A rainbow flag over Taiwan
The BBC reports:
Taiwan’s top judges have ruled in favor of gay marriage, paving the way for it to become the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex unions. The highest court ruled that current laws preventing members of the same sex from marrying violated their right to equality and were unconstitutional.
The news has been greeted with joy both in Taiwan and across the straits in the People’s Republic, with some internet users saying that they are going to move to Taiwan to enjoy marriage equality — this post on Shanghaiist has photos of celebratory parades in Taipei and a summary of some social media reactions.
- On Weibo, the hashtag “Taiwan legalizes homosexuality” (#台湾同性恋合法#) has become a top trending topic: Most comments are broadly supportive of the Taiwanese court ruling, but there are voices decrying a descent into decadence.
- In Taiwan itself, the South China Morning Post says that “staunch opponents of same-sex union called the ruling a ‘shame’ to the judiciary and demand a referendum over the issues.”
- The South China Morning Post also has a roundup of “five great LGBT-themed movies from Taiwan, model of openness in Asia.”
- China Digital Times has published what is apparently a censorship order (in Chinese) from the authorities circulated to media and internet companies in China that calls the topic a “sensitive issue” that “must not be hyped,” and that there should be no discussion of the ways in which Taiwan and the mainland have different constitutions, justice systems, and presidents.
Moody’s downgrades China’s rating
The credit ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded its rating of Chinese debt for the first time since 1989, challenging the view that the nation’s leadership will be able to rein in leverage while maintaining the pace of economic growth. Bloomberg says that “Moody’s cited the likelihood of a ‘material rise’ in economy-wide debt and the burden that will place on the state’s finances.”
Bloomberg notes that a response released by the Ministry of Finance calls Moody’s rationale “absolutely groundless,” and says that “such pushback” is not unique, because “U.S. Treasury officials questioned the credibility of a 2011 downgrade from Standard & Poor’s.” The article also quotes Christopher Balding, a professor at a Peking University business school in Shenzhen: “It doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things because so much of Chinese debt is held by state or quasi-state actors and minimal amounts are international investors.”
The ‘very friendly conversation’ between Trump and Duterte
The Intercept has published a leaked transcript from the Filipino foreign ministry of the April 29 phone call between President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Donald Trump. Much of the conversation is about North Korea.
“From the looks of it, [Kim Jong Un’s] mind is not working well and he might just go crazy one moment. China should make a last-ditch effort to tell him to lay off,” Duterte told Trump, after exchanging pleasantries about massacring drug criminals. Trump agrees, as you can see from this excerpt:
Trump: We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20, but we don’t want to use it.
Duterte: We believe it, we know it all along. I will try to make a call tomorrow to China.
Trump: Please call China and tell them we are all counting on China. Tell the president — we became friends for two days — he was great.
VOA editor on canceled Guo Wengui interview
In the Wall Street Journal, Sasha Gong — the Mandarin Service Chief of Voice of America (VOA) — writes (paywall) about how the Chinese foreign ministry pressured the U.S. state-owned radio station into stopping the broadcast of an interview with Guo Wengui 郭文贵. Guo is an exiled billionaire tweeting allegations of corruption in China from his Manhattan penthouse and waging a war of words against Chinese state propaganda organizations, with both sides accusing each other of corruption.
VOA had scheduled a three-hour-long live interview with Guo. Gong had intended to ask Guo about his claims that he had worked “closely for years with Chinese intelligence services” and “even financed their operations.” Gong says, “Ultimately, we broadcast live with Mr. Guo for one hour and 19 minutes before Washington pulled the plug.” She attributes cancellation of the planned broadcast to pressure from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and urges “reputable news organizations” not to shy away from Guo’s story “for fear of reprisal by the Chinese secret police.”
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
Women and China: Conference roundup
The weekly WeiWatch
In WeiWatch, we round up the most-talked-about topics on Chinese social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, Toutiao, and whatever will be big in China next.
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:
Bike-sharing feud: Ofo sues Momo over corruption allegations
Ofo, China’s second-biggest bike-sharing startup after Mobike, filed a defamation lawsuit (in Chinese) in Beijing against Momo, a popular Chinese instant messaging app, as well as tech news website Kejixun. The suit claims that both companies engaged in malicious fabrication of rumors about corruption at Ofo. Then indictment filed by Ofo stated that an anonymous post published on Momo claiming that there was corruption inside Ofo had damaged the company’s reputation. The indictment also says that Kejixun published and shared a number of articles that viciously maligned Ofo and its founder, Dai Wei, based on nonfactual information. Ofo requested that Momo and Kejixun delete the articles in question, identify their author, issue an apology statement, and pay damages of more than 1,000,000 yuan ($142,800). A Beijing court has accepted the case.
The incident followed a similar lawsuit (in Chinese) filed by Mobike over corruption allegations against Zhihu, a Chinese question-and-answer website similar to Quora, last week. Hu Weihui 胡玮炜, founder of Mobike, said that an anonymous article published by Zhihu, which claimed there was corruption inside Mobike, was a “personal attack” on her and the management team. WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, has invested in both Zhihu and Mobike.
