Fury in South Africa and the China mistake

Access Archive

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Listen to this week’s Sinica Podcast: Kishore Mahbubani on China’s rise and America’s myopia

A ‘massive protest’ against a Tibetan leader’s visit to South Africa

On February 5, Lobsang Sangay, president of the Tibetan Government in Exile, arrived in South Africa for a four-day visit. He used an American passport and so did not require a visa, nor ask for permission from the South African government, but the Chinese government was not happy.

  • The Chinese embassy protested the visit to the South African government, reports the Daily Maverick, and issued a strongly worded statement saying the visit had “undermined the political trust between China and South Africa” and would discourage Chinese investment.

  • “The South African government is evidently furious at the Chinese embassy’s statement,” and although there’s been no official reaction, “privately officials are incensed that a ‘strategic partner’ could use such threatening language against South Africa,” according to the article.

  • “China did not seem to appreciate that South Africa was a democracy where the government did not have total control,” and could not arbitrarily stop a U.S. passport holder from entering, according to official sources who spoke to the Daily Maverick.  

  • South Africa has refused the Dalai Lama a visa three times over the last nine years. He travels on an Indian Identity Certificate, which requires a visa to enter South Africa.

  • “The sneaked-in head of ‘Tibetan Administration in Exile’ met with massive local protest” is the over-the-top title of the Chinese embassy statement, in reference to the apparent cancellation of a speaking event for Lobsang Sangay at Stellenbosch University, near Cape Town. The statement is accompanied by photos of demonstrators with signs — slogans include “One China” and “No opening door for the Tibetan separatist.” Here is the Chinese version of statement.

  • The embassy statement says that “Lobsang Sangay and his associates’ stay in South Africa and their attempted political show at the Stellenbosch University have generated fury among the common South Africans,” but that “furious opposition and rejection from the South African government, the ruling party, and people from across the society” led to the cancellation of all public activities.

  • The Daily Maverick noted that it was “unable to reach ‘common South Africans’ to confirm the embassy’s statement that Sangay’s visit had ‘generated fury’ among them.”

The China mistake?

“The U.S. erred in supporting China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO),” said a January 2018 report by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Andy Rothman, economist and investment strategist for Matthews Asia, argues that this is not only thoroughly misguided, but a “remarkable change in perspective” for an organization that was once a major cheerleader for China’s inclusion in the global trading body.

It’s not just USTR complaining that China’s membership in the WTO did not work out as advertised. Many businesspeople who once cheered China’s entrance into the trading body are disillusioned. And of course, Donald Trump has been complaining for years about lousy trade deals with China, a view that has now spread throughout the establishment in the U.S.  

“China’s 2001 entry into the WTO has delivered benefits to a wide range of both Americans and Chinese,” counters Rothman. For America, these include healthy, job-creating growth in exports to China of both manufactures and agricultural commodities. It’s worth reading Rothman’s whole argument. If you like the way he thinks, listen to these Sinica Podcasts: Why China bears are wrong and Trump and Xi Jinping: What lies ahead? Or, read this Q&A with Rothman on his early career in China, five must-read books, and how he responds if people call him a panda hugger.

What does ‘Community of Shared Destiny’ mean?

Today, the People’s Daily website’s top story (in Chinese) is “Xi Jinping’s ‘Community of Shared Destiny’ Thought.” It comprises video of foreign dignitaries praising Xi. The testimonials are introduced with a short text about a speech that Xi gave to the UN in 2017, in which the Chinese president “assumed the duties of the leader of a great power, and with the passion to take the whole world as his responsibility…explained the concept of humanity’s Community of Shared Destiny.”  

I was an editor of an entire book devoted to Shared Destiny, published in 2014. The book’s chief editor, Geremie Barmé, explains in the introduction that the expression was “featured in Chinese pronouncements from as early as 2007 when it was declared that the Mainland and Taiwan formed a Community of Shared Destiny.” Under Xi Jinping, he says, “Shared Destiny has become a catchall category for the country’s regional and broader global engagement at a time when the People’s Republic of China is under the leadership of a focused, powerful and articulate leader.” The physical expression of the Community of Shared Destiny is the Belt and Road Initiative, which happens to be the subject of Xinhua News Agency’s top story in Chinese today.

Short version: We’re here — get used to us.  

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief




  • Deodorant, tampons, and the wisdom of Carl Crow

Due to “cultural differences and simple biology,” many East Asian people simply don’t have the body odor issues of Westerners, leading to an endless stream of failures for foreign soap companies in China. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying.

Rumors are swirling about the suicide of the chairman of Zhejiang Jindun Fans after a stock market rout, and new revelations have come out about the mistress of disgraced Chongqing Party boss Sun Zhengcai.  

Mercedes-Benz’s #MondayMotivation Instagram plans went all wrong, as a quote from the Dalai Lama caught the ire of China’s People’s Daily, and the automaker was pressured to retract and apologize for the posting. It joins countless other Western companies that were chastised by China for online behavior over the years, including several in January 2018.

