Russia blocks WeChat – China news from May 5, 2017

Business & Technology

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WeChat blocked in Russia for ‘failure to discharge various responsibilities’

China’s internet giant Tencent is used to operating in an environment at home where it understands the government, and all its large foreign competitors are blocked. So having its popular social media and messaging app WeChat blocked abroad must have been quite a shock.

Russian state-owned Tass News Agency notes: “Russian telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor entered China’s WeChat messaging service into the register of prohibited websites, according to information posted on the regulator’s website on Friday.”

The short article says that “access to the resource was restricted” on the basis of a law that “stipulates sanctions for failure to discharge various responsibilities imposed by the law on organizers of information distribution in [the] internet.” The Global Times also has a short report on the block, which notes Tencent’s response: “WeChat said Friday that it feels sorry the app was blocked in Russia, adding that the company is communicating with Russian authorities on this issue.”

In addition, the Global Times says that “the block of the app…has triggered wide complaints from the Chinese living in Russia, who said it has affected their daily life and work.” Those who have lived in China and tried to use Facebook, Gmail, and other foreign internet services know this feeling well.

The flight of the C919

The top story (in Chinese) in central state media for May 5 is headlined “The Communist Party Central Committee and State Council send a congratulatory message on the maiden flight of the C919 passenger aircraft.” Caixin reports that “amid cheers and applause, the COMAC 919 flew into the hazy skies of Shanghai Pudong International Airport,” while “nearly 150 flights at Shanghai airport were delayed to make way” for the new plane’s test flight.

The plane was designed and constructed by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), and according to Caixin, “symbolizes the nation’s ambition to compete in commercial-aircraft construction.” The dream had to be postponed, since “the 158-seat narrow aircraft has been delayed at every step,” and the maiden flight was “behind schedule by nearly three years.” The aircraft still needs to undergo a series of tests and inspections before it can be licensed to fly in China and other countries, and COMAC does not expect to deliver any of its 570 orders (mostly from Chinese airlines) until after 2020.

Despite the fact that the new aircraft has, according to Caixin, been “touted as a mass achievement of China’s industrial capacity,” Bloomberg notes that “behind the celebrations of a Made-in-China jet is the reality that COMAC was able to build its new plane using a string of Western suppliers…such as General Electric, Safran, and Honeywell International.”

Sixth Tone has published a report about the “patriots and plane geeks” who flocked to Shanghai to witness the C919’s maiden flight.

One thing that does not seem to have been noted in media coverage of the C919 is its name: In Chinese, it connotes longevity, which is a good thing for a market that can obsess over lucky numbers.

Women and China:

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One cheesy military recruitment video

The People’s Daily YouTube account has published a video described as “The Power of China: China’s PLA army enlists [a] pop-style music video to recruit young soldiers.” The video has English subtitles.

Maps: Coal and oil shipments between China and North Korea

Reuters has published a series of maps, satellite photos, and explanations showing shipments of coal, oil, and other goods between China and North Korea.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, editor-in-chief

Viral video Friday

Jia Guo has your weekly roundup of Chinese viral videos. Buzzing in China this week: A martial arts controversy, a miraculous escape from a car accident, a quirky local festival in Hong Kong, and an escalator episode.

This week on SupChina:

This week’s news roundups are:

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.



Solar shines in China, but western provinces are left in the dark

China increased its total solar panel capacity by 80 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter last year, according to a statement (in Chinese) on May 4 from China’s National Energy Administration. But despite the government’s determination that China dominate the world market for solar panels — the New York Times reported (paywall) last month that this may already have happened — many deficiencies remain. For instance, Bloomberg notes, “Central and eastern China accounted for about 89 percent of new capacity,” while PV-Tech pointed out that the western provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, and Ningxia suffer from 39 percent, 19 percent, and 10 percent curtailment, respectively. Curtailment means “a shortage of transmission capacity to connect projects in remote regions to end users,” a long-standing problem for China’s electricity grid — see, for example, this Reuters report from October 2015.

Solar power still occupies a small space in China’s energy mix, and even as it sees strong growth, other types of energy generation are gaining. Energy Post has an article from earlier this year that puts China’s 2016 energy mix into context, while PV-Tech explains that curtailment issues contributed to the government’s downgrading of its 2020 solar panel capacity goal from 150 gigawatts to a more achievable goal of 110 gigawatts last November.



Anxiety lingers in India over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

The Times of India has published an article titled “Contradictory views on Kashmir emerging from China,” which says, “There are signs one section of the Chinese elite wants to persuade India to join China’s Belt and Road plan while another section wants to play the bully.” The article also cites various views from China on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a transport and infrastructure project to connect China’s far west with Pakistan’s ports, which runs right through parts of the disputed region of Kashmir that are administered by Pakistan but claimed by India.

We noted the rising anxiety in India over CEPC, China, and its coziness with Pakistan in January. Those tensions aren’t going away.



The pros and cons of building a city from scratch

When the government announced in April that it would create the Xiongan New Area 60 miles south of Beijing, it triggered a property-buying frenzy as speculators looked to profit from the expansion of the planned annex city to the capital. Xiongan is planned to grow to three times the size of New York City and will incorporate education facilities, institutions, and residents from nearby big cities.

The Guardian has taken a sympathetic look at plans for Xiongan, and concludes that the concept of an integrated city cluster might actually make sense as a way to avoid population  overload, traffic jams, environmental destruction, and other ills of megacities. There are, of course, problems: The article says that “China’s stride toward the promotion of megaregions comes many years after the UN condemned the environmental and social impacts of such ‘endless cities.’” In the short term, challenges include the establishment of public services to new migrants and fair compensation to original residents who refuse to relocate. In the long term, despite the stated intention for the new development to be ecologically sound, “environmentalists have raised a red flag on plans to include most of Northern China’s largest wetland” in the Xiongan New Area, according to a Caixin report in April.