur people to leave by choice. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are. This article covers information about the discovery of the Chinese re-education camps and how nations and people are taking action.

The China Cables Leak

Currently, estimates state that China is holding somewhere between one and three million Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. This number would equate to around 10 percent of the Uyghur Muslim population in China, which is about 10 million. The government is claiming that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight extremism. However, after the leak of the China Cables, China had a difficult time sustaining this narrative.

The China Cables refer to the leak of the operating manual for the Chinese re-education camps, which people formally knew as the Xinjian re-education camps. Prisoners only obtain weekly phone calls and a monthly video call with relatives. Other than that, any other contact can result in their suspension. The Chinese camps have high security and prisoners are under constant surveillance, which makes it nearly impossible for them to contact the outside without someone catching them.

One can mostly trace the documents back to 2017, and they explicitly reveal the government’s plans to use these facilities to forcibly teach manners and ideologies to the prisoners. Even though the government says the people can leave the camps and are there voluntarily, the China Cables state that the camps would only release the students after a year and only after achieving a minimum point score. Despite the evidence, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said: “What we established are vocational training centers — they are not concentration camps as called by some people.”

The World’s Action

The world has been noticeably quiet about this issue. However, some U.S. representatives have provided comments and critiques about the camps. Mike Pompeo, the United States’ Secretary of State, has called the treatment of the Uyghurs “the stain of the century.” Deputy John Sullivan called it a “horrific campaign of repression.”

Even though it took some time, the U.S. government finally took concrete action. The administration blocked Chinese officials who carry out the repression from gaining visas to the U.S. The Commerce Department sanctioned Xinjiang’s Public Security Bureau, its subsidiaries and eight companies for their involvement in the persecution, detention and surveillance of the Chinese camps. China has used the camps as a testing ground for intrusive surveillance of the Uyghur.

Outside of the U.S., other nations are taking action. The United Kingdom has urged China to give U.N. observers access to detention camps. Belgium stated that it would continue raising the issue of human rights violations in these centers. Finally, 22 countries at the U.N. issued a joint statement directed to China to end the detentions and human rights violations of Muslims. The U.K., Canada and Australia are amongst the countries that signed.

Opensource Research

Any of these things would not be possible if it were not for the power of the people, beginning with the leak of the China Cables and opensource research. Opensource research is the type of research that includes sources available to everyone on the internet. German academic Adrian Zenz followed this type of research by using a Chinese search engine, Baidu, to discover documents that proved the existence of these camps.

Shawn Zhang is another significant contributor, who is a law student that used satellite imagery to investigate the location and size of the camps. Both of their research has supplied evidence and images to news outlets. It has also helped disprove the Chinese government’s denial of the camps. One should never underestimate the importance of the power of the people. Zhang says: “During my research, I have felt a lot of pressure from the Chinese government (…) [but] I think it is worth it because there are so many Uighur people held there. They just totally vanished, they disappear, like going into a black hole. They’ve lost contact with their families. At least my research can help international society to pressure the Chinese government so there can be a better chance of a peaceful solution.”

The Save Uighur Campaign

There has also been an increase in coverage of this issue, particularly in social media, through the hashtag #SaveUyghur. It is essential to keep talking about this, so more people become aware, and those in power feel pressured to exercise change. Finally, there are also nonprofits such as The Save Uighur Campaign, where people can donate and contact Congress. This NGO’s mission is to help the Uyghur Muslims suffering from the Chinese re-education camps. In its own words, “The project is a concerted effort to tie media exposure, public relations, and government action together into a single strategy aimed at the liberation of the Uighurs from the oppression they face at the hands of the Chinese government.” It is prompting people to protest and giving them the resources to do so as well.

A popular way of protesting, which Save Uighur also promotes, is Fast From China. China bans Muslims from fasting, which is part of their religion. As a way of protest and an act of solidarity, people stop eating Chinese products during the month of Ramadan. There is even a hashtag for this, #FastFromChina.

The Save Uighur NGO does something fundamental by encouraging people to contact Congress, as this is where one can see the most tangible progress when fighting for this issue. Congress is considering two bills that support Uighur Muslims. The Senate has already passed one, while the House of Representatives is yet to pass the other one. One can find the tools to support it and contact leaders on the Save Uighur website.

