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Happy 5th Birthday China Law & Policy!

By , July 14, 2014
Happy 5th Birthday China Law & Policy!

Happy 5th Birthday China Law & Policy!

Five years ago today, China Law & Policy was born. I had just finished my fellowship at NYU Law School’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute and wasn’t 100% clear on what I was going to do next. Why not a blog. I didn’t know much about blogging but what I did know was that China was – and still is – too important a country not to be understood by the general public. But all too often people’s opinions on China are informed more by stereotypes and sound bites.

China Law & Policy was created to overcome that simplistic view and to explain in easy to understand terms, why non-China people should care about some of the underlying issues about China’s rule of law development.  We strive to ensure that our analysis is always well-documented and informed. Our secondary goal has also been to provide a platform for more diverse voices to opine about China and to this day, 50% of our podcast interviews have been conducted with women, a fact that we are very proud of.

So five years in, it’s time to take stock. Every year, China Law & Policy continues to grow. We know have over 3,500 followers to our website via various outlets (twitter, facebook, email, RSS feed) and every year we publish an article that gets a lot of attention. This past year, our series on foreign journalist visas and media censorship in China has become the most popular of posts. But in a close second is a piece that took me a long time to come to terms with and write: Chen Guangcheng and the Commandeering of Our China Human Rights Policy.

But as China Law & Policy continues to grow, the same cannot necessarily be said about China. Our inaugural post, on July 15, 2009, concerned the riots that had engulfed Xinjiang Province, the Uigher area in China’s northwest. A month later, we were writing about the detention of public interest lawyer, Xu Zhiyong (pronouced Sue Zhi-young). Fast forward five years and Xinjiang is again seeing a sharp increase in violence followed by a strong government crackdown; Xu Zhiyong is once again in prison, serving a four year term.

I hope that China Law & Policy continues to be a useful blog for both China-watchers and ordinary people. I have a lot of fun with the blog

It's my birthday, get me some cake!

It’s my birthday, get me some cake!

and will continue with it in between my day job. But as always, I welcome feedback and ideas. Have an idea for a blog post? Want to write that post yourself? Just email me – elynch@chinalawandpolicy.com.

In celebrating our 5th anniversary, I again want to thank everyone who reads this blog and who has given me much needed comments, edits and information. But in particular, I want to thank a few individuals who were there at the founding of this blog and who provided support, encouragement, and ideas: Tom Cantwell, Andrea Worden, Robert Burnett, Michael Standaert, Jeremy Daum, Susan Tice, Eva Pils, Nicky Moody, Don Clarke, Madhuri Kommareddi, Susan Fishman Orlins and Jerome Lynch.

Finally, China Law & Policy could not exist if WordPress – the software that powers the blog – was not offered free to the public. Thank you Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, for creating an easy-to-use, open-source software that has been an important democratizing tool.

Here is to another 5 years!

birthday chinese

Just for Fun: Tips for Travelers – Avoiding Stress in Beijing

By , July 26, 2010

Visiting Beijing anytime soon?  Or merely just thinking about it?  As anyone can tell you who has ever been, in a city of  close to 20 million people on a land mass roughly the size of New York City, it is a stressful place.  So it is important to know how to remain calm and relaxed in a city that is anything but.  Susan Fishman Orlins, one of the first Americans to live in Beijing after the U.S. normalized relations in 1979, and a notorieous worrywart, offers her suggestions on how to avoid the stress of Beijing and live the imperial lifestyle while there.  Didn’t Puyi ride a bike too? 

What worries me most in Beijing is the air quality. When I view this smoggy city-as though through gauze or an organdy curtain soiled with age-I’m pleased with my choice to get around on a two-wheeler rather than sit in traffic jams, contributing to the pollution. You can rent a bike at any of several subway stations and drop it off at any other subway rental area. Be aware that, traffic-wise, the bigger you are, the more you have right of way. At intersections, cars turn from all four directions, seemingly at once, without slowing down. As for a helmet, don’t leave home without one!…Read More of Susan’s Travel Tips Here.

More of Susan’s worries, and writings on China, can be found at her blog –  Confessions of a Worrywart: Meditations on All that Could Go Wrong.  After reading one or two posts,  you will find yourself happily worrying too.

Happy Birthday China Law & Policy!

By , July 18, 2010

Last Thursday marked China Law & Policy‘s first year anniversary, giving us an opportunity to take stock.

