This is a takeover.

Access Archive

Welcome to Access if you just subscribed this week! If you haven’t also joined us on the instant-messaging service Slack, check your email inbox — you should have received an invite from my colleague Lucas. Come and join our conversation! We have live “office hours” at 11 a.m. EST every Thursday, but send in questions and comments or just introduce yourself anytime.

The government takes over Anbang, owner of the Waldorf Astoria

The People’s Daily reports (in Chinese) that the acquisitive insurance group Anbang has been taken over by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), which will maintain control over it for one year. CIRC says it will continue normal operations and protect consumer rights. Anbang’s billionaire chairman, Wu Xiaohui 吴小晖, has been charged with ”economic crimes,” and CIRC says that “illegal business practices” may threaten the solvency of the company. CIRC’s statement is here (in Chinese).

Anbang was founded in 2004 in Beijing as a property insurance business. The state-owned Shanghai Automotive Industries (SAIC) and state-owned oil company Sinopec each hold about a 20 percent stake in Anbang. The company leaped to international prominence in 2014 with a string of international acquisitions, most prominent of which was the purchase of New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Everything started to go south in June last year, when Wu Xiaohui was taken away on June 9 by the relevant organs (被有关部门带走 bèi yǒuguān bùmén dài zǒu) — in other words, detained by the authorities. There has not been much news about Anbang since then, until today.

Although Anbang has been under government scrutiny for some time, Bloomberg says that “the takeover still came as a shock,” noting that just last week, the CEO of the Hilton hotel group, which manages the Waldorf Astoria hotel for Anbang, “downplayed talk that the Chinese insurer was selling the hotel.” Now, says Bloomberg, “Hilton will find itself working with the Chinese government.”

Other reports on the Anbang affair:

The never-ending debate about Beijing influence in Australia

Since last year, the chattering classes of Australia have been debating the dangers of influence operations and espionage directed from Beijing.

  • The latest salvo comes from Mandarin-speaking former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who argues that current prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has done an “about-face on China, from apologist to McCarthyist.”

  • Rudd also says that his government had “a systematic, comprehensive, whole-of-government national China strategy,” whereas “Turnbull has lurched from one extreme to the other.” He characterizes Turnbull’s new posture on China as “a simple political opportunity to look hairy-chested, to paint Labor [Rudd’s party] as a pack of fifth columnists for the Chinese Communist Party, and through his jihad against ‘agents of influence’ smear the 1.2 million strong Australian-Chinese community and their loyalty to Australia.”

  • It’s not clear how seriously Rudd’s comments will be taken in Australia. Some of his countrymen may remember his recent Weibo post — since deleted — in which he says he is studying the Party’s report from the 19th Congress, and repeats Xi Jinping’s “New Era” catchphrase.

A message for you, our dear Access member

Next week, we will start live chat sessions on Slack with special guests, and you’ll be able to ask subject experts any question you like. I’ll email you as soon as we have times confirmed.

Note that this is the link for the SupChina Access Slack channel. Bookmark it for easy access! Slack also has a mobile app for iOS and Android, which you can set up to give you notifications (if you so desire) when there is conversation happening on the Access channel.

We really appreciate your support as Access members. Please chat with us on Slack, contact me at, or reach out to our whole editorial team at anytime. We love feedback!

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


  • Tencent’s biggest investor is a little-known South African media group
    Tencent, once an obscure messaging service of little interest outside China, is now one of the world’s largest internet companies and one of the largest of any kind by market capitalization. Its largest investor, a South African media company called Naspers, is unusual in many ways.

  • How brands use fake followers on Chinese social media
    Fake followers are a “fundamental part” of Chinese social media. Weibo bots make up as much as 40 percent of the platform’s active users, triple the proportion on Twitter. But most Western brands have no clue about the role of bots on the Chinese internet when they first open their accounts.

  • China’s box office enjoys another record-smashing Spring Festival holiday
    Moviegoing has become a national pastime for the Chinese during the Spring Festival. As of Wednesday, the movies that debuted in China’s theaters during the Chinese New Year holiday have racked up a cumulative $882 million, nearly twice as much as the box office gross during this period last year. Also: MC Tianyou has been banned from livestreaming.


