From Uyghur basketball players to protesting Chinese army veterans, there was a lot of China news over the weekend. We’ve tried to filter the noise and bring you only six big stories at the top, with 25 links and mini-summaries below.
As always, I appreciate your feedback — just hit reply.
1. A thousand PLA veterans protest
Yesterday, imightknowChina aka @itrulyknowchina, a Twitter account apparently operated by an employee of a Chinese state media organization, posted this note: “What is China-based foreign media doing? Nobody has covered the veterans movement despite it’s just 2 hour away by bullet train from Shanghai, 4.5 hrs away from BJ?”
In fact, Radio Free Asia had covered the protest on June 22:
Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu on Friday struggled to contain growing protests by at least 1,000 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) veterans enraged at the beating of a fellow veteran earlier this week.
Hundreds of former armed forces personnel clad in military-style clothing gathered on a major road in Jiangsu’s Zhenjiang city, shouting slogans and waving national flags, in the first major public show of strength since a mass protest in Beijing in October 2016.
A day earlier, Boxun, the U.S.-based news and political gossip site, posted this video to YouTube, with the title (in my translation): “Developing…Veteran beaten in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu: Veterans nationwide express their support, are willing to ‘fight to the mutual death against the reactionary government.’”
So what is going on? Chris Buckley of the New York Times today reports (paywall) that PLA veterans “have held protests across several cities in recent weeks over what they say is mistreatment, poor job prospects and inadequate benefits.”
The Zhenjiang protest began after “hundreds of former soldiers — some online accounts claimed thousands — rushed there after rumors spread that at least one veteran had been beaten while seeking government help.”
“For many protesters, the episode crystallized their broader anger with officialdom,” says the Times, and that the “veterans, coming from across the country and with tight bonds formed in military service, are a particularly stubborn headache” for Xi Jinping’s government.
There was a similar protest in Luohe, Henan Province, in May — Radio Free Asia published this video report on YouTube. The Times also points to this Chinese-language web page that lists various recent veteran protests, and notes that “Party leaders in Beijing were shocked in 2016 and early 2017 when about a thousand veterans twice entered the capital and sat in protest — the first time outside the People’s Liberation Army headquarters, and the second outside the Party’s anticorruption agency.”
“This is a story that won’t go away,” tweeted Ananth Krishnan, the China correspondent and associate editor of India Today.
Perhaps there will be work for the veterans on the Belt and Road: In February, the Financial Times reported (paywall) that private security had become a growth industry as Beijing seeks to protect its staff and assets abroad “without resorting to an imperialistic foreign policy.” The report cited an official who said that “about 3,200 Chinese employees of private security groups were based abroad last year,” many of whom are PLA veterans.
2. Has Xi Jinping overreached?
Bloomberg reports that “carefully worded essays” are being circulated on the Chinese internet and “repeated in the halls of government offices,” warning that China may not be “ready for the fight” over trade with the United States. One such essay says: “It seems like Chinese officials were mentally unprepared for the approaching trade friction or trade war… Anti-China views are becoming the consensus among the U.S. public and its ruling party.”
It certainly is my impression that the Chinese government has underestimated the strength of anti-China feelings in Washington, D.C., and in the American business community. And perhaps not just in the U.S. — the Bloomberg article quotes Jude Blanchette, previous Sinica Podcast guest and astute observer of Chinese politics:
People are going to look back at this year as the pivot point when Xi Jinping overreached and sparked an international backlash against the party and China’s development model on multiple fronts.
See also: Americans’ fear of China spikes as North Korea fades, the results of a poll by Axios, and New fears over Chinese espionage grip Washington on The Hill.
3. Uyghur basketball player in NBA this summer
NBC Sports reports that “China’s Abudushalamu Abudurexiti has agreed to play in Summer League for the Golden State Warriors,” the NBA basketball team based in Oakland, California. At the linguistics blog Language Log, Victor Mair notes that Abudushalamu Abudurexiti is based on a pinyin rendering of a Chinese rendering of his Uyghur name, and that his name is more properly rendered Abdusalam Abdurishit. There’s more on the young athlete on Wikipedia.
