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Fortune China CSR Survey and Cover Story: “The Dawn of Consumer-Driven CSR in China”

Fortune China AccountAbility cover story March 2010This year’s survey and cover story on Chinese managers’ attitudes toward corporate social responsibility focuses on the role of consumers in driving sustainable consumption in China–and, increasingly, the world. Written by myself and AccountAbility’s Kate Ives, and Shi Yi.

This issue also has great inside shots of a BYD car factory floor.

Read the English version here and the Chinese version here.

Read the 2009 version and 2008 version.

my contributions to the Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender

encyclopediaofsex&genderI got a letter in late July from the editor of the new four-volume Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender announcing its publication. I wrote three contributions in Fall of 2006 on Chinese sexual history. I’m excited because these are my first published encyclopedia entries.

I have yet to see a copy of the set, as I am based in China while the books are hitting North American library shelves. If anyone runs across the set, could you take photos of my entries and mail them to me?

I wrote the first entry, on modern Chinese sexuality and gender, with the head librarian at the Kinsey Institute, Liana Zhou. This opportunity presented itself during a visit to the Kinsey Institute and a meeting with Dr. Zhou. She suggested I contribute to the modern Chinese section because of my longstanding interest with HIV/AIDS prevention and gay life in China. I also wrote the pre-modern Chinese sex and gender entry (pre-1911), which I describe as “5,000 years in 4,000 words”. Finally, I wrote an entry on the famous republic-era sexologist Zhang Jingsheng.

The encyclopedia set is cited as: Malti-Douglas, Fedwa, ed. Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007.

Here’s the blurb from the Thomson Gale website:

Gender studies have become a major academic field in the past 25 years, providing a lens through which to reexamine and reevaluate knowledge in every area of human interaction and activity. The Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender encompasses the various concepts of sex and gender that have arisen from the critical study of those subjects worldwide, as well as the emerging reimagination of the more traditional humanities and social sciences. Broad theoretical essays address issues of sex and gender at the personal and the social level; others examine issues of identity, status, class, ethnicity, race, and nation; of sexuality and the body; of social institutions and the structures of representation – all through the lens of gender. With a truly global perspective, topics of individual entries include changing conceptions of “the feminine,” the family and masculinity, religion, morality, cultural images, medical practice, public health, economy and society and many more. In addition, the work discusses the influences of gender studies on various academic disciplines, examining how it has transformed and utilized methods and theories that have evolved.

stubbing your toe on Chinese materialism: happiness elusive no matter your lot

[Note: This is a modified version of an original article (“Rural life is changing, for the better and worse”) published in the Shanghai Star, a weekly expat rag owned by the China Daily. I feel this version more accurately expresses my thoughts on the matter. The original article only exists on web archives like google cache anyway. Flickr photos of the experience here. –JJW]

I didn’t expect to sit at the head table, but that’s what happens when you’re the first foreigner of non-Chinese descent to set foot in a Chinese village. My memories of this “Roots & Shoots wish School” groundbreaking would have been clearer had I not been asked to say a few unprepared words to the 200-plus students and their relatives as the “blond haired, blue eyed” American. I told the group that, as a volunteer with the Jane Goodall Institute, I was honored and excited to learn more about life in rural Anhui.

We were there as visitors, teachers, and—though none of us seemed aware of it at the time—part of the new grassroots of Chinese civil society. We were not there for our own re-education, but that’s what happened, at least to me.

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primal instincts: Jane Goodall on China

by Joshua Wickerham for that’s Shanghai, October 2006

now in her seventies, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall is fighting harder than ever for a better future

British primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall first won fame in the 1960s with her pioneering studies of chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania. Since then she’s worked tirelessly to promote rights for all animals, chimpanzees included. In 1991, while conferring with students in Tanzania about their hopes for extracurricular programs, she founded Roots & Shoots (R&S), a youth education group that provides students with the experience to tackle problems concerning the relationship between people, animals, and the environment. In the intervening 16 years, R&S has spread to over 90 countries. China has four branches, in Beijing, Chengdu, Nanchang, and Shanghai, and there are R&S clubs in hundreds of local schools. Greg MacIsaac founded the first Chinese branch in Beijing in 1993. In 2003, the Shanghai branch became the first foreign non-profit organization to be granted official status by the Chinese government [see Terms of Development, Sept 2006], followed by the branch in Nanchang this year. Goodall will be in Beijing and Shanghai this month.

that’s: You first visited China about 13 years ago. Since then, what changes have you observed?

