Hu Jintao's wife is, by many accounts, stern but low-key, the latest in a long line of near-invisible first ladies of China. Since the death of Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, a Shanghai actress who became notorious for her brutal part in the Cultural Revolution, the wives of Chinese leaders have been conspicuously absent from the public stage. But that's all about to change.
Beijing's announcement that it will shutter more than 2,000 polluting steel mills and other industrial energy hogs by Sept. 30 might look like one more sign that China is moving up fast in the global race to go green. Lately, important figures like President Obama and newspaper columnist Thomas Friedman have been warning that the People's Republic is far outpacing America in ecofriendly technology.
New turf battles have erupted in the rivalry between Hong Kong and Shanghai over which metropolis will be the financial heart of China. The conventional wisdom has long been that Hong Kong would prevail. But Shanghai is keen to grab a bigger piece of the action, and it's on a fast learning curve.
Comedy is on the rise in China, and one of its unlikeliest stars is a cross-dressing performer known as Xiao Shenyang, or "Little Shenyang." Born in hardscrabble northeast China, the 29-year-old comedian has a reputation for gender-bending costumes and occasional vulgarity.
It would be understandable if foreign business leaders are confused by the signals Beijing is sending these days. On the one hand, Premier Wen Jiabao cordially greeted international executives last week, telling them, "It's important to reinforce your confidence in China." On the other, Wen's comments came the same day Google shut its China search engine, saying it would no longer bow to government pressure to censor results.
In all the recent controversy over racism in China—focused on 20-year-old Shanghai pop singer Lou Jing, whose mother is Chinese and father is African-American—people forgot to mention how the Chinese bureaucracy itself encourages citizens to classify themselves by race.
On the eve of Obama's visit, China reveals an identity crisis.
The enormous military parade marking China's 60th anniversary isn't about impressing the world—it's about impressing the Chinese themselves.
As China prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of communist rule this week, the one-party system looks more and more unlikely to last another 60. Questions about who will succeed Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2012 are increasing because two coalitions of almost equal power are jockeying for position.