A prototype radio telescope that is 15 meters in diameter was unveiled in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, on February 6. Its design was a collaboration of 10 member countries, and after at least half a year of testing, it will be joined by a network of at least 130 other telescopes to study the universe and map the sky in unprecedented detail.


China’s premier from 2003 to 2013 is in the New York Times yet again, this time in a report on Duan Weihong 段伟红, aka Whitney Duan, 49. Duan had set up companies with some of Wen’s relatives, and was detained last year.  

Since the revolution in 1949, the government in Beijing has ordered Chinese Catholics to stay loyal to the government-sanctioned “patriotic” church instead of the international church headed by the Pope. Recent developments indicate that the Vatican may be negotiating a compromise with Beijing, but many of the faithful are unhappy.

A Filipino government spokesperson portrayed the island nation as “helpless in the face of China’s continued construction on Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef),” according to Rappler. Meanwhile, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published photographs obtained “from a source” that show significant Chinese military developments on seven reefs near the Philippines.

China’s military, particularly its navy, is setting its technological sights high. Recently, a senior research scientist revealed that the navy is designing artificial intelligence (AI) systems for submarines, and a ship with a compact mounted rail gun was seen docked in Wuhan.


A Chinese surgeon named Fang Peihu 方培虎 in Anhui Province reportedly died on December 16, 2017, aged 31, on his shift at the hospital. A statement from the hospital cited his cause of death as “illness triggered by long-term fatigue,” and a campaign was launched to encourage other healthcare staff “to study the spirit of Fang.” The campaign, however, backfired among Chinese medical workers.

A new report suggests that 52 percent of WeChat users aged 19 to 29 block their parents from viewing their Moments feed, a Facebook-like stream of status updates, photos, and videos. Why? Sixty-two percent of them said that their parents “are neurotic about everything,” and they also objected to nagging or said they wanted privacy.


Winter Olympics preview

With the 2018 Winter Olympics officially begun in PyeongChang, South Korea, we take a look at Team China’s prospects, including some of its best medal hopefuls — Xu Mengtao in aerial skiing, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong in pairs figure skating, Cai Xuetong in the snowboard halfpipe, and Fan Kexin in speed skating. Expect China to approach this year’s competition as a platform for 2022, when the Winter Olympics comes to Beijing and Zhangjiakou.

Team China brings an all-white look to the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. The internet is digging it.

The 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off on Friday, February 9, with an opening ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea. The highlight of the ceremony, in the eyes of Chinese sports fans, was the unconventional attire of the Chinese athletes.

Executive suspended after tossing cross-dressing performer to the ground at company party

A high-level executive at a clothing company in Shandong has been suspended, local media Dazhong.com reported today, after a video of his violent behavior toward a cross-dressing performer at the company’s annual holiday party went viral.

Video: Jin Xing argues that male mentality is still dominant in society

In a response to criticism about the conservativeness of her show, the talk show host says that Chinese society still revolves around patriarchy.

Sinica Podcast: Kishore Mahbubani on China’s rise and America’s myopia

A former Singaporean diplomat and professor of public policy at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School gives his take on globalization and China’s global relations in the 21st century.

996 Podcast: Tao Zhang of Dianping on merging with Meituan and the ‘groupon war’

GGV Capital’s Hans Tung and Zara Zhang interview Tao Zhang, the founder of Dianping, a lifestyle services company that is often known as “the Yelp of China” but is much more than that. In 2015, Dianping merged with the group buying giant Meituan. The new company, Meituan-Dianping, is now worth $30 billion and is the fourth most valuable startup in the world.

Video: Kris Wu makes history, becomes first Chinese performer at Super Bowl live concert

Kris Wu (吴亦凡 Wú Yìfán), a Chinese Canadian singer and actor born in Guangzhou, became the first Chinese singer to perform at a Super Bowl Live concert on Sunday when he took the stage in Minneapolis.

Personal insights into the frontier of Chinese biomedicine

A Q&A with Benjamin Stecher, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and has spent the past few years traveling the world, meeting experts, and discovering that China may be at the frontier of many biomedical technologies and experimental therapies.

China’s hottest granny, at 70, has big plans

By 2040, more than one-fourth of China’s population will be over 60 years old, up from 12 percent in 2010. The government wants seniors to remain active in society, and there’s no better example of it than Han Bin, a model and spokeswoman who rose to fame after winning last year the Miss China Tourism International “Golden Ambassador,” a beauty pageant for women over 40.


Homeward bound

Thousands of travelers pass through the Shenzhen railway station during the Spring Festival travel season, also referred to as chunyun (春运 chūnyùn). It’s the world’s largest annual human migration, as millions of migrant workers travel home for the Chinese New Year.

Jia Guo