News roundup: Three decisions in three minutes
While the face-off between Hillary Clinton and Trump enters its endgame, there has been some striking news from China, perhaps best encapsulated in the Bloomberg story titled “China unveils three major decisions within three minutes.” The decisions are:
Protests in Hong Kong and Beijing’s interpretation of Basic Law
Quartz reports that “China’s top law-making body issued a rare interpretation of the Basic Law that governs Hong Kong on Monday, November 7, that effectively ousts two democratically elected officials from office permanently.”
The response in Hong Kong was a street protest characterized by the South China Morning Post as “thousands strong” and punctuated by violence and four arrests. Hong Kong Free Press has further commentary in a piece titled “‘Protect the rule of law’: Beijing defends ruling that effectively bans pro-independence politicians.”
China Media Project has an analysis of some of the vocabulary being used in Chinese state media, in the piece “A firm hand for Hong Kong,” which notes that “the ordinarily taboo phrase ‘Hong Kong independence’ is taking center stage in the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party.” A posting on the WeChat channel of Beijing Daily, a newspaper under the city’s Communist Party branch, gives some of the flavor of the official invective: It’s titled, “It’s time to teach these ‘Hong Kong independence’ supporters a thorough lesson,” which you can read in Chinese here.
China’s finance minister replaced
Lou Jiwei, whom The Wall Street Journal describes as China’s “highest-profile finance minister in years,” has been replaced by Xiao Jie, 59, a former top tax administrator. The newspaper notes that Lou’s removal raises questions about whether reform-minded officials are being sidelined as Beijing “prioritizes short-term growth over major overhauls.” Not everyone sees the move as significant: Financial Times quotes Qiao Mu, a Beijing-based academic, who says, “It’s normal for cadres at ministerial level to step down at his age… The party is making personnel adjustments ahead of [next year’s] congress.”
The perspicacious blog Chinese politics from the provinces weighed in on how the reshuffle may be viewed by officials in local government bodies: “Financial managers and stock traders may be shaken by Lou’s departure, but many of China’s lower-level officials will sleep well this evening knowing that Lou Jiwei won’t be around to curtail them.”
Reuters reports that “China adopted a controversial cybersecurity law on Monday to counter what Beijing says are growing threats such as hacking and terrorism.” Many observers see the adoption of the law as yet another impediment to foreign business in the technology sector, and a further sign of tightening on freedom of expression online.
As The New York Times points out, “the regulations are not likely to have a major impact on much about how business is done” because most of the rules are already applied in practice, but the law is “an important statement from Beijing on how the internet should be run: with tighter controls over companies and better tracking of individual citizens.”
Links for more to read on these developments and others are listed below.
- NY fines China’s AgBank $215m over money laundering violations / Financial Times
The fine against the world’s sixth-largest bank by market share is the first levied on a major Asian bank outside of Japan.
In this timeline of events at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is noted as previously hesitant to enact Article 23, a controversial part of Hong Kong’s Basic Law dealing with national security. He now says, “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact [the law] on its own. We have not seen anyone advocating independence in the past, but now we see it. This indeed deserves our attention.”
Calling the law a “step backward for innovation,” the American Chamber of Commerce chairman explained, “The Chinese government is right in wanting to ensure the security of digital systems and information here, but this law doesn’t achieve that. What it does do is create barriers to trade and innovation.”
- Why Chinese elites endorse Hillary Clinton / Foreign Policy
“Trump’s policies would be softer on China, but the global instability he’d create as president would be bad for business in Beijing,” writes Isaac Stone Fish.
- China box office: ‘Doctor Strange’ revives local market with $44.5m debut / The Hollywood Reporter
The debut “is the biggest China opening for any first installment in a superhero franchise. It ranks roughly in the middle for Marvel titles in the country: well below franchise mainstays like Avengers: Age of Ultron ($155.7 million)… but slightly above smaller pictures” from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Guardians of the Galaxy ($39.4 million).
The National People’s Congress has approved regulations first announced last week banning private school for grades one through nine. The move, affecting as many as 12 million students, comes amid efforts by the government to combat inequality and the spread of “Western values” in education.
“We are getting orders from all over the country, not just from the wealthier cities. When the air is bad, we see spikes in sales,” said a representative from one company, which sold 12,000 bottles of air to China in half a year. “The smog is definitely our best advertising,” he added.
Noting the recent arrests of Australian employees in Macau, Nicolas Groffman runs down the considerations that business owners and international lawyers must make in China, a unique “jurisdiction where criminal sanctions and commercial behavior overlap.”