Cheat sheet for Belt and Road summit, with rap song
Representatives from more than 100 countries and international organizations spent May 14 to 15 at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing discussing President Xi Jinping’s signature initiative to boost commerce and transportation links between Asia and Europe. This is what you need to know:
- There has been a string of state media propaganda videos about Belt and Road, ranging from the quirky and bizarre to the more serious. The People’s Daily’s contribution is called “One rap song to tell you what exactly is the Belt and Road” (viewable above or on YouTube), which includes lyrics such as
Yi Dai Yi Lu (i.e., “One Belt, One Road”), talk to the world through peace and love…
Yi Dai Yi Lu, take my hand, let’s dance all night…
Yi Dai Yi Lu, everybody let’s have some fun.
One of the graphics in the video (at 0:42, or see screenshot above) depicts people of various nationalities catching money raining down from the sky.
- Xi gave a speech at the opening of the summit, and again at the end, when he said that 68 countries and international organizations had signed cooperation deals with China to carry forward the Belt and Road initiative, and that “an outcome list of more than 270 items was formulated at the Leaders Roundtable of the forum.” The roundtable also produced a communique, which says that signatories “oppose all forms of protectionism” and will “endeavor to promote a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system with WTO at its core.” Xi promised that China would host another Belt and Road forum in 2019.
- This is the Belt and Road Forum’s official website. State media reporting on the forum have apparently stopped using “One Belt, One Road” or “OBOR,” instead preferring “Belt and Road.”
- Caixin reports that “government-backed financier Silk Ventures” announced at the summit that it has “raised a $500 million fund to invest in Western technology startups looking to expand into China,” with the first investment to be made in July.
- The South China Morning Post has a nicely done visual explainer of the five main projects of the Belt and Road:
- Railway to London
- Gwadar Port
- Railway to Iran
- Asian gas pipeline
- Khorgos Gateway (through the geographic center of Asia)
- The New York Times reports (paywall) that “Western companies are angling aggressively for a piece of the action,” citing contracts with and purchases from Citibank, Honeywell International, and GE for Belt and Road projects.
- In a story headlined “Xi Jinping positions China at center of new economic order,” the New York Times notes (paywall) that Matthew Pottinger, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council in Washington, who attended the Beijing meetings, made “remarks to the forum” in which he “urged China to insist on transparency in government procurement as projects began.”
- Russian president Vladimir Putin was a prominent guest at the summit. Footage of him “unexpectedly” playing the piano while waiting for a meeting with Xi Jinping has gone viral. Meanwhile, the Financial Times says (paywall) that the “Putin-Xi embrace masks misgivings on Belt and Road project,” that Russia sees risks to its sphere of influence, and that “Moscow has taken note” that “Russia has so far failed to gain any significant benefits from the Chinese initiative.”
Cyber attacks: What happened in China?
Caixin says that “China has been among the worst hit by the devastating ‘WannaCry’ cyberattack, with over 10,000 educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies” under attack by malware that freezes user and system data until the hackers receive ransom payments paid by Bitcoin. Two real-world effects of the attacks:
- Many towns have suspended approval of new driver’s licenses.
- Credit card and online payment systems at gas stations managed by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) were disabled on Saturday.
The New York Times has a story (paywall) that suggests that China was particularly vulnerable to the hack because of the large numbers of pirated versions of Windows in use.
“If you look at any thread about Trump, Islam or immigration on a Chinese social media platform these days, it’s impossible to avoid encountering the term bái zuǒ 白左, or literally, the ‘white left,’” writes Zhang Chenchen. A term of insult on the internet, the white left refers to politically correct, liberal Western elites. Zhang explains the context and history of the phrase, which she says “first emerged about two years ago, and yet has quickly become one of the most popular derogatory descriptions for Chinese netizens to discredit their opponents in online debates.”
For more on the white left, listen to this Sinica Podcast with Ma Tianjie on “Lines of fracture in Chinese public opinion.”
On CNN: A land belt and an ocean road
Just in case you have not had enough of Belt and Road, I was on CNN talking to anchor Kristie Lu Stout about Belt and Road propaganda and its curious name.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
Video: The American Dream through the eyes of Chinese millennials
What does the “American Dream” mean for young Chinese in the U.S.? SupChina spoke to some Chinese students at Columbia University last week. Here’s what they had to say.
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:
British Virgin Islands goes after Chinese money
The Bank of Asia, as it is called, will focus on Chinese customers and open up for a “soft launch within Q3 2017,” according to its website. The Virgin Islands, like many Caribbean tax havens, are known for incorporating massive shell companies that disguise owners’ identities, a legal practice that nonetheless became even more closely associated with money laundering following the Panama Papers leak. China and Hong Kong-linked firms “accounted for almost a third of the offshore companies created by Mossack Fonseca,” the law firm whose papers were exposed in the leak, Bloomberg noted.
Bloomberg data shows that nearly 2 trillion dollars left China in 2015 and 2016, though government crackdowns on capital outflow led to a capital inflow in February 2017 for the first time in over two years. However, the money is now headed out again, according to the most recent numbers in March. The Bloomberg article discusses how the Bank of Asia plans to be a “landing place” for future flows of money leaving China.
