A Chinese port in Israel, and did the Pope make a deal with Xi Jinping?

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

It was a busy news week and today’s newsletter is packed. Two announcements for Access members:

  • Our Access chat with Paul French is archived here.

  • Do you have questions for Condoleezza Rice? The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations would like to hear them! In advance of the China Town Hall national webcast on October 9, it is soliciting questions from SupChina Access members. Write to me at jeremy@supchina.com.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


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1. Vatican to make a deal with Beijing?

“The Vatican and China are set to sign a landmark agreement later this month intended to bring together China’s state-backed and unauthorized Catholic communities, according to two people familiar with the matter,” report Eva Dou and Francis X. Rocca of the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

  • The deal would give the Party and the Church “a say in appointing the church’s bishops in China,” and recognition by Beijing that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church in China.

  • Seven excommunicated Chinese bishops who were appointed by the Party  government without Vatican approval would be recognized as part of the deal.

  • The deal will be highly controversial, within the Catholic Church and beyond. “This is a strange step backward on terrain over which the church has fought, not for centuries but millennia,” said Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert who writes for Italy’s L’Espresso magazine, according to the Journal.

Background and context

2. A Chinese-run port in Israel

In Haaretz, Amos Harel writes: “China will operate Haifa port, near Israel’s alleged nuclear-armed submarines, and it seems no one in Israel thought about the strategic ramifications.”

  • Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) won a bid to expand the Haifa port, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Tel Aviv. Harel says the project “is slated to be inaugurated in 2021 and calls for the Chinese company, which also operates the Port of Shanghai, to run the Haifa Port for 25 years.”

  • Another Chinese firm won a bid to build a new port at Ashdod, just south of Tel Aviv, according to Harel (although what little information there is online suggests that port is controlled by Switzerland-based TIL).

  • The Israeli National Security Council and navy were apparently not consulted about these bids. Harel sees several problems:

    • U.S. Navy ships will not dock at Chinese-run ports — this has “implications for Israel’s relations with the United States, which under the Trump administration is ramping up its rhetoric on China.”

    • There is an Israeli Navy base next to the port, so aside from “acquiring vast influence over essential infrastructures in Israel,” China is also getting “a closer look at some of Israel’s military capabilities.”

    • “China is not necessarily hostile to Israel, but its interests are tangled and complex.” One example cited is China’s close ties to Iran, an issue other Israeli commenters have raised.

3. Super Typhoon Mangkhut

“Mangkhut [山竹 shānzhú] has made landfall in the Philippines and is expected to land in an area between western Guangdong and eastern Hainan on Sunday night,” says Xinhua.

  • The China Meteorological Administration said southern China could be put to a “severe test,” while the governor of Hainan “told the island province’s officials to ‘prepare for the worst,’” according to the South China Morning Post.

  • Hong Kong officials are also preparing “for the worst,” says the SCMP. A woman was swept away by waves on Taiwan’s east coast in heavy weather, reports Taiwan News. Taiwan is not on Mangkhut’s direct path, but authorities have warned people to stay away from Taiwan’s beaches.

  • YouTube feeds run by weather nerds who are tracking Florence in the U.S. and Mangkhut in Asia live: Ivo Jürgenson and Force Thirteen.

—Jeremy Goldkorn

4. Trade war, day 71: Trump pushes for tariffs now, not after negotiations

An extra brief roundup today (there is more context in the packed “Week in Review” section below):

  • Donald Trump reiterated that he wants his tariffs, and he wants them now: “Trump instructed aides on Thursday to proceed with tariffs on about $200 billion more in Chinese products despite his Treasury secretary’s attempt to restart talks with Beijing to resolve the trade war,” Bloomberg reports (paywall).

  • But “Trump may be running low on products he can target without significant backlash from major U.S. companies and consumers,” so the final announcement is still being delayed as the administration adjusts the next round of tariffs based on public comments.

  • It’s like “you sacrifice 800 soldiers of your own to kill just 1,000 enemies” (伤敌一千,自损八百 shāng dí yī qiān, zì sǔn bā bǎi), Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said of the trade war, Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield noted.

  • The EU wants to work with China to “alleviate the disruptions” of the trade war, Nicolas Chapuis, the new EU ambassador to China, said, SCMP reports.

