News roundup: Two takes on Xi Jinping’s China plus chef Fuchsia Dunlop on the Sinica Podcast

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Top China news for November 17, 2016. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at

Chef Fuchsia Dunlop on the Sinica Podcast

Today, we publish a very exciting Sinica Podcast: an interview with Fuchsia Dunlop, the accomplished chef of Chinese cuisine and author of several cookbooks. She sat down in the studio with Jeremy and Kaiser to share just a taste of her Chinese culinary knowledge (pictured above is a page of her scrapbook from her time as the first foreign student of the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine).

Political news in China has been slow today, with President Xi Jinping in Sardinia on one stop of a multi-country tour. However, Xi is the subject of today’s must-read article “Can Xi pivot from China’s disrupter-in-chief to reformer-in-chief?” by Damien Ma, in which the writer makes the case for a much more positive view of Xi than has been popular among the commentariat recently.

Ma is the co-author of a book titled In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade, and a fellow of the Paulson Institute in Chicago. He does not have a history of sunny pronouncements about China, and he makes a compelling case for why Xi Jinping may prove the naysayers wrong in the long run.

A less-sanguine take on China’s future is “China’s great leap backward,” by the Atlantic‘s James Fallows. “The country has become repressive in a way that it has not been since the Cultural Revolution,” he writes. “What does its darkening political climate — and growing belligerence — mean for the United States?”

If you missed it yesterday, it’s also worth reading a New York Times report on labor unrest at Walmart in China, where “as much as a fifth” of the company’s employees in the country have coordinated on social media to protest low wages and other tough working conditions.

Finally, a striking headline from Bloomberg yesterday showed how much things have changed from just a decade ago, when Western governments were scolding China for acting irresponsibly toward the environment: “China tells Trump that climate change is no hoax it invented.” China’s vice foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, said at climate talks in Morocco that China couldn’t have invented climate change, stating, “If you look at the history of climate change negotiations, actually it was initiated by the IPCC with the support of the Republicans during the Reagan and senior Bush administration during the late 1980s.”

Additional news on China is linked below.


    • China’s central bank steps up efforts to create digital currency / SCMP
      “The People’s Bank of China is cautious about digital money beyond its control, such as Bitcoin, and is researching benefits of its own sovereign digital currency.”
    • China mulls economic cooperation zone in Philippines / Xinhua (state media)
      Following the “consensus reached” between Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese president Xi Jinping last month, a delegation from the Philippines agreed with China to “explore the possibility of establishing an economic and trade cooperation zone” between the two countries.
    • U.S. panel backs takeover ban for Chinese state-owned firms / SCMP
      The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission cited national security concerns in protecting the independence of U.S. companies. The South China Morning Post summarized analyst insight by writing, “With Washington heading in [a] more hawkish direction, China must respond by opening up state companies to private investment.”
    • Opinion: Hong Kong’s protest leaders demand self-determination / WSJ
      “The United Nations and the United Kingdom tossed Hong Kong from one colonial master to another,” Joshua Wong and Jeffrey Ngo argued in this Wall Street Journal opinion piece from last week. Today, China’s foreign ministry responded in a letter to the editor to the same newspaper.
    • With fertility rate in China low, some press to legalize births outside marriage / NYT
      The Chinese government today “still fines married couples who have more than two children and women who give birth out of wedlock, despite a looming demographic crisis in the country.” To combat China’s exceptionally low fertility rates, “three civil society groups in the southern city of Guangzhou issued a report calling for greater reproductive freedom for single women.”