WBEZ | Asia http://www.wbez.org/tags/asia Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Asia's Economic Imbalances http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/asias-economic-imbalances-107866 <p><p><strong>Stephen Roach</strong> argues that behind most major financial crises&mdash;the Asian financial crisis, the US subprime mortgage crisis, and the European debt crisis&mdash;are unsustainable economic imbalances. With the future of global economic growth still in question, the outlook may depend critically on how the United States and Asia move to address them. Roach recommends that developing Asian nations consume more and strengthen the services side of their economies, while the United States should consume less and stop scapegoating the renminbi. Can Asia and the United States overcome the many structural challenges to fix their economic imbalances?</p><div>Stephen Roach is a senior lecturer at the Yale School of Management and a senior fellow at Yale University&rsquo;s Jackson Institute of Global Affairs. He was formerly chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and the firm&rsquo;s chief economist for most of his 30-year career there. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley in 1982, Roach served on the research staff of the Federal Reserve Board and was also a research fellow at the Brookings Institution.</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CCGA-webstory_12.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Recorded live Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at the Union League Club of Chicago.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 14 May 2013 15:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/asias-economic-imbalances-107866 Asia's New Great Game: The Coming Conflict in Asia http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/asias-new-great-game-coming-conflict-asia-107176 <p><p>Rising tensions between major powers in Asia pose new risks to the region&rsquo;s prosperity and stability, and possibly to international peace. Despite decades of rapid economic growth and social improvement in Asia, a flammable mix of still-bitter historical grievances, increasing resource competition, arms racing, and nationalist feeling&mdash;especially among the young&mdash;is fueling disputes such as those among China, Japan, and Southeast Asian nations over claims to tiny islands in the seas around China. As the United States &ldquo;rebalances&rdquo; to Asia, these geopolitical fault lines and flash points threaten to derail the Asian engines of global growth and involve the United States in irreconcilable regional rivalries and even military conflict.</p><div><strong>Marshall M. Bouton</strong> has been president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs since 2001. Prior to that, he served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Asia Society. His previous positions included director for policy analysis for Near East, Africa, and South Asia in the Department of Defense, special assistant to the US ambassador to India, and executive secretary for the Indo-US subcommission on education and culture. He is an author or editor of several books, articles and op-eds on India, Asia, and US foreign policy. Bouton earned a BA from Harvard, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD from the University of Chicago.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CCGA-webstory_10.jpg" style="float: left;" title="" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><br />Recorded live Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at&nbsp;The Ritz-Carlton Chicago</p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 10:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/asias-new-great-game-coming-conflict-asia-107176 Asia and the Great Convergence http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/asia-and-great-convergence-106669 <p><p>The complex interaction of trade, capital, information, and technology is leading to an unprecedented level of human interconnectedness. This highly networked global society means record numbers of the world&#39;s population are moving into the middle class, especially in Asia. However, as illustrated by the global financial crisis, interconnectedness carries risks of contagion as well. <strong>Kishore Mahbubani</strong> argues that new policies and approaches to governance are needed to solve pervasive problems such as financial volatility and health and climate issues. How does Asia, which accounts for over 60 percent of the world&rsquo;s population and a significant portion of the emerging global middle class, fit into this era of convergence?</p><div>Kishore Mahbubani is the dean and professor in the practice of public policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. From 1971 to 2004 he served in the Singapore Foreign Ministry, where he was permanent secretary from 1993 to 1998, served twice as Singapore&rsquo;s ambassador to the UN, and in January 2001 and May 2002 served as president of the UN Security Council. Mahbubani is the author of Can Asians Think?, Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust Between America and the World, and The New Asian Hemisphere: the Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East. Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines have listed him as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world, and in 2009 the Financial Times included him on their list of the top 50 individuals who would shape the debate on the future of capitalism.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>His most recent book is,&nbsp;<em>The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World.