A Manhattan mansion for a jailed Chinese tycoon

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Top China news for March 10. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at supchina.com/subscribe.

Imprisoned retail king buys New York property

Huang Guangyu 黄光裕 is the multibillionaire founding chairman of GOME, one of China’s largest appliance retailers. He is also in jail, sentenced to 14 years behind bars in 2010 for bribery and stock market manipulation. But that has not stopped him from snapping up some prime New York real estate: The New York Post reports that Huang and his wife have bought a $41.5 million town house on the Upper East Side. A six-story building that was built in 1898, it has features that may be useful to those running from the law: secret doors and hidden passages.

In a recent Sinica Podcast, we interviewed an American man who spent seven months in a detention center where Huang and his chief financial officer were being held while under investigation.

A “steel Great Wall” for Xinjiang

The top headline on Xinhua News Agency’s Chinese website today — in red, as all headlines are styled during the annual Two Sessions political gathering — is “Xi Jinping: Strive to build socialism with Chinese characteristics in Xinjiang.” The headline links to an article about Xi’s speech to a meeting of National People’s Congress delegates from Xinjiang, in which he calls for ethnic unity, harmony between the police, army, and the people, and a “steel Great Wall” (钢铁长城 gāngtiě chángchéng) to preserve social stability.

Xinjiang’s formal name is the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, but ethnic tensions between the Muslim Uyghurs have been simmering for decades. In 2009, an ethnic riot in the Urumqi, the provincial capital, killed at least 197 people and injured more than 1,700 people. This year has already seen its share of violence. Eight people died in a knife attack in southwestern Xinjiang on February 14. Three days later, Chinese armed police and military staged a parade involving thousands of troops and military vehicles in Hotan, a major town on the southern Silk Road. The following week, officials ordered residents in one prefecture in Xinjiang to install GPS trackers in their vehicles so authorities could keep permanent tabs on their movements. On February 28, a parade of more than 10,000 rifle-toting soldiers marched through Urumqi. The same day, a video apparently released by the Islamic State showed Uyghurs threatening to “shed blood like rivers and avenge the oppressed.”

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.

A brief history of civil codes in China

The Wall Street Journal has published a brief history of civil codes in China by Josh Chin, including some background on the law currently under consideration at the National People’s Congress.

Stars of social media

What’s on Weibo has published a list of 10 Chinese celebrities with the most followers on the social media platform Weibo. At the top of the list is the singer and actress Xie Na 谢娜.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor in Chief

Today on SupChina

Two Sessions, two articles: Today, we publish a brief interview with Luo Fuhe, the Chinese official who made headlines last week by calling for China to relax internet censorship, and the gonzo tale of Matt Sheehan, a journalist who went to a Two Sessions press conference with ripped pants and asked Premier Li Keqiang a sensitive question.

This week on SupChina:

This week’s news roundups are:

March 6: An airport in Tibet near disputed border with India

March 7: China: U.S. and South Korea to ‘bear consequences’ of missile deployment