Atrocities are happening in China, but people are doing some things about them. People can start taking action and changing the circumstances by informing themselves and contacting their leaders. Some fantastic ideas are already in motion to fight against these Chinese re-education camps, both from the government and the people. From discovering the China Cables to a hashtag, everything counts in this battle. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Minority Languages 

Approximately half of the world’s 7,000 distinct spoken languages are at risk of extinction within this century as a result of market globalization. Generational language loss emerges from the prioritization of dominant languages over minority languages. Yet, online communications technology expands outlets for the promotion and preservation of endangered indigenous minority languages. 

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) recognizes 56 ethnic minority groups, of which 55 have indigenous languages, numbering approximately 130. Indigenous peoples consisting of 1,000 or fewer people speak at least 20 of those languages. Out of 11 million ethnic Manchus, fewer than 100 have conversational fluency, a symptom of Standard Mandarin supplanting the Manchu language. The Hezhen, Tatar and She languages face circumstances like Manchu, while the Jinuo, Nu, Pumi and Yilao languages risk losing their conversational status.  

Historic Policies for Preserving China’s Indigenous Minority Languages

The PRC Ministry of Education has implemented policies for the preservation of indigenous minority languages. These policies rest on the premise of the legal equality of all ethnicities and autonomous governments in the nation. Hence, minority ethnicities have considerable self-government in the form of five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures, 120 autonomous counties and 1,256 autonomous communities. Autonomous ethnic minority areas comprise 64 percent of China‘s total landmass, governing 75 percent of the ethnic minority population.

The law guarantees the provision of language interpreters for ethnic minority representatives in the PRC’s parliamentary assemblies. Likewise, official bodies translate all laws, regulations and major political documents into indigenous minority languages. Autonomous governments conduct their affairs in these languages. Standard Mandarin and minority languages coexist on autonomous government seals, identity cards and in the commercial sector.  

Plaintiffs may file lawsuits in indigenous minority languages, and defendants without fluency in Standard Mandarin may request translators. Courts may conduct trials in native languages for the sake of convenience and efficiency, while the translation of court documents into many languages occurs in multilingual regions.  

Autonomous regions receive latitude in structuring education in many languages. But such schools must also ensure skill in Standard Mandarin. As of 2012, bilingual education existed in 21 autonomous regions and 13 provinces, encompassing approximately 10,000 schools.

Policies incentivize minority authors and translators to write and publish in their native tongues. No cap exists on the quantity of minority language writings permitted, while the free provision of stripe codes further facilitates publication. State proposals to fund minority language magazines and journals raise questions of integrity and autonomous development.  

Kazakh, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Zhuang and Yi are among the sixteen indigenous minority languages in which CCTV has broadcast since May 22, 1950. The national radio has broadcast in more than 20 minority languages, compared with local radio broadcasting encompassing 30-plus languages.

The Increased Role of Digital Technology in Present-Day Language Preservation Measures

As a supplement to these earlier measures, authorities now explore the opportunities afforded by technology for moving language preservation into a globalized digital world. In 2010, the PRC began developing a vocal database of the nation’s officially-recognized languages and dialects. Xinjiang-based ethnic Kazakh university professor Akbar Majit notes that as of 2010, online communication had already made inroads in minority communities. In 2010, the PRC began developing a vocal database of the nation’s officially-recognized languages and dialects. Majit notes that as of 2010, online communication had already made inroads in minority communities.

An event held in September 2018 in Hunan province showcased technological options, such as the comprehensive recording of endangered languages. Among the advanced technologies discussed as language preservation tools were AI speech recognition and synthesis.

Conclusion

Tibetan monk and software developer Lobsang Monlam notes that even small inroads of digital technology on Tibet make a considerable impact. Internet, word processing and other adaptations of the Tibetan language currently exist. From grammar, character and spell-check programs to optical character recognition, speech-to-text and translation software, digital technology may substantially assist minority language preservation and promotion throughout China. Building upon the policies of the past with the technology of the present and future, justification exists for optimism about the future of China’s minority languages. 

