News roundup: Self-taught villager wins lawsuit against chemicals company

Business & Technology

Top China news for February 3, 2017. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at

Farmer wins court battle against state-owned chemicals company

A farmer in China’s northern province of Heilongjiang has won his first victory in a local court against a company that was dumping pollutants on his farmland. In 2001, Wang Enlin 王恩林 began legal proceedings against Qihua, which produces chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and PVC. In 2006, Wang — who left school in grade three — began studying law on his own. This week, Chinese media reported that he had won his suit in a local court: Qihua was ordered to clean up the contamination and compensate 55 households for economic losses totaling 820,000 yuan ($120,000). However, the company has appealed and the case will be referred to a higher court for retrial. The South China Morning Post has a report on the case here. You can find more about the history of the lawsuit on this page of the website of the Chinese Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, and there’s more information on the recent developments (in Chinese) here.

Investors dump shares linked to disappeared billionaire Xiao Jianhua

There has been no new information on the whereabouts of Xiao Jianhua, the billionaire who was apparently removed by Chinese police from his apartment in Hong Kong last week and taken to an unknown location in the mainland. Tomorrow Holdings Group, the company he controls, released a statement on its WeChat account saying that its business operations remained normal. That did not, however, stop investors from off-loading shares in the company. In the absence of real news, the media is left to speculate on what his disappearance means and his preference for female bodyguards.

Mari-Cha Lion exhibition in Hong Kong

Our featured partner this week has a fascinating cross-cultural art exhibition in Hong Kong running until February 19. The centerpiece is the Mari-Cha Lion, a rare mid-11th- to mid-12th-century South Italian bronze sculpture bearing Arabic decorations, on show together with a selection of Asian objects from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection and other private collections, as well as contemporary artworks by seven Asian artists. Click here for details.

Live Sinica tapings in Beijing

If you’re in Beijing on February 11 or 14, please come to a live taping of the Sinica Podcast — details here.

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Today on SupChina

We publish a Q&A with Chinese supermodel Ming Xi, accompanied by a gallery of news photos.

This week on SupChina

The Sinica Podcast for this week is an interview with John Zhu, the podcaster who has spent the last three years retelling, in English, the literary classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. To accompany the interview, we published “China’s four great novels,” a brief guide to the most influential books in the history of Chinese literature.

The biggest TV show in the world” is a piece that briefs you on highlights from the 2017 Spring Festival Gala and the controversies around it.

This week’s news roundups are:

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.


  • Opinion: The art of a China deal / ChinaFile
    James McGregor, veteran China businessman and author of One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China, writes that Donald Trump “should know that he is about to be seriously outsmarted by a country that has been spectacularly outmaneuvering American policymakers and businesses for at least a decade.” However, he sees potential for commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross to negotiate a “Trump Pacific Partnership” that will reassure Asian allies and curtail China’s protectionism. He also thinks U.S. trade representative nominee Robert Lighthizer could apply his expertise in trade law to establish reciprocity in economic relations. McGregor concludes that without a dedicated “united front” advocating American interests, which could be aided through a “purpose-built annual president-to-president meeting” instead of the current series of ministerial-level meetings, American businesses will struggle rather than prosper in China.
  • What’s behind China’s disruptive foray into e-cars? / Caixin
    Faraday Future is a U.S.-based electric car manufacturer that is yet to sell a single vehicle. It is funded by LeEco, a Chinese company that is good at generating headlines but seems unable to generate much cash (see this Bloomberg piece). But there’s a lot more to China’s electric car industry than hype: The Caixin article linked above is a good roundup of the landscape in China for electric vehicle startups.


  • Xi Jinping still the core / People’s Daily (in Chinese)
    The websites of the two most important state news organs, People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency, have for two straight days been running the same top headline. Perhaps it’s an effort to ensure the correct thinking of government officials on the first workday after the weeklong Chinese New Year public holiday, which ended Thursday. The headline is (in translation): “Speed up reform — A review of the Communist Party’s Central Committee’s deepening of reform in 2016 with Comrade Xi Jinping as the Core.” While many analysts are skeptical of how much reform actually took place in 2016, there is no doubt that Xi Jinping is entering the Year of the Rooster as powerful as he’s ever been. For more on Xi Jinping’s many roles at the core of everything, see this SupChina roundup, and this useful infographic produced by the Mercator Institute for China Studies about the Party’s “leading small groups.”


  • Chinese duo caught with rhino horn and ivory fined and deported / News 24
    Two Chinese tourists in Cape Town, South Africa, left a backpack full of illegal rhino horn and ivory worth about $5,000 in a restaurant. When they returned to retrieve it, they were directed to the local police station, where the restaurant staff had sent the backpack. Unfortunately for the would-be rhino horn smugglers, the police had discovered the contraband inside the bag, and the pair were fined and deported.

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