TODAY’S TOP STORIES
Trump phone call with Taiwan president?
As we were preparing to send today’s newsletter, the Financial Times published the following:
“Donald Trump risks opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated after speaking on the phone on Friday with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan.
The telephone call, confirmed by three people, is believed to be the first between a US president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic relations between the two were cut in 1979.”
The Taipei Times has also published a story that says a call was scheduled without confirming that it took place.
The Nu River: Dammed no longer?
This week, China’s State Energy Administration published a five-year plan that includes details of hydroelectric projects (in Chinese here). Conspicuously absent was any mention of previously mooted hydropower dams on the Nu River (pictured above), a wild, 1,700-mile-long watercourse that flows from the Tibetan Plateau through Yunnan Province, Thailand and Burma, where it empties into the Andaman Sea. Environmentalists have been campaigning for more than a decade against plans to construct dams on the Nu, also known as the Salween and the Thanlwin. The Guardian reports that activists see the State Energy Administration’s plan as “an apparent victory for their cause.”
Wang Yongchen, “one of the most vocal opponents of the plans,” said, “I am absolutely thrilled.” The Guardian lists three possible reasons for the cancellation: the growing environmental awareness of China’s leadership; the danger posed by seismic activity in the region; and reduced demand for new sources of electricity, especially from remote mountainous regions. In May this year, National Geographic noted that the Nu River “could become a national park, as officials appear to back away from a proposal for multiple dams.” However, plans for dams further downstream are still being made: Environmental website Mongabay says that Burma still “plans to build five major hydroelectric dams” on its stretch of the river. There’s more on the Nu River in a New York Times article published in June this year: “China’s last wild river carries conflicting environmental hopes.”
Ten surprising things that China is buying this year
Bloomberg has a short piece that lists 10 foreign acquisitions by Chinese companies, including providers of blood plasma, robot bartenders and airline food. The article states that “an unprecedented $234 billion of overseas purchases have been announced so far this year — nearly triple the amount during the same period in 2015.”
If you missed it yesterday, SupChina published a Sinica Podcast with reporter Ed Wong, author of the New York Times piece linked above.
More China news worth reading is summarized and linked below.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
- China escalates efforts to cool down financial system / WSJ
“It’s all part of the government’s broader deleveraging campaign that seeks to put China’s high debt level under control,” says Suan Teck Kin, an economist at United Overseas Bank in Singapore. “The message is clear: the days of easy money are over.”
- China’s problems with easy money go back centuries / Financial Times
“At intervals in their history, Chinese rulers have succumbed to the temptation to pay off spiraling debts simply by rolling the money printing presses,” writes James Kynge. “Inflationary scourges ravaged dynasty after dynasty, with both the Mongols and Mao Zedong’s Communists seizing power in a country eviscerated by depreciated paper.”
- Foreign companies face new clampdown for getting money out of China / WSJ
“Until this week, big companies could ‘sweep’ $50 million out of China,” reports The Wall Street Journal, adding that now, the cap is “equivalent of $5 million.”
- Will Ivanka Trump’s China-made clothing line survive her dad’s trade war? / Bloomberg
“Ivanka Trump’s $100 million apparel line is sewn in Asian countries under a licensing agreement with G-III Apparel Group Inc., which has expanded from making coats in New York’s Garment District to become a manufacturer of global scope,” Bloomberg notes. “That method of moving $140 sheath dresses and $80 sweaters means political embarrassment for her father, who has threatened a trade war against China.”
- Aixtron tumbles as Obama said poised to block Chinese takeover / Bloomberg
The German tech firm’s shares fell by 7.5 percent as sources report that Obama will uphold the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to halt Grand Chip Investment’s proposed $714 million acquisition.
- Meitu of China, built on the selfie, could be worth $5.23 billion in IPO / NYT
The tech firm’s upcoming share listing in Hong Kong “will offer a rare gauge of whether global investors agree with the sky-high valuations often found in China’s tech startup scene.”