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Everystockphoto

Child Labor in China
Child labor in China has influenced programs like The International Labour Organization. This organization put forward conventions 182 and 138 (1973; 1999) to eliminate child labor around the globe. Nobel Prize winners like Malala Yousafzay and Kailash Satyarthi sought to focus efforts on ameliorating the risks associated with child labor; however, incidences still exist throughout the world. Presented here are 10 facts about child labor in China. It is particularly important to understand the threats that make some children more likely to be child laborers than others.

10 Facts About Child Labor in China

  1. About 8 percent of Chinese children between 10 and 15-years old work as child laborers. Children from rural areas are more likely to be child laborers. Farms need laborers and children are inexpensive to employ.
  2. A child laborer in China is any employee under 16 years. Under Chinese law, no one under the age of 16 can work and those who do employ children are breaking the law. Luckily, this trend is decreasing with the help of other legislature favoring strict policies in which the Chinese constitution intends to protect children from maltreatment.
  3. Millions of children across China are laborers. This is more common outside the cities where the population is less dense. Families migrate from the cities to rural areas for farmland, but hundreds of millions of families move from rural areas to the city and leave their children behind. Children left behind are more susceptible to become child laborers because they do not have families to protect them.
  4. Traffickers often buy child laborers who receive commissions and finders’ fees. Child labor can be a form of human trafficking where employers buy and sell children as employees. Parents sell their children to traffickers while traffickers either kidnap or lure others to drop out of school with the promise of a lucrative life. The United Nations Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons works to prevent trafficking by raising awareness of the tricks and trade techniques that traffickers use to recruit children. These methods are more appealing to children living in poverty because it involves the promise of money and resources that they could otherwise not afford.
  5. Children who drop out of school are more likely to be child laborers. When children spend less time in school, they are more likely to act out or engage in risky behaviors. Child labor in China means the children enter the workforce at a young age. Clothing and shoe manufacturers are more likely to employ child laborers and other manufacturers that benefit from using smaller hands.
  6. Child labor can occur in the home. Parents sell their children to acrobat schools, which live-stream their performances on the internet. These schools put children on display by forcing them to participate in acrobatics. The schools can gain money by selling performances online. Families who live in poverty are more likely to use this as a means of gaining money. They often do not have the skills to work well-paying jobs and thus look for ways their children can provide support.
  7. Child labor in China has made many strides. The International Labour Organization (ILO) advocated for World Day Against Child Labour, marked by June 12th, and this day brings together millions from different companies, government groups, advocacy organizations and the United Nations in order to share news about child workers. This day recognizes efforts that schools have made to improve education services, which results in fewer dropouts.
  8. Over 250 million children ages 5 to 14 years across the world are laborers and 61 percent of them live in Asia. Developing and developed nations alike attract child labor forces and child labor is, unfortunately, occurring all over the world. One can participate in Child Labour Day to raise awareness of their area about the tragedies affecting child laborers.
  9. Children whose parents have migrated are more likely to be child laborers. Migration in China typically occurs from the cities to rural areas. These migrant families can find work easier on farms or as field hands and their children can easily find similar jobs to support their families. These children are more likely to drop out of school in order to work with their families.
  10. Child labor in china is on the decline. China has passed legislation to improve working conditions and has restricted the working age. Legislation to reduce child labor includes the Chinese Labour Law, the Law on the Protection of Minors, Regulations on the Prohibition of Child Labour and the Notice on the Prohibition of Child Labour.

Child labor is not a unique phenomenon in China. Child labor occurs across the globe in both developing and developed nations. While child labor is against the law in most places, it still happens in remote areas and where the population is sparse. In China, the government is working hard to reduce the incidences of child labor. With advocacy and awareness, both China and the world should be able to make strides to end child labor.

–  Kaylee Seddio
Photo: Flickr

China's Human Rights Violations
The Chinese government is committing atrocities and human rights violations against the Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a northwestern province of China. Chinese authorities detained at least 800,000 and up to 2 million Muslims since 2017; mainly Uyghurs, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group, along with other ethnic Muslim minorities.