Let’s hope he does not meet the same fate as Erfan Hezim, the 19-year-old Uyghur pro footballer who is reported to be detained in a “political re-education camp” after he visited foreign countries for training and to play in matches.
4. Drugs and national security
In 1987, the United Nations declared June 26 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Central state media today all headlined with a summary of remarks by Xi Jinping on China’s “drug prohibition work” (禁毒工作 jìndú gōngzuò). You can read Xinhua News Agency’s English version here.
The English version is missing the following, translated from the Chinese version: “Xi Jinping stressed that anti-drug work is related to national security, the rise and fall of the nation, and the well-being of the people.”
The reference to the “rise and fall of the nation” is connected to the Opium Wars — perhaps the most bitterly remembered events of China’s “century of humiliation” (百年国耻 bǎinián guóchǐ). So while Canada may have just legalized marijuana, I don’t expect China to liberalize any of its narcotics laws — if anything, punishments for users and traffickers will get stricter. At least when the users of the drug are Chinese.
This does not mean action on one of the many irritants plaguing U.S.-China relations: Much of the deadly opioid fentanyl consumed in America comes from China. CNN’s Steven Jiang reports from Beijing, “A top official in China’s drug control agency has hit back at accusations that Chinese suppliers are fueling the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States, arguing that Washington should pay more attention to domestic factors before pointing fingers at others.”
“When fewer and fewer Americans use fentanyl, there would be no market for it,” states the deputy head of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission (国家禁毒委员会 guójiā jìndú wěiyuánhuì), who is quoted in the CNN article linked above. He also says, “The U.S. should strengthen its crackdown on distributors, traffickers and drug-related criminal rings… It should investigate and arrest more lawbreakers.”
5. Trade war update
I am getting very comfortable calling the protracted spat between the U.S. and China over money a trade war. It now has victims:
Cummins, the Fortune 500 manufacturer of engines and power generation products, will have to pay tariffs to import engines from its own plants in China according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
GE factories in Wisconsin and South Carolina face the same problem, says a different Wall Street Journal article (paywall).
American electric scooter startups, “which have exploded across the country over the past six months, depend largely on Chinese-made vehicles,” reports Quartz, which makes them “vulnerable.”
Other trade war developments:
Tech investment curbs: “The U.S. Treasury Department is drafting curbs that would block firms with at least 25 percent Chinese ownership from buying U.S. companies with ‘industrially significant technology,’” says Reuters.
“Global stocks slide as trade tensions threaten growth” was the headline of a Wall Street Journal article (paywall) about market reactions. MarketWatch reports that stocks in China actually rose today but other “Asian markets finished in the red on Monday, with several indexes closing near session lows.”
“Europe and China will form a group aimed at updating global trade rules to address technology policy, government subsidies and other emerging complaints in a bid to preserve support for international commerce,” reports the AP.
6. Saturday Night Undead
Caixin reports (paywall):
The Chinese version of the iconic American comedy sketch show “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) has finally premiered. But China’s version wasn’t live — nor was it that popular.
Co-produced and broadcast by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s online video unit Youku, “SNL China,” the first hourlong episode of which was aired on Saturday, inherited the American show’s opening monologue, sketches and music slots, but the show was taped in advance and edited.
Who could possibly have predicted that a show whose main strength is political satire and caricaturing politicians would not translate easily to Chinese TV?
In other news about American comedy shows, the South China Morning Post reports that the Great Firewall has blocked access to HBO in China, after a segment by John Oliver that made fun of censorship and other problems in China. .
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Clash of the Tech Titans
Bytedance and Tencent both complain of smear campaigns / Sixth Tone
After months of feuding between the two tech giants, Tencent complained of “constant, intensive, and abnormal” attacks from online articles full of defamatory rumors. Shortly afterward, its competitor Bytedance stated it had faced “large-scale” and “organized” smear campaigns.
