News roundup: Beijing reacts to Trump
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China’s reaction to Trump’s tweets and phone call
President-elect Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, and his subsequent tweets about China have dominated English-language news coverage of China over the past few days, while Chinese state media have highlighted Beijing’s reactions. Many of the Trump stories are summarized below, but if you’re pressed for time, spend some moments on the following two articles:
The first, “Drop the One China fiction — just not this way,” is an opinion piece by SupChina’s own Kaiser Kuo, who elaborates on potential consequences from Trump’s cowboy treatment of diplomatic relations between the U.S., Taiwan and China.
The second, “China amplifies warning on Taiwan, and Trump takes a tougher line,” is a New York Times article that notes the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece “denounced Mr. Trump for speaking Friday with…Tsai Ing-wen, warning that ‘creating troubles for the China-U.S. relationship is creating troubles for the U.S. itself.’” The article calls the rebuke “much tougher than the Chinese foreign ministry’s initial response to the phone call.” You can find the Chinese language article in question here.
Drop in value of yuan
The Wall Street Journal reported at around noon Beijing time today that “China and Taiwan’s currencies both slipped against the U.S. dollar amid a broad rally for the greenback in Asian trading Monday, as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump again criticized Chinese currency and trade policy.” About 12 hours later, the value of the yuan dropped precipitously according to XE.com and X-rates.com: At noon New York time, one dollar bought 6.8 yuan, but as of 5 p.m. New York time, the rate was 7.48 on some foreign exchange monitoring websites. Shortly afterward, the yuan recovered, returning to its former value at 6.8. Some indices never showed the dip.
Update: The Financial Times reports that the fluctuation was “an apparent glitch.”
Iran and China
Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, retired Marine Corps general James “Mad Dog” Mattis, has “spent years warning publicly and privately about the threat posed by Iran,” which according to Vox, “may be the most important thing to understand about the incoming defense secretary.” Meanwhile, Xinhua News Agency states that Zhang Gaoli, the Chinese vice premier, met with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Beijing on Monday, “pledging to cement substantial cooperation and strategic partnership with Iran.” The meeting follows Xi Jinping’s state visit to Iran in January.
The end of boozy state banquets
An item of news not yet picked up in the English-language press comes from Xinhua’s Chinese service, which reports that the powerful anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, announced that it intends to strictly enforce a ban on drinking alcohol at official events. Until recently, heavy liquor consumption was a regular feature of government banquets.
More China news worth your time is summarized and linked below.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
- Taiwan city planning a makeover says a Trump agent showed interest / NYT
A September meeting between a woman who claimed to represent Trump’s business interests and backers of the largest development project in Taiwan’s history may create the appearance of a potential conflict of interest.
- Yuan, Taiwan dollar slip after Trump tweets criticism of China / WSJ
“Neither decline was as sharp as those for other currencies against the dollar, as markets grappled with a range of dramatic political developments over the weekend,” ranging from Italy to New Zealand.
- Silicon Valley’s culture, not its companies, dominates in China / NYT
“China’s tech world has copied the valley’s innovator-meet-investor network of incubators, accelerators and venture capitalists. Startup employees and leaders actively seek to question authority and think outside the box — two attributes widely discouraged in corporate China.”
- China chases Silicon Valley talent who are worried about Trump presidency / NBC News
“China is trying to capitalize on President-elect Donald Trump’s hardline immigration stance and vow to clamp down on a foreign worker visa program that has been used to recruit thousands from overseas to Silicon Valley.”
- Aixtron sees slim path to save China sale after Obama order / Bloomberg
The German semiconductor supplier could sell off its American unit or change its legal structure to get around a U.S. block of its sale to China’s Grand Chip Investment.
- China appeals to U.S. to stop disrupting acquisitions / ABC News
“We hope that the United States will cease making groundless accusations about Chinese companies and will provide a fair environment and favorable conditions for investment by them,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. “I think this matter will in the long run be in the interests of all the parties concerned.”
- Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect gets off to quiet start / Caixin
“Money flowing from Hong Kong to the Shenzhen stock market totaled 2.7 billion yuan ($392 million) — or just 21% of the total allowed. Money flowing the other way totaled HK$902 million ($116 million), or an even-smaller 8% of the maximum allowable daily volume.”
- China’s clean energy push runs into headwinds / WSJ
“China isn’t any less committed to cleaner air. But the breakneck construction of solar panels and wind farms haven’t been matched by upgrades of an electricity grid more suited to coal. That has led to huge waste: Roughly one-fifth of wind power currently goes undistributed; in some parts of China, it is closer to half.”
