Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Chinese snap up Australian properties

70,000 migrants from the mainland to Australia just last year. Australia is synergistically aligned with China for its economic wellbeing (think natural resources, coal, steel, uranium, the list goes on), but the reverse flow is resulting in the Chinese buying up property and land in Australia. Tricky situation.

Chinese snap up Australian properties

By Jack Levine
Sun, Aug 23, 2009
China Daily/Asia News Network
Source – AsiaOne

SYDNEY: Chinese buyers are snapping up some of the best luxury properties in Sydney including big homes on the harbor, and new condominium developments.

Real estate brokers and developers said Chinese buyers are most interested in hot properties in the inner-city and by the beach. They are attracted by new foreign ownership rules, a favorable exchange rate, and the relative stability of the Australian property market.

After the UK and New Zealand, China is third in the lineup of countries that sends immigrants to Australia. Last financial year, more than 70,000 Chinese arrived in Australia to live permanently, including a steady stream of business migrants and a growing number of students.

“In many cases, Chinese immigrants to Australia are buying into key lifestyle markets, which are characterized as being close to the ocean or within the inner-city,” said Tim Lawless, national research director at RP Data, a property and analytics information company.

In March, Chinese businessman Jiang Mei bought one of the most expensive houses ever sold in Sydney, an inner-city, Point Piper house for A$32.4 million (S$40 mil).

This set off a buying trend. Chinese buyers paid $14.5 million for a home at Rose Bay, and then a Shanghai couple bought in the same waterfront suburb for $15 million. Another Chinese couple bought a $5.8 million house, and a Chinese investor bought a smaller, second property for $1 million, with plans to rent out the home.

Raine and Horne, an Australian real estate agency that negotiated the Point Piper house deal, said interest from the Chinese mainland picked up by about 15 percent at the beginning of 2009.

In March, Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) introduced dramatic changes to rules governing foreign buyers, including that all apartments in new projects can be sold to foreigners. Previously, only half the apartments in a development could be sold to overseas buyers. Student visa holders who live in Australia are no longer limited to spending only $300,000 on a property.

Richard Lawrence, a partner with Holland & Knight’s Beijing office, who often advises clients on China-related real estate projects, said Chinese buyers are becoming more active in foreign real estate, particularly those looking to diversify their portfolio.

In China, some people have concerns that a serious asset bubble is developing in real estate, so overseas markets are starting to look cheap by comparison.

“I think we will see Chinese corporate and institutional investors start to turn to real estate investment opportunities elsewhere,” he said, noting that Australia and the US are key markets.

One real estate agent who deals with top-tier properties said more Chinese than ever are looking to buy in Sydney. Many Chinese want to migrate to Australia, either because their children attend school there, they are considering retiring, or they want to buy investment property.

Wendy Searle, a spokeswoman for Di Jones real estate, said most Chinese are discreet buyers.

“You only get to know they have purchased by looking at completion records, available after a sale,” she said. “It is said in some circles that a majority of houses with the best Sydney harbor views will be owned by Chinese people in a few years.”

She cited a list of the top 100 house sales in Australia for 2008. “A lot of the names of the buyers were Chinese,” she said.

Australia’s real estate market has proved to be very resilient in comparison with other Western markets. Housing prices fell by just 3.8 percent during the 2008 downturn and have since recovered during the first half of 2009.

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Filed under: AsiaOne, Australia, Culture, International Relations

‘China threat’ theory rejected

This comes a little late – but we’ll be hard pressed to find such stories that damn China the past few months. Note – article came up in April 2009. Not exactly Chinese style to go full-frontal in terms of strategy as it disobeys the mantra of Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), but how interesting the ‘accusation’ –

The Wall Street Journal, quoting American national security officials, Wednesday reported that spies from countries like China and Russia had infiltrated the US electrical grid, planting software programs that could disrupt the network in a time of war.

CBS has a report here, whilst the original Wall Street Journal article is here and a recommended read. If it’s true, there’s certainly more a little more than meets the eye to China’s rise and development.

‘China threat’ theory rejected
Source – Global Times 9 April 2009

Chinese scholars Wednesday rebutted US’s allegations that China was engaged in spying and forging secret nuclear deals with foreign countries, saying these were induced by the perceived “China threat” worrying Washington.

US politicians have been debating the country’s foreign and military strategy shifts in the wake of the financial crisis, and some took the opportunity to play up the “threat” posed by China for their own gains, experts in Beijing said.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting American national security officials, Wednesday reported that spies from countries like China and Russia had infiltrated the US electrical grid, planting software programs that could disrupt the network in a time of war.