</em><br />&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CCGA-webstory_8.jpg" title="" /></div></div><p>Recorded live Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at The Chicago Club.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 06 Mar 2013 11:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/asia-and-great-convergence-106669 China's Red-Hot Growth Gives Policymakers Pause http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-02/chinas-red-hot-growth-gives-policymakers-pause-92733 <p><p>The U.S. economy is struggling to grow. The European Union is trying to contain a debt crisis. And, in a case of bad timing, the world's fastest-growing major economy, China, is trying to slow down.</p><p>Shanghai has been one of the world's hottest real estate markets, but it's too hot for Chinese officials who are fighting high inflation and what some fear is a housing bubble.</p><p>Earlier this year, the Shanghai government tried to slow down real estate sales by restricting people from outside the city from buying more than one property.</p><p>James Ye of Shanghai Pujing Real Estate sits in an office filled with agents hunched over computers. He says the government policy is working; deals for existing homes are bad.</p><p>"Last year, I sold one property a month," he says. "Now, I sell one property every two or three months."</p><p>The real estate policy is part of a broader plan by the Chinese government to slow the country's staggering growth.</p><p>Andy Rothman, who follows China's economy for CLSA, an independent brokerage and investment group, says the Chinese government wants to slow down the economy and improve the quality of what it produces.</p><p>"Here in Shanghai over the last 10 years, the government has raised the minimum wage by 160 percent," he says. "And this is a deliberate effort to get out of the business of focusing on low-value-added shoes and toys and move more up market for better quality jobs that pay better."</p><p>Rothman says he expects China's economic growth to fall below 9 percent next year — the slowest rate in a decade, but still fast by global standards.</p><p>"Strong growth is China will put a floor under the global slowdown, but it's not going to save the world," he says.</p><p>One reason: Most Chinese just don't have the purchasing power.</p><p>"Chinese consumers are spending a lot. Retail sales growth is 17 percent," Rothman says. "But the Chinese consumer doesn't have enough money to make up for American consumers not going shopping."</p><p>Rothman has a point. China is getting wealthier, but most Chinese still don't have that much money.</p><p>Xiao Yandong makes a living standing in Shanghai's financial district selling pancakes each morning for about 50 cents each. He makes 200 Chinese breakfast pancakes a day, seven days a week. He earns just $500 a month. Xiao doesn't have much disposable income. He hasn't taken his wife and 8-year-old daughter out to eat all year.</p><p>"We buy groceries to cook at home, because eating out is too expensive," he says. "Each meal out costs between $40 and $50 and then it's gone. So, we take the subway to friend's house to eat dinner."</p><p>Whitney Wang, an English teacher, strolls by on her way to work. She earns more than three times what Xiao does, but she's saving most of it for an apartment. That leaves little to spend on Shanghai's pricy merchandise.</p><p>"Jewelry's something I haven't buy for a long time," she says.</p><p>During the global slowdown in 2008, the Chinese government spent billions of dollars on roads and bridges to prop up growth. This time, another dose of government stimulus spending seems less likely — unless, demand for Chinese exports from Europe and the U.S. plummets.</p><p>"If millions of migrant workers who are in factories, especially in southern China, making iPads and microwave ovens and DVD players, lose their jobs, then you'll see a few quarters of stimulus to find temporary jobs for those folks," says Rothman from CLSA.</p><p>The U.S. and Chinese economies remain highly interdependent, but China faces its own unique challenges: Its leaders are certain to focus on the risks to their economy before addressing the problems facing the U.S. and the EU. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317628741?&gn=China%27s+Red-Hot+Growth+Gives+Policymakers+Pause&ev=event2&ch=1125&h1=Asia,Economy,Business,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140994129&c7=1125&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1125&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20111003&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Sun, 02 Oct 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-02/chinas-red-hot-growth-gives-policymakers-pause-92733 The Curious Case Of The Vanishing Chinese City http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-21/curious-case-vanishing-chinese-city-92280 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-21/lim_vanishing_city1_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Imagine a city like Los Angeles disappearing from the map completely. That's exactly what happened to Chaohu, a city in eastern China's Anhui province with a similar population — about 4 million — which has vanished in an administrative sleight of hand.</p><p>That was the Kafkaesque reality for Chaohu's inhabitants, who went to bed one night and woke up the morning of Aug. 22 to find out that their city no longer existed. For many, their first inkling that something had changed was from the local news.</p><p>"Anhui province is today announcing the cancellation of Chaohu city," the broadcast said. It went on to explain that the city once known as Chaohu had been divided into three. The nearby cities of Hefei, Wuhu and Ma'anshan each absorbed a piece of territory. The broadcast confusingly described the move as "an inherent need at a certain level of economic growth."