Anti-China protests in Vietnam

Access Archive


Announcements for Access members:

  • Join us on Slack this Tuesday for a chat with Joanna Chiu, chair of NuVoices and author of a viral Foreign Policy piece on sexism among journalists abroad. The conversation starts at 9:30 a.m. EST, June 12. Bookmark our Slack channel link: supchina.slack.com. Send us your questions ahead of time if you can’t attend!

  • The video recording of last month’s SupChina Women’s Conference is finally uploaded! Our apologies, as a technical glitch prevented us from uploading sooner. As promised, all Access members get this link for free: Women and China: How women are shaping the rising global power (unlisted Youtube playlist of all conference panels and speaker remarks).

—Jeremy Goldkorn and team


Click HereHi, Access member,

To repeat my request from Friday: We’re taking suggestions from you for topics for a long-form or investigative piece of journalism, which we will put human and financial resources into. Just let me know your thoughts at jeremy@supchina.com.

For today, we’ve got six stories for you at the top. Have a great week!

—Jeremy

1. Anti-China protests in Vietnam

Vietnamese protesters took to the streets to oppose draft legislation creating three special economic zones. The protesters say the rules will leave Vietnam vulnerable to exploitation from Chinese companies, the South China Morning Post reports.

  • Protesters gathered in Nha Trang, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City holding banners that said “khong cho” (no trading) among government appeals to go home.

  • Dozens have been arrested for offenses such as disseminating information related to protests.

  • While the proposed special economic zones do not explicitly favor Chinese investment, protesters see Chinese companies as obvious candidates given China’s recent push into foreign markets and government initiatives such as the Belt and Road.

  • This legislation has exacerbated pre-existing tensions from Beijing’s activity in Vietnamese-claimed regions of the South China Sea, as well as a recent chemical spill from a Taiwanese company, according to the Financial Times (paywall).

  • Although China has warned its citizens against traveling in Vietnam due to “illegal gatherings” and “anti-China content,” Chinese-invested factories are operating as normal.

  • “The Chinese embassy in Hanoi posted a notice on its website referring to the protests as ‘illegal gatherings’ that had included some ‘anti-China content,’” reports Reuters.

Reactions in Vietnamese media and social media are varied:

  • “Authorities have identified many of the protesters as young, unemployed drug addicts with existing criminal records,” said an official from Binh Thuan Province, according to VN Express.

  • Police detained 102 protesters in the same incident in Binh Thuan, which authorities called “riot-like,” says Tuoitre News, which reports that an “angry mob assaulted police officers and broke into a state building, causing substantial damage.”

  • Protest signs: On Twitter, Saigonese and Anh Chí have posted galleries, including images of riot police. Linh Lan has street photos and video clips. BBC journalist Nga Pham also has photos and updated information on the protests.

  • “The Vietnam public rallies today not only targeted Beijing, but were also a rage against an elite whose revolutionary ideals have been nearly captured by property interest groups; proposed tax hikes being single-handedly targeted at middle income earners; environmental crisis,” argues Chelsea Nguyen 阮明玉 on Twitter. Her feed is worth a read if you’re interested in Vietnam and the current goings-on.

Click Here

2. Whose traditional fishing grounds?

“My family thinks I am a little bit of a nut case,” says Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s fisheries minister, in a New York Times profile (paywall), which says she is “taking on China” by “seizing illegal fishing boats and sometime blowing them up, saving fish but aggravating her bosses.”

  • Pudjiastuti is a former seafood and aviation magnate who never finished high school. She chain-smokes and “likes her coffee black and her alcohol only in the form of champagne,” says the Times.

  • Although Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation, with more than 13,000 islands, Pudjiastuti “inherited a ministry that was in danger of being eliminated” when she was put in charge of fisheries in 2014.

  • Pudjiastuti has not targeted China alone — she has blown up “hundreds” of impounded foreign vessels — but the Times says “it is Ms. Pudjiastuti’s entanglements with the Chinese that have created the greatest uproar.”

  • Money quote: “The Indonesians sailed all the way to Madagascar in ancient times. Should we claim the entire Indian Ocean as our ‘traditional fishing grounds’?”

