News roundup: A surprise win for the Trump brand in China

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Top China news for February 15, 2017. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at

In this Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 photo, Zhong Jiye, a co-founder of Shenzhen Trump Industrial Co., points to the logo on one of his firm's high-end Trump-branded toilets at the company's offices in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong Province. U.S. President Donald Trump is poised to receive something that he had been trying to get from China for more than a decade: trademark rights to his own name. After suffering rejection after rejection in China's courts, he saw his prospects change dramatically after starting his presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Trump brand wins in China, raises ethics questions back home

For more than a decade, Donald Trump has struggled to gain control over his name in real estate in China. A man named Dong Wei filed a trademark application for the name “Trump” for construction services a mere two weeks before The Donald in 2006, and initially won the rights on a first-come-first-served basis. Despite endless lawsuits, Trump could not win back his name in China — until now. The granting of a 10-year trademark for construction resolves just one of nearly 50 pending trademark applications that Trump has in the country.

The case may reflect a reforming culture of intellectual property protection in China, but it could also reflect an effort by Beijing to win favor with the new Washington administration. Yesterday, the top ethics lawyers for both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations strongly advised against Trump accepting any trademark rulings in his favor in China while sitting as president. They called such actions, even committed tacitly, a “terrible idea” and “highly improper,” as any special treatment from Beijing that gives something of value to the U.S. president would violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, barring explicit approval from the American Congress.

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Chinese drone taxis in Dubai

Caixin reports that Chinese drone maker EHang announced that it will supply passenger-carrying drones to Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The EHang 184 model is apparently able to carry one person and a small suitcase with a combined weight of 117 kilograms (258 pounds) and fly for half an hour, or 50 kilometers (31 miles), on a single charge.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor in Chief

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.


  • On inequality in China / Thomas Piketty’s Blog
    Thomas Piketty, author of the best-selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century, comments that despite China’s tremendous accumulation of wealth, “the growth in income of the poorest 50% of the Chinese population has only been half the average [in China].” Some academic research has further indicated that China’s true level of wealth inequality may have surpassed the United States over a decade ago, and that government policy on regional development and urbanization have exacerbated the problem.
    The accumulation and expression of wealth in China have increasingly resembled that of the United States and other advanced capitalist economies. Bloomberg yesterday published an article on the city of Yuhuang Shannan, an enclave outside of Shanghai specifically for wealthy hedge fund managers (a new phenomenon in China, where hedge funds weren’t recognized by the government until 2012) much like Greenwich, Connecticut, is the center for New York hedge funders.


  • Armed police out in full force after deadly Xinjiang terror attack / SCMP
    Three knife-wielding attackers, identified anecdotally as part of the Uighur ethnic minority group, killed five and wounded five residents of Pishan County in far-western Xinjiang Province. Police on high alert now patrol every 10 to 20 meters in Pishan, SCMP reports. The last year has seen an intensification of the police state in Xinjiang under its new provincial Party boss, Chen Quanguo 陈全国. For more on the state of affairs for Uighurs in Xinjiang, see a detailed roundup published earlier in the month by the Jamestown Foundation.
  • China’s military progress challenges Western dominance, says IISS / Deutsche Welle
    A new report from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies claims that China is reaching “near-parity” with Western countries in military technology, particularly air power. Though China remains far behind the United States in military spending, it has comfortably claimed the number two spot and is now far ahead of any single European country. Advanced Chinese air-to-air and nuclear-enabled missiles, as well as the nation’s striking advances in “intelligent” weaponry, have recently received much attention.


  • After being James, Peter, and William, I decided to stick with my Chinese name / Quartz
    Earlier this month at Columbia University in New York, a number of East Asian students with distinctive non-Western names reported that their name tags were ripped off from their dormitory doors at several residential halls across the campus. The vandalism promoted an investigation conducted by the university’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and a student-made video that went viral on the internet and has garnered 288,000 views so far on Facebook. In the video, Columbia students of Chinese origin explain the meaning of their last names and the reason why keeping a Chinese name, instead of a English one, while interacting with Westerners is important to them. In response to the buzz created by the video, Quartz writer Zheping Huang wrote this personal essay to tell his story of why he used his Chinese name for his bylines.
  • Police use app to solicit Chaoyang’s online masses to nab lawbreakers / Global Times
    Police in Beijing’s Chaoyang district have developed a new smartphone app for locals to easily report suspected illegal behavior. Named after the famous police informants cháoyáng qúnzhòng (朝阳群众), or “Chaoyang masses,” the app “aims to strengthen the relationship between the police and the public, and to fully tap the potential of Chaoyang residents in fighting against crimes,” according to an announcement posted by Chaoyang police on Weibo. On the app, users can anonymously provide tip-offs by uploading videos, photos, and text related to all kinds of suspicious activities such as child trafficking, criminal suspects, and traffic violations. The app also allows users to check on the progress of their reported cases. Over the years, “Chaoyang masses” gained their reputation by successfully bringing several Chinese celebrities who were involved in drug taking and prostitution to justice, including Jaycee Chan, Hong Kong kung fu star Jackie Chan’s son, who was arrested for drug use in August 2014. The snitching app is jokingly called the world’s fifth-largest intelligence group after the United States’ CIA, the Soviet-era KGB, Israel’s Mossad, and Britain’s MI6 by Xinhua News Agency.