Belt and Road protests, plus online healthcare rules – China latest top news


A roundup of the top China news for May 17, 2017. Get this free daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at

Protests in Pakistan against (and for?) Belt and Road

On May 16, we noted a report in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn disclosing details from documents that set out the long-term plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a transportation, investment, agriculture, and infrastructure development link between the far western Xinjiang Province in China and the port of Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan, which is a key component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. On May 16, the Times of India reported that “various students and political organizations” have been protesting against CPEC in Gilgit and other towns on the Karakoram Highway, which runs from Pakistan to China. The Times says that the protesters carried signs reading “Stop Chinese Imperialism” and described CPEC “as an illegal attempt to grab Gilgit” and “a ploy by China to take over their territory.” Dissatisfaction with CPEC has been simmering for some time: Here is a video of protests in 2016 against the plan.

CPEC is viewed with a great deal of suspicion in neighboring India, and this may have colored the reporting: Dawn has a rather different report, which states that “a large number of protesters gathered in Skardu on Monday to protest the exclusion of Gilgit-Baltistan from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.”

New rules for online healthcare + free insurance

There is a great deal of justifiable excitement in China about the possibilities for technology to improve the country’s overburdened healthcare system using apps that enable online consultations, appointment booking, and other services designed to make hospitals more efficient. Sixth Tone reports that at a May 16 forum in Shanghai organized by the online medical service We Doctor, “one hot topic” was a leaked set of draft regulations apparently issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission. Sixth Tone says that “key among the suggested new rules is that internet hospitals may no longer accept first-time patients, ruling out the business model whereby patients can simply open an app and find a doctor in order to get a diagnosis.” This restriction and others in the document “will deal a heavy blow to those who run medical services purely online,” according to Wang Bin 王滨, We Doctor’s general manager for northwest China.

In other digital medical news, TechNode notes that Alipay, the payment service affiliated with internet giant Alibaba, says that it will allow users under the age of 60 to get a certain amount of free medical insurance when they make payments with their Alipay Wallet.

Bride sets fire to wedding gown for photo shoot

The People’s Daily is once again playing fast and loose with its mission as a mouthpiece for the Party: It tweeted a video that shows a bride setting a wedding gown on fire as part of a wedding photography pose.

Chinese container ship sets new record on East Coast of U.S.

The People’s Daily reports that a Chinese container ship arrived at the port of Savannah, Georgia, on May 11, becoming the largest vessel ever to dock on the American East Coast.

Events: SupChina Women’s Conference and USPACOM forum

The SupChina Women’s Conference is tomorrow in New York. Tickets are sold out, but please reply to this email or tweet to @supchinanews and let us know what questions you’d like our panelists to answer.

On May 23, you can join the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in person in New York or via live stream to listen to four United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) commanders talk about the increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, cross-Strait relations, and other topics. Click here to RSVP or to watch the live stream.  

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

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.


Chinese Gotham clone no longer a ghost city

The northern port city of Tianjin’s Xiangluowan district has a 1.59-square-kilometer replica of Manhattan, complete with skyscrapers, office towers, hotels, and apartments. The development’s low occupancy rate and half-finished high-rises have made it a favorite of media reports about “ghost cities” that epitomize centrally planned debt-fueled excesses of construction. But like many of the ghost cities that make for click-worthy photo essays, the Manhattan clone has been gradually filling up with people, according to Bloomberg. The Xiangluowan district and the city of Tianjin as a whole — home to 14.7 million people — is just a half-hour bullet train ride from Beijing, and stands to benefit from two of the country’s biggest economic projects: the One Belt, One Road initiative and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration project, known as Jing-Jin-Ji.


China points finger at America, not North Korea, for cyber attacks

While it is being widely reported in Western media that North Korea is the top suspect for the “WannaCry” cyber attacks over the weekend — see “North Korean hackers test China’s patience” in Politico, for example — some Chinese media is insisting that “so far no clues have been uncovered as to who was behind the malicious software.” That is the line taken in an editorial in the state-run China Daily, which focuses on the role of leaked code from the U.S. National Security Agency that laid the groundwork for the attack. The state media outlet accuses the U.S. of hypocrisy on a range of issues, including cyber espionage, restrictions on telecommunications providers such as Huawei, and overall insincerity toward “meaningful dialogue on cyber security.” The piece concludes that “the latest cyber attack should instill greater urgency in China’s efforts to produce its own core technologies, as President Xi Jinping has urged.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times published a story (paywall) that examines why China may be so reluctant to cast suspicion on North Korea, officially its ally, for this cyber attack. In short, such a revelation would be deeply embarrassing to China, whose company China Unicom, analysts note, serves as the main portal to the internet for North Korea. It would also add to the lingering sting of North Korea’s missile launch on May 14 hours before China welcomed a delegation from North Korea to the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. The suspicious timing of that missile launch was “not reported in the Chinese state media,” the Times states.

After the ransomware attack, which affected 30,000–40,000 institutions in China, according to various reports, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) announced it would strengthen the cyber security protection at Chinese banks.


A brief reflection on LGBT rights in China on May 17

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, which aims to raise awareness of LGBT rights worldwide. Although not illegal in China, homosexuality is still stigmatized there. Only about 5 percent of the country’s LGBT population are open about their sexuality at school or at work, with 17 percent open to their families, according to a 2016 survey under the UN Development Programme. In addition, the societal and family pressure to get married to the opposite sex remains high in China; a report in 2011 cited that about 80 percent of Chinese gay men — in a total gay male population of approximately 20,000,000 in that year — married women. The issue reflects the need to create an equal and supportive space for an LGBT group in China.

Progress has been made in the push for LGBT rights in China. In 1997, it was decreed that gay people in China could no longer be prosecuted under the ambiguous crime of “hooliganism.” In 2001, homosexuality was removed from the nation’s classification of mental disorders. Increasingly, support from a growing number of LGBT activists and groups has helped the gay rights movement in China emerge from being underground. In 2014, a court in Beijing ruled against therapy to “correct” homosexuality.

But despite all the achievements in recognizing LGBT rights, China still has a long way to go to protect them. Same-sex marriage is illegal in China and many other Asian countries. Sixty-one percent of Chinese said they believe homosexuality is unacceptable, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. In March 2015, five feminist activists with ties to the LGBT community were detained for 37 days for planning protests as part of an anti-sexual harassment campaign.

On Weibo, many netizens have expressed their support for LGBT rights. One commenter said, “No matter if it’s a man or a woman, you should chase your love. In this world, there’s not just one love between a man and a woman. Love should be respected regardless. Same-sex love will still be difficult in the future. I believe you can overcome those obstacles by staying united.”