</p><p><strong>Complaints Of Illogical Redistricting</strong></p><p>"I'm unhappy about it," says a man who gives his name as Mr. Luo. "Chaohu was great. Why did they get rid of it?"</p><p>Luo is busy gambling on cards — which is illegal in China — just yards from the police station. Among his fellow gamblers, this bemusement is common, followed by resignation.</p><p>Rumors had circulated for a few weeks beforehand, but there had been no public consultation and no official notice, with residents not being told about the new boundaries in advance.</p><p>This division of Chaohu has led to some strange anomalies.</p><p>For example, in Lintou town, a bridge serves as the new boundary dividing Hefei from Ma'anshan. This means that, for some, the five-minute bicycle ride between home and work has become a trip from Hefei to Ma'anshan and vice versa. The residents of Lintou complain that the redistricting is illogical.</p><p>"Ma'anshan is too far away," complains a man who gives his name as Mr. Zheng. "It's 50 miles away, compared to [Anhui's] provincial capital, Hefei, which is only about 30 miles away."</p><p>In the longer term, residents worry that being hitched to Ma'anshan will be bad for their village. Everyone is aware that Hefei is the major beneficiary of this move: Its area will increase by 40 percent, and it will become the biggest city in China in terms of area, according to the local media.</p><p>Hefei will also now take over the whole of Chao Lake, after which the city was named. Some argue this is good for the lake, since Hefei will be able to spend more money cleaning it up.</p><p><strong>A 'Vampire City'</strong></p><p>But if China's true religion is the pursuit of GDP growth, then Chaohu is being sacrificed to that end. One small district of Chaohu, Juchao, has been rechristened Chaohu, but it has been downgraded to a county-level town, and placed under the administration of Hefei.</p><p>Online, some Internet users have jokingly begun to refer to Hefei as a "vampire city," since they are accusing it of "sucking the blood" from Chaohu.</p><p>Economics professor Jiang Sanliang from Anhui University explains the thinking behind the decision:</p><p>"Chaohu's development hasn't been good, but Hefei is industrializing and urbanizing. It needs land, so absorbing Chaohu will benefit Hefei. The government hopes that redistributing the land will improve the entire province's GDP," he says.</p><p>In recent years, Hefei's GDP growth has been an average of 17 percent. So this move serves the long-term aim of boosting Hefei's competitive advantage by giving it land to expand, so it can challenge the more prominent cities of Nanjing and Wuhan.</p><p>In what used to be Chaohu, the city government offices are, for once, deserted.</p><p>There's no sign at the gate, because Chaohu city no longer exists. The government buildings themselves are eerily quiet, since the local government, too, has been dissolved and no one can really explain what's going on.</p><p>"I've got no official ID, so don't try to interview me," an officious official tells NPR as he bustles around his office in the news division of Chaohu city's former propaganda department.</p><p>He pretends to be busy dusting his shelves. In reality, he's waiting — with all the other ex-Chaohu officials — to find out which of the three cities he's been reassigned to.</p><p><strong>A Hometown In Song Only</strong></p><p>At the park, a surprising number of people are happy about the departure of government officials.</p><p>"It's a good thing," says one old man who gives him name as Mr. Guo, as others nod in agreement. "There's too much corruption. The officials take all our money."</p><p>He is sitting in a pavilion by a lake surrounded by willow trees, listening to a group of retirees singing songs and playing traditional Chinese instruments. As soon as the group is asked about the disappearance of Chaohu, a blazing row breaks out.</p><p>"We're not sure if this is good or bad," says Fan Shihong, shaking his head.</p><p>"Of course it will be good," the others yell back, subscribing to the bigger-is-better school of thought. This could even be the first step of a bigger redistricting project in Anhui, according to the Chinese press, during which some cities will disappear and others will expand.</p><p>Once the shouting is over, the musicians launch into a 1960s song named "Chaohu Is Good." It describes the long miles of shoreline alongside Chao Lake, and it mentions the songs sung in the willow shadows praising their hometown. All those are still there. But technically, their hometown of Chaohu is not. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1316633529?&gn=The+Curious+Case+Of+The+Vanishing+Chinese+City&ev=event2&ch=1125&h1=Asia,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140633602&c7=1125&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1125&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110921&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 21 Sep 2011 14:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-21/curious-case-vanishing-chinese-city-92280 Bomb Explodes At Funeral In Pakistan http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-15/bomb-explodes-funeral-pakistan-92040 <p><p>At least 26 people, including three children, were killed Thursday in an attack at a funeral service in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border. Fifty-five others were wounded.</p><p>According to Police Chief Saleem Khan, a suicide bomber walked up to the crowd of about 200 mourners in the northwest village of Lower Dir and detonated his explosives.