‘China has the confidence and strength to do whatever it wants to do’ – China’s latest top news

Jeremy Goldkorn’s selection of the top stories from China on July 31, 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.

State media: the five signals sent by China’s military parade  

On July 30, Xi Jinping — President, General Secretary of the Communist Party, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission — wore a camouflage uniform and inspected troops during a military parade at a base in Inner Mongolia to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The parade comprised 12,000 troops and an abundance of military equipment, including tanks, planes, ballistic missiles, and devices used by China’s “electronic countermeasures unit” (see Chinese article on this). State media said that 40 percent of the hardware on display had never previously been seen by the public.

Xinhua News Agency has a photo gallery of the parade, and you can see a video on SupChina’s Youtube channel. In English, Xinhua reported that “international experts” said that the parade “demonstrated the strength of the Chinese military, which contributes to safeguarding national security and world peace.” The People’s Daily summarized (in Chinese) the “five signals” the parade sent to the world, with the fifth perhaps being the most important:

  1. Troops on the battlefield showed the actual combat capability of the Chinese army;
  2. The grid formation of the troops shows how military reform and the realization of a strong army are inevitable;
  3. The equipment and work ethic of the troops make the Chinese army a world-class army;
  4. China is confident about the situation in the region;
  5. China has the confidence and strength to do whatever it wants to do.

All the top articles on state media for the last few days have been about the 90th anniversary of the PLA and the parade. The most widely spread story on July 31 is, in its English version: Xi’s inspiring speech brings confidence to Chinese nation.

Rhino in the crosshairs: Anbang to sell iconic Waldorf hotel  

Earlier in July, the People’s Daily published an editorial warning of the danger of “grey rhinos,” massive problems we can see but which we ignore until they start charging at us. The comment was widely interpreted to refer to the conglomerates Wanda, Anbang, Fosun International, and HNA, which have been using cheap credit to make enormous acquisitions abroad.

  • Bloomberg now reports that Anbang is being pressured by the government to sell New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, which it bought for $1.95 billion in 2014.
  • Reuters reports that Guo Guangchang 郭广昌, CEO of Fosun, backed the government clampdown, saying that “tougher rules on overseas deals were ‘essential and timely’ to root out risky investments,” but that “China’s support for rational overseas investment had not wavered.”

VPN clampdown getting real

Virtual private networks (VPNs) have been a popular tool to get around internet censorship of foreign websites in China for more than a decade. While the regulators have interfered with their operation, there has previously not been a sustained campaign against them. That seems to have changed:

  • In January, we noted that the internet and telecom regulator, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), published an order (in Chinese) specifically naming VPNs as a target for regulation.
  • Earlier in July, we reported that some Chinese VPN services have been shut down, while Bloomberg said that state-run telecommunications firms, including China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, have been ordered “to bar people from using VPNs.”
  • Apparently in response to Bloomberg’s report, MIIT released a statement saying that it will not block “legitimate access” to the global internet by local or foreign business and general users, while some pundits predicted that the VPN clampdown was mere rhetoric.

But the clampdown has teeth — over the weekend, Apple removed 60 VPN apps from its Chinese app store (see BBC report). I believe that the authorities aim to make it difficult for Chinese nationals and companies to use VPNs without completing a strict registration process, but it’s very possible that they will allow — with, of course, occasional interference — VPN services that do not target Chinese users and require an international credit card to be used.