News roundup: Clickbait about China’s ‘parliament of billionaires’
They’re not lawmakers
Yesterday, Reuters published an article titled “Under Xi, wealth of China’s uber-rich lawmakers grew faster than economy,” The New York Times said “Chinese lawmakers’ wallets have grown along with Xi’s power,” the Financial Times headlined its story “Wealth of China’s richest 200 lawmakers tops $500bn,” while CNBC went with “China’s parliament has about 100 billionaires.”
Here’s the thing: Most of the wealthy people to whom these reports refer are not lawmakers. All of the rich people who are named in these articles are members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, or CPPCC. As its name suggests, the CPPCC is a toothless advisory body. It does not make or approve laws. Of course, CPPCC members have influence, but they have no legislative power whatsoever.
The reason for these reports on China’s supposed parliament of billionaires is, of course, the Two Sessions, China’s annual political meeting of the CPPCC and the National People’s Congress, or NPC, which is the body that does actually approve laws, even if those powers are often described as mere rubber stamping in Western media reports.
The reports all draw on data from Hurun, a company that compiles lists of China’s high net worth individuals, based on sources of information that it does not reveal. Hurun says that of the approximately 3,000 delegates to the NPC, there are 125 whose net worth is estimated at 2 to 10 billion yuan ($290 million to $1.4 billion). The real wealth is concentrated in the hands of 84 of the total of around 2,000 delegates to the CPPCC. Reuters has a useful interactive infographic about the Hurun data if you’d like to explore further.
Chinese state media reports are as guilty of mischaracterization as the articles mentioned above: The People’s Daily, for example, headlined a story (in Chinese) on the Two Sessions with the notion that a “democratic spring was surging like the tide.”
Didi gets official car-hailing license
Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing company that ate Uber alive in China, has itself faced many regulatory obstacles. But its new team to “work with local governments to create smart transportation systems” seems to be paying off: Today, the China Daily reports that Didi has become the first company to receive an official “online car-hailing operating license.” The issuing authority is Tianjin municipality, where Didi is registered, but the license is recognized nationwide.
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Financial Times predicts China commodities slump
The Financial Times has published an article (paywall) that suggests that President Xi Jinping’s “Princeling faction” has won a power struggle against Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s “populists” and that commodity markets are going to suffer as a result. The article cites as evidence that oil traders are “selling out of floating storage in Singapore before their profit disappears,” while “housing market bubbles in London and New York are also feeling the chill, as the intensification of capital controls marks the end of…Chinese-led property speculation.”
New gallery for Hong Kong martial arts novelist
Louis Cha Leung-yung 查良鏞, whose pen name is Jin Yong 金庸, is the co-founder of the Hong Kong daily newspaper Ming Pao and the world’s best-selling Chinese language novelist. The 93-year-old Hong Kong resident is the author of 15 martial arts (武侠 wǔxiá) novels, all of which are best sellers. The South China Morning Post has published a photo album showing a new gallery dedicated to the works of Jin Yong at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor in Chief
Today on SupChina
Chinese bike-sharing companies have not cloned the Citi Bike model of New York and London. Instead, they have innovated with systems that allow riders to pick up bikes anywhere and deposit them where they like. Today, we publish a story by Simone McCarthy and a video by Jia Guo that explain how Chinese bike sharing works, and examine some of the many problems plaguing one of the country’s most exciting new industries. In case you missed it, yesterday, we published a Sinica Podcast with Jane Perlez, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Beijing bureau chief of The New York Times.
This week on SupChina
This week’s news roundups are:
- Feb 27: Chinese private military contractors
- Feb 28: Atheism and religion
- Mar 1: The tax haven of Tibet
- Mar 2: Don’t meet Trump until ‘his head is covered with bumps’ — PLA adviser
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:
- China is rapidly making robots that will one day manufacture everything you buy / Quartz
The output growth of China’s industrial robots outperformed all other categories such as motor vehicles and mobile phones over the past year, reaching a total production amount of more than 72,000 units, an increase of 30.4 percent from 2015, according to an annual report released by China’s National Statistics Bureau. The government has been eager to push for more robots, driven by a shrinking of the number of working-age people last year and its efforts to bolster the tech sector in order to reduce its reliance on foreign companies. In a five-year plan announced last year, the government said it aims to increase its annual production of industrial robots to 100,000 by 2020.
