News roundup: The tax haven of Tibet
Tax breaks in Tibet and Xinjiang
The Tibet and Xinjiang autonomous regions both offer tax breaks to companies as part of an effort to encourage economic development. Today, the South China Morning Post reports that a number of celebrities and business people, including actresses Zhao Wei 赵薇 and Fan Bingbing 范冰冰 and pig feed tycoon Liu Yonghao 刘永好, have been tied to companies that enjoy preferential tax policies because they are registered in Lhasa and Khorgos, a town in Xinjiang near the border with Kazakhstan.
No selfie sticks at Two Sessions this year
China’s annual political gathering known as the “Two Sessions” (两会 liǎnghuì) happens every March, when representatives of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference meet in Beijing to hear work reports and approve new legislation. Xinhua News Agency has an English summary of official expectations for this year’s meetings, which begin on Friday.
There are rarely any surprises at the Two Sessions, and the country’s state media and propaganda organizations have a hard time making them seem interesting, but not for want of trying. This year, the People’s Daily has produced a kooky animated video (screenshot above) and an infographic as part of a large special web package in advance of the meetings. Xinhua has a similar variety of offerings. (All links above in this paragraph to Chinese sources.)
Meanwhile, Caixin notes that journalists are prohibited from using selfie sticks at the meetings this year.
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Minors will not be blacklisted for bad debts
Xinhua News Agency reports (in Chinese) that the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) has issued a decision forbidding minors from being blacklisted for bad debts. The SPC decision appears to apply to any listing of debtors, and avoids using the narrower term “social credit system” (社会信用机制 shèhuì xìnyòng jīzhì), which is the planned national reputation evaluation ranking. China does not currently have a consumer credit ratings system.
WeChat and Chinese outbound travel
The WeChat app has become a vital communication, payment, and booking tool for Chinese travelers on domestic and international trips. This report from a Beijing-based consultancy is a useful guide to how Chinese tourists will use WeChat in 2017.
Islam and martial arts
An article on the Muslim Vibe website looks at the involvement of the Muslim Hui ethnic group in the development of Chinese martial arts, dating back to the 1200s.
This issue of the SupChina newsletter was produced by Sky Canaves, Lucas Niewenhuis, Jia Guo, 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:
- A delivery man just became one of the richest people in China / Bloomberg
China’s largest parcel delivery company, S.F. Express, was listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange last week, making its founder, Wang Wei 王卫, into the country’s third-richest man with a net worth of $26.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The country’s courier industry has been booming since the government removed restrictions on private delivery services in 2009. Wang is one of several package delivery billionaires — another recent entrant to the club is the founder of ZTO Express, which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in October. The growth of the the delivery business has been dramatic because of the popularity of ecommerce in China. In the past decade, the average price of delivering a package dropped 57 percent to 12.8 yuan ($1.86) due to the decrease of operational costs and greater competition. In the U.S., the average cost of delivering a package is $10.
- One startup builds $1 billion business out of 15-cent bike rides / Bloomberg
Streets in some Chinese cities are being taken over by smartphone-linked bikes for rent as the popularity of bike-sharing services increases. Mobike and Ofo are two of the biggest players in what some see as a bubble. Ofo has just raised $450 million of funding, and Mobike raised $300 million a month earlier.
- Xiaomi launches its own chip, with an assist from Beijing / WSJ (paywall)
- China’s theft of U.S. trade secrets under scrutiny / Science Magazine
- China’s manufacturing PMI hits three-month high as Xi vows to curb financial risks / SCMP
- Minister: China to cut 500,000 heavy industry jobs / Washington Post
- China releases first strategy on cyberspace cooperation / Xinhua
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- Beijing’s shadow looms over Hong Kong elections / WSJ (paywall)
Beijing appears to be making a special push in this year’s Hong Kong election for chief executive to push its favored candidate over the top. Multiple people in the 1,200-member election committee have reported receiving phone calls for months from individuals in China claiming to represent the interests of Beijing and urging them to cast their ballots for Carrie Lam 林鄭月娥. While Beijing’s influence in the election is by no means unusual or unexpected, the members said that the pressure began earlier and was more intense this year. Lam is noted for — and likely trusted by Beijing because of — her leading role in the government response to the 2014 pro-democracy protests. For more information on Lam and the other candidates in the Hong Kong election, see this roundup by Bloomberg.
- Senior North Korea envoy visits Beijing after China coal ban / Reuters
- Uighur militants reportedly threaten China in ISIS video / TIME
- China isn’t displacing traditional aid donors in Africa / Quartz
- $16 million Trump penthouse sells to exec with ties to China / New York Post
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- ‘Logan’ becomes first film in China affected by new law / China Film Insider
China does not have a ratings system for films, but a new law requires a warning to be given if a film “might attract minors or other audiences that are physically or psychologically inappropriate.” The American superhero film Logan has become the first film in the country to include an age-restriction warning in all of its marketing material, though the film has already undergone a 14-minute cut to bowdlerize scenes of violence and nudity. “The warning represents the most significant step toward what might become a more comprehensive and restrictive rating system, which parents groups and film industry lobby groups have been pushing for years,” China Film Insider writes.
- Lawyers say defiant child bribe is unlikely to find legal justice / Global Times
A 29-year-old Chongqing woman who claims she was sold by her uncle at the age of 13 to a man who raped her repeatedly and then forced her to marry him is now seeking legal justice. However, the Global Times quotes lawyers who say she is unlikely to win any victories in court due to the lack of evidence. The victim, Ma Panyan, was raised by her uncle after her mother killed her father and fled in 1997. She says that when she turned 13, a man purchased her from her uncle at a price of 4,000 yuan ($582) and signed a contract that said she would have to marry him when she turned 20, the legal marriage age. She also states she was first raped by Chen at the age of 14 and gave birth to her first child a year later. Over the years, Ma complained to local police on many occasions, but her case was never investigated. The woman has begun posting on social media (in Chinese) to bring public attention to her case.
- China economy draws more students back from abroad / WSJ (paywall)
- Chinese Super League outspends Premier League as winter transfer window closes / BBC News
- Investigation urged as deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu shows signs of drug resistance / SCMP
- Video of far-right Japanese kindergarten recital sparks controversy in China / What’s on Weibo