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Some Western universities see merit in China’s flawed exam

Waiting for the hell to end“DRAWING on your political knowledge, explain why the Communist Party should exercise leadership over the country’s economy, armed forces, schools and all aspects of society.” So read an essay question in this year’s gaokao, China’s university-entrance exam which was held in early June (anxious parents are pictured outside a test centre in the city of Shenyang; results have been announced in the past few days). The test is notoriously tough, but political flattery can help. Examinees in Beijing…

China is trying to turn itself into a country of 19 super-regions

CHINA’S urbanisation is a marvel. The population of its cities has quintupled over the past 40 years, reaching 813m. By 2030 roughly one in five of the world’s city-dwellers will be Chinese. But this mushrooming is not without its flaws. Rules restricting migrants’ access to public services mean that some 250m people living in cities are second-class citizens (see chart), who could in theory be sent back to their home districts. That, in turn, has crimped the growth of China’s cities, which would otherwise be even…

A lengthy jail term sends a message to Hong Kong’s rebellious youth

A philosopher given time to thinkIN 1967 Mao’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution washed into Hong Kong, stirring anti-colonial riots and bombings. The territory’s British rulers decided to restore order by imposing tougher legislation aimed at preventing crowds from assembling. A new Public Order Ordinance required permission for a public gathering of three or more people. If an illegal assembly resulted in a breach of the peace, each participant could be convicted of rioting.That sweeping law has been used by the post-colonial…

China is spending billions on its foreign-language media

ON THE 26th floor of an iconic glass skyscraper, nicknamed the “Trousers”, in Beijing’s main business district, half a dozen casually dressed 20-somethings gather in a rainbow-coloured lounge, chatting away on ergonomic chairs. The office has the vibe of a hip tech startup. In fact, it is the headquarters of the country’s foreign-language television service, which rebranded itself in 2016 as China Global Television Network (CGTN). The young staff are Chinese who have studied abroad and are proficient in one of the network’s…

One of China’s poorest provinces wants to be a tech hub

A ROBOT taller than the Arc de Triomphe towers over a new theme park on the edge of Guiyang, the capital of the southern province of Guizhou. Attendants at Oriental Science Fiction Valley dress in blue-and-silver space suits. They greet visitors with salutes used by the Vulcans in “Star Trek”. The main attraction is an indoor rollercoaster. It simulates an air battle over a futuristic city with the help of virtual-reality headsets that are handed out to every rider. Outside, a troop of black-clad security guards armed with…

A threatened trade war between China and America may be on hold

WANG XINGXING taps the back of his dog which, on command, stands tall, shakes its legs and struts forward. It is not a well-trained pooch so much as a well-built one. Laikago, its name, looks like a miniature version of the robo-dogs that propelled Boston Dynamics, an American robotics company, to fame. Mr Wang, a boyish 28-year-old, started work on his dog as a graduate student. It can walk on uneven surfaces, carry small loads and steady itself when kicked lightly. Laikago is a far cry from the Boston Dynamics breed, which…

China is becoming more tolerant of some regional Han languages

LI SIYI tucks her hair behind her ears and takes a deep breath. The high-schooler and aspiring journalist sits in a mock television studio in a basement of China’s most prestigious broadcasting university, practising scripts of the sort that she will soon have to tackle as part of its entrance exam. When the time comes examiners will grade her poise and delivery. They will also assess the quality of her putonghua, or “common language”, the official version of Mandarin that is supposed to represent its purest form. The…

Why a licence plate costs more than a car in Shanghai

LIU LEI has been waiting to buy a car for more than seven years. Sadly, Mr Liu, an engineer from Beijing, has had no luck in the capital’s licence-plate lottery. Introduced in 2011, this system for allocating number plates aims to tackle the city’s problems of rage-inducing congestion and asphyxiating pollution. Under the scheme, the city imposes annual quotas on the issuing of new licence plates. Buying a car requires proof that one is in hand. Obtaining a plate involves entering a bimonthly draw. The odds of winning fell…

China bungles changes to its blood-donation system

PU BAOZHEN sold her house and car and moved to Beijing to seek treatment for aplastic anaemia, a rare blood disease. In early February, just minutes into her first session of chemotherapy, the hospital pulled the plug. Writing on Weibo, a Chinese social-media site, Ms Pu says doctors were worried that they would not have enough blood to support her through a gruelling bone-marrow transplant. A sudden change to the city’s blood-donation rules had given them a fright.Blood shortages are common in China—particularly around…
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