Announcements for Access members:
Our next Slack chat will feature Darren Byler, an anthropologist who studies Uyghur culture and the ways that China is criminalizing it. We hope you will join us on our Slack channel on Tuesday, October 23, at 12 noon EST. Ahead of time, check out Darren’s website, The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia, which features fascinating writing from him and other scholars of Xinjiang.
—Jeremy Goldkorn and team
On SupChina today: in our video series Beijing Ren, we visit the old Huguosi 护国寺 temple, and the nearby area of shops and food stalls. Can this neighborhood survive the city’s enthusiasm for demolition and commercialization?
Our dear colleague Kaiser’s house in North Carolina was almost destroyed by a falling tree during Hurricane Michael. Kaiser is still experiencing power and internet cuts, so next week’s podcast schedule will be disrupted. Thanks in advance for your understanding.
Back to the China news: we’ve got five things at the top for you today. You know where to send feedback!
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
1. People’s Daily defends free trade
When I was a boy, Communists were communists and Americans were free traders. I would not have imagined the Chinese Communist Party’s house organ, the People’s Daily, lecturing the United States on being a “spoiler” of economic globalization while calling Beijing its staunch defender. I should be used to it by now, but I still find myself shaking my head in amazement.
The People’s Daily’s top story today is: Don’t let momentary difficulties blind your sight — Economic globalization is unstoppable (in Chinese). The piece is a full-throated defense of free trade — at least by China’s definition of it. Excerpt:
In the 21st century, economic globalization has leaped forward, and free trade has shot ahead like a meteor, bringing global economic prosperity, a surge in wealth, and general improvement in people’s lives. However, current U.S. trade protectionism and the rise of unilateralism have provoked trade frictions with many countries, such as China…
…The United States is increasingly becoming the “spoiler” of economic globalization… Doesn’t the United States understand the benefits of free trade and don’t understand that there is no real economic globalization in the world without China’s participation? …
China is a firm defender of economic globalization.
The pseudonymous author of the piece is Zhōng Xuānlǐ 钟轩理, an exact homophone for 中宣理 — or “Central Party Propaganda Department commentary” — so we can expect this argument to be repeated by commercial and state media across China. (For more on People’s Daily pseudonyms, and the authoritativeness of various state media, see Chinese views and commentary on periphery diplomacy by Michael D. Swaine, and Who speaks for the Chinese government? by Graham Webster on SupChina.)
The Global Times chides America for “arrogance” in one of its top opinion pieces today: The U.S. expansive definition of espionage is harming others and itself (in Chinese). The piece is about Xu Yanjun, the alleged Chinese aviation industry spy extradited from Belgium to the U.S. and charged earlier this week. The Global Times argues:
We don’t know what of the information about Xu Yanjun published by the United States is true, but as long as contact between Xu and the U.S. experts was open, and the activities they were doing in China were open, he should not be considered to be engaged in espionage. The U.S. allegations against him are untenable in the law.
“In the future, the U.S. should not fear China” is the title of another top opinion piece on the Global Times Chinese website, by editor-in-chief Hú Xījìn 胡锡进. It’s published in English under this headline: China-US competition could be driving force for human society. Excerpt:
China can hardly catch up with the US with regard to technology innovation and cultural creativity. The US will likely maintain its dominance in the two key sectors. These fields demand the full play of imagination which is not a strong point in traditional Chinese culture since throughout their life Chinese are encouraged to prioritize national interests and collectivism. It is thus difficult for China to become the innovation center and lead global technological development and popular culture. Also China has a lot of work to do to establish an inclusive, diverse and highly modernized society that supports technological innovation and creativity…
…Despite China’s efforts to improve its scientific and technological capabilities, the country won’t overtake the US in technological innovation and creative industries this century. Moreover, China is unlikely to build a global military base network like the US has done despite the former’s enhancing military might. China pursues a national defense policy that is purely defensive and is not designed for global military competition with the US.
“Dig deeper into their meanings! This series of bombshell Xinhua articles tell you where the confidence surrounding China’s reform lies.” That’s the headline of the top story (in Chinese) on the state news agency’s website today, a compilation of recent articles on how wonderful China’s reform policies are. Xinhua’s English website is running exactly the same top headline as yesterday: Xi demands efforts to improve disaster prevention, build Sichuan-Tibet railway.
2. Competing visions of Hong Kong
Alex Lo, a senior writer at the Alibaba-owned South China Morning Post, argues:
It’s time to tear down the borders with mainland China
The way out of Hong Kong’s malaise does not lie in Western-style democracy or independence. Realistically, it’s to speed up the 50-year grace period of high autonomy to integrate fully with the rest of the country.
The same Alex Lo also says that “Journalist Victor Mallet made himself unwelcome in Hong Kong,” and blames the Financial Times correspondent’s expulsion on his “cavalier view of China’s concerns about Hong Kong independence:”
What do you do when you have an unwelcome guest in your home? You send him packing. That’s what Hong Kong did with Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet. By not renewing his work visa, we did it in the politest and most civilised manner possible.