Meanwhile, a little to the north, China and the Philippines are also fighting about fish again. Reuters reports that the Philippines government on Monday “asked Beijing to stop the Chinese coast guard from taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, describing such actions as unacceptable.”

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3. Truck driver protests

Chinese truck drivers have been protesting since Friday, June 8, about a variety of grievances, ranging from traffic laws to gas prices to stagnant wages.

  • Activists have taken to social media to rally “30 million truck drivers” across China, according to China Labour Bulletin and Radio Free Asia.

  • “Collective protests by truck drivers have been recorded in at least a dozen locations in Shandong, Sichuan, Chongqing, Anhui, Guizhou, Jiangxi, Shanghai, Hubei, Henan and Zhejiang,” according to China Labour Bulletin. There have also been videos posted online showing “long caravans of trucks bearing banners and slogans,” but such postings have mostly been censored and it is “virtually impossible to assess the actual extent of the strike.”

  • Online contracting platforms such as Yun Man Man are one focus of the truck drivers’ grievances. Like Uber and Didi, these platforms encourage ruthless competition between contractors and drivers themselves.

  • The state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions recently began a push for membership within the transportation sector, but failed to prevent protests among drivers, including van drivers, truck drivers, and food delivery workers.

—Jeremy Goldkorn and Lucy Best

4. Durex exam joke does not impress Shanghai newspaper

Durex reportedly has a 45 percent share of the condom market in China. And although talking about sex in public still remains far from common, Durex’s Weibo feed (in Chinese) is very popular for its risqué use of trending topics in witty posts about condoms. But one recent Weibo post from the condom company annoyed a Shanghai newspaper:

On June 5 — one day before this year’s three-day gaokao session began — Durex posted a photo resembling the top of a gaokao answer sheet with a list of items for test takers to pay attention to. They are mostly double entendres. For example: “Untie” it before getting to it, Remember to flip over, Control the tempo, and Put extra effort in designated areas.

While most internet users were, as usual, impressed by the brand’s creativity, the Shanghai Morning Post 新闻晨报 published a commentary (in Chinese) on June 7, criticizing Durex for vulgarity and for targeting teenagers. For a screenshot of the original Durex post and more on the Shanghai Morning Post reaction, please click through to SupChina.

—Jiayun Feng

5. The greatest show in diplomatic history opens in Singapore  

The world is abuzz over the June 12 summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

Most commentary, such as that of Korea scholar Robert Kelly on his blog, focuses on tamping down expectations for the meeting, primarily due to Trump’s unpreparedness. Kelly writes:

“My guess, the summit will be a nothingburger. The strategic and ideological divisions between the two sides are too wide for such a tight timetable, and Trump is way too checked-out from the details of nuclear missiles to seriously bargain the issue. Even Trump is now saying it’s just a ‘get to know each other’ meeting, which is a default win for the Norks, because they get the photo-ops. So wait, why are we even doing this now?

Evan Osnos suggests in the New Yorker an obvious, yet commonly glossed-over possible answer to that question: Because Kim Jong-un genuinely wants a change for his country, possibly even in the mold of China’s “reform and opening up” (改革开放 gǎigékāifàng).

  • North Korea’s citizenry increasingly demands greater opportunities to engage in profit-making businesses and to build a modern life, and Kim likely senses that his grip on power could be threatened if he does not accommodate this trend over the next 5-10 years, according to the experts and intelligence reports that Osnos cites.

  • Those economic opportunities would primarily come from China, despite the offer being put on the table by Trump on behalf of the U.S. in Singapore, Reuters reports.

  • China’s leadership model has become closer to North Korea’s, in that collective leadership and term limits are now treated as completely optional.

And here’s how China is influencing the negotiations:

  • An Air China Boeing 747 flew Kim down to Singapore, engaging in what Bloomberg dubbed (paywall) “jumbo jet diplomacy.”

  • That diplomacy wasn’t intended for the Chinese public, it seems, as censors scrubbed mention of the Boeing 747 from Weibo prior to its landing at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

  • China has done its best to ensure North Korea’s loyalty, hosting Kim Jong-un in China two times in as many months leading up to the Singapore summit. But Chinese officials still feel that there is a small but worryingly high chance that “Kim might try to counterbalance China’s influence by embracing the United States, North Korea’s longtime enemy,” the New York Times reports (paywall).