China was accused earlier of using malicious software to infiltrate and take control of almost 1,300 computers belonging to the Dalai Lama in 103 countries.

In another development Wednesday, US prosecutors accused a Chinese metals company, along with six Iranian firms, of collaborating on a scheme to transfer missile and nuclear technology from China to Iran.

The Dalian-based LIMMIT Economic and Trade Co Ltd was among seven companies from China, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that were sanctioned by US President Barack Obama on Feb 2 for spreading missiles and other weapons technology.

But the company’s manager, Li Fangwei, told the Financial Times Wednesday that the company was “unaware of the charges”, denying that the products were intended for “military use”.

Teng Jianqun, deputy general-secretary of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said these sanctions on China took place only in recent years, and it was a common strategy of the US to interfere in China’s civilian trade.

“More accusations are being made nowadays, probably because the military contractors are fighting against a fundamental defense budget now proposed by the US defense chief,” said Beijing-based military expert Song Xiaojun.

and an exerpt from the Wall Street Journal here –

Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies
By SIOBHAN GORMAN
APRIL 8, 2009
Source + Full Article – WSJ Online

WASHINGTON — Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

“The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,” said a senior intelligence official. “So have the Russians.”

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn’t target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. “There are intrusions, and they are growing,” the former official said, referring to electrical systems. “There were a lot last year.”…

Full article here.

Filed under: International Relations, Politics, Strategy, Wall Street Journal

Pictures expose peculiar prejudices of the propagandist

The media has and always been an instrument for manufacturing consent within the masses. Some (I hope some day soon, all of us will be, it’s all a huge fog of war) are perceptive enough to see the forest for the trees, and Zhang Dali, China’s ‘first’ graffiti artist has a good story to tell – how the pictures and reality tunnel he grew up with under the CCP’s massive propaganda machine painted a very different reality of what should have been.

This is the story of how one man parted the fog and exposed how history had been re-written by agendas.

Pictures expose peculiar prejudices of the propagandist

Source and Photos: Global Times 23 August 2009
By Peng Yining

Zhu De, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai salute the first PLA national sports meet in 1952. The bottom photo was published in Selected Photographs of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The altered version appeared in People’s Pictorial of 1977.

Zhang Dali realized he had been living in a distorted world for many years. The world he had believed in collapsed, history all a great big lie.

He began collecting the old news photos in 2004, going to archives to find the original negatives and then comparing them with the published versions: shabby old houses transformed into multi-story buildings where residents were leading the good life, bonus pigs pasted beside a farm to add prosperity, revolutionary heroes moved in front of pine trees and red flags plus of course famous politicians airbrushed out of history.

“I felt so depressed when I found that things I had seen with my own eyes might not be true,” he said.

“Like being manipulated by something or somebody for years and one day, you suddenly feel it in your soul: ‘I live a fake life.’

Zhang first heard about doctored photos in the 1970s. His father showed him a calendar. There used to be four leaders in the photo, his father said: Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong.

Liu had gone.

Global Habit

In 1993, Zhang read Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and so he knew a bit about propaganda image manipulation, but the Czech writer’s book had not prepared him for the discovery of so many wrong Chinese mainland photos.

He picked 130 out of more than 300 he had collected and named his work A Second History.

A portrait of Mao Zedong and the slogans “Follow the Communist Party” and “Listen to Chairman Mao” replace a shabby wall and door in the new photo of Chengzhuang Agriculture Labor School published by People’s Pictorial in February 1969.

“There are different versions of history,” Zhang said. “The first is objective, but usually we only get to read the second: history that was revised.

“I want to find the hidden truth that was revised or deleted.”

Some photo alterations are easily understood, like cutting a tall person out of a group photo from alongside propaganda folk hero Lei Feng.

“The publisher wanted to make Lei Feng look taller, more heroic,” Zhang said. “That’s just standard practice in China. It could have been revised by the publisher or art editors. Anyone could revise it.”

But other changes confuse us today.

“It’s like ‘Spot the Difference’,” said Zhang. “A man’s hat has been removed for no obvious reason.

“Maybe he was the only one in the photo who wore a hat and that nonconformity made people uncomfortable back then. But it seems only natural today.”

To obtain the original negatives, Zhang went to almost every archive in China, even managing to get hold of some classified film through some sympathetic connections.

Most of these archives are not open to the public, he said, so collecting the original film was actually the hard part.

“I knew some photos of leaders were sensitive, but I really enjoy finding the truth I never knew,” he said. “The leaders and political issues are just a part of history, an element of the truth.”

A Second History exhibits in the New Art Gallery of Walsall in the United Kingdom in May 2009. Photos: courtesy of Zhang Dali

Mao disappears

The very last photo of A Second History concerns Mao Zedong. The original photo was of Mao and many villagers, but all the villagers were deleted to make the photo focus on the leader. So far as expected.