- No price like home: Big spenders reappear in China / Reuters
“China’s wealthiest shoppers are spending at home again, roused from a three-year slumber by a weaker yuan, lower prices and a crackdown on overseas sales agents — a welcome boost for the world’s luxury brands.”
- How a monster-sized marketing campaign was built for China’s ‘Great Wall’ / Variety
“The range of resources that Wanda can bring to bear — China’s largest cinema chain, distribution, and two marketing companies — elevate the film’s launch into a national event.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- Trump attacks China in Twitter outburst / BBC News
The U.S. president-elect posted a series of tweets directly criticizing China’s currency policy and its actions in the South China Sea.
- Opinion: The real risk behind Trump’s Taiwan call / The New Yorker
“If you work in foreign affairs, you learn that a highly unexpected event is often the result of intent or incompetence. (You also learn that what looks, at first, like intent often turns out to be incompetence.) In the Donald Trump era, we may need a third category — exploitation — which has elements of both.”
- How China could react to Trump’s taunts, from the best to the worst-case scenario / Quartz
Options include doing nothing, using military threats, retaliating against American and Taiwanese companies, and severing relations with the U.S.
- Opinion: Dispensing with tiptoeing, Trump puts Taiwan in play / WSJ
“Having barged into the most sensitive area of U.S.-China relations, Mr. Trump must now expect Beijing to test his resolve,” writes Andrew Browne. “How would he respond as president to a provocation, perhaps a military one, aimed at Taiwan? If he backs down, he will have damaged his credibility with both sides, along with friends and allies in the region.”
- On substance and style, Trump may be headache for China / Washington Post
“Trump has repeatedly indicated that he views the relationship with China as much more of a zero-sum game, and one he believes the United States is losing.”
- Trump expands search for his secretary of state / NYT
Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor and ambassador to China under President Obama, is on the new list of candidates.
- Trump may pick longest-serving U.S. governor as China ambassador / Bloomberg
Sources say that “Iowa governor Terry Branstad, a longtime friend of Chinese president Xi Jinping, is the frontrunner for the crucial post of U.S. ambassador to China.”
- Opinion: China’s civilizational diplomacy / Project Syndicate
Nations of the global South, such as Egypt, “identify with China’s history of anti-imperialist struggle, and even with Chinese people’s physical appearance,” writes Zaynab El Bernoussi, a professor of international relations at Al Akhawayn University. “If you are an emerging superpower, there is a distinct advantage to having the majority of the world’s population hold such sentiments.”
- China warns U.S. over breaking Iran nuclear deal / Deutsche Welle
At a press conference in Beijing with his Iranian counterpart, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said the international agreement “should not be affected by any changes in the domestic situations of the countries concerned,” an apparent reference to the United States.
- Opinion: Through climate change denial, we’re ceding global leadership to China / LA Times
China “has been quick to size up the environmental implications of a Trump victory, and officials in Beijing are contriving to cast China in a fresh role, to project the country as a — perhaps the — global leader on climate change,” writes Daniel K. Gardner, a professor of Chinese history at Smith College and the author of a forthcoming book on pollution in China.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- China sets 2020 target for clean air in big cities / Reuters
“China aims to provide clean air in its largest cities for 80 percent of each year, or more than 9 1/2 months, by 2020, up from a figure of 76.7 percent last year, the country’s cabinet said on Monday.”
- China’s Spring Festival travel frenzy to see 3 billion trips / Reuters
The transportation ministry expects that 2.98 billion trips will be made over the 40-day period beginning on January 13, which would represent a 2.2 percent increase over 2016.
- Chinese artists redraw boundaries in ‘Tales of Our Time’ / NYT
The exhibition, with a diversity of works by seven artists and collectives from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, “implicitly rebukes its own reason for being,” writes Jason Farago.
- Cheeky Chinese artist critiques society with nudity / SCMP
Ou Zhihang, who takes images of himself performing exercises at controversial sites in China and overseas, says, “My aim isn’t to get people to look at my press-ups, but to use a method to get society to think.”
- Peng Chang-kuei, chef behind General Tso’s chicken, dies at 98 / NYT
“Mr. Peng, an official chef for the Nationalist government, which fled to Taiwan after the 1949 revolution in China, said he created the dish during a four-day visit by Adm. Arthur W. Radford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1955.”