  • China is almost certainly placing listening devices in everything it can get its hands on near the hotel in Singapore. NBC gives a rundown of recent run-ins that American officials have had with Chinese bugging in Beijing and espionage at high-profile meetings, and Richard McGregor, an expert on Chinese politics, joked that the use of an Air China plane by Kim ensured that China would be “the best-informed third party at this summit.”

—Lucas Niewenhuis

6. Xi and Putin toast the SCO, as Trump tears apart G7

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an annual forum for China, Russia, and a variety of Eurasian states to discuss political, economic, and security issues. This year, as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin were toasting to the expansion of the SCO, U.S. President Donald Trump left the Group of Seven nations (G7) “in turmoil” this past weekend.

  • Pictures from the two summits have made a big splash, with numerous media — including the People’s Daily’s own Twitter feed — posting an already-iconic photo of Trump, sitting with arms crossed among other G7 leaders, next to images of SCO camaraderie to represent an isolated U.S. and an ascendent China.

  • The SCO, unlike the G7 meeting, ended in a joint statement, which added to the sense that the events of the weekend were a big PR win for China, CNN said.

  • India and China in particular agreed to settle a dispute over the flood-prone Brahmaputra River and to amend some requirements on Indian rice exports, the SCMP reports.

  • Xi Jinping also took the opportunity to extoll free trade, even slinging a side shot at President Trump with this line in his speech: “We should reject selfish, short-sighted, narrow and closed-off policies. We must maintain the rules of the World Trade Organization, support the multilateral trade system and build an open global economy.”

  • China offered 30 billion yuan (US$4.7 billion) in loans at the summit, Reuters reports, somewhat diminishing the criticism that the organization is much ado about little.

  • Not everything was hunky-dory at the SCO, however, as India again declined to endorse Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the future of Russia-China relations remains murky.

—Amy Tianyi Zhao and Lucas Niewenhuis

—–

Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at jeremy@supchina.com.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

  • More on North Korea
    Scoop: Trump open to U.S. embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea / Axios
    “President Trump is willing to consider establishing official relations with North Korea and even eventually putting an embassy in Pyongyang, according to two sources familiar with preparations for the Singapore summit.”
    U.S.-North Korea solution must involve China: Former U.S. negotiator / Caixin Global
    Trump-Kim summit: Three questions about China’s role / BBC
    China may take bigger role as ‘guarantor and mediator’ after Trump-Kim nuclear talks / SCMP
    “Beijing is expected to take a bigger role in Korean Peninsula negotiations after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet on Tuesday — helping the two sides to push forward any deals they make. The role would be as a ‘guarantor,’ Chinese analysts say, not just of progress on the denuclearization Washington is seeking, but also to ensure what Kim wants most: the safety of his regime.”

  • Taiwan
    U.S. officials arrive for AIT dedication / Taipei Times
    “U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce yesterday arrived in Taiwan for a four-day visit that includes tomorrow’s dedication ceremony for the American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT) new complex in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.”

  • China hacked a Navy contractor
    China hacked a Navy contractor and secured a trove of highly sensitive data on submarine warfare / Washington Post
    “The Washington Post agreed to withhold certain details about the compromised missile project at the request of the Navy, which argued that their release could harm national security… The data stolen was of a highly sensitive nature despite being housed on the contractor’s unclassified network.”

  • Trade war twists
    Scoop: Trump tells Macron the EU is “worse” than China / Axios
    “In their bilateral meeting in the White House’s Cabinet Room, on April 24, Macron said to Trump, ‘Let’s work together, we both have a China problem,’ according to a source in the room. The source said Trump responded that the European Union is ‘worse than China.’ He then went on a rant about Germany and cars.”
    Donald Trump is alienating allies the U.S. needs to confront China on trade, panel warns / SCMP
    “Members of a U.S. government advisory panel called on President Donald Trump to join with the EU, Japan and other allies to form a united front against China, and added that his aggressive trade actions against longtime U.S. partners could undermine that effort. The comments came during a special meeting of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Friday in Washington.”