JG: Well, I’ve definitely seen changes in children’s attitudes towards animals; for example, they have a better understanding of dogs, and are even more concerned about birds kept in little cages.

When I first came, China was much more closed than it is today. It was less Western. There weren’t any McDonald’s; there weren’t any Starbucks. It was a very different feeling; you really felt like you were going somewhere different. But, of course, it was already very polluted, even though there were probably a quarter the number of cars. There were lots of bicycles.

that’s: Are you optimistic that China’s environmental problems can be solved?

JG: I think the main hope lies with the people. First of all, I have met so many people who really care. I’ve met so many government officials who are desperately worried about the degradation of the environment. I think it’s just very difficult. There’s a tremendous conflict between the environment and economic development, and I think it’s spun way out of control. This happens in many countries as they develop, but unfortunately for China, it’s just so huge. The problem is huge.

that’s: Is the choice between economic development and sustainable development a false one?

JG: Yes, it should never be a choice. It’s not a case of either/or. It has to be hand-in-hand. If you have economic development outstripping the environment at the cost of the environment, then you’re destroying the future for everyone.

that’s: If you had had the chance to study wild animals in China instead of Africa, would you have taken it?

JG: Well, probably I would have been attracted, like so many people, to giant pandas. Or I might have gone and studied golden, or snub-nosed monkeys in the high mountain forests.

that’s: You received your doctorate without getting a Bachelors degree. Which is more important: hands-on studies or formal education?

JG: I did my whole one and a half year [of chimp] studies without a degree of any sort. I think hands-on education is really, really important, especially for children. At schools, if they learn by doing, it’s gonna stick. That’s why I think Roots & Shoots is so important. That’s why I’m so delighted at how fast [the organization] is growing.

that’s: Is the Chinese attitude toward hands-on education changing?

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IN CONVERSATION with Huang Ying and Joshua Wickerham

one of the world’s most promising operatic artists returns to Shanghai in Handel’s Messiah

by Joshua Wickerham for that’s Shanghai, September 2006

Last year, Shanghai-born Ying Huang (known to Chinese fans as Huang Ying) performed the soprano solo in the Chinese mainland premiere of Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah. In many ways, it was a landmark event in the history of Chinese exposure to Western music. Maestro John Nelson, conductor of L’ Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, led four soloists–Ying Huang, Warren Mok, Tian Haojiang and Liang Ning–and three choirs, in a performance that can only be described as deeply spiritual.

Though a large part of the audience was unfamiliar with choral music, the spirit of the sacred works did not require translation. Indeed, the experience was described by one member of the audience as “moving” another said she was “transported.” This year organizers from the Committee of 100 Cultural Institute hope to build on that success with Messiah, featuring Huang, and counter-tenor Larry Zazzo (the first counter-tenor to perform in China, and one that organizer Shirley Young says should be “a real treat”). The appearance of Zazzo and Huang will follow their debut this year at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

We spoke with Huang Ying in Rome, where she has been brushing up on her Italian after touring Japan, Germany, Canada and the US. She seemed intoxicated with the Italian spirit, rolling her Rs with great aplomb.

that’s: It seems you find Rome very agreeable.

Ying Huang: Very hot, wonderful. I’m learning Italian here, actually taking classes. For my work I need to understand the culture, not just the language. How’s Shanghai?

Huang Ying and your narrator in NYCthat’s: It’s hot here, too. And wonderful. Let’s talk about performing Elijah in Shanghai last year.

YH: Did you see it? Did you like the performance?

that’s: It was an amazing performance of spiritual music. I think it was a life changing event for many in the audience who had never heard or seen Western choral music performed live. What did it mean for you to bring such a famous work to your hometown for the first time?

YH: I accepted the engagement for a number of reasons. First, I was very happy to sing in Shanghai, my home. I always want to do more things for my country, for Chinese audiences. I was also excited to work with Maestro John Nelson, not only because he’s very famous, but because he’s an expert in this early music, especially choral music. It was a very precious opportunity; he is wonderful in every way, his musicianship, his humanity. Also, Elijah was a significant event in China. It lifted our culture and brought with it a higher standard for music interpretation.

that’s: Nelson has said that composers like Bach, Mozart, Handel and others put their souls into their choral works and operas. How does it feel to sing music that meant so much to these great composers?

YH: I have been studying more of the early music, like Handel and Mozart. I like the style of this music and want to perform it with authenticity. The four operas that suit me best are The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and Cosi Fan Tutte. In the West, for the last ten years, I’ve sung these operas very often. I am trying to push the characteristics not only of the language and music, but of philosophy and culture as well. I like concentrating on Handel. His works fit my personality and spirituality. I’m happy to bring this music back to the Shanghai Opera House.

that’s: Have you sung any of these four operas in China?

