‘We’ll share the goodness now, the Belt and Road is how’
The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) summit takes place in Beijing on May 14 and 15, when 28 heads of state will discuss President Xi Jinping’s signature project: a plan to revitalize the global economy by investing in infrastructure and transportation projects, to connect Asia to Europe and beyond. In anticipation, China’s propaganda organizations are cranking out promotional articles and videos.
After the cringeworthy OBOR bedtime story video from the China Daily, and Xinhua News Agency’s OBOR in poetry video (in Chinese) that features traditional graphic motifs and quotations from classical Chinese poetry as captions, the People’s Daily has produced a video (in Chinese with English subtitles) called “Xi Jinping on the world stage,” which says that “amiable and with a human touch” is “what many foreign friends say of their first impression of Xi Jinping.” The video says that Xi is “familiar with the histories and cultures of different countries” and, as evidence, shows archival footage of Xi talking about Hemingway to Americans, and about the Swiss Army knife when visiting Switzerland.
Not to be outdone, Road to Rejuvenation Studios, the production company behind memorable Xi-era new media propaganda such as this song and psychedelic video about China’s 13th five-year-plan, has also released an OBOR video. It features a group of multiracial children singing and rapping about the benefits that OBOR will bring to the world: “The future is coming now, the Belt and Road is how, we’ll share the goodness now…” Astute observers will note that “how” is a pun on 好 hǎo — Mandarin for “good.”
For more fun propaganda, see this rap video about the “six things close to Xi Jinping’s heart,” and this infomercial that urges Beijingers to report on suspected spies in exchange for large cash rewards.
That Xi Jinping, he’s a great guy!
The Economist has published the transcript of an interview with Donald Trump. On Xi Jinping he had this to say:
[Our] relationship with China is long. Of course by China standards, it’s very short [laughter], you know when I’m with [Xi Jinping], because he’s great, when I’m with him, he’s a great guy. He was telling me, you know they go back 8,000 years, we have 1776 is like modern history. They consider 1776 like yesterday and they, you know, go back a long time…”
Trump also defends changing his mind about calling China a currency manipulator because “they stopped” (which he attributes to his public complaints), and also because he needs Xi’s help on North Korea. Trump does not want to have to call the president of China and say: “Jinping. Please help us, let’s make a deal. Help us with North Korea, and by the way we’re announcing tomorrow that you’re a currency manipulator, OK?”
Another small step to China’s moon station
Xinhua News Agency reports that eight volunteers will live in a simulated space cabin in Beijing for the next year, as part of research that will help “the country’s scientists understand exactly what will be required for humans to remain on the moon in the medium and long terms.” The volunteers are civilians and “elite postgraduate students” from Beihang University (previously known as the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics).
Two men and two women will stay in the cabin for 60 days, then a second group comprised of two men and two women will stay there for 200 days, after which the original group will return for a second stay of 105 days. The experiment’s main aim is to test a “Bioregenerative Life Support System” which allows occupants of the cabin to recycle food and water. The cabin has a main living space of 42 square meters (450 sq. feet) and two plant greenhouses of around 50 square meters (538 sq. feet).
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
Sinica Podcast: The negotiator: Charlene Barshefsky
America’s point person in negotiations from 1997 to 2001 to bring China into the World Trade Organization gives her take on the country today.
‘Nobody talked about the disease’ — breast cancer in China
Simone McCarthy takes a look at how women in Shanghai — and all over China — are grappling with an increasingly common cancer.
Plus, watch an abridged, subtitled video from the municipal health authorities of the southern city of Shenzhen that publicizes free breast cancer screenings.
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:
Chinese investment in Israeli tech surges
Reuters says that Chinese companies are “struggling to seal deals in the United States as regulatory scrutiny tightens,” and are finding “a warmer welcome for their cash in Israel,” where they put a record $16.5 billion in 2016. The report notes that a surge in Chinese investments in internet, cybersecurity, and medical device startups occurred in the third quarter of 2016, “just as the U.S. regulatory crackdown began to bite.”
