Earn up to $73,000 if you act now to catch a spy!
The Beijing Municipal National Security Bureau has announced incentives for citizens in the capital who report espionage activity. State media is promoting the scheme with a new video that uses the tone of a late night infomercial to urge citizens to inform on spies, in exchange for cash rewards of 10,000 to 500,000 yuan ($1,500 to $73,000). We’ve made an abridged version of the video with English subtitles, or you can watch the entire original broadcast in Chinese here.
On the social media platform Weibo, many commenters (in Chinese) don’t seem to be taking the reward system entirely seriously. Some users complained that a system for reporting on corrupt Chinese officials is more important, while others joked that any spy they could catch would not be much of a spy. One person sarcastically wrote, “Oh mama how cool, now I’m on the road to riches!”
For more information, Reuters has a good summary of the initiative, China Law Translate has a readout in English of the announcement for the rewards system, and you can find the original Chinese text on the website of the Beijing Daily, a Party newspaper.
How do Chinese millennials afford to buy their own homes?
The bank HSBC has published a report on home ownership among millennials based on a survey of 9,000 people in nine countries. In contrast to the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Britain, where 28 to 35 percent of millennials own a home, 70 percent of Chinese millennials are homeowners. A South China Morning Post article on the report says, “the high rate of home ownership among younger Chinese could be due to the cultural value placed on owning property, relatively high incomes for young people, and the one-child policy allowing parents to devote resources to one offspring.”
The article does not, however, point out two important factors. First, the employed and urban parents of many of China’s millennials are fanatic savers who often have surprisingly large amounts of money in the bank. Secondly, many urban Chinese families came into property, often several apartments, when the commercial real estate market took off in the 1990s and state-owned work units subsidized or gave away housing for their staff.
More on the screenplay-writing insurance regulator being investigated for corruption
Yesterday we noted the investigation on suspicion of corruption of one of the more colorful characters in China’s political and financial circles: Xiang Junbo 项俊波, former PLA soldier, writer of anti-corruption TV serials, banker, and — until he was detained on the weekend — head of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission. Today, Caixin has published a feature on Xiang, and the possible fallout from his detention for China’s insurance sector.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
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.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
A primer on China’s booming bike-sharing industry
Caixin has published a review of the Chinese bike-sharing industry. It’s not a news story, but a careful look, with numbers and details of business models, at a sector that is growing exponentially. On SupChina we’ve covered bike-sharing in very positive terms, as China is the only country where companies have scaled up a model for renting bikes that really works, largely because customers can use their smartphones to easily unlock bikes that can be picked up and left anywhere. But there are plenty of problems: the possibility of restrictive government regulations, bikes left haphazardly clogging up sidewalks, and over-investment in the sector leading to worries of a bubble. Another aspect of the bike share boom is that it has revitalized China’s bicycle manufacturing industry. However, some commentators warn that bicycle and bike-parts manufacturers who have expanded their plants risk running into trouble when the bike-share investment fever abates.
Meet the millennials making big money riding China’s bitcoin wave / The Guardian
“Yang claims to make up to 1m yuan (£116,000) a month, under the radar of the taxman, purely from trading the online cryptocurrency.” See also A Bitcoin mine in the mountains of Sichuan, SupChina’s Q&A with Eric Mu, Chinese entrepreneur and miner of digital currency.
China’s LeEco abandons $2 billion deal to buy U.S. TV maker Vizio / Reuters
“LeEco, one of China’s most ambitious companies that grew from a Netflix-like video website to a business empire spanning consumer electronics to cars within 13 years, is struggling to meet its ambitions.”
- Freight train begins first journey from Britain to China / Reuters
- Xiongan zone to offer launch pad for new 5G network / Caixin
- China is playing a $9 trillion game of chicken with investors / Bloomberg
- Opinion: China finally halts outflows. Now what? / Bloomberg
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Chinese think tanker on Japanese motives in South China Sea
Chen Xiangmiao 陈相秒 is an assistant research fellow at the China National Institute for South China Sea Studies 中国南海研究院, a government-funded think tank that “specializes in research on issues of the South China Sea,” and issues policy guidance papers. He has published an article on China-U.S. Focus that explains one Chinese view in policy-making circles about Japan’s interests in the South China Sea.
Although China’s territorial disagreements with Japan are in the East China Sea — most famously over whether an island group in waters between the two countries is the Japanese Senkakus 尖閣諸島 or the Chinese Diaoyu 钓鱼岛 — Japan also has interests in the South China Sea.
Chen writes that Japan’s top concerns in the South China Sea are, in abbreviated form:
The sea is an important piece in Japan’s strategic game to contain China.
The sea is Japan’s “maritime lifeline” for resources and energy security.
The sea is a vital geopolitical arena for Japan in its pursuit of strategic expansion.
Chen’s analysis concludes that these concerns mean that “Japan’s interference in the South China Sea is likely to heat up in the foreseeable future,” and that “China and the ASEAN countries should watch out for Tokyo’s actions in the South China Sea and take anticipatory measures to protect the hard-earned détente in the region.”
Gong Zheng, veteran ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, named acting governor of Shandong / SCMP
“Office had been left vacant since Guo Shuqing departed for Beijing to head the country’s top bank regulator in late February.”
- China opens delayed Myanmar oil pipeline to get Mideast crude faster / Bloomberg
- Burn after reading: Snowden documents reveal scope of secrets exposed to China in 2001 spy plane incident / The Intercept
- China draft cyber law mandates security assessment for outbound data / Reuters
- Corruption at top rung of China’s ancient petition system sparks calls for reform / Reuters
- North Korean ships head home after China orders coal returned / Reuters
- Amnesty criticizes ‘rogue state’ China as global death penalty toll falls / The Guardian
- China is most likely to execute a farmer, or someone who doesn’t have a job / Quartz
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
United passenger removal video goes viral in China
The hashtag “United Airlines forcibly removes passenger from airplane” (#美联航强制乘客下机# měi liánháng qiángzhì chéngkè xiàjī) became the top trending topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Tuesday, with 480 million views and 223,000 comments as we finalize this newsletter. Video and photographs of the man being removed Monday from an overbooked flight by security officers at the Chicago O’Hare Airport were widely circulated. When news emerged that he was Chinese or Vietnamese, the online reaction in both China and Vietnam was swift.
On Weibo, one of the top threads was started by Chinese-born comedian Joe Wong, whose post says (in Chinese) that “many Chinese feel they are subject to discrimination but don’t speak out about it in order to save face, and this leads to the Western media and the public not taking discrimination against Asians seriously.”
Some found humor in the news: one sarcastic commenter wrote: “Let me tell you a joke: The U.S. is the world’s best country for human rights!” Another said, “You still haven’t settled the Ding Yizhen 丁义诊 affair, and now you do this!” The reference is to a scene from the hit anti-corruption TV show In the Name of the People in which the character Ding Yizhen, a corrupt mayor, boards a United flight to escape to the U.S. and orders champagne to “celebrate freedom.” A meme circulating now shows him celebrating simply for “not getting kicked off the plane.”
- Opinion: Chinese blame America for United Airlines – James Palmer gives his take on the larger context of the United incident for China / Foreign Policy (paywall)
Rampant mining destroys world-renowned fossil site in China / SCMP
Mining for phosphorus, a fertilizer component, has destroyed much of the fossil site in Wengan county, Guizhou, where evidence of some of the earliest multi-cellular organisms was found.
- Unfettered online hate speech fuels Islamophobia in China / AP
- Opinion: How the Chinese navigate urban sprawl / NYT (paywall)
- Du Yun wins music Pulitzer for ‘Angel’s Bone’ / NPR
- Chinese theme park Titanic replica upsets families / BBC News