But what makes the exhibit so surprising is the 2007 version of this photo: Mao has been deleted. The editors just wanted to compare the view with today’s view: the place had changed so much they had found it impossible to locate a picture with the old view. Until they saw Mao.

This little story showed in his opinion that everything changes, and the photo just represents a change in people’s own sense of worth. Important things might be ignored in another context, Zhang said.

As the process of collecting continued, Zhang became more and more optimistic. He stopped to think about what is real and what is fake and stopped obsessing over all the lies and deceit. He realized the whole process of revisionism reflected the whole country’s mindset, not just propaganda and cultural policies but also the lives and habits of every ordinary Chinese person.

“And we can still trace answers for today’s China in those photos,” he said. “Why we are so cocky but blush at our own mistakes and poverty?

“Why we are so sensitive and inferior that we refuse to admit there are problems?

“Don’t be afraid to face history. This is what we have done and this is our nation. Every rational intellectual has the capacity to uncover our real history. An artist is part intellectual.”

A Second History just finished exhibiting in the New Art Gallery of Walsall in the United Kingdom in May this year.

“They said the artistic expression of A Second History surpassed any individual painting or statue,” said Zhang, who was delighted by the rave reviews.

“It’s the best way to display China’s cultural policy for a long time.”

Some of his photos admittedly contain some relatively sensitive political issues, Zhang said, but he urged authorities to think carefully about the message his exhibition sent.

“I didn’t set out to criticize anything,” Zhang said. “Fake photos exist all over the world. If someone uses my works to attack China, I can’t help that. I’m just an artist. I just show what I see.”

Zhang will try to get A Second History exhibited in Beijing this year, but he conceded there was little chance he could succeed and so he is already thinking about other Chinese cities. The display boards are all now leaning against the wall of his study.

“Such a pity,” he said. “My work is for Chinese.”

Did Zhang Dali sell out?

There’s a lazy stereotype of artists that they loll about the street all day, growing long hair and then suddenly get hit with a flash of inspiration, Zhang Dali told the Global Times.

“People should ask themselves where this so-called flash of inspiration comes from,” he joked.

Well, perhaps it came from Zhang. Zhang himself had long hair 22 years ago when he graduated from the Central Academy of Arts and Design in Beijing and started painting.

“I am not that into Beijing now. People here wandering all the time and calling themselves ‘artists’,” said the lesser-known artist in the 1988 documentary film Drifters in Beijing. Zhang was huddled in a cramped rented room, his straight black hair hanging to his shoulders, unclean beard obscuring a small chin.

The Zhang of today sports a crew cut and a clean-shaven face. Only the Harbin drawl remains the same, perhaps a bit softer.

Returning from Italy in 1995, Zhang made his name as the “first graffiti artist of China” for his trademark profile of a bald man on Beijing streets.

But annoying many of his fans, he stopped graffiti in 2007.

“Zhang cleaned up,” Liu Yuansheng, a photographer who spent years documenting Chinese graffiti, wrote in his blog. “He became rich and his life was changed, so he abandoned graffiti.”

Some new graffiti artists agree with Liu.

“He disparaged graffiti after becoming famous from it, but I can understand why Zhang quit,” Seven, a member of a graffiti crew in Beijing told the Global Times. “He’s a rich man now.”

“They think like that about me?” Zhang lifted himself out of the sofa and paused for a moment in thought.

“Well, I suppose to some extent, they’re right. It’s true that today I just don’t get that sudden yen to sneak out at midnight and ride a bicycle to spray a blank wall.”

“But their conclusion about me is simplistic,” he shook his head, and fell back into the sofa.

“I am beyond street graffiti now. I seek fulfillment through something more complicated, more magnificent, like A Second History.”

Fast facts: Zhang Dali

1963 Born in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province
1987 Graduates from Central Academy of Arts and Design in 1987 and works as a freelance painter in Beijing
1989 Moves to Bologna, Italy
1992 Paints his trademark profile of a bald man on the street of Bologna, and names it Dialogue.
1995 Back to Beijing as China’s first graffiti artist.
1998 A photo of his graffiti appears on the cover of Newsweek in the United States.
2003-2005 Portrays 100 immigrant workers in life-size resin sculptures of various postures, with a designated number, the artist’s signature and the work’s title Chinese Offspring tattooed onto each of their bodies.
2008 Work about migrant workers Wind Horses Flag exhibits in Beijing.
2009 A Second History exhibits in Walsall, UK.

Filed under: Culture, global times, Media, Politics

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