China’s Motives

Riots broke out in Xinjiang in 2009 due to Uyghur mass protests against cultural and economic discrimination and state-incentivized migration of Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in China. Since then, the Chinese government worries that Uyghurs hold separatist, religious extremist ideas. Therefore, it justifies its repressive actions as necessary measures in response to threats of terrorism.

Chinese officials launched a Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Extremism in 2014 in Xinjiang, but the repression escalated significantly when Chen Quanguo, the communist party secretary, became the leader of Xinjiang in 2016. Prior to this, Chen Quanguo ruled Tibet from 2011 to 2016, where he implemented a dual strategy to restore and secure national security and social stability. He used aggressive policies to reduce ethnic differences and assimilate Tibetans to Han Chinese, such as re-education programs and intermarriage initiatives. Aside from these ethnic policies, Chen established dense security systems to reinforce this cultural transformation, including militarized surveillance systems. After ruling Tibet, people got to know Chen for restoring stability through the enforcement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule and for his innovative ethnic policies, which he expanded in Xinjiang, targeting the Uyghur population.

Xinjiang is of particular strategic and economic importance for Beijing as it has the country’s largest natural gas and coal reserves with 40 percent of the national total. Xinjiang is a key area for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive global trade project, as it connects China to the rest of Asia and Europe. Therefore, Beijing may be repressing the Uyghur in Xinjiang for economic reasons to protect its Belt and Road Initiative project in which China invested between $1 to 8 trillion.

China’s Human Rights Violations and Abuses

The autonomous region of Xinjiang changed its legislation to allow local governments to set up re-education camps to intern Muslims, where they must renounce aspects of their religion, learn Mandarin Chinese and praise the CCP, in order to combat extremism. As stated by the Chinese Communist Youth League in March 2017, “the training has only one purpose: to eradicate from the mind thoughts about religious extremism and violent terrorism, and to cure ideological diseases.”

Former detainees reported the use of stress positions, beatings, sleep and food deprivation by authorities, as well as the mistreatment and torture in some mass internment facilities as punishment for resisting or failing to learn the lessons taught.

The 11 million Uyghur living in Xinjiang outside of the camps also endure the tightening repressive policies of Chinese authorities who subject people to pervasive surveillance. Authorities use cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence, big data and phone spyware. The CCP leader Chen Quanguo installed a grid-management system in Xinjiang, which divides the cities into squares of 500 people. A police station monitors each square that is in charge of regularly checking IDs, fingerprints and searching phones.

Global Response to China’s Human Rights Violations

The E.U. issued a statement in 2018 demanding China to respect the freedom of religion and the rights of minorities, as well as change its policies in Xinjiang. In July 2019, over 20 countries collectively signed a letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemning China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The letter urges China to allow U.N. experts access to the camps. However, no Muslim-majority country co-signed the joint statement. Instead, Saudi Arabia alongside 36 other countries signed their own letter in which they praised China’s achievements and argue that “human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counter-terrorism and deradicalization.”

Most human rights organizations and non-governmental organizations also condemned China’s detention of Uyghurs. This was demonstrated in a joint letter that a coalition of five human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and more) issued to the U.N. Secretary-General, urging the U.N. to take action.

On October 7, 2019, the U.S. blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations, both government agencies and top surveillance companies. This marked the U.S.’s first concrete action in response to China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs, along with the imposed visa restrictions on the Chinese government and communist party officials.

Conclusion

China still dismisses all allegations of human rights violations and uses its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to block human rights issues discussions. Immediate investigations on China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs must transpire and the U.N. should access detention camps. The situation in Xinjiang conveys the level of vulnerability ethnic minorities face, and the urgency for the international community to take concrete action.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

China's Protests Affect its Poverty and Economy
As protests in Hong Kong have continued to escalate between protesters and China’s ruling Communist Party, each side appears to become increasingly distant from the other. The term One China is not new, but what is new is the number of protests that have occurred and the amount of support that it is receiving from citizens. The protests in Hong Kong began to occur in April 2019 following an extradition bill that would have allowed the extradition of the citizens of Hong Kong to the mainland. Here is how China’s protests affect its poverty and economy.

