Kushner family peddles connections and visas in China
In a development that will surprise precisely no one, the family of Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump, has been found hawking its connections to the U.S. president as part of a real estate deal offered to Chinese investors.
Nicole Kushner Meyer, Jared Kushner’s sister, spoke at weekend events in Beijing and Shanghai that promoted a scheme where people who invest $500,000 in a real estate deal managed by the Kushner family would get residency rights in the U.S. under the EB-5 visa program. During her marketing speech, Meyer mentioned her brother’s name and displayed photographs of Donald Trump in a slideshow of promotional materials. The Kushner family has issued an apology of sorts. According to the BBC, Risa Heller, a Kushner Companies spokeswoman, said, “Ms. Meyer wanted to make clear that her brother had stepped away from the company in January and has nothing to do with this project,” adding, “Kushner Companies apologizes if that mention of her brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors.”
Jenna Johnson, political reporter at the Washington Post, tweeted: “Friday: Trump extends fast-track immigration for investors. Saturday: Jared Kushner’s sister pitches investors.” Javier C. Hernández, a Beijing-based reporter for the New York Times, tweeted a picture (shown above) and explained, “Here’s a slide shown during Kushner Co. event in Beijing identifying Donald Trump as ‘key decision maker’ on EB-5 investor visa program.” Reporters from the above-mentioned two newspapers “were removed from the ballroom and told by organizers it was a ‘private event,’ even though it had been publicly advertised,” the Times noted (paywall). On the way out, a Washington Post news assistant was “threatened, harassed and forced to delete recordings and photos,” according to her Twitter feed. In addition, reporters were barred from attending the Shanghai event the next day, said Reuters.
Cows for China from Australia’s richest person
Gina Rinehart is Australia’s richest person. Heir to a mining empire in western Australia from her father, she has diversified the business to include the country’s largest holdings in cattle. She is perhaps most famous for her remarks that Australian miners should look to their African counterparts, who earn two dollars a day.
The Australian reports (paywall) that Rinehart is preparing to sign a deal next Sunday with China’s New Hope Group “to ship up to 800,000 cattle a year for slaughter and processing in China.” New Hope Group is one of China’s largest agriculture companies, and is led by founding chairman Liu Yonghao 刘永好, one of the country’s richest men.
Shanghai gets a smile from the Party
In recent months, state media have been hyping government plans for the city-by-fiat Xiongan New Area, and the Hong Kong-southern China Greater Bay Area. The theory is that vast integrated urban areas that are tightly connected by transport infrastructure and commerce will be easier to manage, stimulate economic growth, and alleviate pollution and traffic congestion. The concept is also being applied to Shanghai and the surrounding Yangzte River Delta. The top story (in Chinese) in the People’s Daily on May 8 is about Shanghai’s leading role in the development of the Yangzte River Delta region. The focus in the article is on the importance of Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone, and the advantages of the area’s high speed rail network — an anonymous person is quoted, saying, “from the office, it takes me 5 minutes to reach Hongqiao Railway Station, 23 minutes to reach Suzhou, 45 minutes to reach Hangzhou, and 67 minutes to Nanjing…”
Another rights lawyer on trial for subversion
In January, the Wall Street Journal described (paywall) allegations of interrogation under torture of Xie Yang 谢阳, a Chinese human rights lawyer. The Guardian reports that he had been put on trial for “conspiring to overthrow China’s political system, just days after the United Nations slammed Beijing’s ongoing offensive against human rights defenders.” The Associated Press reports that the American Embassy in Bangkok helped Xie’s family flee Chinese security agents in Thailand for the U.S.
— Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 4
Hear Kaiser Kuo and Caixin editors narrate and discuss the week’s biggest China business stories. The fourth installment features stories on an IPO by a hotpot chain, migrant workers’ wages, preservation of Beijing’s hutongs, and China’s efforts to extradite fugitives abroad. Please send your feedback on this new product to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
SupChina’s conference in New York on May 18 will feature 20 women leaders in Chinese technology, business, and culture. Buy your tickets here.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
WeChat teams up with U.S. mobile payments startup
Caixin reports (paywall) that a Silicon Valley startup called Citcon is bringing Chinese mobile payments to North America, first through an agreement with Alipay in February, and also through an agreement with Tencent, the owner of the messaging app WeChat. WeChat and Alipay are the two largest mobile payment platforms in China, and users — particularly Chinese tourists in the U.S. — now have the convenience of paying at select stores using the Chinese mobile apps they are already familiar with. Read more on SupChina about the ongoing “payments war” between WeChat and Alipay.
- China sews up record $43 billion foreign takeover deal but work remains / WSJ (paywall)
The ChemChina acquisition of Syngenta was approved by Syngenta’s shareholders on May 5, after the largest-ever merger from China passed regulatory hurdles in the EU last month.