A different South China Morning Post columnist disagrees: Wing Kay Po says: “Hong Kong has fared better than many jurisdictions in adhering to the rule of law. But the government’s unprecedented rejection of a journalist’s visa, following a thinly justified ban on a separatist party, does not bode well for the city.”
Longtime Hong Kong journalist Stephen Vines also offers a different take on Hong Kong Free Press: Why born-again authoritarian Carrie Lam will be celebrating the expulsion of a journalist…and the backlash. He writes:
Mrs Lam does not enjoy widespread popularity in Hong Kong but — in a system that pays little attention to the public will — what matters is the support she can glean from the small group of men in Beijing who decide everything of importance.
3. Trade war, day 99: Security concerns and the Five Eyes
As is increasingly the case in the day’s news about trade tensions with China, the economic details of trade, tariffs, market access, and the like are being overshadowed today by the security aspects of relations with China.
CNN reports that the U.S. National Security Council has reviewed the nuclear energy trade with China, and the Trump administration has decided to restrict it, with immediate effect.
The new policy, which goes into effect immediately, sets guidelines for all existing, pending and future technology transfers to China, administration officials said. They flagged particular concern about technology that can power submarines, aircraft carriers and small modular reactors that could be used in floating power plants in South China Sea.
But it’s not just the U.S. that is reportedly increasingly concerned by the security implications of China’s global investments and other actions abroad. Reuters reports:
The five nations in the world’s leading intelligence-sharing network have been exchanging classified information on China’s foreign activities with other like-minded countries since the start of the year, seven officials in four capitals said.
The “Five Eyes” — Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States — have been sharing intelligence on the “specific issue of foreign interference” with Germany and Japan, as well as France, but “on a less regular and comprehensive basis.”
Reuters suggests that “investments [that] are politically driven” are a part of the discussions on foreign interference.
The formation of an “informal coalition to counter Beijing,” as Reuters describes it, “represents another blow to China’s fading hopes of convincing European countries, unsettled by Trump’s ‘America First’ policies, to distance themselves from Washington and move closer to Beijing.”
The coalition is forming “in parallel with a wave of national measures to limit Chinese investments in sensitive technology companies” in Australia and Germany, notably, in addition, the United States.
Separately, “Israeli security officials are growing increasingly uneasy with China’s expanding role in the economy, particularly its involvement in several big infrastructure projects and its purchase of cutting-edge technology,” the Economist writes (porous paywall).
Meanwhile, China has been trying to work in its own neighborhood to rustle up some closer economic relationships. Yesterday, the SCMP reported that as extreme a move as trying to enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is under consideration in Beijing — though observers consider that to be highly unlikely.
Japan is the biggest standout case of Chinese outreach, it has been apparent for many weeks — see the trade war update in our August 31 Access newsletter.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Beijing on October 25–27 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations, the SCMP reports.
It will be the first time since 2011 that a Japanese prime minister has visited Beijing. Both countries have made friendly noises about economic cooperation — they are “currently in negotiations regarding cooperation in a third-party country under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’ Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious infrastructure and investment programme, and Tokyo’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, a similar strategy by which Japan is seeking enhanced connectivity between Asia and Africa.”
But China is warming faster to Japan than vice versa — Bloomberg notes that a recent opinion poll “showed about 42 percent of Chinese respondents had a positive image of Japan, up from 5.2 percent in 2013. By contrast, 13 percent of Japanese said they had a positive view of China, compared with a low of 6.8 percent in 2014.”
More on Japan-China relations: Analysis: Japan’s Abe pursues China thaw as U.S.-Beijing ties in deep freeze / Reuters via Channel NewsAsia
More U.S.-China and trade war news:
China posts record trade surplus with the US in September, Beijing says / CNBC
“China recorded a record trade surplus of $34.13 billion with the U.S…was larger than China’s overall trade surplus of $31.69 billion for the month.”
China’s record trade surplus with the US means Trump’s strategy is “failing” / Vox
Rush to beat tariffs fuels record China trade surplus with U.S. / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Trade war could cut China’s growth by nearly 2 percentage points over two years: IMF / CNBC
“At its worst, the ongoing trade tensions could knock 1.6 percentage points off China’s economic growth over the first two years, according to an analysis by the International Monetary Fund.”
Rhetoric from Beijing
‘US could sell its aircraft carriers to China to cut deficit’ Beijing rebukes ‘tired’ Mike Pence / SCMP
“Chinese state media rolled out a slew of combative opinion pieces in response to US Vice-President Mike Pence’s accusations against Beijing last week, as rhetoric intensifies in the widening strategic conflict between the powers.”
China state media calls on US to avert ‘full-scale face-off’ / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“China denounced Trump administration accusations of election-meddling as ‘Sinophobia’ and urged the U.S. to steer the world’s two largest economies off their collision course.”