Tourism and the Economy

In Hong Kong’s top tourist area Tsim Sha Tsui, many shop workers tend empty shops waiting for consumers. This district holds an assortment of luxury hotels, restaurants and boutiques that attract tourists. In recent months, however, it has seen an inverse of traffic as shoppers occupy it less and protesters occupy it more. At the beginning of 2019, businesses started to struggle from the strained U.S. and Beijing trade war. In the months following, the economic state worsened and the protesting has lasted for months to date.

Similar to the tourism business, other industries across the region have felt comparable effects from the protests as well. A large number of startup companies are beginning to consider other areas like Singapore for future operations. Some economists believe that China may be one step closer to a recession as GDP has decreased. Select industries are seeing a decline rate in the double-digits from previous years.

Immigration

As the economy of China has been on the decline for months, immigrants from the mainland have moved to Hong Kong at high rates for the past 10 years. Estimates determine that between 60 to 70 percent of China’s population came from the mainland. In 2017, approximately 40 percent of immigrants from the mainland to Hong Kong were living under the poverty line.

Success So Far

Chinese leaders have held a goal to eliminate national poverty for several years now. Even with the protest and political tension that the region is facing, it still seeks to eradicate poverty. In the last seven years, nearly a billion citizens have risen from their impoverished status. In 2018, official counts determined that there were only 16 million people living below the poverty line. If the country continues at the rate it has been going, there will be just a few million people still in poverty by the end of 2019.

Distractions or Support

People have made numerous cases against the middle class, the largest class in the country. Some believe that this initiative has drowned out other issues that impact the nation. Topics such as extreme poverty and class status are beyond the realm of politics and legislation that people typically see. Another claim is that the economic frustrations of China’s citizens are pushing the protest to expand. What initially was about an extradition bill also serves as an opportunity for protesters to speak out about their concerns.

In the last decade, China has reduced the number of people living in poverty substantially, however, it has been occurring at a decreasing rate. In recent months, the discussion of China relates to the increasing rate of protests in Hong Kong. Many people have taken notice of how China’s protests affect its poverty and economy. The nation’s finances have been a point of interest as numbers fail to match those of previous years.

Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

China's Belt and Road Initiative
Chinese authorities have dubbed the One Belt One Road Initiative as the Project of the Century. Spanning 78 countries with a total investment representing 70 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of its GDP and 75 percent of its energy reserves, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest-scale development project. The One Belt One Road is conceptually based on the historic Silk Road, a network of trade routes established during China’s Han Dynasty from the second century B.C. until the 14th century A.D. stretching from China to the Mediterranean.

Broken down into two parts, BRI is composed of a land-based Silk Road Economic Belt, which will connect China with Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Western Europe, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea-based route that will give China’s southern coast access to the Mediterranean, South-East Asia, Central Asia and Africa. The One Belt includes six economic corridors by land and the maritime One Road has two directions, one reaching the Indian Ocean from China’s coastal ports and extending to Europe and the other from coastal China to the South Pacific.

This modern Silk Road is a massive undertaking of unprecedented scope that will take the next 20 years to build. China is investing over $1 trillion to implement the infrastructure projects, funded through low-cost loans to the cooperating countries, including highways, railways, ports, bridges, pipelines, energy grids and power plants. Here are some of the most significant routes and projects in 10 countries affected by China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative Projects in 10 Countries