YH: No, we’ve never really pinned down the dates. The good thing is that I am going to sing again in China very soon and hopefully do it more and more. Meanwhile, another good thing is that this year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, so everyone is talking about him and listening to his music.

that’s: Are you excited about your debut at the Met?

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terms of development: the uncertain state of Shanghai’s non-governmental organizations

by Joshua Wickerham for that’s Shanghai, September 2006

For those interested in Shanghai’s grassroots organizations, this year’s publication of the city’s first NGO Yearbook, a comprehensive directory of Shanghai-based Non-Governmental Organizations, is a fascinating read. Nearly 800-pages long, it lists thousands of civil-minded groups, and gives the impression, at least to the casual reader, that such organizations are thriving; indeed, that they are multiplying faster than cicadas in summer.

It is certainly true that the city boasts more NGOs than ever before, although the number depends on how the term is defined. All but a few dozen listings are quasi-governmental entities, known as “Government organized NGOs”, or GONGOs.

GoNGO is a term unique to China, though one that fails to indicate the highly-complicated regulatory environment that governs development work and non-profit organizations in Shanghai. According to John Kielty, placement coordinator for the Queens University-Fudan University course on Social Development, already in its second year this fall, “An organization’s official status is always an issue. It is key to have clear communication and a mutually understood set of goals [when dealing with the government]. Motives and goals,” he stresses, “aren’t always the same.”

That both parties see eye to eye is increasingly important in light of society’s more generous attitude towards charity. Donations, particularly from China’s nouveau riche, have been growing as fast as the economy, and consequently, those groups seeking to attract funds must legitimize their standing.

Dan Guttman, a visiting American Fulbright professor who taught Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s first class on NGOs, says that government plays a necessary role in a harmonious society, but that its means are limited. “I discovered that Americans and Chinese are using the same vernacular–words like rule of law, privatization, and civil society,” he says.

NGOs are often more effective in providing aid than under-funded government agencies, particularly in areas where commercial enterprises have little interest or expertise. Put another way, NGOs can address touchy subjects such as minority education, the environment, sexuality, disabilities, anti-discrimination, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment at a grassroots level, and therefore with greater efficiency and at less cost.

That said, for a number of reasons these organizations have great difficulty obtaining permanent legal status in China. Take the Rotary Club, for example, one of the oldest NGOs in China. This international service and professional group holds weekly meetings, funds scholarships, and gives time and money for projects like building potable water systems in remote villages.

The Shanghai branch held its first meeting 87 years ago, but only received “provisional” status this year. Why now? Perhaps because of their improved relations with one of the city’s largest GoNGOs, the Shanghai Charity Foundation, with which the Rotary Club partnered in a fundraising event for HIV/AIDS this summer.

While partnership with local organizations may be one path to legitimacy, the main criterion is absolute neutrality. As Rotary Club member Frank Yih, says, “We have two ground rules: no religion and no politics.” He says it jokingly, but it’s true.

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character study: Yin Zhusheng discovers his Russian roots

by Joshua Wickerham for that’s Shanghai, July 2006

that's Shanghai Joshua Wickerham Yin Zhusheng theater pieceWith his turn-of-the-century Russian-style goatee, vest and patent leather shoes, Yin Zhusheng (尹铸胜)personifies the Method Actor. He wasn’t on stage when we met, but he was certainly in character. Chomping down on his pipe, he offered us a look of intense sincerity before explaining his acting philosophy. “For a few months, when your life is the play, you don’t have to worry about anything else.”

Not that this young Xi’an-born actor has much to worry about. Indeed, he’s directed and had leads in dozens of outstanding productions, including Twelfth Night and Tokyo Moon, and is one of Shanghai’s rising theatrical talents. At first glance, Yin’s physical appearance is hardly striking; he’s not tall, has a slight frame, and his features are rather too sharp. However, the man has presence. His deep, expressive voice and penetrating eyes reveal an uncommon understanding of human character.

His current production, Love Letters (情书), playing at the Shanghai Dramatic Art Center, is a Chinese adaptation of I Take Your Heart in Mine, an American play based on a collection of letters exchanged by Anton Chekhov and a famous young actress, Olga Knipper, who later became his wife. To get into character, he rented a single room and pasted it with what Chekhov had on his walls before his death.

It’s a one man show, which Yin carries with consummate ease. Indeed, his love of acting is readily apparent. “In movies,” he said, “there are places where you don’t have to act. For instance, when the director cuts to rain, it helps you understand the character, but on stage, you have to consider everything.”

