A rather alarming view from a plane window
Chinese social media lit up over the weekend as people circulated photographs taken through the window of an Airbus A330-200 jet showing a huge hole in the casing of one of the plane’s engines. China Eastern Airlines flight MU736 left Sydney on June 11 bound for Shanghai. One passenger described the experience to Seven News (video): “We went up in the air and all of a sudden we heard this noise…it kind of smelled like burning. Oh, I was scared. Yeah, I was really scared. Our group was terrified.” The plane circled above Sydney, dumping fuel before landing back at the city’s airport with no harm done to any passengers or crew. Reuters has more on the ongoing investigation into the cause of the incident. The South China Morning Post says, “The China Eastern flight’s near-disaster is [the] second Airbus A332 incident in a month and 26th this year.”
Reactions on social media were mixed. While sympathy for the passengers and praise for the pilot were widespread, many commenters attacked China Eastern because of a separate incident on June 10 (in Chinese), when the airline forced a passenger to put his pet golden retriever in the hold. The dog died en route. China Eastern removed a Weibo posting about the incident, probably because of the high numbers of negative comments, but some of the invective can still be found on the Global Times post (in Chinese) about MU736.
Korean missionary connection in Pakistan kidnapping?
The Global Times published an article (in Chinese) titled “The truth! Korean person took Chinese people to Pakistan for missionary work ending in tragic kidnapping.” If the report is to be believed, Korean missionaries have been recruiting young Chinese people to spread Christianity in “high-risk areas” like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many of the online comments to the story are extremely derogatory to Koreans in a new outbreak of the contempt for China’s little neighbor that occasionally erupts. Quartz has more on Chinese media responses to the kidnapping.
An arts festival in Beijing, April 1989
Josh Green, longtime resident of Beijing in the 1980s and ’90s, has uploaded footage to YouTube of a “free arts festival” at the city’s ancient Jesuit-designed observatory seven
days after the death of Hu Yaobang at the beginning of the student demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989. You can watch the first part here, or skip to part 3, which features SupChina’s own Kaiser Kuo playing heavy metal with his band Tang Dynasty.
Superwomen in Data
SupChina’s founding CEO is a woman — Anla Cheng — and as a media company, we have decided to prioritize female voices as much as we can. In May this year, we organized our first annual Women’s Conference, which featured an all-female lineup of entrepreneurs, financiers, filmmakers, and fashion designers who have succeeded in China. We’re also making coverage of women as entrepreneurs, feminists, opinion makers, and bridge builders a focus of our work.
So we’re delighted to support other organizations that have a similar quest: If you’re in Shanghai on June 22, Superwomen in Data is a new conference during which five women will talk about their “digital success stories” with the aim of promoting female entrepreneurship and raising funds for a local charity.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
There is no Thucydides Trap
Arthur Waldron is a notable scholar of Chinese history and military affairs whose views are often out of sync with conventional wisdom. In this book review, he argues persuasively against a concept that has become a pillar of establishment thinking on China.
The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 9
In this week’s episode, Kaiser and Ada cover how Alibaba has overtaken its rival Tencent to become China’s most valuable company, how Chinese banking regulators are clamping down on the use of Chinese bank cards overseas, and how the SEC has pushed back its timeline for approving the purchase of the Chicago Stock Exchange by a Chinese buyer. They also speak with Doug Young about a Tsinghua-built AI robot that aces math tests, and with Fran Wang about some of the newest trade numbers.
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:
Fuyao Glass: Low taxes but troublesome workers in the U.S.
Fuyao Glass — which makes windshields for cars — made the news in December last year for a $1 billion investment in the U.S. that included taking over a General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio. The size of the investment was noteworthy, but comments from company chairman Cao Dewang 曹德旺 perhaps caused a greater stir: Cao explained his investment decision by saying the U.S. was a cheaper and better place to make glass than China because American taxes were much lower.
Now the New York Times says (paywall) that “tensions have arisen” at the Dayton plant “over safety, foreign control and culture clashes.” United Automobile Workers have launched what the Times calls an “acrimonious campaign” against Fuyao, while “a former manager who says he was let go in part because he is not Chinese” has filed a lawsuit.
China’s new bridges: Rising high, but buried in debt / NYT (paywall)
“China has built hundreds of dazzling new bridges, including the [world’s] longest and highest, but many have fostered debt and corruption.”
Chinese conglomerate threatens to sue fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui / SCMP
“The HNA Group issues its first public statement on allegations of shady dealings made by Guo, rejecting them as completely unfounded and false.”
Hong Kong cozies up to Shenzhen to create future tech giants / Bloomberg
“Officials in Hong Kong have an ambitious proposal to link [with Shenzhen] via a technology park on a disputed swamp by the border that aims to revitalize Hong Kong’s sagging economy and add fuel to Shenzhen’s nascent startup boom.”
With UK launch, China’s Mobike makes first foray outside Asia / Tech in Asia
The leading Chinese bike rental company Mobike will launch in the U.K.
- China state papers urge regulators to stick to reforms as pace of IPOs slows / Reuters
- Why Chinese investors are snapping up Bordeaux vineyards / The Telegraph
- Top 7 fitness apps in China / TechNode
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Desperate times call for faked economic data
“China’s GDP figures are ‘man-made’ and therefore unreliable,” Li Keqiang said in 2007 — nearly six years before he became China’s premier — according to U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010. The statement was notable because, despite the widely held belief that official statistics in China are at best rough estimates and at worst completely bogus, it is very rare for a senior Party leader to admit this.
