News roundup: Xi Jinping and China’s richest men to attend Davos

Top China news for January 10, 2017. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at

Xi Jinping and China’s two richest men to attend Davos

President Xi Jinping is scheduled to speak at the opening session of the World Economic Forum on January 17, becoming the first Chinese head of state to address the annual gathering in Davos. Chinese executives accompanying President Xi to the meeting will include China’s two richest men, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin. Executives from Baidu, Huawei, China Telecom, and China Poly Group are also slated to attend.

The American scholar Samuel Huntington, who is credited with inventing the term “Davos man,” argued that “members of this global elite ‘have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.’” There can be no clearer indication of global geopolitical and economic shifts than the attendance at Davos of Xi Jinping, a president who has made strong government and national sovereignty key planks of his leadership.

Bloomberg has a good roundup of news about the Chinese delegation’s visit; Xinhua News Agency has published a terse statement about it.

More China stories worth your time are curated below, with the most important ones at the top of each section.


  • Prostate cancer drug firm sold to China’s Sanpower Group / Reuters
    Canada’s Valeant Pharmaceuticals International announced the sale for $819.9 million of its Seattle-based subsidiary Dendreon to Sanpower Group, a Chinese conglomerate with interests in real estate, health care, media, and finance. According to Sanpower’s press release, Dendreon’s “only commercialized product is Provenge, an immunotherapy treatment for prostate cancer treatment approved by the FDA in April 2010.” The new owner intends to increase sales in the U.S. and introduce Provenge to China and other Asian markets. SupChina recently noted that the incidence of prostate cancer among Chinese men is rising by 12 percent annually.
  • Jack Ma tells President-elect Trump that Alibaba can help create 1 million U.S. jobs / SCMP
    U.S. president-elect Donald Trump met Alibaba executive Jack Ma at Trump Tower in New York City on Monday. Speaking to the press after the meeting, the two vowed to create 1 million new U.S. jobs through Alibaba’s ecommerce platform by helping small businesses and farmers sell products to Chinese and Southeast Asian consumers. “Trump’s meeting with Ma sends a positive signal,” commented Fu Mengzi, deputy director of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank closely associated with the Ministry of State Security.


  • Opinion: What will China give up in 2017 for the stability it seeks? / SCMP
    Cary Huang characterizes 2017 as a year of uncertainty for China. There is the scheduled reshuffle of top political figures at the 19th national congress of the Communist Party this autumn, which may determine tough decisions between market reform and tighter economic control. Brexit, upcoming European elections, and Donald Trump represent an unusually large amount of instability from outside. For more on the risks in China’s economic and geopolitical strategy in 2017, see this Foreign Policy article from yesterday.
  • China rolls out new graft watchdog / WSJ (paywall)
    The “national supervisory commission,” with powers to “interrogate and detain suspects, freeze assets, and, in some cases, render punishment,” is now being tested at regional levels before becoming a centralized institution next year. It is the latest deepening of President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign that has “sidelined rivals, bolstered his popularity, and helped raise his stature as China’s most dominant leader in decades.”


  • Study finds lower, but still high, rate of C-sections in China / NYT (paywall)
    A new joint study by American and Chinese scientists reveals that 35 percent of Chinese babies were delivered by cesarean instead of vaginal birth between 2008 and 2014, compared with the 46 percent figure reported by the World Health Organization in 2010. However, despite China’s efforts to control medically unnecessary cesareans through educating doctors and patients, the rate is still climbing. The study also shows that “many parents and grandparents demand C-sections to assure that births take place on a lucky day in the astrological calendar.” Doctors also say they are less likely to be accused of malpractice if they perform “scheduled surgeries rather than risk vaginal births.”
  • Film on Palace Museum’s antiquity restoration becomes surprise hit / Caixin
    Masters in the Forbidden City, a low-budget documentary about relic restorers at the imperial palace in central Beijing, “went viral online after being aired by broadcaster China Central Television in January 2016.” The film led to “a flood of applications for jobs at the Palace Museum, with over 20,000 applicants gunning for 100 vacancies.” The original documentary was adapted for the big screen and released on December 16, the same day as The Great Wall, directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Matt Damon.


Keep an eye on what’s buzzing among China’s 700 million social media users.

Chinese soccer fans see no hope in World Cup expansion / Weibo (link in Chinese)

FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, voted unanimously on Tuesday to expand the World Cup tournament to 48 teams in 2026, up from the current quota of 32. The People’s Daily invited internet users on Sina Weibo to leave comments on the move. Most reactions are negative about China’s prospects for World Cup glory: One of the most popular postings reads, “This is going to be even more embarrassing for China’s national team.”

Earlier this year, China unveiled a strategy to become a “football superpower” by 2050, while President Xi Jinping, a football enthusiast, vowed that China would win the World Cup within 15 years. The hope, however, was dampened as China failed the 2018 World Cup qualifier after losing to Syria and Uzbekistan. Last week, we noted on SupChina that China’s soccer authorities have issued rules to stop “irrational” spending by football clubs.