A smiling president is censored


Jeremy Goldkorn’s selection of the top stories from China on June 15, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

Delete the smiling lone warrior

On June 9, Russian state media RT reported on a meeting last week between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a get-together of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana, Kazakhstan. Xi’s delegation arrived late, leaving him alone on one side of a large table facing Putin’s seven-strong team. As they waited for Xi’s delegation, Putin joked that the Chinese president was a “lone warrior.” RT’s article was titled “Unfazed ‘lone warrior’ Xi Jinping faces entire Team Putin.”

Despite the admiring tone of Putin’s nickname and the RT article — and the unusually broad smile on Xi’s face in the video (pictured above) — China’s censors were not amused. China Digital Times notes that mentions and photos of the “lone warrior” incident are being thoroughly censored on the Chinese internet.

Anbang fallout continues

Bloomberg says that investors in large listed Chinese companies “have had a dizzying ride, with a rapid surge to a 21-month high unraveling almost as quickly as it began, as big caps tumbled the most this year.” The market was further roiled on June 14 by the news of the detention of Wu Xiaohui 吴小晖, the chairman of the Anbang Group, a major insurance company and one of China’s most prominent acquirers of foreign assets in recent years.

Adding to the uncertainty around Anbang, the South China Morning Post says that authorities have “asked banks to suspend business dealings with the insurer,” and that “at least six large Chinese banks have already stopped selling Anbang policies at their branch networks.”

Bitcoin mines in Sichuan

Western Sichuan Province, where even small rivers coming down from the Tibetan Plateau have been harnessed for hydroelectric projects, has had a surplus of cheap electricity that cannot always be sold downriver in eastern China. One result has been the availability of cheap electricity, if you can find a use for it in the middle of a mountainous and undeveloped region. This has attracted dozens of Bitcoin miners to set up warehouses full of computers working to perform the calculations that generate new pieces of virtual currency — read “A Bitcoin mine in the mountains of Sichuan” for a Q&A with one such miner.

But in one of the most popular areas for Bitcoin mines, the Mabian Yi Autonomous County, many mines have been shut down or relocated. Although China’s financial regulators have forbidden banks from providing Bitcoin-related services, the mine shutdowns don’t seem to be related to central government policy, and according to some accounts, the miners have not been willing to talk about the problem.

With Bitcoin prices hovering around the $3,000 mark, it’s unlikely China’s miners will go away, nor will interest in virtual currency and its creation — see, for example, this photo gallery of Bitcoin mines in Sichuan on WeChat.