After beating, a thousand veterans protest

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

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. .


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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief




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