  • U.S. Secret Service denies it tackled Chinese official during Trump visit to Beijing
    U.S. Secret Service agents tackled a Chinese security official during a scuffle in Beijing in November as the American military aide carrying the “nuclear football” was refused entry to the Great Hall of the People, according to Axios. The Secret Service denied that the incident took place, but the rumors run deep.

  • The anxiety of Chinese influence
    Anne-Marie Brady, a New Zealand scholar who has published on Chinese overseas influence operations, had her office and home broken into and her contacts in China questioned by police. She and New Zealand’s prime minister suspect these facts may all be connected. Meanwhile, Australia and the U.S. continue to debate about how to respond to Beijing’s overseas influence.

  • The Quad vs. China’s Belt and Road
    The American government is coordinating with Australia, Japan, and India to counter China’s infrastructure plans (the Belt and Road), the Australian Financial Review reported. The “Quad” is looking to deepen its security and economic cooperation since resuming meetings last November after many years.

  • U.S. reinforces its relationship with Taiwan as part of a pushback on Beijing’s influence
    As Taiwan faces new tests in its relationship with mainland China, the U.S. is standing by Taiwan as part of its pushback on Beijing’s regional influence. A congressional delegation visited Taipei this week to convey its “love for Taiwan,” while an arms sale forum in Taiwan and upgrading of the American Institute in Taiwan are planned for this summer.


  • Peter Wang, hero to some
    A 15-year-old boy who was killed, along with 16 others, in a school shooting in Florida last week was revealed to be Chinese American and to have spent part of his childhood in China. This earned him a prominent story in China’s People’s Daily, though on social media, the reaction to his death was mixed and muted.

  • Chinese supermodel Liu Wen in a controversy for wishing her Instagram followers ‘Happy Lunar New Year’
    Thirty-year-old Chinese model Liu Wen 刘雯 is under fire for not wishing her 3.7 million Instagram followers a “Happy Chinese New Year.” Instead, she wrote “Happy Lunar New Year.”

  • Terracotta warrior’s stolen thumb triggers outrage from China
    The theft of a thumb of a 2,000-year-old terracotta warrior on display in the U.S. has provoked anger from Chinese internet users and the cultural relics authority of the city of Xi’an, which called for “severe punishment” to be imposed on the perpetrator.


China has no problem with racism, and that’s a problem

Zheng Churan, one of China’s Feminist Five, comments on CCTV’s recent Africa skit and the racism of the country’s newly rich.

China Sports Column: How badly was China screwed in short-track speed skating?

Short track is “the fast and the furious” of the Olympics and is notoriously unpredictable. But for the expectant Chinese public, there was something fishy going on. Time and again, Chinese skaters were penalized while their Korean counterparts were given a pass. It all came to a head in the women’s 3,000m relay final, which ended in massive controversy. Also in this week’s column: The NBA’s JJ Redick gave a truly baffling Chinese New Year’s greeting, and Ping-Pong debuted at the New York Philharmonic.

SupChina Quiz: Modern Chinese History, Late Qing and Republican Era

Take a 12-question quiz about modern China, from the late Qing dynasty to the Republican Era, featuring the likes of Sun Yat-sen, the Empress Dowager Cixi, Zhang Xueliang, Hong Xiuquan, and many more. Tweet your score at us @supchinanews!

Did you REALLY just ask me ‘Are Chinese girls easy?’

A story we published last week on how Chinese internet users interpret the ugly stereotype of the Asian “easy girl” provoked a far-ranging and spirited discussion across our channels. Yajun Zhang offers her response.

Video: The DACA crisis and a Chinese Dreamer

While the majority of DACA recipients are from Mexico, 200,000 come from countries in Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. In this video, Antonio tells his story of being a Chinese-American DACA recipient.

The laws that prompt motorists to kill injured accident victims

On October 13, 2011, a vehicle knocked down two-year-old Wang Yue 王悦 on a narrow street in Foshan. As she lay on the ground underneath the van, the driver paused for a second, pulled forward, and ran over the little girl again. The case is not the first nor the last of its kind, as China seems to have a history of drivers trying to kill pedestrians, often by running over them multiple times, after they make the first hit.

Sinica Podcast: The China Questions, with Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi

Two China historians discuss their new book: a collection of answers to many questions that ordinary people ask about China, written by the star team of scholars at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.


Peking opera

Peking Opera actors perform at a temple fair in Lianhuachi Park in Beijing during the Spring Festival in 2010.  

Jia Guo