News roundup: The Trump-Xi era begins
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All the Trump that’s fit to print
Donald Trump is now president of the United States, and today’s inauguration brings a flood of Trump-related China news:
What’s on Weibo has a story and video with English subtitles about a viral hit on social media: interviews with Chinese children talking about Donald Trump. Most them have rather negative views of the new president (see screenshot above for one child’s comment). The Guardian notes the “conciliatory tone” taken by Chinese state media toward Trump on the eve of his swearing-in. The Washington Post profiles a Chinese graduate student who “decodes” Trump for his 800,000 followers on Weibo. China’s official Xinhua News Agency says that the foreign ministry “dismissed Taiwan’s sending of a self-styled delegation” to the inauguration ceremony as a move “to disrupt China-U.S. relations.” The Financial Times reports (paywall) on government censorship orders, which ban live streaming of the inauguration and restrict coverage to copy from central state media.
There was lots of ink spilled on the Trump effect on trade with China. The South China Morning Post looks at statements by U.S. Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin that he would call China a currency manipulator but only “if it deserved that label.” The Financial Times says (paywall) that “Donald Trump’s incoming trade team is backing a call from the Obama administration to take a hard line on China over semiconductors.” The China Africa Project has a podcast episode that examines how Trump’s presidency could give a boost to Chinese commercial and political ties in Africa.
Finally, the Washington Post has translated an essay by Wang Lixiong called “How China’s liberals are feeling the Trump Effect.” He writes that the “main question” for reform-minded Chinese “is how to build a system that can avoid a Chinese version of the Trump phenomenon.”
Push for ideology continues
State media prominently mentioned a speech given on Friday by Politburo member and former Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan 刘云山 in which he said that “ideological education should be continuously advanced” and “ordered building a cleaner cyberspace through better governance of the internet.” This follows news earlier this week of state media demanding loyalty to the Party from judges and police officers, and another report of similar official remarks about the need for people working in media and education to toe the line.
This week on SupChina
Today we publish a guide to interpreting the authority of opinions voiced in Chinese state media by Graham Webster.
This week’s Sinica Podcast is the first part of an interview with Sidney Rittenberg, an American revolutionary who lived in China for decades during and after the 1949 communist revolution and got to know Mao Zedong.
“Telling true stories is a booming business in China” is a piece by Tabitha Speelman on the recent growth of creative nonfiction in China.
This week’s news roundups are:
- January 17: Xi Jinping at Davos: China as the new champion of globalization?
- January 18: India scolds China
- January 19: China might not buy your hotel, casino, or soccer club
This issue of the SupChina newsletter was produced by Sky Canaves, Lucas Niewenhuis, and Jia Guo. More China stories worth your time are curated below, with the most important ones at the top of each section.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
- China’s yuan outflows plummet, showing capital controls pay off / Bloomberg
Data from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) shows that “the equivalent of a net $309.4 billion left China via yuan payments in 2016.” Partly as a result of these outflows, the yuan dropped in value against the dollar “the most in more than two decades,” and China’s foreign reserves fell “near the psychologically relevant $3 trillion level.” This prompted regulators to take a variety of steps to slow down capital outflows, which Bloomberg says are now starting to show results.
- China extends Hollywood push with $1 billion Paramount investment / Reuters
- China cuts reserve ratios for five big banks temporarily amid cash squeeze / Reuters
- China GDP beats expectations but debt risks loom / Reuters
- China’s questionable GDP numbers: Why does it even bother? / Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- Alibaba backs Olympics through 2028 / CNN
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- Two former Xi subordinates elevated in China’s biggest cities / Bloomberg
As we noted at the end of 2016, Ying Yong, a “former close subordinate” of President Xi Jinping, was in the running to be mayor of Shanghai. Today, his appointment became official, while Cai Qi was named mayor of Beijing. Both new mayors are sometimes characterized as being part of the “Zhejiang Clique,” meaning that he served as an official in Zhejiang Province at the same time as Xi (2002–2007) and is seen as especially loyal to the president.
- Punches, kicks and the ‘dangling chair’: Detainee tells of torture in China / NYT (paywall)
- Chinese are masters at blackmailing — each other / Foreign Policy
- Wang Jiuliang: Ghost towns and shattered land / China Digital Times
- Benzene tank truck plunges to river, two killed / China Daily
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- Chinese comedian Zhou Libo arrested in Long Island / Newsday
Zhou Libo 周立波 is a comedian from Shanghai famous for popularizing a performance style he calls “Shanghai Small Talk” (海派清口 hǎipài qīngkǒu), which is more similar to American stand-up comedy than the crosstalk format that northern Chinese tend to prefer. Many of his jokes are about Shanghainese subjects, and often mock people from other parts of China for being unsophisticated rubes.
He was arrested in Long Island, New York, on Thursday after a traffic stop for illegal possession of a “loaded Colt MKIV Mustang .380 pistol and two plastic bags containing crack cocaine.” The news became the top trending topic on social media platform Weibo on Friday. The comments are overwhelmingly critical of him, pointing out his derogatory remarks about people who are not Shanghainese; also, that he reportedly beat up his father-in-law. Many social media users delighted in posting this video clip from his TV show, in which he jokes that he would never take drugs in his life, although he might choose to sell them. (All links in this paragraph are to Chinese sources.)