  • Squeezing (and squeezing and squeezing) the activists of Hong Kong
    Hong Kong sentences activist Leung to 6 years in prison / AP
    “A Hong Kong court sentenced activist Edward Leung to six years in prison on Monday for his part in a violent nightlong clash with police over illegal street food hawkers two years ago.” Meanwhile, Hong Kong Free Press reports that Hong Kong’s last governor under British rule, Chris Patten, has criticized the Public Order Ordinance under which Leung was prosecuted “for failing to conform to United Nations human rights standards.”

  • U.S. crackdown on China espionage
    Former CIA officer Kevin Mallory found guilty of selling secrets to China / Washington Post (paywall)
    “Kevin Mallory has always been a risk-taker. In a 20-year career in intelligence, he violated the terms of his top secret security clearance at least twice.” Mallory was caught with $16,500 in his luggage a year ago, and initially charged with spying for China at that time. Three other U.S. officials have been charged with espionage related to China in the past year — read about them here on SupChina.

  • Chinese support of Qatar
    China a pillar of strength in Qatar’s fightback against Arab blockade / SCMP
    “From snapping up Qatar’s energy supplies and filling in with the merchandise that used to come from its neighbors, to building the country’s main football stadium for the 2022 World Cup, the Asian giant has been a pillar of strength in Qatar’s fightback.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • Vegetarians
    Veggie values / World of Chinese
    “There are now around 50 million vegetarians in China, Xinhua estimates — about 3.5 percent of the population. ‘In the future, China will become the number one vegetarian country,’ predicts Tang Li, founder and head of the Chinese Vegetarian Association.” See also: Vegans in China on SupChina.

  • Mystery French woman outbids 17 Chinese buyers for imperial treasure
    Rare 18th-century Chinese moon flask sells for US$4.8 million to French woman / SCMP
    “A rare porcelain moon flask that belonged to the 18th-century Chinese Emperor Qianlong has been sold for €4.1 million (US$4.8 million) after a bidding war at an auction in France.” The flask is round, hence the lunar name. The SCMP says the French woman “outbid 17 Chinese buyers during a sale that lasted about 10 minutes according to auctioneers who described the buy as ‘historic and legendary.’”

  • Eccentric illegal construction
    Chinese man builds illegal swimming pool on tower block roof / SCMP
    A man who built a swimming pool on top of a six-story apartment building in Daguan County in Yunnan Province “has been ordered to dismantle it amid fears it could collapse and jeopardize other residents’ safety.”

  • Public safety
    Electrocution deaths worry residents of flooded Guangdong / Sixth Tone
    “Following several days of torrential rain in southern China, residents of Guangzhou and neighboring Foshan are concerned that the cities’ power poles and electric bus stop signs may have been responsible for the deaths of at least four citizens.”

  • Copycat architecture
    Egypt furious at China as replica Sphinx reappears at culture park / SCMP
    “A full-size replica of the Great Sphinx of Giza has reappeared in northern China, two years after authorities in Egypt appealed for it to be torn down; and Cairo is roaring once more. The dispute began in 2014, when the 20-meter-high by 60-meter-long statue was unveiled at a cultural industry zone in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, Chinese news website Guancha.cn reported on Sunday.”

  • Rural poverty
    The forgotten farm families in Beijing’s anti-poverty campaign: How China’s rural poor fall through the cracks / SCMP
    The story of a single mother of five in northwestern Ningxia who was denied government aid  and rejected her neighbors’ idea that she sell her daughters. There is still a lot of work to do to meet the country’s goal of eradicating poverty within two years.


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PHOTO FROM MICHAEL YAMASHITA

Dentist office sign  

A hand-painted sign in Uyghur script for a dentist’s office in Kashgar, an oasis city in Xinjiang Province, in the early 1990s. The Uyghur language was traditionally written using a version of the Arabic alphabet, but after the 1940 revolution, an adapted form of Cyrillic was introduced. However, it never became popular. In 1982, the Cyrillic alphabet was abolished, and schools and official offices in Xinjiang once again began using an alphabet based on Arabic.

Jia Guo