- China credit squeeze dents global growth / Financial Times (paywall)
- China’s deleveraging bill tops $500 billion / Bloomberg
- China stresses ‘steady’ planning for new economic zone / Reuters
- Tycoons from China plant money management flags on Wall Street / Bloomberg
- Huawei mixes Silicon Valley drive with Chinese socialism / Financial Times (paywall)
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Chinese partnership with nuclear-linked North Korean venture?
On May 7, the Wall Street Journal revealed (paywall) a previously unreported partnership between China’s Limac Corporation and North Korea’s Ryonbong General Corporation that has been in place since 2008 “to mine tantalum, niobium and zirconium, minerals that are useful in making phones and computers but also nuclear reactors and missiles.” The business venture violates years of sanctions against Ryonbong imposed by the U.S. since 2005 and by the UN since 2009 because of the company’s suspected involvement with weapons of mass destruction.
A U.S.-based financial intelligence firm called Sayari Analytics had uncovered the Limac-Ryonbong link but did not publicize it, and neither it nor the Journal were able to confirm the current status of the partnership. Limac told the Journal that the venture “never launched regular business activities,” though “Chinese corporate records show the joint venture maintained a registered office in China” until February 2017.
The existence of such a sanctions-defying business venture underscores the continuing gap between how much China is willing to criticize North Korea and how much it is willing to exert economic pressure on the Hermit Kingdom. Despite “fraying ties” between the two countries as illustrated by a war of words in both sides’ state media, China announced (paywall) last month that its trade with North Korea had expanded, even as it denied coal shipments and claimed to comply with all UN sanctions.
- Opinion: Taiwan arms deal in limbo as Trump courts China / Washington Post
“The administration risks giving in to China on one of its top priorities in exchange for nothing concrete, while putting the safety of the island democracy in increased danger,” Josh Rogin writes.
- China demands Taiwan free injured fishermen / Reuters
According to reports from Taiwan’s coast guard and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, two fishermen from the mainland ventured out near the Penghu Islands, administered by Taiwan, the coast guard shot rubber bullets, inflicting minor injuries, and the fishermen were detained. The incident adds to already unusually tense relations across the Taiwan Strait.
- Taiwan wants ‘friendly’ China ties amid tilt to Southeast Asia / Bloomberg
- Civilian group from mainland China to take more prominent role in cross-strait affairs / SCMP
- Syria says up to 5,000 Chinese Uighurs fighting in militant groups / Reuters
The Syrian ambassador to China corroborated the upper-level estimates on how many Muslims from western China are fighting in Syria. Other experts have estimated a much-lower number of 300.
- China puts body cameras on troubled security force / WSJ (paywall)
- China to further tighten its internet controls / Reuters
- Ai Weiwei: How censorship works / NYT (paywall)
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Parents tested for kids’ school application in Shanghai
It is uncontroversial to say that Chinese students have to fight for places in the world’s most competitive educational system, but some Shanghai schools are forcing parents into the competition, too. Over the past weekend, 171 private primary schools and middle schools in the city organized admission interviews and tests, and two of them required parents themselves to take tests. Widely circulated photos online show (in Chinese) that the tests included logic puzzles, a body shape check to see if parents suffer from obesity (which, according to the school, “indicates a lack of self-management”), and questionnaires asking for information on occupations and educational background.
The two schools that gave tests to parents are the Yangpu Primary School in Yangpu District and the Shanghai Qingpu World Foreign Language School in Qingpu District. When parents seeking a place for their kids in these two schools arrived at the examination venues, they were taken aback by the questions prepared for them, and many took to social media to complain. The Shanghai Municipal Education Commission released a statement (in Chinese) on its official Weibo account on Monday, saying that a thorough investigation into the case had been ordered, and that the two schools will have their enrollment quotas for next year reduced as punishment.
Opinions are divided on the situation. While some call the whole education system “abnormal,” others think that it’s reasonable for private schools to set certain thresholds to guarantee the quality of enrolled students. In an interview with the Global Times, a mother who wants her daughter to be admitted to one of the two sanctioned schools said, “It’s understandable to have these tests. Just like some schools in other countries require parents to be Christian.”
On Weibo, internet users expressed little sympathy for parents who grumble about the tests and yet still covet a spot in elite private schools. “It is unfair to point our fingers just at schools and the education department. These parents can definitely send their kids to a public school that is close to their homes with full dignity, but they opt to beg on their knees for admittance to a remote private school,” one commenter wrote.
- A monument to Jesus in the city of Mao / NYT (paywall)
“About 260 feet tall and topped by a cross, the Xingsha Church is bigger even than the biggest statue of Mao Zedong in China, less than 10 miles west of here.”
- A Chinese revolution in karaoke is making it much better for introverts / Quartz
- The Forbidden City’s treasures for the masses, at their fingertips / SCMP
- Documentary filmmaker chronicles lives of China’s left-behind children / SCMP
- Inside the China boarding school that teaches nothing but snooker / SCMP
- In China, it’s the Party that keeps the boy band going / NYT (paywall)