Today’s top stories are numbered below, with the usual collection of links beneath.
1.Xi reviews massive naval parade, live-fire drill in Taiwan Strait announced
“The Central Military Commission [CMC] holds a grand naval parade in the territorial waters of the South China Sea” is the top story (in Chinese) on China’s Ministry of Defense website. CMC chairman Xi Jinping, in Hainan to give a speech pledging open markets, visited a nearby patch of ocean to review a massive procession of naval forces.
- A total of 48 warships, 76 aircraft, and more than 10,000 troops took part, including “the aircraft carrier Liaoning and latest submarines, vessels and fighter jets,” according to Xinhua News Agency.
- It was the largest naval display since the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). State media have heavily promoted a Xinhua article (in Chinese) about the exercise, focusing on Xi’s call for PLAN to become a “first-rate navy” (一流海军 yīliú hǎijūn).
- China’s defense ministry also announced a live-fire drill to take place in the Taiwan Strait on April 18, with a simple bilingual statement on its website.
- The live-fire drills are “a surprise move,” the South China Morning Post stated. According to a military analyst quoted in the article, the drill was “a show of support to China’s strategic partner Russia, diverting attention from the crisis in Syria after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened a strike against Syrian forces.”
- The navy had scheduled three days of exercises, but ended them a day early, according to the Associated Press, noting that “no explanation was given for the curtailment of the drills or the Taiwan Strait exercise, and the defense ministry did not immediately respond to questions.”
- The live-fire exercise “is the first to be disclosed in at least two years,” says Bloomberg, adding that the announcement “follows weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a law that would elevate the island’s diplomatic status by allowing high-level official visits,” and that cross-Strait tensions “have been steadily rising since Taiwan’s 2016 election, which replaced a China-friendly government with one run by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.”
2.Fishy business in the salmon trade
A Norwegian citizen identified only by the surname Dong has been arrested in China for leading “a smuggling crime syndicate,” which authorities say had illegally imported salmon worth 620 million yuan ($100 million) from Norway. Dong was one of 17 people detained by Chinese customs in raids in March in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian.
- “Official sources in Oslo” told the Financial Times (paywall) that a Dong Yimin, “a Norwegian citizen and a significant figure in the salmon trade, had been detained in China,” but would not comment on the connection with salmon smuggling.
- The fish is usually smuggled into China through Vietnam, to get around import duties on fresh salmon, which the FT says are “22 per cent, about half of which is an import tariff and half a value added tax charged at the border.”
- Dong Yimin had long-standing ties to SalMar, one of Norway’s producers of farmed salmon, and the world’s largest. The company’s chairman told the FT: “She has been a close partner to SalMar . . . and well known to all in the business, as for numerous other salmon producers for more that a decade.” He also said he believed she was “innocent until otherwise proven.”
- “Norwegian salmon was smuggled into China in significant quantities as tensions between the two countries after the award by the Oslo-based Nobel Peace Prize committee to Liu Xiaobo 刘晓波, a Chinese dissident, in 2010, led China to effectively block direct imports of fresh salmon from Norway,” according to Undercurrent, a seafood industry website. But the SalMar chairman told the FT, “It goes without saying that SalMar has not been involved in any illegal export of salmon to China or to any other country.”
- Norway’s three largest salmon farmers — Marine Harvest, Cermaq Group, and Leroy Seafood Group — all denied they were selling salmon to China via Vietnam, according to a separate article on Undercurrent.
- “Most people know that the fish sent to Vietnam is smuggled into China,” one Norwegian salmon exporter told IntraFish (paywall), “but it’s not Norwegians that are doing anything wrong, they only sell the fish to Vietnam… Believing that all fish coming from Norway is being sent legally into China is naive.” Naive indeed, although the same could be said about nearly every commodity and product imported into China: There is always a black market.
3. Shutdown of popular humor app sparks unusual backlash
Angry fans of Neihan Duanzi 内涵段子, an app where users can share jokes and all kinds of viral content on the Chinese internet, are rallying online after the app was permanently shuttered by China’s media regulator on April 10.
The shutdown of the app by the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) was one of several recent censorship actions against the company that created it, Bytedance.
“I am profoundly disappointed. When I felt down, this app could always bring me joy. SAPPRFT, what’s wrong with you?,” a typical post reads (in Chinese).
With more than 200 million users, the app nurtured a closely connected digital cultural community where everyone called themselves duanyou (段友 duànyǒu), which literally means “friends of Duanzi.” They used coded signals to greet each other in real life, put stickers on their cars to demonstrate their identities, gathered offline on a regular basis, and even did charity work together. There’s speculation that the app’s abrupt shutdown is partly due to the group’s ability to organize offline activities, allowing it to rapidly mobilize its members like a political party.
You can read more about Neihan Duanzi and its community on SupChina.
4. Things you should read
- Buying Chinese IP just got more complicated for foreigners: An all-star cast of scholars — Rogier Creemers, Graham Webster, Abigail Coplin, and Paul Triolo — write on new rules in China that mandate national security reviews before intellectual property (IP) may be transferred to foreign entities. The scholars say that “the authorities focused on three key sectors — semiconductors, software, and new plant varieties.”
- Fallen Chinese political star Sun Zhengcai 孙政才 admits taking US$27 million in bribes: The South China Morning Post on the humbling end of the career of a man once thought to be in line for the presidency.
- Overlooked no more: Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng, chroniclers of Chinese architecture: The New York Times publishes a belated obituary for the couple who, in the 1930s, “began surveying and recording the country’s overlooked ancient buildings, in an effort to begin preserving them.”