News roundup: Is the U.S. ignoring China’s nuclear threat?

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The dangers of American ignorance about China’s nuclear capabilities

Washington, D.C., has its share of knee-jerk hawks such as Bill Gertz who regularly fulminate against China and whose hysteria should be taken with a pinch of salt. Lyle Goldstein is not one of them. He is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College but, nonetheless, an eloquent proponent of de-escalation with China. His recent book Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry examines how the U.S. could accommodate China’s rise without sacrificing American interests by using “cooperation spirals,” the opposite of an escalation spiral. So when Goldstein talks about a nuclear threat from China, he should be taken seriously. His article “China Rattles the Nuclear Saber” in the National Interest suggests that the Chinese government is using media reports about ballistic missile deployment to engage in “low-level nuclear signaling.” However, the American media is largely ignoring this subtle but important messaging.

Goldstein is not suggesting that the U.S. respond with aggression. Far from it: His point is that if “neither the American public, nor even foreign-policy elites, have a clue regarding the true risks of pursuing a confrontational course with China,” misperception could lead to “cataclysm on an unprecedented scale.”

Goldstein is a guest on this episode of the Sinica Podcast.

2016 infectious disease stats

China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission has reported that there were more than 6.9 million cases of infectious diseases reported in the country last year, resulting in 18,237 fatalities. Infectious diseases killed 16,744 Chinese in 2015.

The China Daily says that of the total number of infections in 2016, there were 28 infections from Class A infectious diseases — one case of plague and 27 of cholera, but no fatalities. Most of the deaths — a total of 17,968 — were caused by Class B infectious diseases, with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, rabies, hepatitis, and human infection of H7N9 avian influenza accounting for 98.8 percent of deaths in this category. You can find a list of China’s classifications of infectious diseases here.

Women and China: A SupChina-sponsored forum

Save the date: May 18 from noon to 7 p.m.

Join us at the China Institute in New York to discuss how women are shaping a rising superpower. More details are forthcoming.

Ideological clampdown or anti-graft inspections?

Yesterday, we noted Chinese state media reports on a new round of discipline inspections targeting well-known universities and focused on ideological purity. Today, the South China Morning Post published a review in English of the Chinese media reports. Xinhua News Agency also published an English report but did not mention the word ideology; instead, it says that China will start “anti-graft inspections in universities.”

Anti-poverty rhetoric continues for second day

Chinese state media have for two days in a row focused on speeches by Xi Jinping on the “battle against poverty.” Today, Xinhua and the People’s Daily both headlined their Chinese websites with an article (in Chinese) titled “Secretary Xi Jinping’s passion for poverty alleviation.” The China Daily also has an English report on the media campaign.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor in Chief

Today on SupChina

We publish the latest Sinica Podcast, “Rhino horn and organized crime, from Africa to China and Vietnam,” featuring interviews with investigative reporters John Grobler and Shi Yi and history professor Nicole Elizabeth Barnes.

People’s Daily: A ‘currency cold war’ is brewing among developed countries” is an analysis by Allison Carroll Goldman on the Party newspaper’s curious new theory on currency manipulation.

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


  • Carnival announces the first Chinese cruise ships built in China / Miami Herald
    The growing appetite among Chinese consumers for leisure and travel experiences has prompted a Florida-based ocean cruise company to commission two ships to be built in China for cruises aimed at the Chinese market. Meanwhile, Caixin reports that the Texas-based amusement park operator Six Flags has signed a deal to open a second location in Chongqing, following its previously announced plans for a park near Shanghai in Haiyan, Zhejiang Province. The gambling business, however, is not faring so well: Casino operator Crown is “dialing back efforts to attract Chinese high-rollers” to its Australian locations, according to The Wall Street Journal. Last year, 18 of Crown’s China-based staff were arrested in a clampdown believed to be a part of the anti-corruption campaign.


  • China, India hold strategic dialogue in Beijing / Xinhua
    Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi met with Indian foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in Beijing yesterday. Xinhua says that the outcome of the dialogue was an agreement “to cement coordination…and properly deal with differences and sensitive issues.” However, the Indian newspaper First Post commented that the two countries “are nowhere close to solving the issues that have driven a wedge between the two Asian giants,” blaming the stalemate on “the combative approach adopted by India.”
    A report by the Hindustan Times rounds up Chinese views of the the relationship, which blame the trust deficit between the two Asian giants on “New Delhi’s misgivings over strategic and military ties between Beijing and Islamabad.” Al Jazeera looks at one of the key issues for India: suspicion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project connecting Xinjiang to Gwadar in Pakistan. In January, at a multilateral forum in New Delhi, the Indian foreign secretary explicitly criticized China over concerns that the CPEC would infringe on his country’s sovereignty.


  • World champion swimmer Ning Zetao kicked out of China’s national swimming squad / SCMP
    On Wednesday, a memo from China’s swimming regulating authority was leaked and widely circulated on Chinese social media. It states that Ning Zetao, a 23-year-old Chinese swimmer who rose to fame in 2015 for being the first Asian swimmer to win the 100-meter freestyle at the world championships and since then enjoyed great popularity nationwide due to his handsome appearance, has been kicked out of the national swimming team for “signing sponsorship deals without official approval, failing to obey national team competition rules and refusing to participate in a relay event.” Shortly after the leak, Chinese authorities confirmed the statement, which sparked a heated online discussion. A throng of fans rushed to defend their star, denouncing the decision as “unfair and arbitrary.” Others said the scandal highlights the hierarchical structure of the Chinese sports administrative system, in which athletes are strictly controlled and not allowed to make profits outside the rigid system.
  • Chinese divorcees seek to change financially crippling clause in law / SCMP
    Divorcees in China are calling for the government to repeal or amend Article 24 in the second of three judicial interpretations that clarify Chinese marriage law, which stipulates that “at the time of divorce, debts incurred jointly by the husband and the wife during their married life shall be paid off jointly by them.” In a small-scale survey conducted in a WeChat group of more than 1,000 members who are trapped in debt left by their ex-spouses, 527 members said they were victims of Article 24, of which more than 87 percent were women. Many of these victims were kept in the dark when their partner borrowed money during their marriages, but they are required to pay off debts together with their ex-partners after divorcing.