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Access Archive

Dear Access member,

We have stopped sending morning emails to members on Mondays and Fridays. If you would still like to receive them, please contact me at jeremy@supchina.com.

Also, mark our next Slack chat in your calendars: Paul French, who came on Sinica a few weeks ago to talk about his outstanding new book called City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir, the story of two foreigners who ruled the underworld of Shanghai in the 1930s, is scheduled to join us on Tuesday, September 11, at 11 a.m. EST.

Have a great week!

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

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1. Public outrage at Didi boils over with second passenger killing

In May, a 21-year-old female flight attendant used China’s leading ride-hailing app, Didi Chuxing 滴滴出行, and then disappeared. Police embarked on a manhunt for the Didi driver, suspected of raping and murdering the passenger, and Didi suspended and then only partially relaunched its carpool feature. The ride-hailing company was roundly criticized for its handling of the case, and the striking sexism in its PR both before and after the incident.

Over the weekend, it all happened again. SupChina has two reports on the latest tragedy:

Here’s a quick rundown of the details:

  • A woman surnamed Zhao 赵 in the city of Yueqing, Zhejiang Province, took a ride using Didi’s Hitch service at 1pm on August 24.

  • She cried out, “help,” in a text message to a friend at 2pm, before going silent.

  • Her 27-year-old male driver, surnamed Zhong 钟, was arrested and admitted to raping and murdering Zhao a little over 12 hours later.

  • Didi has fired two executives and once again suspended Hitch, its carpooling service, but many are saying these actions are too little, too late.

  • Didi’s customer service was disturbingly slow in responding to complaints associated with this particular incident, by all accounts, but this is hardly an isolated case of bad customer service by Didi.

Other media reporting on the latest disaster for Didi:

—Lucas Niewenhuis


2. Trade war, day 53: American farmers get subsidies as both sides dig in

Since our last trade war update (day 50), only one piece of significant hard news has been reported.

  • $4.7 billion will be given to American farmers by the U.S. federal government to offset the pain of tariffs, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall), with soybean farmers “slated to get roughly three-fourths of the direct payments, or $3.6 billion, followed by producers of pork, cotton, sorghum, dairy and wheat.”

  • Up to $12 billion in farm aid was promised in July (day 19), and the Journal notes that “officials said they could decide on a second wave of payments to farmers by December, if difficult market conditions persist.”

But the lack of hard news doesn’t mean the punditry and analysis has slowed down one bit. Specifically, even more articles have come out predicting a gloomy outlook for U.S.-China trade tensions for months to come.

  • The U.S. hawks are winning versus compromise-minded officials, Bloomberg writes (paywall), citing in part the dismal results of trade negotiations last week (day 48, day 49), and also details such as that “on Friday, Trump’s officials were huddled in Washington with counterparts from Europe and Japan, discussing how to push China into changing course.”

  • “We’re facing an escalating trade war over the next few months,” David Dollar, the former top U.S. Treasury representative in Beijing, predicted to Bloomberg. Dollar also points out that because of the U.S. economy’s overall health, the hard political impact of the trade war may not be felt until well into 2019.

  • “I think we are in for a prolonged period of continuing escalating tensions,” Deborah Elms, executive director of the Singapore-based Asian Trade Centre, told CNBC.

  • “Both sides think they have the upper hand in this debate,” Elms said, and neither has incentive to change their tactics right now because the economic pain from tariffs has not become unbearable.

  • China has economic problems, but not because of U.S. tariffs, Andrew Polk of economic consultancy Trivium writes in Bloomberg (paywall), also giving it no urgency to change tactics — at least yet.

  • Instead, “China’s growth woes are homegrown… Two factors are largely to blame: the government’s concerted effort over the last five quarters to tighten credit and stabilize China’s debt levels, and, relatedly, a dramatic drop-off in investment spending by local governments,” Polk writes.

Two more trade-war-related reports:

  • Will art become a casualty of U.S.-China trade war? / NYT (paywall)
    “The latest list of targeted Chinese goods ran to 205 pages. It included sand blasting machines; eels, fresh or chilled (excluding fillets); hats; and, at the bottom of the last page, paintings and drawings executed entirely by hand, original sculptures, and antiques more than 100 years old.”
    “The tariffs would apply to all artworks that originated in China, regardless of how they entered the United States. That means American buyers could be required to pay 25 percent more for a Ming dynasty bowl sold by a British owner at an auction in New York, as well as for a painting by a young Beijing-based artist at a gallery in Hong Kong.”

  • Chinese Communist Party is stepping up efforts to stifle dissent abroad, US officials are told / SCMP
    “China’s ruling Communist Party is pursuing an aggressive, covert infiltration of US educational and social institutions to quell dissenting voices and strengthen its soft power overseas, according to a report written for an influential US congressional body” — the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
    “Chinese analysts said it indicated that Beijing and Washington were clashing on a new front — over ideology — as well as on trade and security.”

—Lucas Niewenhuis

3. A long winter for Xinjiang and Tibet is coming

Three signs that the Chinese government is not planning on any softening of its policies on ethnic minorities:

1. Wang Yang talks tough on Tibet

Politburo member and fourth-ranking Party official Wang Yang 汪洋 is sometimes called a reformer. He was Party boss of Guangdong Province from 2007 until 2012. During his tenure, Chinese media compared his relatively laissez-faire economic policies and the statist approach of then Chongqing Party boss Bo Xilai 薄熙来 in what was called the Cake Debate.