  1. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway: The maritime route to Africa connects China to Africa. Kenya is one of the largest recipients of the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway is the first new railway in Kenya in the past 100 years and among the first modern infrastructure projects in east Africa. The new railway has already increased Kenya’s GDP and boosted local and foreign tourists, who can now take the Nairobi-Mombasa Madarak Express train to cross Tsavo National Park in just four hours instead of 18. Chinese enterprises have also begun construction on a wind power project in Kapedo, Kenya.
  2. The China-Pakistan Corridor: The China-Pakistan Corridor connects south-western China through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. In Pakistan, the Karot hydropower station on Ji lahm River was the first foreign investment of the BRI and its main project in Pakistan. China also began construction on the Karachi-Lahore Highway project with Pakistan’s National Highway Administration, the largest transportation infrastructure project in the China-Pakistan corridor.
  3. The Five Nations Railway: In Afghanistan, BRI plans include the Five Nations Railway, which would run from China to Iran through Afghanistan, as well as the north-south railway corridor connecting Kunduz to Torkham on Pakistan’s border.
  4. The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor: The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor connects Southern China to India via Bangladesh and Myanmar (BCIMEC). In Bangladesh, the CMEC has led to the construction of the Sheila GanJie Power Station Project, which will improve the local electricity shortage in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a great need for ports to import energy or raw materials and export finished products. The last port to have been developed in Bangladesh was when it gained independence in 1971. The BRI will establish a new deep-sea port at Payra, which will include an oil refinery, a coal terminal to service a power plant and a container terminal.
  5. Myanmar Infrastructure Projects: In Myanmar, China plans to build a deep seaport, a trading estate and a special economic zone (SEZ) or an area designated for facilitating the industrial activity in Kyaukphyu, Rakhine State. Infrastructure projects will also be implemented in the remote western state, where it is much needed as the violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists continues.
  6. The China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor: The China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor connects North China to Eastern Russia via Mongolia (CMREC). In Mongolia, two high-speed railways along this corridor, the Mongolian Vector running from Mongolia-Brest to Belarus and the Zhengzhou-Hamburg running from China to Germany via Mongolia, are bringing Mongolian markets to European firms. Development plans have begun for the building of an international UHV electric transmission super grid along CMREC routes. Another high profile BRI project in Mongolia is the Tavan Tolgoi Rail Project, which aims to link Tavan Tolgoi, the world’s most massive untapped coal mine, to the Chinese border by 2021.
  7. The China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor: The China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor connects Western China to Turkey via Central and West Asia. Turkey is a priority country for the BRI because of its quickly growing pipeline projects, especially the Lake Tuz Expansion, which will increase the capacity of an underground gas storage facility from 1.2 to 5.4 billion cubic meters. Lake Tuz (Tuz Gölü) is currently home to the world’s largest gas storage project under construction and it is expected to be completed in 2023.
  8. The Tehran-Mashhad: Iran is an essential part of the global framework of the BRI due to its tactical location. The BRI has implemented the Tehran-Mashhad, high-speed rail project, which unlike most of the single-tracked, slow and circuitous railways centered around Tehran, will be double-tracked and electrified. Iran plans to electrify all of its railroads, revolutionizing the country’s transportation, by 2025.
  9. China Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor (CICPEC): Vietnam is in a position to reap the most opportunity from the BRI in the Indochina region. China built a 1,205-mile North-South Expressway from Hanoi to Can Tho, connecting eight major cities including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vientiane, Hanoi and Nanning. However, fears that the special economic zone laws would undermine Vietnamese sovereignty have caused unrest, leading to public demonstrations against SEZ law. Vietnam’s history of economic dependencies on China has made the Vietnamese citizens reluctant to cooperate with the BRI.
  10. The New Eurasian Land Bridge: The New Eurasian Land Bridge connects China to Europe and Western Russia (NELB). Kazakhstan will likely become a bustling financial hub of the Belt and Road Initiative as well as one of China’s main trading partners in the BRI. Khorgos has completed the Khorgos Gateway Dry Port, an important logistical town along the original Silk Road more than 1,000 years ago. The BRI has also completed a new land-border crossing with a four-lane road, connecting Khorgos with its Chinese counterpart Horgos.

Although there are many more countries that China’s Belt and Road Initiative will impact, these 10 countries highlight some of the key players and the most important development projects. So far, there have already been many notable successes, as well as failures and obstacles. The BRI has the potential to lift millions out of poverty.

Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

 

 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in China
Most people know China for its immense production capacity, sky-rocketing population, and of course its incredible cuisine. The human trafficking at the source of the nation’s production capacity, however, often remains unknown outside the country. While China’s aggressive censorship policies create a difficult barrier for the flow of information, here are 10 facts about human trafficking in China.