When I started this website last summer, a good friend who has his own website told me I should be happy if I get more than 10 hits a day.  And I was.  Things started out slow, but when I was getting a consistent 20 hits a day, I felt good.  But now, a year later, China Law & Policy receives over 1,500 hits a month, with a subscriber list of over 200 people.  In a year, China Law & Policy has published 103 articles, covering a variety of issues, some serious, and some a little less so.  But all with the purpose to offer a different perspective on China and to better inform the U.S. public about issues pertaining to China.

Interestingly, the two most popular articles both involved criminal justice in China.  The article on British citizen Akmal Shaikh’s execution in China at the end of December received the greatest readership (Death Sentence for British Citizen Upheld; Execution Date Set).  But our April 19 article on the Rio Tinto trial in China (Rio Tinto Trial in China – A Miscalculation about Rule of Law?) and Prof. Vivienne Bath’s critique of the article (A Response to Rio Tinto – A different Opinion from Australia) was also extremely popular with our readership.  Rounding up the top three is from the “Just for Fun” section about Lady Gaga’s popularity in China (Oh My Lady Gaga! A Star is Born in…China).

China Law & Policy has also been very fortunate to attract other talent as well.  Marcy Nicks Moody, a regular contributor, has written a series of hard hitting articles about economic policy and trade issues between the U.S. and China.  Her article on China’s response to the Haiti earthquake (In the Aftermath of Haiti’s Earthquake: Where is China?) offered an interesting perspective on China’s soft power and was picked up by many other websites.  We also have had great articles from trade specialist Adam Bobrow, Chinese lawyer and professor Cao Xinglong, longtime China-watcher Susan Fishman Orlins, Gaga expert and Uigher food enthusiast Thomas Cantwell, and Chinese art expert Taliesin Thomas.

One of the goals of China Law & Policy has been to offer an outlet to a younger set of China-watchers, those who have come of age with a China that has always been a friend and never a foe.  The mainstream press is still largely reserved for an older set of “China experts” – those raised during the Cold War and who had to deal with the baggage of Red China vs. Free China (the Mainland vs. Taiwan), baggage that today’s younger China watchers do not have to carry.

In the next year, China Law & Policy would like to increase the number of guest bloggers and further diversify the opinions offered on the website.  We would also like to have more articles from Chinese scholars.  Prof. Guo Zhiyuan’s interview on mental illness and the Chinese criminal justice system remains our most popular interview.

Finally, China Law & Policy would like to thank all of those who have been supporters of the website.  From the beginning, there have been many that have constantly encouraged, provided article ideas and new ways of thinking of issues; this support has truly been invaluable.  Thank you.

But we still want to hear from you. Have ideas about what China Law & Policy should do in the next year?  Have topics that you think China Law & Policy should cover?  Or just general comments?  Please use the comment section to let us know.  Thank you for your continued support!

Just For Fun: President Obama’s Itinerary to See the Real China

By , November 17, 2009

Susan Fishman Orlins, freelance writer and longtime China-watcher, offers some advice on where President Obama needs to go to see the real Beijing. 

Biking in Beijing - perhaps the best way to get around

Biking in Beijing - perhaps the best way to get around


DEAR MR PRESIDENT:  WHAT TO DO IN BEIJING

By Susan Fishman Orlins

Dear President Obama,

As I bike around Beijing this week, during a short trip to see my daughter who works here, I’ve been thinking about some local attractions you might enjoy during your visit.  I’ve also been thinking about how the ratio of bicycles to automobiles appears to have flip-flopped from the first time I arrived in China, thirty years ago.  When you inhale the acrid smell of motor vehicle fumes and view this smoggy city–as though through gauze or an organdy curtain, soiled with age–you may decide that you too would prefer getting around on a two-wheeler rather than waiting in traffic jams, adding to the pollution.  You can rent a bike at any of several subway stations and drop it off at any of the others.  Just be aware of the rule of the streets:  the bigger you are, the more you have the right of way.  At intersections, cars will turn from all four directions, seemingly at once, without slowing down.

I like starting off my stay here with a foot massage.  Side by side in oversized, cushy club chairs with high backs that recline, you and President Hu Jintao can first soak your feet in a barrel of milk, herbs and Chinese medicine.  Then, in the privacy of a room for two, you can watch CNN on the flat-screen TV or discuss human rights, while young men knead your shins and toes with Healthy Spa Life Cure Professor massage lotion. 

Afterwards, you might want to buy some gifts for Malia and Sasha.  Head to trendy Nanluoguoxiang, lined with coffee bars and boutiques and where you can pick up a couple of Oba-Mao t-shirts with your own image donning a red-star cap. 