March 8: China and ASEAN: A code of conduct for the South China Sea

March 9: The Taliban goes to Beijing

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


  • Taobao is banning merchants from selling foreign media in China — even media approved by censors / Quartz
    Taobao, the online shopping platform owned by Alibaba, announced a new rule today that will prohibit vendors from selling foreign publications, including those already approved by the authorities. In the announcement (in Chinese), the company said the rule was put in place to “manage market order” and “provide a safe online shopping environment.” Taobao said the regulation not only applies to freelance overseas agents (代购 dàigòu) who buy products on people’s behalf and evade import duties by carrying or shipping small quantities of goods into China, but also to state-owned publishers, the main distributors of foreign media. On Weibo, a popular social network platform, many internet users see the ban as a setback for the society. One commenter asked (in Chinese), “What’s the reason for doing this? Is this a form of locking the country up? There’s no ban on cosmetics or foods but publications. You might as well limit the population studying overseas and cut down on international exchanges. It’s even safer to lock yourself up!”
  • Paramount’s Chinese partners haven’t paid a penny of promised $1 billion / Hollywood Reporter
    Sources told the Hollywood Reporter that Paramount Pictures has not yet received the expected first payment of $140 million from its financing deal with its Chinese partners, Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media. The Chinese partners are said to have told Paramount’s parent company, Viacom, that they will not pay any money until they meet with Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and whoever is appointed to run the studio to “get an explanation of the slate strategy going forward.” Before they left Paramount, Brad Grey, former studio chairman, and Rob Moore, former vice chairman, had established good business ties with China. A source with knowledge of the matter said that their departure has probably caused the Chinese partners to be anxious. Under the terms of the deal, which was announced in January, Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media agreed to finance at least 25 percent of each film on Paramount’s slate for three years with an option for a fourth year.


  • Taiwan detains Chinese student in unusual suspected spying case / Reuters
    Taiwan authorities today detained a Chinese student on suspicion of involvement in an espionage case. The man, who was described as 29-year-old Zhou Hongxu from China’s Liaoning Province, was taken into custody on suspicion of violating national security laws, according to a judge and spokesman for the Taipei District Court. Zhou will be held for at least two months while the case is investigated. No further details have been made available.
  • China stealth jet enters service, navy building ‘first class’ fleet / Reuters
    In January, the Chinese military transported its new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Dongfeng-41, through the streets of the northeastern city of Daqing, allowing it to be photographed. It also tested the Dongfeng-5C, a missile capable of carrying 10 nuclear warheads. On Wednesday, the South China Morning Post published images of China’s soon-to-be-launched Type 055 destroyer, asking if the “powerful new navy behemoth” might be able to “outclass America’s warships.” Yesterday, Chinese state television’s military channel confirmed that the new generation J-20 stealth fighter has entered into service. However, Reuters noted that it was not clear whether the new jet could “match the radar-evading properties” of new American stealth aircraft. Another new Chinese jet, the J-31, is still being developed and is expected to enter service around 2020.


  • Two Chinese South Korean-style restaurants to stop selling Lotte products / Global Times
    Multi-brand catering enterprise Halla Group, which is known in China for its Korean-style barbecue, released a statement on Tuesday, announcing that it has never sold or used any products from the Korean conglomerate Lotte, and that the restaurant chain itself, to many people’s surprise, is a “100 percent Chinese-funded enterprise.”
    Following the move by Halla Group, another Korean barbecue restaurant, Quanjincheng, said on Wednesday that the company would stop selling all Lotte products, including liquor and beverages, in all its chain restaurants nationwide, and that the company is also “established, funded, and operated by Chinese.” The two restaurant brands are among many retailers and online platforms that are trying to insulate themselves from the wave of boycotts against Lotte (paywall) caused by the growing tensions between Beijing and Seoul after the deployment of the American THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.
    JD.com, China’s second-largest ecommerce platform, stopped sales of Lotte confectionery last week. Alibaba’s Tmall platform had already stopped sales of Lotte products in January. Meanwhile, according to China-U.S. Focus, Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten issued a statement “begging Chinese consumers not to confuse its brand name with Lotte,” as both companies use the same Chinese characters: 乐天 lètiān.
  • Website removes racist ‘Save a dog, eat a Chinese’ T-shirts / Huffington Post
    Spreadshirt, a Germany-based online retailer that allows people to design shirts and sell them through its website, was embroiled in a controversy after a blog posted about the company selling two shirts designed by two internet users, which said, “Save a dog, eat a Chinese,” and “Save a shark, eat a Chinese,” respectively. Facing a furious online backlash, the company took the controversial shirts off its website but still has not issued an apology as requested by the Chinese Embassy in Berlin. In January, Air China, the country’s flagship carrier, became the first airline in mainland China to ban shark fin cargo, while shark fin imports to China has declined by 82 percent from 2012 to 2015.