In 2011, when Wang was in charge of Guangdong, he negotiated a settlement with the residents of the village of Wukan after a mass uprising in protest at local corruption. The settlement included an election in Wukan to choose the Party secretary. It was the first such election to use a secret ballot.

Wang is not exactly a hardliner. But Xinhua News Agency reports (in Chinese) that on a visit to Lhasa yesterday, Wang “emphasized that religious work is related to Tibet’s social stability and long-term stability.” He said Tibetan Buddhists must “better adapt to socialist society” and “bravely fight against separatist forces.”

The Associated Press has an English report on Wang’s remarks.

2. Mayor of Urumqi rewrites history

The mayor of Urumqi, the provincial capital of Xinjiang, is a Uyghur whose name in Chinese is rendered as Yasheng Sidike 牙生·司地克. (Tellingly, he is the deputy Party chief. The Party secretary, the most powerful job in the city, is a Han Chinese named Xu Hairong 徐海荣.)

Last week, the Urumqi Evening News published an article (in Chinese) by the mayor, which makes some extraordinary claims:

Uyghurs have been family members of the Chinese nation since ancient times. They are not descendants of Turkic people and have nothing to do with the Turks. We must polish our eyes, distinguish between right and wrong, and deeply understand that all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are members of the Chinese nation’s blood, and we cherish the hard-won harmony and stability… The Xinjiang region is not only the homeland of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, but also an integral part of the common homeland of the Chinese nation… The “three forces” [of extremism, separatism, and terrorism] distort historical facts and promote fallacies such as “our country is East Turkestan” and “Uyghurs as natives of Xinjiang.”

Nationalist rag the Global Times translated part of the article, and added a few extra quotes from “experts” with Uyghur names who confirm that Uyghurs are not related to Turks.

Wikipedia has a more reliable guide to Turkic peoples that reflects scientific consensus that the Uyghurs, who speak a language closely related to Turkish, are of course Turkic.

3. Nice Belt and Road project there, hate to see something happen to it

Last week, the Global Times reported on a phone call between Foreign Minister Wang Yi 王毅 and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu. The article notes the “raging dispute between Ankara and Washington” and that Cavusoglu “said Turkey is ready to strengthen strategic dialogue with China and deepen cooperation with Beijing based on mutual interests.”

“Beijing responded positively,” says the Global Times: “China and Turkey have new opportunities to deepen cooperation, especially with respect to the Belt and Road initiative.”

But, of course, there’s a warning (emphasis added):

Some people…believe that among all the Middle East countries, Turkey has caused China the most trouble during the last 50 years… What’s most unacceptable is that Turkey was adding fuel to the Xinjiang question. Some elements in Turkey encouraged separatist sentiment, helped some radicals from Xinjiang illicitly enter the Middle East, and made irresponsible remarks on the ethnic policy in Xinjiang…

Shaping Turkey as China’s strategic partner can prevent Ankara from intervening in Xinjiang.

Other reporting

Last week, SupChina published an explainer on the situation in Xinjiang: China’s re-education camps for a million Muslims: What everyone needs to know. New reports over the weekend are below:

  • “People believe Chinese police in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are arresting Uyghur people because many disappeared suddenly and no one knows their whereabouts,” said one Uyghur exile to Emily Feng of the Financial Times (paywall). One exile in Turkey told her that with warming ties between Beijing and Ankara, Uyghurs in Turkey are also feeling “increasingly unsafe,” said Tursun, who fled to Turkey in 2016, and who declined to give his real name.

  • An Ran 安然 is the pen name of a Hui (Muslim minority) blogger based in Jinan, Shandong Province. Last week, he was hassled by police for his postings on Twitter and Facebook about Xinjiang.

  • “As China detains Muslim Uyghurs, its economic clout mutes world criticism” is the title of a Christian Science Monitor article on the global silence.

  • “Measures taken by the local government of Xinjiang are even labelled as ‘secret camps,’ which are in fact continuous actions supported and embraced by all the people in China fighting against terrorism,” says the the Chinese ambassador to Ireland in a letter of complaint to the Irish Times about the Xinjiang and Hong Kong coverage by its correspondent Clifford Coonan.

4. Two things to read

  • Is there an artificial intelligence (AI) bubble? The South China Morning Post says that a “funding squeeze” may be coming for 9 in 10 AI startups in China.

  • “A global China must ask itself awkward questions. Is it ready?” asks historian Rana Mitter.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


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






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Didi reeling amid public anger after second female passenger murdered in three months

The rape and murder of a Didi Chuxing passenger on August 24 — the second such incident in three months — has left China’s largest ride-hailing app reeling amid public anger. Didi has fired two executives and once again suspended Hitch, its carpooling service, but many are saying these actions are too little, too late.

Asian Games update, and the NBA in Xinjiang

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Potala Palace

Built in 1645, the Potala Palace in Lhasa was the residence of the Dalai Lama until 1959 but now serves as a popular tourist attraction and is a World Heritage Site. It sits at an altitude of 3,700 meters (12,100 feet) in the center of the Lhasa Valley.

Jia Guo