- WeChat, China’s top messaging app, no longer tells users when it censors their messages / TechCrunch
Other findings from a new report on WeChat by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab highlight how Tencent’s censorship tools can follow users outside the country.
- Airbnb belatedly knocks on the door in China / The Economist
“The American firm is late to the party, and local rivals are by now established.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- China’s second-most-powerful man warns of dissent and corruption in the Communist Party / Quartz
“Some Chinese Communist Party officials are threatening to quit rather than pay membership fees, others cling to forbidden beliefs in religion or superstition, and some are even seeking to seize state power and split the party, Wang Qishan, China’s anti-corruption czar, told party members in a recently publicized speech.”
- America and China’s long embrace / The Economist
According to John Pomfret’s new book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, “America has helped China change. But the change, so far, is superficial.”
- China seizes opening in U.S. backyard as Trump upends policy / Bloomberg
“The Trump shock presents a period for China to accelerate its Latin American ties as it may offer more and better trade deals along with more financing with less strings attached,” says Kevin Gallagher, author of The China Triangle: Latin America’s China Boom and the Fate of the Washington Consensus.
- China, grappling with Trump, turns to ‘old friend’ Kissinger / Bloomberg
“As he’s done for decades, Henry Kissinger is again shuttling between the U.S. and China to defuse tensions, this time as President Xi Jinping tries to figure out how much of President-elect Donald Trump’s China bashing will follow him to the White House.”
- Trump won in counties that lost jobs to China and Mexico / Washington Post
An analysis of county-level manufacturing employment data and election results, along with international trade statistics, shows that “counties experiencing greater import shocks are the same counties where votes for the Republican presidential candidate jumped more in 2016.”
- Hong Kong government seeks to ban four more pro-democracy legislators / SCMP
“The government announced on Friday that it had ‘commenced legal proceedings’ against veteran activist ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung, former Occupy student leader Nathan Law Kwun-chung, academic Edward Yiu Chung-yim and lecturer Lau Siu-lai… None of them have advocated Hong Kong independence, although Law and Lau have called for self-determination.”
- Draft law gives Chinese police control of online discussion on disasters / Reuters
Police at the county level may be authorized to “implement internet controls” on coverage of natural and man-made disasters and to block access to disaster areas, according to a revised draft of China’s policing law.
- ‘My son is innocent’: Chinese man exonerated 21 years after execution / CNN
China’s top court overturned Nie Shubin’s conviction for rape and murder on Friday, more than 11 years after another man confessed to the crime.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- In China, eugenics determines who plays in school bands / NYT
“We don’t want anyone with asthma, or heart problems, or eye problems. And we want the smart kids; the quick learners,” said the Beijing elementary school teacher responsible for a program that picks individual 8-year-olds out of thousands. The program aims to build “the best band in the world” to represent China overseas and “wow audiences with the flower of Chinese youth,” The New York Times reports.
- China and the Church: The ‘outlaw’ do-it-yourself bishop / BBC News
“Dong Guanhua is a thorn in the side of both the Vatican and the Chinese state. Without the Pope’s permission, or Beijing’s, this 58-year-old laborer from a village in northern China calls himself a bishop.”
- Inside the world of Chinese science fiction, with ‘Three Body Problem’ translator Ken Liu / Quartz
“For a lot of Chinese writers, their view is that sci-fi ought to be the easiest genre to translate because it relies the least upon culture. I have found that not to be true,” says Liu, who recently published an anthology of Chinese science fiction in translation.
- In China, Las Vegas tourism officials market less sinful Sin City / Las Vegas Review-Journal
“China’s official stance on gambling might seem to run counter to Las Vegas’ ‘Sin City’ image, so Las Vegas tourism officials had to find a way to market their city to Chinese officials in a respectful, delicate manner.”
- Full-size Titanic replica being built in China / BBC News
The 882-foot-long, $145 million ship will serve as the centerpiece of a theme park far from the ocean in Sichuan Province.