</p><p>Police say the deceased man, Bakht Khan, was a member of the Mashwani tribe, which is reputed to be rabidly anti-Taliban. Residents near the scene of the bombing have raised volunteer militias against the Taliban.</p><p>Most of the people killed in the attack were from the tribe, whose members reside in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The tribe's chief, who reportedly held great influence on both sides of the border, was killed in a suicide attack in the Afghan province of Kunar in April.</p><p>Recent cross-border raids into Lower Dir by militants who have found sanctuary in Afghanistan have aggravated tensions between the two countries.</p><p>Earlier this week, Taliban gunmen killed four children as they were returning from school near the main northwestern city of Peshawar. The insurgents said the attack was aimed at locals who support a tribal militia fighting the Taliban.</p><p>There was no claim of responsibility for Thursday's attack.</p><p><em>NPR's Julie McCarthy contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.</em> <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1316112427?&gn=Bomb+Explodes+At+Funeral+In+Pakistan&ev=event2&ch=1125&h1=Asia,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140508406&c7=1125&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1125&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110915&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Thu, 15 Sep 2011 13:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-15/bomb-explodes-funeral-pakistan-92040 For Afghan Female Pilot, A Long, Turbulent Journey http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-14/afghan-female-pilot-long-turbulent-journey-92015 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-15/pilot_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Col. Latifa Nabizada, the only female pilot in the history of Afghan aviation, travels to some of the most remote and dangerous corners of her country with a devoted partner next to her in the cockpit – her 5-year-old daughter Malalai.</p><p>They walk hand-in-hand as they head into the hangar at Kabul's Military Airport, and then board a chopper. They have flown together on more than 300 missions over the past few years, and Col. Nabizada acknowledges the risks of having her daughter on board.</p><p>But she says she has no choice. The air force has no child care facility.</p><p>"Trust me, when I have my daughter with me on the flight, I am really worried from the moment we take off to the moment we land," says Col. Nabizada. "For me, it's my profession to go to dangerous areas. So if anything happens to me, it is expected. But why should something happen to my daughter? I am really worried."</p><p>U.S. military advisers have asked her not bring Malalai on missions — or at least move her out of the cockpit. But the little girl won't stand for it.</p><p>"As soon as they moved her, Malalai would throw a tantrum," Col. Nabizada said. "She would grab my uniform and cry. Anyhow, I am confident of my abilities to control the helicopter while my daughter sits next to me."</p><p>The colonel says things could change next year when her daughter turns 6 and can start school.</p><p><strong>A Long Journey</strong></p><p>This is just one of the many challenges Col. Nabizada has faced on her long journey to becoming a military pilot. It began in the late 1980s, when she and her sister, Lailuma, were the first female graduates of the Afghan Air Force Academy. Lailuma later died during childbirth.</p><p>After the Taliban seized control of the country in 1996, Col. Nabizada fled to Pakistan. She later returned and rejoined the air force after the Taliban were ousted and the Afghan government began rebuilding the military.</p><p>Today, Col. Nabizada's missions often involve supplying troops in remote areas or flying to disaster zones to help provide assistance.</p><p>Being a woman in the Afghan military is still not easy, but it has toughened her, she says. She is no longer harassed, she says, citing an Afghan saying that translates roughly as "steel gets harder with the hammering."</p><p>The Afghan Air Force still uses Russian helicopters, a legacy of the Soviet military occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Soviets helped train a relatively large Afghan Air Force. But it was reduced to a few rickety planes and choppers in the 1990s, when the country was locked in a brutal civil war.</p><p>Rebuilding an air force is a tough task, says U.S. Brig. Gen. David Allvin, commander of the NATO Air Training Command in Afghanistan.</p><p>"Compared to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, it appears the progress has been much slower in the Air Force," he said. "To tell the truth, an air force takes longer to build."</p><p>Today, about 120 Afghan pilots are being trained outside the country, including 40 in the United States. Four Afghan women are among those training in America, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Col. Nabizada. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1316072839?&gn=For+Afghan+Female+Pilot%2C+A+Long%2C+Turbulent+Journey&ev=event2&ch=1125&h1=Afghanistan,Asia,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140147424&c7=1125&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1125&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110915&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 14 Sep 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-14/afghan-female-pilot-long-turbulent-journey-92015 Tweeting To Electoral Victory In China? Maybe Not http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-14/tweeting-electoral-victory-china-maybe-not-91991 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-14/lim_microblog1_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Liu Ping's phone is tapped. She's followed by men in black cars. Her electricity was cut off. And she was detained and held incommunicado in a hotel for four days.