However, slowing growth, continued pressure on provincial leaders to sustain economic development, and possible attention from the Party’s feared anticorruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), are increasingly exposing faked economic data and lack of compliance with environmental regulations:
- The Commission stated that parts of northeastern Jilin Province and Inner Mongolia had faked economic data, though it did not specify “what figures were manipulated, how widespread the practice was, or the time frame,” according to Bloomberg. This marks the second time this year that the Chinese government has admitted to faking official statistics — when the governor of northeastern Liaoning Province announced in January that his officials had inflated GDP numbers from 2011 to 2014, it was the first public admission of any unreliability in statistics from the Chinese government. Jilin and Liaoning are two of the nation’s most economically struggling provinces.
- The high pressure to achieve economic growth has also led to more publicly reported environmental issues. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) stated that in Beijing’s surrounding area — known as “Jing-Jin-Ji,” short for Beijing, Tianjin, and the province of Hebei — over 70 percent of companies inspected have failed to meet environmental standards, Quartz reports. The results from MEP are preliminary parts of a yearlong inspection series of the Jing-Jin-Ji area that started in April.
Book review: Are China and the United States headed for war? / The New Yorker
A scathing review of Graham Allison’s new book on the so-called Thucydides Trap, balanced with additional reviews of writings on rising Asian power and America’s response to it.
Communist Party rebukes China’s internet watchdog for ‘lax’ control over cyberspace / SCMP
Discipline inspectors say the Cyberspace Administration failed to swiftly enforce Xi Jinping’s policies to further tighten control of cyberspace on the mainland.
Brains and beauty wanted: Chinese graduates offered up to US$11,800 to sell their eggs / SCMP
“Women students in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing are being offered up to 80,000 yuan (US$11,800) to sell their eggs through illicit brokers, despite a nationwide ban on the practice.”
Natural disasters kill 41 in China in May / China Daily
The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Commission for Disaster Reduction reported:
- 41 people died in natural disasters.
- About 46,000 people were displaced.
- Nearly 9,000 houses collapsed.
- More than 108,000 houses were damaged.
- About 1.74 million hectares of crops were affected, with more than 51,800 hectares destroyed.
- Natural disasters in May caused 8.87 billion yuan ($1.31 billion) in direct economic losses.
The article says that the family of Ye Jianying 叶剑英, Marshal of the People’s Liberation Army and veteran of the Long March, “pulls the levers of power” in China.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Cathay Pacific cabin crew refuse Chinese name badges
Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific has come under fire in mainland China (in Chinese) after cabin crew refused to put their Chinese names on the name badges of their uniforms. The controversy started at the end of May, when the airline company ordered its Hong Kong- and Taiwan-based cabin staff to wear name badges embossed with both English and Chinese names. The decision met with a fierce backlash from its employees, who feared that having their Chinese names on their uniforms would make it much easier for passengers to track their identities and cause trouble in their personal lives. In addition, some against the idea were concerned that the policy was intended to please passengers from mainland China. Due to the strong protest, Cathay Pacific announced that it halted the plan, but the debate is still alive in both media and the public.
Some Hong Kong media pointed out that although English is an official language in the city, Chinese — both Mandarin and Cantonese, which is spoken by most locals — is an integral part of Hong Kong’s language environment. Other Hong Kong media reported that when asked why they opposed Chinese name tags, some Cathay Pacific employees said that the Chinese language lacks “sophisticated foreign flavor,” and using Chinese names will diminish their chances of getting along with “high-class and Westernized people” (高端洋化人士 gāoduān yánghuà rénshì).
On the social media platform Weibo, many users were highly critical (in Chinese). One commented, “These people would rather worship foreigners without any dignity than communicate with their fellow countrymen a bit more easily.” Others complained of discrimination. “I felt very strange when I was on their flight before,” one person stated. “The cabin crew on that flight can definitely speak Chinese, as I heard them talking in Chinese among themselves, but they spoke English to passengers from mainland China. They did it on purpose for sure!”
A similar debate about discrimination against Chinese people and the language has been stirred up by a video that went viral showing a woman in Toronto, Canada, “telling Chinese shop assistants to ‘go back to China’ for not speaking English” — see What’s on Weibo for more on this controversy.
Beijing motorists earn pocket change by not driving / Sixth Tone
“Own a car in Beijing but still need some extra cash? Now all you have to do is leave your vehicle parked for 24 hours, and you’re eligible to receive a “carbon reduction red envelope” containing 0.2 to 0.7 yuan ($0.03 to $0.10), an amount that may double on especially polluted days.”
- Xi Jinping Tells Modi He Loves ‘Dangal,’ Wants More Such Movies in China / China Film Insider
- Stephon Marbury changed China’s basketball culture — and his life / Boston Globe
- Grisly find exposes China’s dirty trade in used blood bags and syringes / SCMP
- Advertisers, fitness app makers laugh their way to finish line as marathon mania grips China / Caixin
- Shenzhen to launch China’s first women-only subway cars / What’s on Weibo