News roundup: A shooting in Sichuan, and the smog abides
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Official shoots city Communist Party boss and mayor
If it happened in the U.S. or Europe, there would be 24/7 cable news coverage: A government official named Chen Zhongshu in Panzhihua, Sichuan Province, walked into a meeting and shot the city’s mayor and Communist Party chief. Chen then committed suicide, but his victims survived with “minor wounds.” The incident has been almost completely ignored by major state media. However, the more freewheeling Southern Metropolis News published a story that quoted an unnamed government official who said that Chen thought that his superiors had reported him to Party anti-corruption officials. Chen was head of the land and resources bureau in Panzhihua, a position that often enables corruption because of the power it grants over real estate deals.
The Southern Metropolis News deleted its story shortly after publishing it, but the South China Morning Post has published a good roundup of the affair.
The smog abides
Bloomberg writes that heavy smog continues to choke one-third of China’s cities. Sixty-two cities have issued health warnings since January 1, including 25 at the highest “red alert” level. Chinese social media has been buzzing with complaints, images and jokes about the air pollution — one popular photo (above) shows people dancing in thick smog in a public square. However, the news is not all bad, according to the China Daily, which says that the country experienced fewer polluted days in 2016 than in the previous year.
More China news worth reading is linked below, with the more important stories at the top of each section.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
- China Inc.’s large dollar debts fuel Beijing’s efforts to curb yuan plunge / WSJ (paywall)
“Though the People’s Bank of China doesn’t give detailed breakdowns of Chinese companies’ foreign debt, more than half of it is in U.S. dollars, according to economists and analysts.”
- Cities offer a glimpse of China’s economic future / Financial Times (paywall)
“The Financial Times traveled across China to three cities — stretching from the southwest to the east and north — that are already beginning to reflect the country’s options: rebalance, stagnate, or face an acute crisis.”
- China goes on $26 trillion commodity binge as shortages seen / Bloomberg
“Chinese investors traded a record volume of commodity futures last year as speculators poured in and out of the market on bets that shortages are looming.”
- China eases state monopoly on salt market overhauling 2,000-year-old system / The Telegraph
“A plan published by China's State Council last year states that government regulators will now allow private companies to enter the salt market.” For more on the history of the world’s oldest monopoly, see this article from Asia Times.
- Chinese renewable power giant builds global empire / AP
“State-owned China Three Gorges Group is spending heavily to buy or build hydro, wind and solar projects at a time when Western utility investors are pulling back.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- Enough of the tweets, China’s state media tells Trump / NYT (paywall)
“Xinhua, the state news agency, has more or less asked Mr. Trump to shut up. ‘An obsession with “Twitter foreign policy” is undesirable,’ read the headline of a Xinhua commentary on Tuesday about Mr. Trump’s posts.”
- South Korea is tired of China picking on it / Quartz
South Korea is “hoping to hash things out, sending eight lawyers today (January 4) to China to begin discussions about its ‘retaliatory moves.’”
- China’s graft watchdog turns camera on itself in TV series / Reuters
“To Forge Iron, the Metal Itself Must Be Strong takes its name from a 2012 Xi speech and aims to show there are no blind spots in the Central Commission of Discipline and Inspection (CCDI) investigations, the narrator explains.”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- WEI WATCH
A regular feature about what’s buzzing on Chinese social media
Smog gold: As Beijing currently grapples with the first-ever national red alert for fog, a photo of a high-speed train covered with dust has been widely shared on Chinese social media. According to the accompanying caption, the train was running from Xuzhou to Beijing, both smog-haunted regions. The color of the train has been ridiculed by internet users as “smog gold,” with the most-liked comment saying, “I don’t feel it’s funny at all. It’s a serious problem!”
- A Chinese businessman wants to turn a small Iowa town into the Midwest’s China hub / BuzzFeed
“The city has an unusual story that dates back to 1985: Three decades before becoming the Chinese strongman president, the then-unknown Xi Jinping stayed in a two-story house and immersed himself in American culture by spending a few nights in the bedroom of an American Star Trek fan away at college.”
- Thailand cracks down on 'zero-dollar' tour groups / Nikkei Asian Review
“The campaign targeted Chinese tour companies offering cheap tour packages to largely first-time travelers that, according to reports, resulted in more pain than pleasure for both the tourists and Thai businesses catering to them.”
- President Xi’s great Chinese soccer dream / NYT (paywall)
“In the last two years, the government has poured the kind of concentrated effort into soccer that it has previously devoted to winning Olympic medals in individual sports like diving and gymnastics.”
- These revealing images capture the plight of China’s environment / Artsy
Yan Wang Preston’s “Mother River” series aims to challenge myths of the Yangtze with images shot every 100 kilometers along the course of the iconic waterway.