</p><p>Her crime? Trying to run for election to the local People's Congress in her hometown of Xinyu in China's southeastern Jiangxi province.</p><p>Her case has unleashed an electoral battle, which is being played out over Twitter — or, at least, its Chinese equivalent, Weibo. Today, 200 million Chinese are microblogging, and as local elections take place, a record number are using this platform to run campaigns as independent candidates. The official reaction has been swift and — in many cases — forceful.</p><p>More than 2 million lawmakers are being chosen at local levels in elections now under way across the nation. These elections take place every five years, and non-Communist Party members are allowed to stand.</p><p>But in Liu's case, her record of labor activism, sparked by being laid off after three decades at a state-run steel factory, means the odds may have been stacked against her. At first, no one would even tell her where to pick up the nomination form for days. She did manage to submit one at the last minute, but in vain.</p><p>"When the preliminary candidates were announced, my name was illegally kicked off the list," she says ruefully. "They told me, 'It is an election under the leadership of the Communist Party, not an election in the United States.' "</p><p>When she went to the local election office in person to ask why she hadn't been allowed to stand, she says she was told, "You want to be a people's deputy? You should be a prostitute." She cried on the way home.</p><p>But she still wanted to stand, this time as a write-in candidate. All along, she had been using Weibo to publicize her candidacy and the tactics used against her.</p><p>Five days before the election, police turned off her electricity. Two days later, they raided her house. The next day, she says, security officials took her to a hotel, confiscated her phone and held her there until after the poll was over.</p><p>Despite failing to stand, she still hasn't given up hope.</p><p>"The power of a single person is insignificant because we have been deceived for so long. But if other people dare to stand up, a day will come when we will see hope," Liu says.</p><p><strong>Independent Candidates' Uphill Struggle</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Her experience unleashed a wave of candidacies, with more than 100 people announcing campaigns on Weibo. Xu Yan, a candidate from the eastern city of Hangzhou, is even uploading campaign videos online.</p><p>But he too, like many others, is using the relative freedom of Weibo to document the harassment he has suffered. In his case, he quit his job after his employer was put under pressure by the tax, commercial and labor bureaus. Each candidate needs 10 nominations to stand in these elections, and many report that their nominators have been placed under pressure.</p><p>Liu Ping is not the only unsuccessful candidate so far. In Panyu, in southern China's Guangdong province, the founder of a grass-roots foundation, Liang Shuxin, also failed to make it on the ballot sheets after local authorities announced new guidelines only permitting female, non-Communist Party members to stand for election.</p><p>He is male and a Communist Party member, and although the restriction was removed the following day, he was not on the preliminary candidate list.</p><p>There have been signals the government will not tolerate candidates outside its control. One unnamed official told the state mouthpiece, the <em>People's Daily</em>, that there was no such phenomenon as an "independent candidate," as these are not recognized by law.</p><p><strong>Internet Provides Soapbox, Protection</strong></p><p>Yao Bo, for one, is undeterred. He's a writer, better known by his Weibo handle, Wuyuesanren. He wants to change the system from within.</p><p>"The process of democratizing China needs to take one step forward," he says, arguing that China's system of local assemblies is, in essence, not that different from a Western parliamentary system. "We do not want a revolution again, so there must be something that can replace revolution."</p><p>Yao says he feels protected by the 237,000 followers of his microblog. He sees the microblog as a soapbox, and a way of sourcing campaign help.</p><p>"I can find people who will nominate me online. I can find lawyers, volunteers, people who will design my election material, people who will print it and people who will canvass for me," he says.</p><p>He's hoping to stand in Beijing, where he believes the authorities have to play by the rules, and so far, he hasn't been harassed. He's already warned what action he'll take if he is, writing on his microblog: "I am announcing here that if anybody gives trouble to my nominators, I'll ask them to make recordings of it and upload it. If they want to play dirty in the dark, I'll let them see ultraviolet rays."</p><p><strong>'A Single Spark Can Start A Prairie Fire'</strong></p><p>Elsewhere, several candidates have already been disqualified for various reasons, and others have pulled out before the polls, under pressure.</p><p>Sheng Hong, a liberal intellectual from the Unirule Institute of Economics, who has been involved in independent election campaigns since the 1980s, describes the electoral trend as "regressive." He fears that the way local authorities are disregarding their own electoral regulations to disqualify candidates is part of a larger trend, signaling that the central government has lost control of local authorities.