News roundup: Musicians are the first victims of China-South Korea tensions

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Top China news for January 24, 2017. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at

The Closing Ceremony of The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games

South Korean soprano’s performances canceled in China  

Concerts planned for February in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou by South Korean soprano Sumi Jo have been canceled. Korea’s Yonhap News Agency interprets the move as “China’s retaliation against Seoul’s plan to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system on its soil.” The tensions between Beijing and Seoul date back to July 2016, when South Korea announced plans for the missile system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).

On her Twitter account, Ms. Jo wrote (in Korean) that she had been preparing for the concert for two years and was not given a reason for the cancellation. A performance by South Korean pianist Paik Kun-Woo scheduled for March 18 was canceled as well. Yonhap also notes that “China is seen as targeting South Korean-made products in retaliation of THAAD.” 

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CEOs look to Trump for help on China

The CEOs of 12 large American manufacturing companies met President Trump on Monday and asked for his help in dealing with China. Attendees included the chief executives of Dell, Ford Motor Company, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, and U.S. Steel. CNBC has published a good summary of the meeting, including a complete list of companies represented, and details of some of their troubles in the Middle Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the CEO of Fedex has called Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “unfortunate” and said that “the real beneficiary of that is China.” A piece in the Washington Post agrees, calling the decision China’s “first big win.” The South China Morning Post notes that Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying “said China would continue to back alternatives to the TPP — including the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.” Yesterday on SupChina, we linked to a number of other commentaries that see the U.S. withdrawal as a victory for China.

—Jeremy Goldkorn

Today on SupChina

SupChina’s Kaiser Kuo was at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last week. Today we publish a short essay he wrote after mingling with the Davos men and listening to Chinese president Xi Jinping’s speech.

This issue of the SupChina newsletter was produced by Sky Canaves, Lucas Niewenhuis, and Jiayun Feng. More China stories worth your time are curated below, with the most important ones at the top of each section.


  • Alibaba revenue up 54% to $7.67 billion, but entertainment losses deepen / Variety        
    Ecommerce giant Alibaba announced financial results for the quarter that ended December 31, 2016, showing a 54 percent increase in revenue, with the group total hitting $7.67 billion. But losses in the entertainment sector grew to $463 million, up from $156 million in the same period in 2015. In its press release, Alibaba said that consolidation of its media and entertainment businesses would “realize greater synergies within the segment,” but the company still has to prove that it can make a profit outside of the ecommerce and online financial services sectors that it dominates.
  • China’s growing ambitions in space / The Atlantic                                        
    China is “moving boldly ahead with its own space-exploration efforts,” and plans to conduct about 30 launches this year, up from 21 successful orbital-launch missions in 2016. A recent report from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said that this year, CNSA will launch its first cargo spacecraft to resupply a space laboratory; in addition, it will land a rover on the far side of the Moon next year. A Mars rover is planned for 2020. NPR reports that China is planning a mission to bring lunar samples back to Earth late this year.


  • Chinese liberal think tank slams Beijing censors after website and media accounts shut down / SCMP        
    As noted yesterday on SupChina, authorities in Beijing shut down 17 Chinese websites last Friday, including two run by the Unirule Institute of Economics, and a think tank founded by the influential and independent-minded economist Mao Yushi (茅于轼). A number of Unirule’s social media accounts were also shut down. Earlier today, it hit back by publishing a letter online accusing the authorities of aiming to silence the institute, and complaining that no formal procedures were followed before the shutdown. The letter also asked for greater tolerance from the government for non-governmental organizations, and pointed to Xi Jinping’s recent speech about free trade at Davos, noting that “free trade and free expression share inherent links.” The letter, a rarity in the current climate of strict controls on speech and ideology, was swiftly deleted from the internet.


  • Theme song from new Han Han movie faces online backlash over sexist lyrics / Weibo (in Chinese)
    Celebrity blogger, race car driver, and director Han Han’s new film, Ride the Winds, Break the Waves (also known as Duckweed), is set for release on January 28, but it’s already under fire for its sexist theme song. Titled “A Manly Manifesto,” the song includes lyrics such as “To be my wife, you should wake up earlier than me and go to sleep later than me,” “I am not capable of doing housework, so it is your work,” and “I might not have a love affair, probably not.” After the song’s release, online commenters quickly diagnosed Han Han with “straight man cancer,” a term coined by Chinese internet users to describe male chauvinistic attitudes. Some of the most upvoted comments are “I feel bad for the girl who married the guy in this song” and “I hate this song, but it represents the voice from the vast majority of men in contemporary China.” You can listen to the whole song here (in Chinese).
  • Chinese are celebrating lunar new year by escaping / Bloomberg
    According to a survey conducted by Chinese online travel service, Chinese travelers will visit 174 destinations outside mainland China for 9.2 days on average during the upcoming Chinese New Year. Bloomberg attributes the trend to Chinese consumers’ higher levels of disposable income, new flights added by airline companies, and easier visa processes for countries such as Japan and Australia.