Not your daddy’s propaganda
Cash, guns, and mistresses
In the Name of the People (人民的名义 rénmín de míngyì) is the title of a new TV series that premieres on March 28 on Hunan TV, one of China’s most popular and feistiest channels. Produced by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), the show features guns, bedrooms piled high with cash, officials in bed with foreign mistresses, and a crack team of investigators rooting out corruption at the highest levels of government. The show is the latest and slickest propaganda made in support of the anti-corruption campaign initiated by President Xi Jinping soon after he became general secretary of the Communist Party in November 2012, and is being billed as “the first great anti-corruption TV show.”
The screenplay and a novel of the same name were written by the popular author Zhou Meisen 周梅森 with the support of the SPP, which allowed him to interview detained corrupt officials as part of his research. You can see a trailer for the TV show on YouTube and read an interview with Zhou by Southern Weekend (in Chinese). Reuters has a short article on the TV show.
Trending topics on China’s number one social app
On Thursday, Tencent launched a new feature on WeChat, its best-known service, which has become China’s most popular social app, with 889 million monthly active users. The new feature, WeChat Index (微信指数 wēixìn zhǐshù), allows users to search for a keyword and obtain data on how many times the word has been used on the app in the past 7 days, 30 days, or 90 days. This is news because until this function was introduced, it was impossible for regular users of WeChat to know what other users were talking about, as most of the conversations on WeChat occur in closed groups similar to those on WhatsApp. The WeChat Index cannot tell you who is using the keywords, only the frequency of their use on WeChat. To use the Index, you click the search bar on WeChat and enter “微信指数.” SupChina experimented with a few keywords:
Trump 特朗普: The U.S. president had 5,581,530 mentions in the last 90 days compared with 242,297 for Hillary 希拉里. The peak for mentions of Trump in this period fell on January 20, the day of his inauguration.
Korea 韩国: There was a surge of its mentions at the beginning of March, coinciding with the growing tensions between China and South Korea over the THAAD missile defense system deployment.
Surprisingly, names of senior Chinese politicians and activists are also searchable on this feature. Over the past 90 days, there were 3,777,221 mentions of Xi Jinping, 68,922 mentions of the Dalai Lama, and 5,432 mentions of the imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo — although the last could refer to other people with the same name.
The strange world of the Han Chinese clothing movement
The Han clothing movement (汉服运动 hànfú yùndòng) is unabashedly dedicated to a style of dress that purports to be the original style of the majority ethnic group in China. On the China Heritage website, Kevin Carrico recounts the brief history of the nationalist movement, and describes a dinner in Shenzhen with some members of a “Han clothing association.”
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor in Chief
Today on SupChina
From an especially groovy granny to thousands of horses migrating through snowy mountains in Xinjiang, we looked at China’s internet this week and put together a one-minute package of the top viral videos, annotated in English.
This week on SupChina
- Sinica Podcast on China policy under Trump with an all-star cast of Yasheng Huang, John Pomfret, and Andy Rothman
- Anti-Korean sentiment in China: A brief history of recent events
- Chinese women are killing it in WeChat commerce
- North Korea and Rex Tillerson’s muddled arguments in Beijing
This week’s news roundups are:
- Mar 20: Will Trump go to Beijing before Xi goes to Mar-a-Lago?
- Mar 21: Huge Israeli delegation visits China
- Mar 22: Microsoft Windows — Chinese government edition
- Mar 23: Cheap drugs and grisly murders
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:
Chinese bike-sharing companies go global
You can’t go anywhere in a major Chinese city without seeing colorful bicycles provided by more than a dozen startup companies that have attracted more than a billion dollars of funding. The services are innovative because they allow users to pick up and leave the bikes anywhere, using their smartphones to unlock and pay for the rides, rather than needing a credit card at a docking station (see SupChina’s feature on bike sharing for more details). The Wall Street Journal reports that some of the funding and experience from the Chinese bike-sharing companies is heading to the U.S., Singapore, and the U.K. The two biggest bike-share companies, Ofo and Mobike, displayed their bikes at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, while the Beijing-based startup Bluegogo International has begun testing in San Francisco with 200 bikes. Mobike has launched in Singapore, while Ofo is running trials in San Diego, California, and Cambridge in the U.K. Finally, LimeBike is a California-based startup looking to introduce Chinese-style bike sharing to U.S. cities. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company is “run by current and former Chinese venture capitalists.”
