Five things you should pay attention to today:
1: ‘China is open’ set pieces at Boao to dominate the news
This week, we can expect plenty of speeches and pageantry at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), the Davos-like gathering organized by China every year on Hainan Island since 2001. Xi Jinping speaks tomorrow:
- Xi will do three important things at Boao, according to the People’s Daily’s top web headline (in Chinese): authoritatively explain China’s further reforms, put vitality into the concept of the Community of Shared Destiny, and build the BFA into, you guessed it, a “win-win” platform.
- Xi will contrast China’s “openness” with American protectionism: As the People’s Daily says in a separate article, “with rising populism and protectionism, some countries have become reluctant to offer international public products and even undermined the multilateral international system.”
- Xi has a “tricky balance to strike,” according to Bloomberg: “He’s got to show he’s ready to retaliate against U.S. trade threats while demonstrating China’s commitment to opening up.”
- Will Xi announce the creation of a new free-trade port on Hainan? Last week, we covered speculation that Hainan might become the first of a new type of free-trade port that “would enjoy much greater freedom in terms of policymaking than existing free-trade zones and be more open in terms of market access.”
- Is gambling coming to Hainan? Bloomberg says that Hainan’s business elite are hoping that Xi announces policies that draw more tourists, which will “set off a policy roadmap that eventually ends with regulated casinos.”
2: China’s still not scared of a trade war
I am itching to call it a trade war, but it still remains a war of words. CNN is calling it a “trade battle,” and offers this helpful timeline of the events that have led us to this point.
Meanwhile, as we noted in our Friday newsletter for Access members — China’s weapons in the duel against Trump — there is a new social media campaign encouraged or orchestrated by the People’s Daily called “China’s not scared!” #中国不是吓大的#.
The government could easily nurture truly massive popular support if a real trade war breaks out, judging from the enthusiasm of the public response. Further reading:
- China is studying yuan devaluation as a tool in trade spat / Bloomberg
- China elites seek to de-escalate trade tension before Xi speech / FT (paywall)
- Conservative Koch brothers network breaks with Trump over brewing trade war with China / CNBC
- Kudlow says China has not wanted to ‘talk in earnest’ amid tariff threats / CNN
3: $3 billion valuation for a Chinese facial recognition firm
SenseTime is a Chinese company that sells powerful facial recognition tools — the police are a big customer, and other artificial intelligence (AI) products.
- SenseTime has raised $600 million from Alibaba and other investors “at a valuation of more than $3 billion, becoming the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup,” according to Bloomberg.
- “Autonomous driving and augmented reality” are new areas that SenseTime plans to develop.
- Four hundred percent! That’s the average annual revenue growth of SenseTime over the last three years, according to a company executive quoted by Bloomberg.
- For more on Chinese facial recognition companies, watch this video by Wall Street Journal correspondent Josh Chin — he visits the SenseTime offices at time stamp 3:00.
4: Today in censorship
TechNode reports: “Four of China’s most popular news apps have disappeared from Chinese app stores as of 3pm today.” The authorities ordered the suspension of the apps, citing the need to regulate the dissemination of news “in a legal manner,” according to media reports. The apps will become available again after the specified period:
- The affected apps are: Jinri Toutiao (three-week suspension), Phoenix News (two weeks), NetEase News (one week), and Tiantian News (three days).
- Bytedance, the company behind Jinri Toutiao, is one of the most-talked-about tech companies in China today. Here is a 996 Podcast with Liu Zhen 柳甄, senior vice president of Bytedance.
- Short video platform Kuaishou “is planning to add around 3,000 content checkers to its existing 2,000-member team” to censor content, according to TechNode. Last week, China’s news and media regulator demanded that Kuaishou and Jinri Toutiao clean up their act. One of Kuaishou’s sins was allowing videos of teenage mothers to become popular.
More censorship news: The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications is spearheading three campaigns that will run until November “against illicit cultural content,” according to Xinhua News Agency. The three campaigns target:
- “Cultural content for children” that is “harmful to the healthy growth of minors”
- “Fake news…fake news organizations and journalists, [and] ‘news extortion’”
5: Professor suspended over sexual misconduct and rape 20 years after his student’s suicide
Shen Yang 沈阳, a Nanjing University literature professor, has been accused of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1990s. One victim, Gao Yan 高岩, studied under Shen at Peking University (PKU); her friends say she was driven to suicide after he sexually harassed and raped her. Jiayun Feng has details of the story, including the as-yet-unresolved conflict between PKU and students demanding transparency about the case.