One thing Yin doesn’t consider too important is money, or acting in more movies. He prefers the theater. “In acting circles, there are lots of people who want to make a lot of money. [But] you shouldn’t focus solely on money; you should also have your own professional goals.”

Yin’s goals are clear: to broaden his range of experience, and enter more fully into the characters he portrays. With his wonderfully convincing role as Chekhov, Yin has already entered the Russian soul. For the audience, more experiences of this nature are eagerly anticipated.

coming out: Shanghai’s gay population struggles for acceptance

by Joshua Wickerham

[note: this is an article published in the February 2006 issue of that’s Shanghai]

Coming out: Shanghai's gay population struggles for acceptance p 01Not long ago, I accompanied some of the volunteers who pay weekly visits to the city’s gay venues to distribute safe sex material. Our party included a gay policeman from Harbin and our guide, Wang Yutian, an outreach coordinator with the Hong Kong-based Chi Heng Foundation. On the way to the city’s only traditional gay dance hall, Wang spoke with the cab driver about homosexuals, or tongzhimen (comrades), as they are commonly referred to on the Chinese mainland.

“Do you know any gay men?”

“No.”

“We’re gay. Does that bother you?”

“I don’t really care.”

“Are you disgusted by the thought of two men having sex?”

“If I were disgusted by gay sex, I’d have to be disgusted by straight sex too.”

“Do you think it’s right for a gay man to marry a woman just to make his parents happy?”

“Probably not.”

For Wang, this sort of exchange is common. He often conducts informal surveys in an effort to gauge the public’s attitude toward gays. And, he hopes, teach them something in the process.

Wang’s organization is just one of many such groups in China that liaise with the international community, the Chinese government, various health organizations, and, of course, China’s gay population. Given that many people still harbor stereotypes and prejudice towards the gay community, Wang’s work, and that of others like him, is key to reaching a new understanding of and tolerance for gay issues. That said, his efforts are not always welcome.

As our cab pulls up to the club, our fellow passenger, the policeman, looks decidedly uneasy. Terrified, in fact. Nevertheless, he pulls himself together and turns to Wang as we approach the door.

“Could you please not do that again?”

“What?”

“You know what you did.”

Once inside, he takes a seat, still looking very uncomfortable. He refuses to talk to anyone and stares at the floor. Though he’s thousands of kilometers from home and virtually anonymous, he still appears frightened that someone will discover him at a club catering to homosexuals. Indeed, the very sight of several hundred gay men seems to petrify him.

His fear is not unfounded. Before leaving Chi Heng’s office, he spoke of the pressure he faces because of his sexual preference.

“I’m 25 right now. If I don’t get married by the time I’m thirty, I’m out of a job. Everyone on the force is married. It’s an unwritten rule, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. Either I get married or I find a new job.”

The policeman’s concerns are far from unique. Dr. Tong Chuanliang, outgoing director of Shanghai Sexual Minorities Homoheart, a hotline operated by the China Welfare Institute, says that about ten per cent of callers ask about marriage. However, a further twelve per cent ask how they can “cure” their homosexuality. “We tell people it can’t be done,” says Tong. “Studies prove this. When considering marriage, we tell callers to be very careful.”

Which is not to imply that most callers are marriage obsessed. Indeed, a large number, 25 per cent, are simply seeking a sympathetic voice. “Callers often assumed until they came across our number that there was no one like them,” says Crystal Chin, former secretary-general at Homoheart, who recently left the organization after a management reshuffle.

Most gays in China are still reluctant to reveal their sexual preference to anyone but their closest friends. Fewer still tell their family or colleagues, and almost none has the courage to speak out against discrimination. After all, it was only in 2001 that the Chinese Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. And until 1997, the Nationalist-era Anti-Hooliganism statute–stating that homosexuality was a crime subject to arrest–was still in force.

Hence the need for groups like Chi Heng, which has set up a program to educate the police about gay-specific crimes, such as discrimination and blackmail. Steven Gu, director of outreach for MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) at Chi Heng, hopes that once the program is completed later this year, gays will be able to access a group of gay-friendly police officers with whom they can consult about law enforcement issues.

Zhou Dan, a Shanghainese lawyer and self-described “activist scholar,” says there are still many legal challenges for gays in China. What’s more, he says most people overstate the significance of revoking the hooliganism law. Unlike the US Supreme Court case in 2003 that struck down Texas sodomy laws as unconstitutional, Zhou says Chinese lawmakers “never intentionally decriminalized homosexuality.”

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