</p><p>"This is an extremely serious problem now, which I call the collapse of constitutionalism," he says. "Local officials are increasingly lacking in restraint; they abuse their powers and violate citizens' rights, and the central government seems to do nothing to restrain them."</p><p>Nonetheless, the woman who sparked this, Liu Ping, believes that in her case, the strategy of crushing her candidacy has backfired.</p><p>"They failed, and they failed badly. Excluding me from the election worked in my favor. A single spark can start a prairie fire, and the more they persecute me, the more resistance there will be," she says.</p><p>Local election timetables vary around the country, with polls set to run until the end of the year. But as yet, none of the Weibo candidates has been elected. The experience of past independent candidates shows that even if they were to be elected, their real impact on policymaking would be limited.</p><p>But the fact that their fate is a hot topic online shows a growing thirst for public participation in politics, and any government suppression of that will come at its own peril. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1316028739?&gn=Tweeting+To+Electoral+Victory+In+China%3F+Maybe+Not&ev=event2&ch=1125&h1=Asia,Digital+Life,Technology,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140464168&c7=1125&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1125&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110914&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 14 Sep 2011 14:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-14/tweeting-electoral-victory-china-maybe-not-91991 Mentally Ill In Indonesia Still Live In Chains http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-14/mentally-ill-indonesia-still-live-chains-91988 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-14/indonesia_mental_health2_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The harsh, tropical sunlight that dapples Bali's tourist-thronged beaches streams through the fingers of a palm leaf and lands on the shoulders of Nengah, who slumps like a rag doll amid a pile of tattered pillows in the island's far eastern reaches.</p><p>The poor village of Abang is remote, and Nengah spends her days in a heap, staring at hands that lie in her lap like dry leaves.</p><p>Today, Nengah is not alone. Neighbors have gathered in the mid-July heat to watch as her brother uses a stone to break a chain that has bound her to a concrete pit — her home — for nearly a decade.</p><p>Nengah, whose full name is confidential, suffers from schizophrenia. After the 35-year-old violently attacked her stepmother in a blind rage nine years ago, her family decided they had to restrain her.</p><p>Her situation improved after local psychiatrist Luh Ketut Suryani arrived in the village in June to find Nengah naked, caged and filthy. The doctor consulted the family and prescribed medication. Later, Suryani helped get Nengah's family to free her from bondage.</p><p>Nengah's situation is not unique in Indonesia, where the mentally ill are often locked in chicken coops or chained up in family yards to prevent them from disturbing the community.</p><p>A shortage of psychiatrists, limited mental health services, stigma and misinformation about mental illness are some of the reasons people here go without treatment. In a country of 240 million people, there are less than 600 psychiatrists, many of them based in urban centers.</p><p>Dr. Irmansyah, the director of mental health at Indonesia's Health Ministry, estimates that around 30,000 people are living in restraints, but gathering accurate information about them is difficult.</p><p>Last year the department of mental health announced "Meuju Bebas Pasung," a roadmap to free people in chains.</p><p>Officials say they are relying on community members to report cases like Nengah's. Then it will be up to local health officials to negotiate with the families for their release.</p><p>Since taking his position in April 2010, Irmansyah, who goes by one name, has worked hard to reach out to rural communities and create awareness about mental illness.</p><p>But he says mental health remains low on the government's priority list, particularly as it works toward meeting its Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, by 2015.</p><p>The United Nations-designated targets for development fall under eight categories, including reducing child mortality, fighting disease epidemics such as malaria and AIDS and improving maternal health.</p><p>The MDGs have become the universal gauge for development, and countries are judged by their ability to meet them. "But improving mental health services is not part of those goals," said Irmansyah, "so there is little incentive to spend on them."</p><p>The former Harvard University fellow knits his fingers over his government-issued khaki uniform and sighs through his stiff grey moustache when explaining the uphill battle to improve mental health care here.</p><p>"Awareness is rising that restraints are against human rights," said Irmansyah, but he worries that increasing depression among the elderly, behavioral disorders among teenagers and side effects of drug use will only increase the need for better care. "We need to be ready for these problems," he said.</p><p>For now, community outreach is limited, confined to a smattering of volunteers and concerned psychiatrists like Luh Ketut Suryani.</p><p>In 2005, she founded the Suryani Institute in Bali, which uses a combination of psychiatry, anti-psychotic medication and spiritualism to treat mental illness.</p><p>Many Indonesians still regard mental illness as a curse caused by black magic and best treated by a spiritualist rather than a medical doctor. Suryani believes doctors should draw on local beliefs and religious figures to instill trust, a key to helping mentally ill patients recover.