- Investors ride roller coaster with baijiu maker Moutai / Caixin
“Moutai’s market capitalization hit $71.5 billion in April, making it the world’s most valuable liquor brand ahead of former No. 1 Diageo, a British company whose labels include Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka. But the baijiu distiller’s road to success since the start of the anti-corruption campaign has been fraught with challenges.”
- Cars to batteries: Is China’s sharing economy in bubble territory? / SCMP
- China April factory output, investment growth miss forecasts / Reuters
- U.S. lawmakers sharpen criticism of $1.2 billion MoneyGram deal / Financial Times (paywall)
- Kenya president urges rebalance of China-Africa trade / Financial Times (paywall)
- Villagers in Myanmar describe the destructive power of China’s building frenzy / NYT (paywall)
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
North Korea sends delegate to Belt and Road meeting, launches missile
Hours before the Belt and Road Forum kicked off in Beijing on May 14, North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan, the South China Morning Post reports. The Associated Press explains that this missile is likely “the most powerful the country has ever tested.” North Korean state media have uploaded a video of the launch to YouTube. The text description says that Kim Jong-un declared that the DPRK, or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s preferred name for itself, “is a nuclear power worthy of the name whether someone recognizes it or not,” and that “DPRK will keep strict control over those engaging themselves in nuclear blackmail with its nuclear deterrence.”
North Korea was at the time a guest at China’s Belt and Road Forum, an invitation that Beijing had bestowed on the country a week prior, despite the objections of others. The participation of North Korea in the Belt and Road Forum had raised concerns among Western countries. Two sources told Reuters, “The U.S. embassy in Beijing had submitted a diplomatic note to China’s foreign ministry, saying that inviting North Korea sent the wrong message at a time when the world was trying to pressure Pyongyang over its repeated missile and nuclear tests.” On the sidelines of the forum, Reuters also obtained a comment from the EU ambassador to China, who said, “I personally just wonder a bit whether in light of the whole background, it sends the right signal to invite them to a meeting that is dedicated to peace and prosperity.”
Kim Yong-jae, North Korea’s minister of external economic relations, who attended the forum, was confronted about the latest test by the South Korean delegation at the event, though the head of the delegation did not disclose what, if any, response Kim gave. Some observers suspect that the launch may have broken expectations of renewed dialogue between the two Koreas, while the South China Morning Post quotes several Chinese analysts who suspect their government will now be more willing to advance further sanctions on the rogue nation.
- Liberal economics think tank Unirule locked out of its office for ‘security reasons’ ahead of forum / SCMP
Economist Mao Yushi 茅于轼, founder of the private think tank Unirule, was prevented from leaving his home for the duration of the One Belt, One Road forum, while the offices of his think tank were locked by the authorities. In January, some of Unirule’s social media accounts were shut down in January.
- Chasing after the Kushners in China / NYT (paywall)
A New York Times journalist describes what it took to report on the Kushner visa-for-investment controversy a week ago: “As journalists in China, we are accustomed to dealing with harassment. But we don’t typically encounter bullying at events where American companies hold court.”
- ‘Tomb raider’ arrested after 23 years on the run / China Daily
A man wanted for theft of a corpse and artifacts from an ancient tomb in Hubei Province in 1994 was taken into custody this month.
- In Chinese politics, it pays to be a boring speaker / Quartz
- Shanghai’s underground child care market / Sixth Tone
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Social media storm about footballer’s slant-eyed pose
Ezequiel Lavezzi, a 32-year-old Argentine football star who joined Chinese soccer club Hebei China Fortune, in February 2016, for a $13 million yearly paycheck, has sparked a storm on Chinese social media over the weekend after a picture of him apparently mocking Asian facial features was widely circulated online. In the picture, Lavezzi appears to smile and pull the corners of his eyes while wearing a Hebei China Fortune team uniform. On the social media platform Weibo, many commenters demanded that he “get out of China.” In response, Lavezzi, along with the club, released a statement (in Chinese) on May 14. “At the request of the photographer, I was trying to make some relaxed and funny poses to light up the atmosphere during the shooting,” said the statement. “I had no intention of insulting the Chinese people. I am happy to come to China and play for the Hebei club.” The player added, “I sincerely apologize for any confusion or misunderstanding caused by this picture. I will be more careful in the future.”
Lavezzi’s apology, however, has not stopped the outpouring of anger among internet users. Under a popular post (in Chinese) titled “He earns more than Lionel Messi, but he still discriminates against Chinese while making money from us,” a commenter stated (in Chinese), “This asshole represents a bunch of Western people who looked down upon us for hundreds of years. It is time to teach them a lesson.” However, some internet users came out in defense of the footballer. “Those who feel offended are so sensitive. I have done this face many times just for fun. Does that mean I discriminate against Chinese?” one person wrote (in Chinese). Others asked those who reacted strongly to reflect on their own behavior. “Many Chinese think…it is totally fine to discriminate against Indians, Africans in Guangzhou, Muslims, Koreans, and Japanese, but they don’t allow others to offend them,” another Weibo user commented.
- Hong Kong takes on ‘booze cruise’ role for growing number of mainland wine lovers / SCMP
- Cruises boom as millions of Chinese take to the seas / Bloomberg
- Metal band Megadeth returns to Beijing, finally allowed to play a full concert / The Beijinger
- Henry Chung, who helped bring Hunan’s flavors to America, dies at 98 / NYT (paywall)