News roundup: Trump’s son-in-law has been courting ‘shadowy’ Chinese investor
Trump’s inner circle and Anbang Insurance Group
Jared Kushner is Donald Trump’s son-in-law and, according to an NBC report released today, has been appointed as senior adviser to the incoming president. The 36-year-old is also the heir to Kushner, his family’s privately held, multibillion-dollar real estate company. On the weekend, The New York Times reported that he has been in talks for the last half year with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese financial firm with close connections to the political elite in Beijing.
The negotiations are apparently about Anbang’s investment in the redevelopment of 666 Fifth Avenue, which the Times calls “the fading crown jewel of the Kushner family real-estate empire.” Anbang first came to global prominence when it bought New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2014 for almost $2 billion, but the company and its founding chairman, Wu Xiaohui, are often described as “shadowy” and “shrouded in mystery” because of the opaque ownership structure of the firm, and the fact that Wu has never given a single press conference. The Times report on the Kushner-Anbang deal is here (non-paywall version here). There is a Financial Times profile of Wu Xiaohui here, and an Economist portrait of the company here (both sites have paywalls).
Today on SupChina
In advance of next week’s Sinica Podcast with Sidney Rittenberg, we present a Q&A with this American revolutionary. Rittenberg lived in China from 1945 to 1980, got to know Mao Zedong and other senior Communist Party leaders, and spent 16 years in solitary confinement.
More China stories worth your time are curated below, with the most important ones at the top of each section.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
- WeChat rolls out ‘mini programs’ in a bid to kill off apps / Tech in Asia
With more than 840 million active users, China’s top messaging and social media app WeChat launched “mini programs” on Monday. Tencent, the company that operates WeChat, “chose to use ‘mini programs’ because Apple would not permit the use of the word ‘app.’” The programs include a collection of cloud-based apps that users can access without downloading new software, including many popular services such as Didi, the ride-sharing service similar to Uber. The programs “pose a challenge to Apple’s App Store and to the array of Android app stores popular in China,” and “could also pull people away from Baidu and other search engines,” according to Tech in Asia.
- McDonald’s sells control of China business to CITIC, Carlyle / Bloomberg
McDonald’s agreed to sell 80 percent of the stake in its China and Hong Kong operations to Chinese state-backed enterprise CITIC and U.S. private-equity firm Carlyle Group for about $1.7 billion, according to a statement Monday. “CITIC and Carlyle’s resources will allow McDonald’s to expand rapidly and refurbish old restaurants, which is expensive to do,” explained Ben Cavender, a Shanghai-based analyst at China Market Research Group. “Given that McDonald’s lags behind KFC in terms of store count in China, we can expect them to expand aggressively and invest heavily.”
- The 4 kinds of Chinese tech firms that dominated CES 2017 / Forbes
- China reserves slumped $320 billion last year as yuan tumbled / Bloomberg
- China is planning a new, relaxed approach to growth / Bloomberg
- Why you shouldn’t believe the horror stories about China’s economy / SCMP
- China is mad about Hollywood remakes / WSJ (paywall)
- Why China’s Taco Bell sells chicken and waffles / WSJ (paywall)
- Opinion: The dangerous double game of Dalian Wanda’s Wang Jianlin / Nikkei Asian Review
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- Ted Cruz, Texas governor meet with Taiwan president / AP
While meetings between the Taiwanese president and U.S. lawmakers are not unusual, these particular talks followed a month of especially high tension in U.S.-Taiwan-China relations. The Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, sent a letter asking members of Congress to avoid meeting with visiting Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, to which Senator Ted Cruz replied, “China needs to understand that in America we make decisions about meeting with visitors for ourselves…. The Chinese do not give us veto power over those with whom they meet.” Within hours of the meeting, Chinese state media warned the incoming Republican administration that if it “reneges on the one-China policy,” China would “take revenge.”
- Opinion: China’s new silk road is getting muddy / Foreign Policy (registration required)
Joshua Eisenman and Devin Stewart explain why there are sometimes underreported risks involved in the regional construction projects costing Beijing nearly $1 trillion. Reasons include: Financial backing from China is less secure during this time of domestic economic slowdown; some may have been rushed for fear of a U.S.-China trade war; and due diligence was likely lacking for many of them because often Chinese agencies and companies “have little or no understanding of political or financial risk analysis,” and projects are frequently located in “some of the world’s most precarious economic and political environments.”
- China battles to control growing online nationalism / Financial Times (paywall)
- Sri Lanka protest over Chinese investment turns ugly / BBC News
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- Air China bans shark fin: Imports to China down 82% in 3 years / Wild Aid
On Friday, Air China, the country’s flagship carrier, announced a ban on shark fin cargo, the first such stance on shark fins taken by an airline in mainland China. Chinese people have eaten shark fin soup since the Song dynasty, although in recent years, wildlife preservation efforts and Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaigns have reduced demand. The Washington Post says Air China’s decision will “put more pressure on China Southern Airlines,” which is “emerging as a shark fin trade hub in its own right”; it also puts FedEx, the U.S. multinational courier company that refused to take a similar step despite repeated calls, “to shame” (story here; paywall).
- After one-child policy, outrage at China’s offer to remove IUDs / NYT (paywall)
During the three decades that China enforced a one-child policy, more than 324 million Chinese women were given intrauterine devices (IUDs) to curb the population growth. Now, a year after China changed the rules to allow all married couples to have two children, the Chinese government is offering to remove IUDs for free. However, according to The New York Times, some women say the decision “is like they are slapping themselves in the face” and that “the offer has come too late for them to consider having a second child.”
- Photos: Harbin 2017: In China, a city made of ice / CNN
- Anti-pollution cops to take on Beijing’s smog / CNN
- Why Zimbabwe’s use of elephants to pay off old debt to China is problematic / The Conversation
- The couple who saved China’s ancient architectural treasures before they were lost forever / Smithsonian
- ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ tops Chinese box office / Xinhua
Keep an eye on what’s buzzing among China’s 700 million social media users.
Chinese actor Chen Sicheng’s one night with two girls / Weibo (link in Chinese)
Five months after the online controversy about the extramarital affair of actor Wang Baoqiang’s wife, Ma Rong, another Chinese actor’s private life has become a trending topic on Chinese social media, with 220 million reads and 32,000 comments on Sina Weibo so far. According to Sina Entertainment (in Chinese), Beijing-based actor Chen Sicheng spent a night in a Shanghai hotel room with two women. Chen is married to actress Tong Liya, with whom he had a child last year.