Beijing's Hutong Life

Beijing's Hutong Life

I suggest quickly making your way out of there through the crowds of Chinese yuppies and foreign tourists.  To witness something of life as it has been here for decades (try to mentally delete all the cars), head south and turn into any hutong and lose yourself in the maze of narrow lanes lined with low courtyard houses with sloping tile roofs, most of which–unlike in earlier times–provide shelter for several families.  Some hutongs are quieter than others, with maybe only a cat stealthily creeping along the edge of a courtyard wall and a few rusty bikes leaning below.  Then you turn a corner and there unfolds a row of tiny, old shopfronts, many of which are selling dough in its endless forms:  fried, flat, squishy, steamed, noodly.  A bun–that looks like a large cream-colored ball you squeeze to exercise your hands–might be empty inside or filled with bean paste or minced pork.  Or you can get dumplings floating in broth. 

Hutongs are where I most like to watch the bustle.  Watching the bustle is a typical Chinese activity;  they call it kankan renao, literally look at bustle.  I could steer you to the hutong where I talked to a baby and bought striped socks from her grandmother, while a guy in a hard hat working nearby secured a shelf I’d bought to the back of my bicycle with some electrical wire.  But that would take away the fun of discovery.  No matter which way you turn in these lanes, you’ll get a sense of community, especially for elderly folks, whereas at home in the U.S. my sense of life for the elderly is often one of loneliness.

In fact, when I asked a retired Chinese friend what she does all day, she replied, “Wanr,” which is Beijingspeak for play and means hang out.  She hangs out in the park with her friends.  Just north of Jingshan Park, you can experience an inviting “playground” for senior citizens, one of many throughout the city.  Don’t be surprised if the rows of ping pong tables are all in use.  At a small cement table by the fence, some lao touzi, or old men, will probably be playing Chinese checkers with a ring of onlookers that sometimes grows to three-deep.  Meanwhile, lao tai tai, or old women sit on benches chattering.  Try out some of the colorful exercise contraptions:  stand on one to swing front to back, side to side on another.  Some have bars that stick out for leaning against to massage your back.  Ahh, lovely.  Maybe if we provided more recreation like this for our elderly, we could reduce health-care costs.

Another way the Chinese promote good health is by drinking tea.  My favorite teahouse in Beijing is Stone Boat, located in zen-like Ritan Park.  This being an embassy area, the setting is quiet, though you occasionally hear strains of someone practicing Peking Opera.  The teahouse is the shape of a shortened train car painted with intricate designs in which Chinese reds and greens dominate.  The carved wooden window frames open to a pond where a few men may be fishing, bare willow branches weeping over them.  Try for some solitary moments here, an opportunity to think quietly or take some notes, while sipping ginger tea.

If Michelle were with you, and if it were date night, I would suggest dinner at Lan in the business area, more for the exotic atmosphere than the expensive food.  In any case, it’s worth going there just to have a look at how lavish New China can be.  But be forewarned of sensory overload:  there are even paintings on the ceilings.  The blend of contemporary design with baroque and whimsy gives an overall Alice-in-Wonderland effect.  My favorite displays are on glass shelves that line the walls on either side after you enter:  a rainbow of fabrics stacked alongside cones of brightly colored thread, mock elaborately decorated pastries and cakes, Jesus candles of various sizes and shaped burnt down to different heights.  And sprinkled throughout, photographs of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. 

For more down-to-earth dining, I’d have a meal at Liu Zhai Shi Fu, located in a hutong behind The National Art

A feast at Liu Zhai Shifu - ma dofu is on the bottom right

A feast at Liu Zhai Shifu - ma dofu is on the bottom right

Museum of China.  Though it can be a bit chilly, sit in the enclosed area that used to be the courtyard of this family-run restaurant, where silk vines hang overhead.  Be sure to order ma doufu, a dish of old Beijing and, though it looks like chopped liver mixed with wet cement, it’s the most delicious dish made from a soy bean I’ve ever tasted:  sour, spicy hot, smooth on the palate.

Before you leave Beijing, why not drop in on the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) offices and chat with the young Chinese employees there as well as with Princeton Fellows and other American interns who are doing all they can to safeguard the earth?

I hope you have a great and productive trip.

Warm regards,

Susan Fishman Orlins

Susan Fishman Orlins Susan’s work has appeared previously in The New York Times and The Washington Post as well as in Moment Magazine, where she is an associate editor.  She received a Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish journalism for her Moment profile of Deborah Tannen. 

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