News roundup: Unrest along the New Silk Road
One Belt One Road: a tough sell in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
President Xi Jinping’s signature global initiative is One Belt, One Road, sometimes called the New Silk Road and often abbreviated to OBOR. First announced in 2013, it’s an ambitious project to invest in infrastructure and boost commerce between China, the rest of Eurasia, and parts of Africa. The venture is still in its infancy, but already there are signs that its implementation may not be smooth. Today, Reuters reports that “hundreds of Sri Lankans” threw stones at police at the opening of a Chinese-invested industrial zone in the south of the Indian Ocean island. Police responded with tear gas. The 6,000-acre zone at Hambantota is connected to the development of a strategic container port and a new airport. The protesters’ concerns include unwillingness to move off their land and fears of infringement of Sri Lankan sovereignty by the deal.
Similar news comes from Bangladesh, also via Reuters: Villagers living about 165 miles southeast of the capital, Dhaka, began protesting against the construction of a Chinese-backed $2.4 billion coal-fired power plant. The protesters fear that the project will result in evictions, disturb graveyards, and damage the environment. One person was killed in clashes with security forces.
Video: Two man duel on a street with fireworks
A Chinese New Year tradition hated by some but loved by many is letting off fireworks. Every year, thousands of people are injured, often because of reckless behavior. If you have a minute to spare, this video is a rather entertaining example of such behavior.
Mari-Cha Lion exhibition in Hong Kong
Our featured partner this week has a fascinating cross-cultural art exhibition in Hong Kong running until February 9. The centerpiece is the Mari-Cha Lion, a rare mid-11th to mid-12th century South Italian bronze sculpture bearing Arabic decorations, on show together with a selection of Asian objects from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, and other private collections, as well as contemporary artworks by seven Asian artists. Click here for details.
Sinica events in Beijing
If you’re in Beijing in the next two weeks, please come to two live taping sessions of the Sinica Podcast with me and my co-host Kaiser. On February 11 we’ll speak with Jane Perlez, Pulitzer Prize–winning correspondent for the New York Times, about Chinese foreign relations in the age of Trump. On February 14 we’ll chat with Chris Buckley, also of the Times, about the Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping. Please click here for details of both events.
Today on SupChina
The Sinica Podcast interviews John Zhu, the man behind the Romance of the Three Kingdoms Podcast, which retells stories from one of China’s four great classic novels. To accompany our interview with John, we’ve published a brief guide to the four masterpieces.
This issue of the SupChina newsletter was produced by Sky Canaves, Lucas Niewenhuis, and Jiayun Feng. More China stories worth your time are curated below, with the most important ones at the top of each section.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
- China labor unrest spreads to ‘new economy’ couriers and sales staff at ecommerce companies / Financial Times (paywall)
2016 saw a record high of 2,663 labor strikes and protests in China. As fewer young people are willing to join the low-wage, migrant workforce which the country’s manufacturing, construction, and booming new economy have heavily relied upon, China’s labor supply is shrinking significantly. The imbalance has led to a series of problems such as rising wages, increasing salary arrears, and threats to old workers’ social insurance payments that, together, have forced many shops and factories to close.
- Citic, Baidu get green light to open online bank / Caixin
A partnership between Chinese internet giant Baidu and state-owned Citic Bank to launch an online bank has received regulatory approval from the Chinese banking authority. In the deal, Citic Bank will hold a 70 percent stake in Baixin Bank, while Fujian Baidu Bo Rui Netcom Science and Technology, a subsidiary of Baidu, will own the remaining 30 percent. The move is Baidu’s attempt to stake a claim to the online banking territory that is currently dominated by its main competitors, Tencent and Alibaba.
- Green bonds take root in China – growing investor interest in environmentally friendly projects / Caixin
- Market for instant noodles goes limp / Caixin
- Why foreign companies are shutting shop in China / SCMP
- Cadillac is huge in China / Bloomberg
- Across the globe, a golden year for China’s smartphone brands / Tech in Asia
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- Thailand and China: Brothers in arms / Nikkei Asian Review
Last week, the military government of Thailand earmarked $380 million to purchase a submarine from China. Nikkei Asian Review sees the news as evidence that Thailand is cementing its shift toward China, which may spur the U.S. to work to restore bilateral ties that were damaged after Thailand’s 2014 military coup. China, meanwhile, sees Thailand as a gateway to Southeast Asia, and is keen to reward the Thai government’s neutral stance on the South China Sea. Further issues at play are a Thai proposal to host a Chinese weapons production center, and a multinational Asian military exercise called Cobra Gold about which the U.S. is yet to decide its level of participation.
- Grenades thrown at police on China-Myanmar border during bust of drug-trafficking operation / SCMP
- China firing blanks in ‘war on pollution’ as smog worsens / SCMP
- China plans to destroy an ancient Buddhist city to get the copper buried there – in Afghanistan / CNBC
- China homes collapse, nine buried – in Wenzhou / Xinhua
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- Trump and Chinese New Year 2017
Donald Trump was today once again a popular topic on Chinese social media for several reasons. First, he broke a long-standing American presidential tradition by not sending Spring Festival greetings to Chinese people. One internet user ridiculed Trump, saying (in Chinese), “Given his intellectual level, he might not know when Chinese New Year is.” Another subject of discussion was about a group of Chinese companies that rented a large digital billboard in New York’s Times Square to wish Trump and the American people a “happy Chinese New Year,” which one commenter described (in Chinese) as “rendering good for evil.” Chinese social media also lit up today over Ivanka Trump’s appearance at the Chinese Embassy’s New Year’s party and her recently posted video of her daughter singing a song in Mandarin. One of the most upvoted comments below the video reads (in Chinese), “It seems the only person in Trump’s family who knows nothing about politics and diplomacy is the president himself.”
In other Trump news, the president’s éminence grise Steve Bannon was the subject of media reports that quote recent radio shows he did for Breitbart in which he said, “We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.”
- Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua’s all-female bodyguards ‘quite unusual,’ say security experts / SCMP
- The parachute generation – Chinese children going to the U.S. for high school / NYT (paywall)
- The life of a football coach in China / The Guardian
- Yunnan village turns ‘Grapes of God’ into big bucks – a 150-year-old wine-making tradition / Sixth Tone
- Pearl River Delta Journal: On deck with China’s last junk builders, masters of an ebbing craft / NYT (paywall)
- Filmmaker Johnny Ma wants you to fall in love with ’90s Chinese cinema / China Film Insider