Bytedance files RMB 10 million lawsuit against Baidu for unfair competition / TechNode
“Just weeks after Bytedance and Tencent announced plans to take one another to court, the owner of China’s popular news aggregator Jinri Toutiao has filed a RMB 10 million lawsuit against Baidu for unfair competition.”
China extends lead as most prolific supercomputer maker / NYT (paywall)
“The list, published Monday, shows the Chinese companies and government pulling away as the most prolific producer of supercomputers, with 206 of the top 500. American corporations and the United States government designed and made 124 of the supercomputers on the list.”
The next mammoth IPO
China’s Meituan Dianping files for IPO in Hong Kong / TechNode
“The IPO is jointly sponsored by three Wall Street banks, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.”
Xiaomi and the environment
Xiaomi acknowledges environmental risks in its supply chain / TechNode
“Xiaomi has acknowledged alleged environmental risks by its suppliers after being accused of violating disclosure requirements relating to environmental pollution in its Hong Kong IPO filing.”
A stimulus from the People’s Bank of China
China to unleash $108 billion in reserve cut for some banks / Bloomberg
“China’s central bank cut the amount of cash some lenders must hold as reserves, the third reduction this year, as it seeks to avoid a credit squeeze…. The required reserve ratio for some banks will drop by 0.5 percentage point effective July 5, the People’s Bank of China said on its website Sunday.”
Small planes mean big business in Finnair’s plans for China / SCMP
Smaller long-range planes could be the solution to maintaining Finnair’s strong foothold in China despite swaths of larger competitors.
Surveillance by drone
China takes surveillance to new heights with flock of robotic Doves, but do they come in peace? / SCMP
“If you’ve ever looked up to the sky and enjoyed the sight of a bird gliding above, be warned: it could be a Chinese drone monitoring your every move.”
China’s solar industry dims after subsidy cuts / Caxin (paywall)
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Mattis in China
Defense Sec. James Mattis focuses on security issues in China talks / CBS
“Defense Secretary Jim Mattis laid out plans for a less contentious, more open dialogue with Chinese leaders as he travels to Asia, less than a month after he slammed Beijing at an international conference for its militarization of islands in the South China Sea.”
Mattis seeks less contentious visit with Chinese / ABC
Activism in Hong Kong
Pro-democracy organizers defy Hong Kong officials over July 1 rally and tell supporters to join march along the route / SCMP
“Organizers of Hong Kong’s annual July 1 pro-democracy rally have told supporters not to flock to Victoria Park this weekend but to join the march as it passes through one of the city’s busiest shopping districts — despite being ordered not to do so.”
Sinophobia in Malaysian politics
Malaysia Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng under fire for issuing official statement in Chinese / The Straits Times
“He was attacked for deviating from the usual government practice of issuing statements in Malay only, or including an English translation on matters that might have international import.”
New aircraft carrier revealed?
China’s next aircraft carrier ‘accidentally’ revealed in boardroom promotional photo / News.com.au
“On the surface, the photo seems somewhat bland. It’s your typical corporate shot — a bunch of guys looking attentive around a boardroom table. But, in the background, on the big screen, is something likely to make the U.S. Navy sit up and take notice.”
China’s nascent aid agency
China’s climate foreign aid after ministerial re-shuffle / Panda Paw Dragon Claw
“Despite its still undefined makeup and responsibilities, observers are already speculating about how the creation of CIDCA will affect China’s overseas aid, the Belt and Road Initiative, and wider South-South cooperation, including China’s climate change foreign aid to other developing countries.”
New North Korean household data: What does it reveal? / NK News
While the survey’s accuracy is unknown, it illuminates many important facets of North Korean life, including child welfare, women’s healthcare, and media consumption.
China gains a foothold in Europe
Chinese investment is winning hearts and minds in western Balkans / SCMP
“A little goes a long way when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of a region that has lagged behind other former communist countries in Europe because of war, sanctions and political chaos.”