Back in China, two weeks after Shanghai introduced rules to manage bike-sharing services, the China Daily says that bicycle associations in cities across China have produced a draft guideline to regulate the industry, which is currently “awaiting public opinion” and “expected to take effect in May.”
- China is losing to the U.S. in high-stakes battle for artificial intelligence talent – on the high-profile AI engineer Andrew Ng’s departure from Baidu / WSJ (paywall)
- Beijing to open first driverless subway line / China Daily
- China’s growing clout in international economic affairs / The Economist (paywall)
- Beijing imposes fresh home purchase restrictions to close the ‘divorce’ loophole / SCMP
- Hong Kong property agents won’t accept China UnionPay cards / Bloomberg
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
China’s pervasive influence in Malaysia
Asia Times has a story on the history and current state of China’s presence in Malaysian politics, beginning in 1974 when the Southeast Asian country normalized relations with China. The move helped the then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak and his ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) “boost its legitimacy and popularity with Malaysians of Chinese descent,” many of whom were resentful about the Malaysian New Economic Policy, an affirmative action measure introduced in 1969 that benefited Malays at the expense of ethnic Chinese and Indian citizens.
Asia Times says that “Tun Abdul’s son, current Prime Minister Najib Razak, is playing the same political card” by encouraging close political and commercial ties with China, but that this relationship is “being politicized by the political opposition.” One example is criticism about a Chinese-funded real estate deal from former premier Mahathir bin Mohamad, who quit UMNO last year. In January, Mohamad wrote, “Much of the most valuable land will now be owned and occupied by foreigners… In effect [it] will become foreign land.”
- Dalai Lama’s travel plans ignite reincarnation row – The Tibetan leader plans an April visit to the Tibetan community in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which are claimed by China / Financial Times (paywall)
- New medical reform gets mixed reaction / Global Times
- China is spending billions to make the world love it / The Economist (paywall)
- South China Sea reefs need defending, Chinese Premier Li says / Bloomberg
- Beef breakthrough as China insists its regional intentions are peaceful / Sydney Morning Herald
- Taiwan’s constitutional court hears landmark gay marriage case / SCMP
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Were our children poisoned?
On March 9, 53 children from a kindergarten in Jilin Province were hospitalized after they showed symptoms of illness, including fever, weakness, and vomiting. One day later, municipal authorities conducted a preliminary investigation and concluded that the sickness was caused by food poisoning from ingesting coliform bacteria. On March 15, all the children were discharged from the hospital, but one boy was taken by his parents to the First Hospital of Jilin University (FHJU) for further examination: He tested positive for rat poison. As a result, the Jilin City government organized another group test for all the children at the kindergarten, and nine more tested positive for rat poison. As the news began to circulate on the internet, the National Health and Family Planning Commission sent a group of three experts to investigate. According to Sixth Tone, they overturned the results of the hospital’s tests.
Parents, however, were suspicious of the sudden twist in the case. In a 10-second video (in Chinese) circulated online, a group of furious parents gather, complaining about the overhauled result. The person who shot the footage remarks, “Look how intense the crowd is…I can’t believe that they told us the previous result was wrong!” On Chinese social media, internet users have been divided over the case. On this Weibo posting (in Chinese), one commenter says, “We should trust experts sent by the central government. They speak with authority.” Others question, “What are the chances that FHJU, the best hospital in Jilin Province, gave incorrect results on all 10 cases?”
- 900,000 new cases of TB a year / China Daily
- Why Albanian films are big in China: Cultural Revolution nostalgia / SCMP
- Inside China’s almost-totally-legal $400 million fishery in Africa / Wired
- Hot water in South China Sea causes mass coral bleaching / Sixth Tone
- China to plant green necklace of trees around Beijing to fight smog / NYT (paywall)
- A river of rubbish: The ugly secret threatening China’s most beautiful city – Guilin / The Guardian