More trade war reporting:

—Lucas Niewenhuis

5. Official: Xinjiang camps justified because West ‘has failed’ to stop terrorism

Some new stories from and connected to Xinjiang and the worsening repression there (also see recent stories in “Week in Review” section below):

  • “China is buying African media’s silence” is the title of a piece in Foreign Policy by Azad Essa, the columnist fired by South Africa’ Independent Media after he wrote an article on oppression of Muslims in Xinjiang. As we explored in our Access newsletter a week ago, 20 percent of Independent Media is owned by China International Television Corporation, a subsidiary of central state broadcaster CCTV, and the China-Africa Development Fund.

  • Uyghur family risking deportation from Sweden: journalist Jojje Olsson has an update on Abdakir, his pregnant wife and their two children.

  • “It is not mistreatment… What China is doing is to establish professional training centers, educational centers,” said a Chinese official speaking to media on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, reports Reuters. The official explained:

If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism, because the West has failed in doing so, in dealing with religious Islamic extremism. Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European countries. You have failed.

6. Fallout from Google’s China plan

The Intercept reports: “A senior Google research scientist named Jack Poulson has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.”

  • Poulson says “he believes he is one of about five of the company’s employees to resign over Dragonfly,” and that he felt it was his “ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments.”

  • Scrutiny of Google’s China plans is growing: “A bipartisan group of 16 U.S. lawmakers asked Alphabet Inc’s Google on Thursday if it would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies should it re-enter the Chinese search engine market,” reports Reuters.

7. California-China climate change summit

Could this be a rare piece of good news in a season of depressing stories? The South China Morning Post reports:

China and California are seeking to push past the trade war to shore up their joint front in the fight against climate change, with a three-day summit in San Francisco this week.

The “asymmetric” joint effort between the world’s second-biggest economy and America’s most populous state has the backing of California governor Jerry Brown and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who sent a personal message of support to Brown ahead of the summit.

—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


Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • The government’s attempt to rewire Uyghur and Muslim identities in Xinjiang gained substantially more international attention, with a front-page New York Times article and a 117-page, detailed and damning report from Human Rights Watch. The U.S. State Department is reportedly considering sanctions on Chinese officials and surveillance equipment companies over the abuses in Xinjiang. Activism abroad by Uyghurs and other Muslims about the abuses in Xinjiang is also increasing.

  • Beijing rebuked the UN human rights chief’s request to send monitors to Xinjiang to investigate the reported re-education camps, and attacked the credibility of Human Rights Watch without addressing any specific allegations in the report. A top publicity official in Beijing then denied that the re-education camps were abusive, insisting, “What China is doing is to establish professional training centers, educational centers.”

  • China is also repressing Christians more, by burning bibles and destroying crosses at multiple churches across the country, and shutting down Zion, the largest Protestant church in Beijing. Then, draft rules were introduced that may ban all foreigners from spreading religious materials online in China, and impose additional restrictions on religious preaching among Chinese as well.

  • Xi Jinping visited Russia, and made blinis and downed shots of vodka with Putin in celebration of a closer Russia-China relationship. China also sent over 3,000 troops to participate in Russia’s largest military drills since the Soviet era. Xi is also making efforts to improve ties with Japan, which, along with Russia, China is using as a counterweight to an increasingly unfriendly U.S.

  • China’s most famous actress, Fan Bingbing, disappeared and is reportedly in trouble with authorities, possibly for tax evasion. She has been incommunicado for over three months.

  • The U.S. reached out to China for last-minute trade negotiations before the next $200 billion in tariffs go into effect, though it is unclear that the negotiations will actually happen or achieve anything. Trump insisted that he is under “no pressure to make a deal with China.” Earlier in the week, Trump had cheered supply chain disruption at Ford and pushed for the same at Apple as a result of tariffs.

  • Meanwhile in the trade war, China launched a last-minute financial roundtable with Wall Street executives, as suspicions rose in Beijing that the Trump administration is driving the U.S.-China relationship towards cold war and containment.

  • Venezuela will get a $5 billion loan from China, as President Nicolas Maduro and his finance minister, Simon Zerpa, visited Beijing trying to salvage their country’s economy.

  • The Belt and Road hit more bumps in Pakistan and Malaysia. Abdul Razak Dawood, an advisor to the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, said that his country did a “bad job” negotiating deals with China, while Malaysia has confirmed the cancellation of three billion-dollar pipeline projects with China.

  • Jack Ma made another splash in the media, this time saying at first to the New York Times that he was retiring — soon, it was implied, though the Times noted he “will remain on Alibaba’s board of directors and continue to mentor the company’s management” — from his executive chairmanship at Alibaba, and then walking it back to say that the process will actually take a year.

  • Controversial loans in Africa continued to receive attention, and China forgave or restructured debts in a few countries.


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