Before 2016, most Chinese investments in Israel were not in hi-tech but food, agriculture, and construction, but that changed over the last year. Israeli entrepreneurs are also attracted to Chinese capital because they believe it offers “a way into the huge domestic Chinese market, which is otherwise difficult to crack.”
- China said to prep Hong Kong stock support for handover day / Bloomberg
“China’s government has made preparations to support the Hong Kong stock market if needed to create a positive atmosphere before July 1, when Xi Jinping is expected to visit the city for the first time as president to mark 20 years of Chinese rule.”
- China’s $246 billion foreign buying spree is unraveling / Bloomberg
“Analysts see few signs of a rebound as Chinese regulators make it difficult for acquirers to move money overseas.”
- China is on track to fully phase out cash / Vice Motherboard
“Many experts predict that China will be effectively cashless within five to 12 years.”
- Valley-obsessed Indian startups now turn to China for inspiration / Tech in Asia
- Who will pay for China’s new Silk Road? / SCMP
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Statistics can be a profitable industry until you get caught
Authorities first started investigating Wang Baoan 王保安, former head of China’s National Statistics Bureau, in January 2016, and officially charged him with corruption in August. Reuters reports that on May 11, 2017, he pleaded guilty to accepting the equivalent of $22 million in bribes between 1994 and 2016. The article notes that “as well as accepting gifts, property and bribes, he frequently stayed at expensive hotels, engaged in ‘superstitious activities’ and ‘exchanged power for sex,’” according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the country’s major anticorruption task force. In exchange for the bribes, Wang secured project approvals or job appointments.
- Trump’s mixed signals on South China Sea worry Asian allies / NYT (paywall)
“President Trump’s erratic approach to policy making and his focus on one issue — North Korea’s nuclear weapons program — are creating anxiety and confusion in the region.”
- Moon Jae-in of South Korea and China move to soothe tensions / NYT (paywall)
“During a congratulatory call by President Xi Jinping of China to Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s newly minted president, Mr. Moon revealed his plans to send a delegation to Beijing” to discuss the THAAD anti-missile system and North Korea.
- North Korea expected to ask China for a break at summit / SCMP
“North Korea is expected to press China to tone down its economic sanctions when its delegation attends an infrastructure and trade summit in Beijing on Sunday.”
- Can China score a new win in Africa with Xi Jinping’s ‘Belt and Road’ plan? / SCMP
“Although Africa was not part of the Belt and Road plan when it was first proposed by Xi in 2013, Beijing has recently accelerated its push to include the continent.”
- China’s largesse lures countries to its Belt and Road initiative / Bloomberg
The article includes informative maps of Belt and Road proposals.
- China says three of most wanted graft suspects let off / Reuters
“Three people on China’s list of 100 most wanted graft suspects overseas were not prosecuted when they finally returned to China.”
- Ring of life: Former Chinese leader’s phone call dispels death rumors / WSJ (paywall)
Former president Jiang Zemin dispels the regularly occurring rumor of his demise.
- Temple professor, once accused of spying for China, sues FBI agents / Philly.com
- Hong Kong pro-democracy rally displaced by pro-Beijing event, organizers say / NYT (paywall)
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
New Bollywood box office record in China
It’s not just Hollywood trying to win over Chinese moviegoers: Bollywood is at it, too, and in the case of Aamir Khan, breaking box office records. Quartz reports that four days after the release of Khan’s latest film, Dangal, it had “amassed 124 million yuan ($18 million) in ticket sales to become the highest-grossing Indian movie in China.” The previous record holder was PK, “which also starred Khan and had grossed 110 million yuan ($16 million).” The latest film, called Wrestle! Dad (摔跤吧!爸爸 shuāijiāo ba! bàba) in Chinese, “is based on the true story of an Indian wrestling champion who trained two of his daughters to become world-class wrestlers after his wife gave birth to four daughters but no son.”
- China’s ‘animal hell’ zoo displays dead snake, dazed bear and crocodile living with rubbish / SCMP
- In China, the dark themes of science fiction can read more like nonfiction / Quartz
See The rise of Chinese sci-fi: No longer in the distant future on SupChina.
- On China’s great books: An interview with Frances Wood / LARB Blog