Australia tries to counter China’s influence in Pacific Islands, will negotiate security treaty with Vanuatu / SCMP
“Australia said on Monday it would negotiate a security treaty with Vanuatu, weeks after the Australian prime minister warned China against building a military base on the South Pacific island nation.”
Tariffs in history
To see why Trump’s tariffs have hit a Chinese nerve, read history / SCMP
“For a century, between 1854 and 1951, much of China’s customs revenue came through an organization headed by a Briton, not a Chinese. And that fact is a reminder of why the sometimes arcane-seeming issue of tariffs can ignite such passion in China.”
In a high-stakes environmental whodunit, many clues point to China / NYT (paywall)
Chinese factories appear to be responsible for a spike in banned industrial gas levels resulting from burning chlorofluorocarbons, marking a violation of the Montreal Protocol and its commitment to restore the ozone layer.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Smoking in New York
New York confronts rampant smoking among Chinese men / NYT (paywall)
“Reflecting a global trend, Chinese men in New York City smoke at much higher rates than men or women in any other ethnic group — and deaths from lung cancer among them have soared. As a result, the city’s health department launched a public service ad campaign this month aimed specifically at Chinese men.”
Student suicide in Gansu
Bystanders cheer as student falls to death / Sixth Tone
A video of a student jumping to her death as onlookers cheer her on has enraged many Chinese people, with web users calling the bystanders “cold-blooded.” The student became severely depressed after a teacher sexually abused her and school and government officials failed to hold him accountable.
Pensioners in prison
Hong Kong’s elderly prisoner population has nearly doubled in past decade, and jails are struggling to cope / SCMP
“Figures obtained by the Post show the number of prisoners aged 60 and above surged by 86.8 percent between 2007 and 2017, from 234 to 437. This came despite the overall prison population shrinking by 28.7 percent, to reach 6,728.”
Dog meat and the activists who want to stop its trade
Asia’s booming dog meat business and the activists seeking to end a cruel trade / SCMP
“Last week in Beijing, Humane Society International (HSI) handed over a letter signed by more than 235,000 people calling for an end to the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival in Guangxi Province.”
Missing woman found dead in BBQ shop freezer in South China / That’s Magazine
“In the early hours of June 17, a 23-year-old woman from Luoding, Guangdong, was reported missing by her friends. Two days later, her corpse was found in the freezer of a barbeque shop owned by her alleged killer.”
VIDEO OF THE DAY
Viral on Weibo: Amazing 3D drawings on a paddy field
An array of 3D drawings on a paddy field in a Shenyang agricultural park has been attracting many visitors. Farmers started the annual tradition seven years ago.
That China’s imperial past is a long series of sequential dynasties; China always saw itself as a “middle kingdom” and the only center of civilization; China has always been a peaceful nation. Read more about the three common misconceptions about China that Kaiser Kuo has often encountered.
The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 53
This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: Xiaomi’s timetable for its mainland share offering, prospect of China’s bike-sharing market, JD.com’s deal with Google, agreements between China and Nepal, Jason Tan on some recent developments with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, and more.
Sinica early access: Kurt Campbell on U.S.-China diplomacy
As Access members, the Sinica Podcast is available to you three days earlier than the general public! Just put this RSS feed directly into your podcast reader: http://sinicaaccess.libsyn.com/rss
In this episode of the Sinica Podcast, taped live at the US-China Strong Foundation’s China Careers Summit in Washington, D.C., on May 31, Kaiser talks to former assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs Kurt Campbell about his career, his critique of engagement, and the fascinating events that happened on his watch — including the extrication of blind activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng and the attempted defection of Bo Xilai’s former police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun.
PHOTO FROM MICHAEL YAMASHITA
Strolling through the art district in Beijing
Two women walk through the 798 Art Zone in Dashanzi, Chaoyang District, in Beijing. Formerly a factory making military and civilian electronic equipment, the Art Zone has galleries that are housed in buildings built by Bauhaus-influenced East German designers in the 1950s.
Photo by @yamashitaphoto. See more of his work at supchina.com/photos. #china #chinanews