 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in China

  1. The Government Prosecutes Some Cases: The Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) reported investigating 1,004 cases of human trafficking and arresting 2,036 suspects in 2016. China convicted 435 individuals for sex trafficking, 19 individuals for labor trafficking and 1,302 individuals in other cases slavery.
  2. Apple and Sony Offer “Internships”: Foxconn, a Chinese electronics manufacturer that produces parts for Apple’s iPhone, reportedly utilizes exploitative working conditions. The company forces students to work in the manufacturing sector by threatening to fail them and limit their ability to graduate. While job postings often list these as internships, they usually are just production line jobs in dangerous factories. Similar cases of forced labor have occurred in electronics factories supplying major brands such as Apple, Acer, HP, and even Sony, according to The Wallstreet Journal.
  3. China’s Imports Support Human Trafficking: In 2015, China imported a total value of $1.6 billion of electronic products from Malaysia, which employs forced labor to produce electronic goods. China also participates in coal trade with North Korea—importing $954 million worth of coal in 2016—which allegedly uses state-imposed forced labor to sustain many of its economic sectors, including the coal industry.
  4. Some Chinese Buy Myanmar Women for Babies: Most know about China’s one-child policy, meant to slow its burgeoning population. The black market for babies, however, remains relatively unknown outside the nation. Traffickers usually sell women, originating from Myanmar’s northern Kachin and Shan States, for some amount between $3,000 to $13,000 after luring them across the border by promising good jobs. Traffickers lock up and rape many of the victims, and force them to bear the children.
  5. China has 61 Million Left-Behind Children: With China’s booming urban economy, many people in rural areas migrate for work, often leaving behind their families and children completely. While previous estimates documented 61 million of these left-behind children in rural areas, the Chinese authorities officially altered the definition of left-behind children, resulting in a significant decrease in their numbers to 9 million in 2016. These children are prime victims for different traffickers for uses such as forced labor, sexual exploitation and others.
  6. China is One of the Largest Human Smuggling Victims: In 2011, more than 40.3 million Chinese resided overseas in 148 countries. Human smuggling syndicates, like the Snakeheads, leverage its criminal connections to transport Chinese people to other nations. Fees for transnational smuggling vary from $1,000 to $70,000 (average of $50,000) per person. Oftentimes these migrants end up dead or the gangs who smuggled them extort for more money.
  7. It Affects the U.S.: Traffickers lure many Chinese women to the U.S. with promises of “$10,000 per month, board and lodging, and opportunities to travel around.” Garden of Hope, an NGO in New York has helped 1,528 women and 420 youths escape human trafficking since its inception 13 years ago, said Yuanfen Chi, executive director of the organization. Starting in September 2013, criminal courts in New York viewed workers at illegal massage salons (where people offered sexual) not as normal criminals, but as potential human trafficking victims. Liu stated that these victims can remain and work in the U.S. if traffickers forced them to perform sexual acts or work by fraud or force as defined in The Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
  8. North Korean Refugees Face Trafficking in China: The smuggling of North Korean refugees into China constitutes part of a multi-million-dollar criminal industry, operated by a vast network of brokers in both countries. These brokers arrange for guards in both countries to allow for safe passage, often costing refugees around $8,000. This price will only increase as crackdowns on border security intensify in both countries. Once these refugees arrive in China, they become extremely vulnerable to trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, cyber pornography and forced marriage.
  9. China Attempts to Crack Down on Marriage Trafficking: The Supreme People’s Court issued a new judicial interpretation on trafficking of women and children that entered into effect on January 1, 2017. It defines illegal trafficking as “matchmaking that involves subtle coercive measures such as withholding of passports, restriction of freedom of movement, and taking advantage of vulnerabilities such as language barriers, or unfamiliarity with the destination in order to sell the victims against their will.”
  10. Child Forced Labor is Not Overexaggerated: In 2016, police found cases of forced child labor in a garment factory in Changshu, Jiangsu Province, where managers forced underage workers to work overtime, beating them if they refused. The factory took the workers’ phones and passport if they tried to escape. The new judicial interpretation mentioned in point 9 of these 10 facts about human trafficking in China should help stop some of these cases of child trafficking and forced labor.