</p><p>In 2009 the governor of Bali committed $115 million to a program led by her institute to identify and treat people with mental illness in Karangasem, one of Bali's poorest districts.</p><p>Suryani estimates that as many as 2,000 people in the district suffer from chronic mental illness.</p><p>With the government's support she was able to reach out to more than 320 patients, but a year later her funding was cut. She now works to raise her own funds, but it's slow going.</p><p>Indonesia's Health Minister, Dr. Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih, says she understands the need for more resources, but her ministry has a limited amount of money to put toward tackling Indonesia's raft of health issues.</p><p>Still, while only 2.3 percent of the total national budget goes toward health care, less than 1 percent of that amount is put toward mental health.</p><p>More people came forward to request help for mental illness when Suryani first began seeing patients under the government-funded program. And despite budget cuts, she still sees as many patients as she can. She currently sees around 450 patients, but her limited time and resources make repeat visits difficult.</p><p>During a recent visit she checked on Made, a schizophrenic she has been treating since 2009.</p><p>Made's older brother and caretaker fielded the doctor's questions: How many hours a night does Made sleep, and where? What does he eat?</p><p>Made stood in the yard nearby, tugging at his shirt and looking down in what seemed a bashful pose.</p><p>Suryani, whose long silver hair gives her a warm, grandmotherly look, asked him how he was responding to the medication. He held out his arms to show they were steady — a side effect of anti-psychotic drugs is often tremors.</p><p>It took Suryani making visits to Nengah's family every week for a month before they agreed to negotiate her release. But in the future they will handle the majority of her treatment.</p><p>Komang Gede, one of Suryani's assistants, worries they may not be ready. "The family has suffered a trauma," he said.</p><p>Relapses are common in remote areas where people are unable to return to mental hospitals for regular treatment. "When families spend lots of money on assistance and people continue to relapse they give up and turn to restraints," said Irmansyah.</p><p>The lack of follow-up only entrenches the problem.</p><p>"If we stop treatment and people have not recovered then we must start again from the beginning, and that is not as effective," said Suryani, who tells patients that recovering from mental illness is a lifelong process.</p><p>Increasing access to services is essential, but so too is improving the quality of Indonesia's mental health hospitals, says Irmansyah, who tells stories of overcrowding and abusive staff.</p><p>Until the country gets serious about treating mental illness humanely, Irmansyah says freedom like Nengah's will only be symbolic.</p><p><em>Read more from the international news site <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/">GlobalPost</a>.</em> <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 GlobalPost. To see more, visit <a href=""></a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1316026041?&gn=Mentally+Ill+In+Indonesia+Still+Live+In+Chains&ev=event2&ch=1125&h1=Asia,World+Health,Mental+Health,World,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140466018&c7=1125&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1125&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110914&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=130243918&v20=D%3Dc20&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 14 Sep 2011 13:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-14/mentally-ill-indonesia-still-live-chains-91988 In Northern Japan, Residents Face A New Reality http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-12/northern-japan-residents-face-new-reality-91898 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-13/japan_6months3_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Miyo Tatebayashi used to live about three miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which suffered a crippling accident when the March 11 tsunami struck Japan.</p><p>On a recent day, she had just returned from a government-organized trip to the radiation zone in Fukushima prefecture along Japan's northeast coast. She had wanted to see her house.</p><p>"When I got out of the bus with my daughter, we were smiling, 'It's there,'" she recalls saying. "But when we actually saw our place, I thought, 'Oh, there is no way.'"</p><p>The tsunami had washed her home away, and the nuclear disaster had irradiated her land.</p><p>The radiation levels are so high, the government says, that parts of Tatebayashi's hometown, Futaba, may be off-limits for 20 years. Tatebayashi says she now realizes her life as she has known it is over.</p><p>"Now I've given up," she says, crying as a friend comforts her by patting her neck. "I've finally accepted it."</p><p>Six months after the Fukushima meltdown, the Japanese government says eight areas could be too dangerous for humans to live over the next two decades.</p><p>Outside the evacuation zone, most people have decided to stay, but many still worry about elevated radiation levels. And as a new semester began, thousands of students in Fukushima City arrived in class wearing government-issued radiation monitors.</p><p><strong>Many Still Homeless After The Meltdown</strong></p><p>These days, Tatebayashi lives on the outskirts of Tokyo in an abandoned high school, which serves as an evacuation center for 900 nuclear refugees. One of them, Yutaka Yoshioka, ran a cosmetics and clothing shop near the reactors.