Facebook tries to go to China, again – China’s latest top news

Jeremy Goldkorn’s selection of the top stories from China on August 11, 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.

Mark Zuckerberg can’t stay away

Facebook and its subsidiary services Instagram and WhatsApp are of course blocked in China despite the company founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s long-running courting of President Xi Jinping. But the New York Times reveals (paywall), courtesy of an anonymous source, that Facebook “is trying a different way into China,” with the release of a photo-sharing app, called Colorful Balloons (彩色气球 cǎisè qìqiú), which does not carry the Facebook name and is not publicly identified with the Silicon Valley company.

New world disorder

North Korea

  • An opinion piece in the English version of the state-owned Global Times says that China should make it clear “that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” but that China would “prevent” the U.S. and South Korea from trying to “overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula.”
  • See “Who speaks for the Chinese government?” on SupChina for more on how seriously to take the Global Times.
  • Meanwhile, the Associated Press says that despite all the jingoistic talk from both sides, the Trump and Kim governments have been in regular contact using back channels.

Standoff in the Himalayas

If I were a betting man, I’d say military conflict on the Korean Peninsula is less likely than open conflict resulting from the ongoing standoff between India and China. Worth noting today:

  • Reuters reports that India is stepping up “operational readiness” on its border with China.
  • A hawkish commentary in the Times of India says that not only is India not “on the back foot” in the standoff, but that it marks “the first serious Indian (and arguably global) pushback to Chinese salami tactics.”
  • Hari Bansh Jha, executive director of the Centre for Economic and Technical Studies in Nepal, asks if his country can continue to stay neutral as tensions between India and China ramp up. Nepal stayed neutral in the 1962 Sino-Indian border war.

Another day, another censorship order

Reuters reports that China’s Cyberspace Administration said it was investigating Tencent’s mobile and social app WeChat, Baidu’s forum Tieba, and social platform Weibo for “failing to comply with strict new laws that ban content that is obscene, violent and deemed offensive by the Communist Party.”

Meanwhile, the VPN crackdown we’ve been reporting on for months continues: Previously the authorities seem to have focused on getting rid of VPN software from app stores and platforms. Now the BBC reports that the authorities are going after app developers themselves.

Urban eye candy

Some photos for the weekend:

  • On the Asia Society website, a gallery of 17 drone photographs that “reveal how urbanization has changed China.”
  • ArchDaily has photos of the “world’s tallest atrium” in a skyscraper under construction in Beijing. The building was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, a firm responsible for many of Beijing’s more unusual buildings, including…
  • …the new Beijing airport, still under construction, destined to be the world’s largest aviation hub.