On Weibo, while some netizens supported Ofo’s act of “protecting its rights against rumors,” many others used social media posts about the news to complain about the quality of Ofo’s yellow bikes. One commenter said (in Chinese): “The yellow bikes are much lighter to ride than Mobike. But the vandalism rates are too high. People remove their QR codes and license plates, or they get locked or vandalized by someone. It takes a while to find a rideable bike.”
Tainted food fear spurs new breed of Chinese farmers / Bloomberg
“China’s agricultural landscape can be summed up fairly simply: it has too little arable land, divided into too many tiny plots, tended by too many farmers, who are mostly too old. And much of the soil is contaminated.”
Quick take: Beijing moves to ease jitters over converted commercial housing / Caixin
On May 23, we mentioned that Beijing’s measures to cool the real estate market included a ban on sales of residences converted from commercial properties. On May 24, the city government said it would allow some existing commercial housing projects to be resold, in an apparent bid to reassure the market after it was rattled by the ban.
- New apartments close to Xiongan can’t be resold for 10 years / Sixth Tone
- Chinese exports can’t find lane to full recovery / Nikkei Asian Review
- China tech emerges as the global hotspot for VC capital / Financial Times (paywall)
- Wearable tech latest must-have for China’s proud pet owners / Reuters
- How a $3.3 billion LeSports fell apart / AllChinaTech
- Trump adds another Chinese trademark to his portfolio / NYT (paywall)
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Two Chinese abducted on the New Silk Road in Pakistan
Reuters reports that two Chinese language teachers in the western Pakistani city of Quetta, in Baluchistan Province, have been kidnapped by armed men pretending to be police. The incident is “likely to worry Beijing,” as security — particularly in Baluchistan — has been a long-standing concern of China as it builds the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through the area. The Chinese abducted this time were not employees of CPEC-affiliated projects, but thousands of Chinese in the area are employed by Chinese state-owned enterprises and protected by Pakistani security forces.
The CPEC has also been the subject of protests in Pakistan, where many accuse the projects of attempting to steal natural resources. After the kidnapping, the hashtag “Chinese citizens kidnapped in Pakistan” (#中国公民在巴基斯坦遭绑架#) trended on the social media hub Weibo, where commenters expressed concern and good wishes for the teachers.
If Australia listened to our hawks on China, we’d have been hung out to dry / Sydney Morning Herald
Australia’s former foreign minister Bob Carr argues against hawks who urge his country to take a confrontational stance against China in support of the U.S.
- 21 arrested over alleged corruption relating to Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge / Caixin
- Chinese banking regulator Yang Jiacai under investigation for suspected corruption / SCMP
- China urges North Korea talks, skirts questions on U.S. sanctions push / Reuters
- L.A. woman arrested on charges of smuggling U.S. space technology to China / CNBC
- China, EU and Canada form climate pact as Trump stands alone / Bloomberg
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Does virginity still matter?
Ding Xuan 丁璇, a lecturer from China Women’s Development Foundation, a government-owned nonprofit organization, sparked a controversy on Weibo (in Chinese) last week when she delivered a speech to college students in Jiangxi Province that urged women to hold on to their virginity before marriage. Her key points included:
- A woman’s best dowry is her virginity.
- Showing too much skin is a sign of vulgarity. It not only invites slanderous gossip, but also causes diseases, misfortunes, unexpected financial ruin, as well as loss of virginity.
- It is an insult to our ancestors if our bodies, which our parents have taken good care of, are abused by many men like dirty rags.
Ding has been giving speeches about feminine virtues across the country for years — for example, this speech posted to Weibo (in Chinese), which includes these nuggets of moralism:
- Non-virgins are no different than prostitutes.
- Some women get plastic surgeries in order to seduce men.
Internet users bashed Ding by calling (in Chinese) the values she holds “retrograde” and “feudalistic.” One Weibo commenter wrote, “What time are we living in? I thought the Qing dynasty was dead. Am I wrong?” Several days after the backlash, Ding responded (in Chinese), “I was saying those things for women’s good.”
See more about social media discussions in China in our weekly WeiWatch article.
Chinese fashion designers flock to city of T-shirts and flip-flops / NYT (paywall)
“In moving to Xiamen, Ms. Wang became the latest addition to a small but robust community of up-and-coming young Chinese fashion designers who have forgone the glamour of cosmopolitan Shanghai and Beijing in favor of off-the-beaten-path Xiamen.”
Targeted in crackdown, Moutai liquor is once again the toast of the town / SCMP
“‘At least, in high-end and private clubs and restaurants, businessmen and officials are consuming Moutai’s classic Feitian label again,’ said a state banker in Guangzhou, who refused to be named.”
Common wild bird now endangered thanks to Chinese gourmets / SCMP
“Yellow-breasted buntings are considered a delicacy in southern China, where they are thought to boost sexual vitality.”
Award-winning short story Folding Beijing will now be a movie / Star 2
Author Hao Jingfang says her Hugo Award–winning science fiction short story will be adapted into a movie.
- A group of South Koreans is suing China for polluting the air over Seoul / TIME