WCBE

Louisa Lim

Corruption is usually thought to be a bad thing. But in China, the answer is no longer crystal clear.

For decades, the country's Communist Party has declared that corruption threatens its very survival. But there are signs that this is changing. Recently, the state-run media have begun arguing that corruption can't be stamped out, so it should be contained to acceptable levels. And some corruption appears to be tacitly condoned.

Dissident and artist Ai Weiwei said Thursday that he has been forbidden from leaving China, despite the lifting of strict bail conditions imposed after he was released from detention last year. This comes a day after a hearing on his tax evasion case, which he was prevented from attending.

New strains are emerging between China and its old ally, North Korea, six months after the death of reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The recent North Korean hijacking of Chinese fishing boats has shaken those ties considerably, leading to public pressure on China to stand up to North Korea.

Fishing boats returning to their home port in China don't normally make the news. But they did last month, because three boats — and 28 fishermen — had been detained for almost two weeks in North Korea.

A deceptively simple question has become an obsession for Chinese artist Yang Weidong: "What do you need?"

For the past four years, Yang has posed the question to more than 300 Chinese intellectuals, and the results illustrate a startling level of discontent among China's thinkers.

As for the answer, one word pops up time and time again.

"I need freedom," says writer Chang Ping.

"I need freedom of speech," says economist Mao Yushi.

"I need freedom of expression," says poet Ye Kuangzheng.

This is the tale of a single tweet and its far-reaching consequences in China.

In April 2011, retired forestry official Fang Hong posted a scatological tweet, mocking a powerful Chinese politician, Bo Xilai, the Chongqing party secretary.

To the average observer, they look like ordinary pigeons, caged into a balcony in a high-rise Beijing apartment. But make no mistake. These cooing birds, according to breeder Yang Shibo, are like top-of-the-line sports cars.

"These are the Ferraris of the bird world," he says. "They're the most expensive, and the fastest."

The price of racing pigeons is soaring sky-high, pushed up by wealthy Chinese buyers.

For two weeks now, the world has been following the story of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng. And in nearly all reports, the phrase "blind activist" is used at least once.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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China is clamping down on social media as it grapples with a crisis over the escape of a high-profile dissident, apparently to U.S. protection. The case presents new difficulties for a Chinese leadership already struggling to deal with the scandalous downfall of a powerful politician, and it complicates U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Beijing this week.

Yet China's use of social media in dealing with these two recent crises has been a study in contrasts.

A senior U.S. official, Kurt Campbell, has arrived on an unscheduled trip to Beijing, apparently to negotiate over Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, believed to be under U.S. protection. The fate of the activist puts both China and the U.S. in a tricky diplomatic bind, with no easy answers.

China is gripped by a tale of murder, betrayal, flight and intrigue that threatens the stability of the entire nation. At its heart is the death of a 41-year-old British businessman in a hotel room in the city of Chongqing last fall. The scandal has brought down a high-flying Chinese politician, Chongqing's party secretary Bo Xilai, and his wife, with China's state-run media hinting at their corruption and abuse of power.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong Un, stood before cheering troops and citizens today to make his first public speech. The address rounded off two weeks of celebrations to mark 100 years since the birth of the nation's late founder and comes in the wake of Friday's failed missile launch. NPR's Louisa Lim reports on a new approach to leadership in the world's most isolated nation.

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As North Korea gears up to launch a long-range rocket, political changes are afoot, too: Pyongyang has consolidated its succession process, giving a new title to its new leader, Kim Jong Un, who came to power in December after his father's death.

The rocket launch, which could come as early as Thursday in North Korea, has been condemned by the international community as being in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. So why now?

The swift downfall of ambitious Chinese politician Bo Xilai exposed a bitter power struggle in the highest echelons of government. Now his victims are telling their stories, exposing a darker side to Bo's signature clampdown on organized crime.

Charismatic and outspoken, Bo seemed headed for the country's top leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee, before he was removed abruptly from his post — as party secretary of the major southern city of Chongqing — earlier this month.

A selection committee in Hong Kong has chosen a former Cabinet chief as the southern Chinese financial hubs next leader. The voters were handpicked by Beijing. Leung Chun-ying's term will start in July.

A committee of Hong Kong's handpicked elite will select the territory's new leader this weekend after a hotly contested fight, which has left both the main front-runners tainted by scandal.

It's been 15 years since Hong Kong, a former British colony, reverted to Chinese sovereignty, yet tensions between local people and those from the mainland run deeper than ever.

In a moment of high political drama, China has removed flamboyant politician Bo Xilai from his post as party secretary of the major southern city of Chongqing. The sacking comes as Beijing approaches a once-in-a-decade power transition this fall, offering a glimpse of the Machiavellian political struggle behind the scenes.

A leather belt from Hermes priced at almost $1,000 — nearly a year's salary for the average Chinese farmer. A bright pink, $2,000 trouser suit from Emilio Pucci. A red snakeskin Celine handbag that costs $4,500.

These weren't items at a fashion show, but luxury goods spotted on delegates hurrying to China's annual legislative assembly sessions.

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Now just as the U.S. economy seems to be picking up, China's is not. The Chinese government has downgraded its economic growth target to the slowest rate in eight years. China's premier says the country needs to boost consumer demand, and address what he calls unsustainable development.

NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing.

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In southern China, a village that rebelled against corrupt Communist officials has elected the main protest leaders as its new village committee leaders. Reformers are hoping this could be a template for defusing unrest through grassroots democracy, but others say the experience of the rebellious village is unique.

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