KANW-FM

Louisa Lim

As the global economy teeters, one market is still reaching stratospheric highs: Chinese art.

A Hong Kong auction of fine Chinese paintings earlier this month raised $94.8 million, three times pre-sale estimates. In fact, China is now the world's biggest art market, according to the art information agency Artprice.

Yet all is not what it seems in the murky world of Chinese art auctions, including a painting that sold last year for more than $11 million, but appears not to be what was advertised.

China's high-speed trains were supposed to be a gleaming testament to the country's progress and modernity. Instead, a recent crash that killed 40 people has come to symbolize much that's wrong with China's warp-speed development. In particular, a "Great Leap Forward" mentality toward development is clashing with questions of safety.

The notion that fatal accidents are the price of progress seems to have trickled down to some of the passengers on a recent high-speed train journey between Beijing and Nanjing, many of whom characterized the accident as "normal."

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. The people have remained, but the city has vanished in an administrative sleight of hand.

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.

As gloom mounts over Europe's debt crisis, some are looking to China to play a leading role in stabilizing the shaky world economy.

But China made clear its reluctance to take on the role of the global economic savior as it hosted the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions.

Polite applause greeted Premier Wen Jiabao as he stepped onto the stage Wednesday in the northeastern Chinese city Dalian, but his words depressed markets in Europe, a sign of the shift in the center of financial gravity.

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.

Her crime? Trying to run for election to the local People's Congress in her hometown of Xinyu in China's southeastern Jiangxi province.

Lesson number one: saying "thank you" in Chinese.

"Xie xie. Xie xie. Xie xie," repeats American soprano Maria McDaniel, as she struggles to pin down the elusive Chinese "x" sound.

"Too much lips going on!" is the verdict of her teacher, Katherine Chu, who was an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Last in a three-part series

For a decade, Helen Zhang has had a dream: to run an international scientific journal that meets international standards. So she was delighted to be appointed journal director for Zhejiang University in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

In 2008, when her scientific publication, the Journal of Zhejiang University-Science, became the first in China to use CrossCheck text analysis software to spot plagiarism, Zhang was pleased to be a trailblazer. But when the first set of results came in, she was upset and horrified.

Second in a three-part series

China basked in a moment of technological glory last November when it nudged out the U.S. as home of the world's fastest supercomputer.

The achievement was short-lived — after just six months, a Japanese supercomputer three times as fast supplanted the Chinese machine — but it generated intense national pride.

But questions remain as to whether China's much-vaunted supercomputing program will be able to live up to Beijing's high expectations.

First in a three-part series

China was probably the world's earliest technological superpower, inventing the plow, the compass, gunpowder and block printing. Then, science in the Middle Kingdom languished for centuries.

Until 1893, the Chinese didn't even have a word for "science." That was when a Japanese term originally made its way into the Chinese language, a symbol of just how much of a latecomer China was to modern science.

As the U.S. teeters closer to the brink of debt default, the political stalemate is being watched closely by its biggest foreign creditor, China. At last count, Beijing owned almost $1.2 trillion of U.S. Treasury debt.

Chinese officials have been quietly expressing their concern, but Beijing's options are limited.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met senior Chinese official Dai Bingguo in Shenzhen on Monday, the mood was friendly. But behind the scenes, anxiety in China is rising as the minutes tick closer toward that Aug. 2 deadline.

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