News roundup: As America wavers, where is China pushing ahead?
In yesterday’s SupChina newsletter, we commented on reports that China had scolded president-elect Trump on his denial of climate change. Today, a few new stories reveal how China sees opportunities in the wake of uncertainty about American intentions: Xinhua News Agency highlighted remarks by a foreign ministry spokesperson talking up the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), two trade agreements that China is championing. It is widely believed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a similar agreement pushed by the Obama administration but one that excludes China, died the day that Trump won the election.
Xi Jinping’s foreign travels continue: Chinese central state media today was dominated by reports of Xi’s visit to Latin America. There is a Xinhua package of stories on Xi’s trip here. And Bloomberg delves into the implications in an opinion piece titled “Trump opens doors for China in Latin America,” which sees a likely new era of improved relations just as concerns are mounting over a U.S. retreat under Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, back in China, the state-organized World Internet Conference in the picturesque water town of Wuzhen wraps up today. Speaking at the event, Robin Li, Baidu’s CEO, stated, “I read that an adviser to President-elect Donald Trump complained that three-quarters of engineers in Silicon Valley aren’t Americans.… So I myself hope that many of these engineers will come to China to work for us.”
Also to note is Xinhua’s article “China successfully completes longest-ever manned space mission,” which documents the return of two astronauts who sustained 33 days in orbit, a record for China. In addition, the South China Morning Post recaps some of the daily activities that astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong engaged in during that time, such as caring for lettuce plants, releasing silkworms into space and chatting with President Xi Jinping through a video link.
More China stories can be found linked below.
- Exclusive: China ready to slow yuan descent, worried about capital outflows / Reuters
“The central bank is following the trend as the dollar is rising. It’s not necessary for it to resist market forces,” said one policy adviser. “Appropriate yuan depreciation will be good for stabilizing market expectations and the economy, as long as there is no sharp, runaway depreciation.”
- JPMorgan’s ‘systemic bribery’ in China was so blatant the bank had an internal spreadsheet to track it / Quartz
The bank agreed to pay another fine of more than $130 million to settle charges that it sought to influence Chinese government officials by hiring around 100 unqualified relatives through a "Sons and Daughters" program, which brought in an estimated $100 million in new business. That brings the total of fines paid by JPMorgan to $264 million.
- Sanctions with Chinese characteristics / The Economist
American regulators appear to have shown the Agricultural Bank of China some leniency with a $215 million fine, partly due to the difficulties of tracing illegal transactions.
- Coca-Cola to divest itself of China bottling for roughly $1 billion / WSJ
The company, which currently owns about a third of its bottling business in China, will divide the sale of its stake among Swire Beverage Holdings and China Foods (part of the state-owned COFCO) as part of a broader global strategy of assets to local partners.
- English Premier League sells Chinese TV rights for $700 million / CNBC
The Chinese online video-streaming service PPTV secured a three-year deal to start from the 2019-20 season, which marks the league’s biggest-ever overseas sale.
- Opinion: China in the 21st century: Confucianist outside, confused inside / SCMP
Novelist Sheng Keyi and political scientist Kerry Brown ask what Chinese people believe in and find that “the reality is that China is now in a period of vast confusion. There is no clear moral path that Chinese follow, nor an easy faith they subscribe to, no matter how powerful and materially wealthy their country becomes. Indeed, morals and faith seem to have vanished.”
- In China, voters pick ‘Clinton,’ ‘Trump’ and ‘braised chicken’ over locals / WSJ
Some voters in China’s local elections, which are held every five years, wrote in candidates who stood absolutely no chance. “If your vote doesn’t have any meaning, then why not just pick something that’s funny, or just pick in a satirical fashion?” says Li Fan, director of the World and China Institute.
- WeChat chief raises alarm over fake news in wake of Trump win / SCMP
At China’s World Internet Conference, opinions were divided over how to best deal with the spread of false stories. Tencent chief Pony Ma vowed to continue cracking down on fake news, while Wu Wenhui of the online literature firm China Reading cautioned against extreme measures.
- China, U.S. militaries stage joint humanitarian relief drill / ABC News
“Chinese and U.S. commanders on Friday stressed the importance of maintaining military-to-military exchanges under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, saying they are crucial for building confidence between the two armed forces that remain deeply wary of each other.”
- China tells Mongolia to bar Dalai Lama visit / Reuters
“We strongly urge Mongolia to act by keeping in mind the big picture of maintaining the stable development of bilateral relations and to keep their promises made on this issue,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. “Do not allow the Dalai Lama to visit. Do not support or facilitate the separatist activities of the Dalai clique.”
- China is at the forefront of manipulating DNA to create a new class of superhumans / Quartz
China’s government was the source of funding for the first edit of human embryonic genes in 2015, and innovative use of the CRISPR-cas9 tool continues to happen largely in China. Additionally, while pluralities of Westerners view various technological enhancements to human biology to be “morally unacceptable” and risky, some evidence indicates the Chinese may be more open to such ideas.
- China’s newest export hit is classical music / The Economist
“Once, classical music generally traveled from the West to the rest. Now China is reversing the exchange, not merely performing Western classical music in China, but exporting it.”
- Anselm Kiefer calls for his first exhibition in China to be canceled / The Art Newspaper
The German artist says he did not approve of the show at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, which features 87 of his works. “Throughout my career, I have been heavily involved in all my major international exhibitions, and it is a matter of deep regret and frustration that the organizers of my first show in China have seen fit to exclude me from this process,” he said in a statement.
- China’s hairy crab scandal reveals depth of pollution crisis / Financial Times
The presence of toxic chemicals in crabs from a lake heralded for its environmental cleanup efforts underscores deeper problems of soil pollution and food safety controls.
- Smog may be easing, but in parts of China water quality worsens / Reuters
Unlike smog, which disappears into thin air once addressed at its root, water pollution lingers, making the fact that “nearly two-thirds of underground water and a third of surface water was unsuitable for human contact” last year a major issue.
- China’s Trump prepares for his close-up / NYT
Zou Dangrong has carved out an unusual business niche: “finding Chinese who resemble famous politicians and can sing and act, then marketing them.” Per The New York Times, he currently has “two Barack Obamas, several Kim Jong-uns and even a Vladimir V. Putin in his stable.”
- U.S.-born panda twins return to China, but struggle with the language and food / Washington Post
Mei Lun and Mei Huan, two panda sisters born at Zoo Atlanta and returned to China under U.S.-China agreements, are having trouble understanding the dialect spoken by their new Sichuanese hosts. Their caretaker in Chengdu also mentioned that they remain “so addicted to American crackers that everything they eat — from bamboos to apples — has to be mixed with crackers.”