- Xiaomi is about to be world’s number 1 wearable company / Technode
- China’s new watchdog to tackle shadow banking, property bubbles / Bloomberg
- JD.com to sell its stake in JD Finance for $2.1 billion to unnamed buyer / SCMP
- China is buying less of Hollywood, but more of everything else / CNBC
- Hollywood has appetite for China’s big bucks, but at what price? / Deadline Hollywood
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- China is trying to punish South Korea by keeping its tourists away / Quartz
China is continuing its retaliation against Seoul’s decision to deploy the American THAAD missile defense system. After denying applications of Korean pop stars who want to perform in China, halting a theme park project in Shenyang by Korean conglomerate Lotto, and recently blocking access to South Korean music and dramas, Beijing has apparently banned Chinese tour groups from visiting South Korea. According to Korean state media Yonhap, “China’s National Tourism Administration (CNTA) has told travel agencies to stop selling group packages and offering free trips from Beijing to South Korea.” In addition to orders regarding tour groups organized by travel agencies, CNTA also released a statement (in Chinese), saying that “in regards to the increasing number of cases where Chinese tourists were denied access to Jeju island, Chinese tourists should be aware of risks of traveling abroad and make careful choices of destination.”
China’s relations with North Korea have also been strained: North Korean missile tests and the assassination in Malaysia of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, are giving Beijing what The New York Times calls a double headache (paywall). The Times quotes Cheng Xiaohe 成晓河, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing: “One thing after another is happening… Not good things — all bad things.”
- Route to more power for China’s Xi runs through remote Guizhou / Reuters
- China quietly abandoning bid for ‘new model of great power relations’ with U.S. / Foreign Policy
- Opinion: Why China may want to repair its fraught relations with the Vatican / The Conversation
- BBC crew attacked in China and forced to sign confession / The Guardian
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- China logs 30 percent rise in reported sexual assaults on children / SCMP
A recent report (in Chinese) released by a non-governmental Beijing organization shows that in 2016, a total of 433 sexual assault cases involving 778 victims who are under 14 years old were reported. This was a 30 percent increase of the previous year’s total. Juvenile victims from rural areas accounted for roughly 76 percent of the reported cases and about 34 percent were under 12 years old. The report also notes that suspects in 300 sexual assault cases were acquaintances of the victims or their parents, such as teachers, neighbors, relatives, and family members.
Nearly a third of the crimes took place at the victim’s home. The organization warned that the actual total number of cases could be much higher because most cases were not reported. On Thursday, right before this year’s annual Two Sessions political gathering, some deputies to the National People’s Congress and experts held a seminar, calling for solutions to curb the growth, which include “making sexual abuse awareness education compulsory in schools.” The suggestion, however, is not without controversy. On Tuesday, a mother from Hangzhou posted several photos to the social media platform Weibo of a book named Sex Education for Elementary School Students that was given to her son, questioning, “Is it appropriate for a second-grade child to study this?” The post attracted thousands of comments on Weibo (in Chinese). One of the most upvoted comments reads, “It is parents like you, who still regard talking about sex with children as a taboo, that hinders the development of sex education in China.”
- The Teddy Bear Chronicles of Xi Xi – ‘Zhuangzi,’ a teddy bear tale inspired by the great philosopher who lived around the fourth century BCE / China Heritage
- Fossils reveal ancient ‘unknown human’ in China / Ars Technica
- Trendy Shanghai district has soccer team with glitter of its own / NYT (paywall)
- Censors step in after Chinese TV drama scene names Xi Jinping as ‘traitor’ / SCMP