</p><p>On a recent evening, he picked up his boxed dinner, which included fried ham, a dumpling and bottled water. Yoshioka says life at the center is excruciatingly dull.</p><p>"In the morning, boxed meal. Boxed meal for lunch, boxed meal for dinner," he said, wearily. "Since I have no job, I'm just being lazy, lying around watching TV."</p><p>Yoshioka shares a high school athletic room with 40 people. There's no privacy: young women dress behind cardboard boxes. Yoshioka marks the days by the movies he watches. He's worked his way through four of the five <em>Rocky</em> films.</p><p>The government has closed most of the major evacuation centers and resettled people in apartments and temporary homes. When his center closes, Yoshioka doesn't know what he'll do. At 63, he doubts he can find a job.</p><p>"I'm too old, so it is impossible," says Yoshioka, who wears blue shorts, a white T-shirt and rubber sandals. "I can't adapt to a place like here."</p><p><strong>Uncertainty Lingers Below Surface<br /></strong></p><p>People who lived a safer distance from the reactors have returned to their routines.</p><p>In Fukushima City, about 40 miles from the nuclear plant, schools are open and people go to work, but just below the surface there is uncertainty and some fear.</p><p>The local government has decontaminated many schools. Radiation levels are down, but still higher than normal. Seiichi Ishizaka, who works in the construction business, has an 8-year-old daughter and has thought about leaving.</p><p>"I thought it might be dangerous for my child," said Ishizaka, "but there are still so many people that are living here, so I am kind of watching the situation."</p><p>On the other hand, Ishizaka's wife, Hiroko, wants out.</p><p>"I think the government isn't doing enough," she says. "I would leave Fukushima if I could. But I have a house and a job."</p><p>The couple is spending a warm, Sunday afternoon indoors at a community center because they don't want their daughter, Chitose, exposed to the higher radiation levels outside.</p><p>Chitose runs around the community center by herself; a small, pink box swings from a chord around her neck. It's one of 26,000 radiation monitors the Fukushima City government gave students recently. The devices will measure radiation exposure for each child over the next several months.</p><p><strong>Lack Of Information Fuels Radiation Fears</strong></p><p>But parents say they're confused because the government still hasn't told them what it considers a safe level of radiation for students.</p><p>"I just don't know what this is useful for," says Hiroko Ishizaka. "Even if I'm told, 'Your kid had this level of radiation,' I can't see whether it means it's safe or not."</p><p>This has been a common complaint since the disaster. People say the government is slow to reveal information and explain things.</p><p>Neither the Fukushima City Education Committee nor the disaster management office could provide a safety standard for the radiation monitors. City officials say it is up to the national government to set them.</p><p>A radiation monitor showed the level of radiation outside Fukushima City Hall was 1.09 microsieverts per hour. Using a Geiger counter, an NPR reporter found similar readings around town. A microsievert is a dose of radiation, but what danger — if any — does it pose?</p><p>Steve Simon is a radiation physicist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.</p><p>"One microsievert per hour, in my view, is not terribly large," Simon said, adding that one microsievert isn't dramatically higher than the level of radiation that occurs naturally and has never been shown to cause cancer.</p><p>"We're talking just a few times larger than background radiation," said Simon. "Whereas, all the studies that have been found to have effects have been hundreds or thousands or ten of thousands of times."</p><p>Would Simon feel safe living in Fukushima City?</p><p>"I would not have any hesitation about staying there, based on that single bit of information," says Simon. "That radiation level would not frighten me."</p><p><strong></strong><strong>Students Happy To Be 'Back Together Again'</strong></p><p>At the Tomioka Town Joint Temporary School, teachers gather each morning to meet students as they get off the bus. The greeting is unusually warm because this is an unusual school. The students used to live in the town of Tomioka, which is near the nuclear plant and is now a no-go zone because of radiation.</p><p>Teachers spent the summer creating a replacement school in the town of Miharu, about 30 miles from the reactors. Most Tomioka students have scattered since the meltdown, but 75 have returned.</p><p>The school is housed in an auto parts factory that's soon to be abandoned. In seventh-grade English, the students — there are only eight — recite their lessons: "I like baseball, but I don't like volleyball."</p><p>The girls wear the school uniform, a navy blue skirt and sailor's blouse with a neckerchief.</p><p>Yukio Nishiyama is a skinny, 13-year-old. He says after the disasters last spring — earthquake, tsunami, meltdown — it's nice to be with kids he knows from home.</p><p>"Very simply: I'm so glad," says Nishiyama. "We are back together again, studying together." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315898838?&gn=In+Northern+Japan%2C+Residents+Face+A+New+Reality&ev=event2&ch=1125&h1=Asia,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140411068&c7=1125&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1125&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110913&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Mon, 12 Sep 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-12/northern-japan-residents-face-new-reality-91898