While China’s significant activity in human trafficking remains unknown in many aspects, these 10 facts about human trafficking in China shed some light on modern-day slavery in one of the largest and most censored nations in the world.

– Raleigh Dewan
Photo: Flickr

Using Streaming to Make an Income
For many rural citizens of China, earning a living is an unproductive grind. More than one-third of the country’s working population consists of rural migrant workers. Despite the long and difficult hours of labor, the average income of these jobs is only approximately 45,000 yuan (less than $6,400 USD). That amount is enough to cover the laborers’ expenses and send some money home to their families but is not enough to ensure long-term financial stability.

Not only are the wages low, but the work conditions are poor. Laborers often resort to living in overcrowded dormitories or apartments that cost a large portion of their monthly salaries. There are hardly any welfare benefits in any migrant-based jobs and social insurance is rare. Workers also struggle to acquaint themselves with their new locales. Hardly any have enough free time to truly settle into their new cities and report feeling isolated and out of place.

Such occupations can no doubt feel limiting. That is why some people in bleak working environments make their own careers. With some ingenuity and with technology as simple as a smartphone, impoverished laborers are continually improving their quality of life. Here is the story of a person who used streaming to make an income.

From Working Construction to Streaming Chickens

Liu Jinyin, a Chinese chicken farmer in Luzhou, Sichuan province,  used to struggle with his meager migrant worker’s salary. Making just 48,000 yuan (around $6,750 USD) annually, Liu worked in construction, followed by a facility that manufactured zippers. After that, he worked as a goat breeder. In his former jobs, he was unhappy with both his wages and his quality of life.

In early 2017, he decided to try something new. With his smartphone and a live streaming app, he began sharing everyday life on his family’s rural farm. He wanted to tap into the ever-growing streaming market in China. Liu features his morning chores, various maintenance projects on the farm and descriptions of the flora and fauna that he encounters every day, among other activities. Gradually, he began to amass a following while streaming to make an income. Urban Chinese often commented that they used to live in rural areas and enjoyed the videos because they reminded them of home. People from other areas of the world were simply fascinated with the way of life and liked the casual look into someone else’s routine.

Tapping into his entrepreneurial side, Liu began to develop a regular schedule for his casual streams. His fanbase responded, and he now has nearly 200,000 followers and makes $1,500 USD per month. Best of all, he is able to stay home and work on his family’s farm full-time. While some of the inhabitants of his hometown were apprehensive about his new line of work, Liu paid his critics no mind. “I’m… now able to stay at home to take care of my parents. Everyone’s happy. This has changed me,” he once remarked.

Other Ways Technology Can Share Prosperity

Liu developed a following with nothing more than a good idea and a smartphone. He now makes nearly three times his prior income in a much more comfortable environment. There is no reason why anyone else in his situation could not find the same success if they had the right tools to do so.

Streaming to make an income is not necessarily the only option either. Some people use basic technologies to make and share videos, advertise their handmade goods or seek microloans to own and operate local businesses. With the proper tools, people living in or near poverty can better support themselves, their families and their communities. Remote entrepreneurs do not have to worry about commuting and have the freedom to tend to their homes and young children while working. Often, the global market is better for the sale of specialty items, like jewelry or art pieces. Access to a bigger market generates more profits.

Ways Anyone Can Help

When business people begin their ventures, they primarily need customers to interact with. A person can visit websites that sell fairly-produced handmade goods to offer support. One can also engage with men and women on microloan services, many of whom share interesting and inspirational stories.

From a political perspective, it is also important to support the Digital GAP Act, currently in the U.S. Senate. This bill would allocate funds to give 1.5 billion people first-time internet access by 2020. Not only would this legislation improve educational, political and societal operations, but a huge number of people would have better economic opportunities thanks to its implementation.

Liu Jinyin’s story is a great example of how no career should be off-limits for anyone, no matter their background. It also shows a small glimpse of how the newest generation of impoverished young adults is using modern technologies to improve their lives. Whether it is buying art or watching chickens, one can give these hardworking people support. The story of a Chinese chicken farmer streaming to make an income is truly amazing.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr