Cross-destroying Party secretary to lead security organs?
The South China Morning Post reports that “well-known hardliner and close aide to Chinese President Xi Jinping” Xia Baolong 夏宝龙 has stepped down from his position as Communist Party boss of Zhejiang Province. The article says that — according to “a Zhejiang source” — Xia might become head of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, a powerful Party organization that controls the Ministry of State Security.
Xia is most famous outside of China for his enthusiastic destruction of churches and crosses in the city of Wenzhou and other parts of Zhejiang Province. In reaction to the news of Xia’s possible new role, the author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, Ian Johnson, tweeted: “Man who tore crosses off 1500 churches in line to head China’s security organs. Coming conflict with Christians?”
Xia is a member of what some observers call the New Zhijiang Army (之江新军 zhījiāng xīnjūn), a group of men who worked with or under Xi Jinping in Zhejiang when he was Party secretary of that province. Other members of the New Zhijiang Army include Beijing mayor Cai Qi 蔡奇, Shanghai mayor Ying Yong 应勇, and Party secretary of Guizhou Province Chen Min’er 陈敏尔. In November 2016, the Financial Times published an article (paywall) on Xi Jinping’s “moves to cement power” by appointing members of the New Zhijiang Army to senior positions.
There’s a complete biography of Xia Baolong on China Vitae. You can read an interview with a pastor from Wenzhou about the cross topplings in Zhejiang organized by Xia. Finally, here is a photo of Xia with a priest during an inspection visit to churches in Wenzhou in 2015 during which he urged the Sinicization of Christianity and the development of religion to suit socialism.
Jets and aircraft carriers: Made in China
Reuters reports that China has “launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier on Wednesday amid rising tension over North Korea and worries about Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.” Xinhua News Agency notes (in Chinese) that the launch ceremony followed international customs, including the breaking of a bottle of champagne on the vessel’s bow. The ship is classified as Type-001A and may be named Shandong (after the eponymous province), according to speculation on Chinese social media.
See SupChina’s quick video rundown of the top five things to know about the Type-001A.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has published an article titled “What do we know (so far) about China’s second aircraft carrier?,” which includes stats and infographics about the new ship. There is further information on the ship on the website of the nonprofit organization U.S. Naval Institute. For a taste of the jitters that the new ship might be creating across the Indo-Pacific, see this Bloomberg piece: “Why China’s new aircraft carrier should worry India.” If you’re interested in Chinese military and naval hardware, the Twitter account dafeng cao posts a steady stream of photos and video of ships, missiles, and planes.
Speaking of planes, another first for China: Bloomberg reports that “state-backed Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. is poised to conduct the first flight of the locally built C919 before the end of May.” The C919 is the country’s first domestically developed large jet, intended to compete with single-aisle passenger craft such as Boeing’s 737 and Airbus SE’s A320 family.
Exiled billionaire suspended from Twitter
Guo Wengui 郭文贵 is an exiled Chinese billionaire residing in the U.S. making explosive allegations — on Twitter and on U.S.-based Chinese news sites — about corruption in the Communist Party, and being accused in turn by Beijing of misconduct. On April 26, New York Times reporter Mike Forsythe tweeted “Whoah. Twitter suspends Guo Wengui’s account.” According to the Times, Guo’s Facebook account was briefly suspended on April 21. A Facebook spokesperson said that “automated systems had erroneously suspended” Guo’s account. Twitter has not yet commented on its suspension.
Cheap HIV tests in campus vending machines
NPR reports on a pilot scheme to install vending machines that sell HIV-testing kits “on five college campuses in the city of Beijing as well as Harbin, Guangxi and Heilongjiang provinces.” The aim is to make HIV testing accessible to students who may be too embarrassed to visit a clinic for a test. For 30 yuan ($4.35), users get “a container for a urine sample that can be dropped off anonymously at a receptacle in the machine that dispenses the test,” and “can check their results online in 10 to 15 days.” ChinaNews.com says (in Chinese) that the regular retail price for such tests is 298 yuan ($43.25).
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
Five things to know about China’s first homemade aircraft carrier
China added a second carrier to its naval fleet on April 26, 2017. Jia Guo has a quick video overview of the new military asset.
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:
Didi cruises to the top of Chinese startups
Didi Chuxing, the app that ate Uber alive in China last year to dominate the country’s ride-hailing market, is set to gobble up another $5 billion to $6 billion in funding and become China’s most valuable startup, Bloomberg reports. Its prospective $50 billion valuation would put it above smartphone maker Xiaomi, currently China’s largest startup, and second only to Uber itself among startups worldwide. Behind the newest round of funding appears to be SoftBank Group Co.’s Masayoshi Son of Japan, who “encouraged Didi Chief Executive Officer Cheng Wei 程维 to take more capital” and pursue new and global opportunities. Cheng’s company has faced regulatory challenges in some Chinese cities, many of which now require Didi’s drivers to be local residents, though Didi won an operating license in the northern metropolis of Tianjin. Now the company with near-monopoly control over China’s ride sharing aims to expand into driverless car technology and artificial intelligence.
Debt crisis shakes Chinese town, pointing to wider crisis / NYT (paywall)
“Debt in China has expanded twice as fast as the overall economy since 2008,” leading to an increasing frequency of “hidden debt bombs,” the Times reports. One example is that of Zouping, a relatively small city in eastern Shandong Province, where a chain of debt guarantees between private companies was broken, leading to shuttered businesses and a detained executive.
Chinese tech groups offer housing help to retain talent / Financial Times (paywall)
Internet giant Tencent is offering interest-free housing loans of up to 500,000 yuan ($72,600) to employees, while ecommerce leader Alibaba is building hundreds of apartments and holding a lottery for discounted housing for its workers in Hangzhou.
Opinion: China’s money is a mixed blessing for Pakistan / Financial Times (paywall)
Pakistan is receiving substantial investment from China, but there is no guarantee that the projects will pay off while the country becomes ever more dependent on foreign loans, the Financial Times argues. In any case, the money seems likely to keep flowing, as Pakistan’s Express Tribune reports that Alibaba’s Jack Ma may visit the country later this year.
- Reform therapy aims to heal financially ailing public hospitals / Caixin
- Vanke’s home-sale permits scrapped in China’s Xi’an in crackdown / Bloomberg
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Huawei?
The U.S. Treasury Department issued an administrative subpoena, undisclosed until reviewed (paywall) by the New York Times on April 26, to Chinese cellular technology giant Huawei in December last year. The Times notes that although the subpoena by itself does not indicate suspected criminality, “the widening inquiry puts Huawei in an awkward position at a moment when sanctions have taken on new import.” Perhaps, the paper said, “Huawei…[is] suspected of violating American embargoes that broadly restrict the export of American goods to countries like Iran and Syria.” The Treasury Department subpoena is the second one for Huawei from the U.S. government in 2016, as its Department of Commerce also looked into (paywall) Huawei’s connections with Iran and North Korea last summer.
Chinese president warns Politburo to be on guard against financial risks / SCMP
A statement from a meeting between President Xi Jinping and the powerful 25-member Politburo took the rare step of mentioning “financial risk” twice, underscoring the government’s “risk aversion agenda ahead of a major [political] reshuffle later this year.”
China’s new generation of war correspondents hit the front line / The Guardian
“Beijing’s state-run press expands its global footprint as part of an ambitious media offensive designed to project the country’s voice across the world.”
China ranked 5th from the bottom again on this year’s World Press Freedom Index / Shanghaiist
Reporters Without Borders, the organization that publishes the index of 180 countries, called China “the world’s leading prison for citizen journalists.”
- Southeast Asian leaders to avoid direct China criticism / Yahoo News
- China ready to mediate between Myanmar, Bangladesh over Rohingya row / Reuters
- China’s Communist Party has a new role model for its members, and he’s an imperial bureaucrat / Quartz
- Hong Kong police detain pro-independence lawmakers after China protest / SCMP
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
A bedroom for the sons, but not the daughter
A family from the southern city of Shenzhen with quadruplet sons and an older daughter is under fire this week for showing undisguised gender discrimination on an episode of A Warm New Home (暖暖的新家 nuǎnnuǎn de xīnjiā), a home improvement show on Beijing TV. In the episode (on YouTube here), the parents talk about their hopes of accommodating seven members of their family in their 645-square-foot (60-square-meter) apartment. With help from interior designers, their apartment layout is rearranged in a way that grants everyone more space — except for the older daughter. Instead of having her own room, she gets what Sixth Tone calls “a makeshift bedroom hidden in the kitchen.”
It’s not just the living arrangements that are unfair: When the daughter first appears on the show, she is described as an “uninvited guest” (不速之客 bú sù zhī kè) by a voice-over. When the whole family is shown having dinner together, she asks her mother where she should sit but does not get a reply — she ends up eating standing up, while the rest of her family is seated.
On the Chinese social media platform Weibo, there has been a barrage of criticism of the family. “I’ve never seen a family that makes me this upset. I feel so bad for the sister,” one Weibo user wrote (in Chinese). The interior designer was also criticized, and he took to Weibo to defend himself, saying, “To design for such a family, we have to do it with a forward-looking vision. Adjustments will be made as kids grow up. We can’t exclude the possibility of the sister’s moving out in the future.” He later deleted the comment (screenshot here), which was ridiculed by internet users. One commenter wrote (in Chinese), “Why didn’t you design coffins for the family, since you are so forward-looking?”
China’s theater bubble / American Theatre
“Without the tight scrutiny of the public or the censors, [Chinese theater] has mushroomed into an art form with an almost unimaginable range of diverse works. On the other hand, most of these have failed to find even a limited audience, let alone commercial viability.” Part of a special section on the state of Chinese theater.
Why Netflix’s remake of a classic Chinese novel is angering audiences / Mashable
Legend of the Monkey features “a distinctly non-Chinese cast.”
- In China, daydreaming students are caught on camera / NYT (paywall)
- Ted 2017: The woman who wants China to eat insects / BBC News
- A day in the life of a logger in the deep forests of China / SCMP
- Netflix to debut in China via original content licensing deal with iQIYI / Variety