View from the International Monetary Fund
Attempt to isolate China from world trade system ‘will not work,’ says IMF’s top Asia official / SCMP
US-China trade war casts long shadow over IMF meeting / SCMP
Chinese tech stocks feel early winter chill / TechNode
“While this week’s troubles are not entirely from the trade war, China’s tensions with the US certainly have coincided with trouble for the country’s stocks… The dips in the S&P could mean that, despite its apparent earlier insulation, the trade war is starting to impact US markets as well. However, it’s too early to tell.”
China looks the most hurt by the week’s global market turmoil / CNBC
China Import and Export Fair, aka Canton Fair
Unwelcome guest: US tariffs loom at China’s biggest trade fair / Reuters
“Amid gathering gloom over the state of the Chinese economy, exporters of motorcycles, tractors, photocopiers and Christmas tree lighting will join thousands of other companies peddling their wares at China’s largest trade fair Monday.”
“At the spring session of the twice-a-year Canton Fair in Guangzhou, only a quarter of the exporters whom Reuters spoke to said they expected a full-blown trade war.”
4. The proletarians of artificial intelligence
In the latest installment of our weekly roundup of interesting Chinese non-fiction:
The manual workers who power Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) — the people who do rote tasks such as labelling objects in digital images ands video.
A high school girl band who were ruthlessly mocked on the internet until they got a record deal.
What makes a good self-criticism? After actress Fàn Bīngbīng 范冰冰 recently resurfaced and apologized for tax evasion, she wrote: “Without the good policies of the Party and the state, without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing,” and that was key.
China’s obsession with dual-SIM phones. Last month, Apple introduced new iPhones that for the first time allow users to insert two physical SIM cards. This has been a feature on Chinese phones for around 15 years.
5. A crackdown on halal packaging and marketing
“Communist Party leaders in Urumqi, the regional capital, on Monday led cadres in swearing an oath to fight the ‘pan-halal trend’ to the end,” reports the Associated Press.
In Xinjiang and other Muslim areas of China, recent reports have noted the disappearance of references to Islam and halal from restaurants, advertisements, and products.
Here is one example, from Wall Street Journal Fan Weixin:
Before and after China cracks down on so-called pan-halal-ization: A muslim brand has taken the halal tag off a black pepper package. Seems a whole magazine story can be written about this campaign.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:
Mèng Hóngweǐ 孟宏伟, the senior Chinese police official who became the president of Interpol in 2016, was reported missing by his wife on Friday last week after he returned to China from Lyon, France, where Interpol is based and his family has been living. The severely damages China’s reputation in international organizations.
China explicitly acknowledged and tried to justify its concentration camps for Muslims in Xinjiang with legal sophistry. New amendments to allow governments at the county level and above to set up education and transformation organizations dedicated to educating and transforming people who have been influenced by extremism took effect on October 9.
U.S.-China relations continued to tumble, as China reacted to Vice President Mike Pence’s anti-China speech last week, Donald Trump reiterated his threat of placing a tariff on every imported Chinese good into America, and the U.S. Treasury Department also announced tightened oversight on Chinese investment. However, it was then reported on October 11 that Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are set to meet to discuss trade tensions at the G20 in Buenos Aires at the end of November.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have succeeded in producing healthy mice from same-sex parents with the help of gene editing.
The Chinese spy chip story by Bloomberg Businessweek has been called into question. Joe FitzPatrick, one of the few named sources in the original article, says he highly doubts the report is accurate. Other experts have also raised doubts, both because of the technical details and because of the kind of denials the companies have given.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Crazy Rich Asians still denied China access
Why China is keeping ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ on hold / Variety
Variety suggests three possible reasons why the Hollywood hit hasn’t been allotted a spot in China’s movie quota, after months of waiting:
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ sends out the wrong message. The current leadership in China is waging war on corruption and greed…the trade dispute with Donald Trump…[and] the entertainment and media sectors have already seen top-down slowdown following the shift earlier this year of the industry regulator SAPPRFT to direct control by the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department.
Tencent Music IPO delayed
Tencent Music delays US$2 billion US IPO due to weak markets / Reuters via Channel NewsAsia
“Tencent Music Entertainment has delayed its planned U.S. initial public offering (IPO) until at least November as the owner of China’s most popular music apps prefers to wait for global stock markets to stabilize, three sources said.”
China’s central bank seeks cryptographers for digital currency development / TechNode
“The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has begun hiring cryptography experts as it eyes developing a digital currency.”
Huawei and artificial intelligence
Chinese tech giant Huawei aims to train one million AI talents in three years as part of AI push / Straits Times
“Huawei will provide free online training, organize boot camps and collaborate with industry players.”
High-speed train technology
China gives the world a glimpse of its 1,000 km/h train / Global Times
“China unveiled a scale model of its high-speed flight train that is expected to travel at 1,000 kilometers an hour by 2025, with Chinese railway experts saying the country’s experience in aerospace science would help develop the train… The train will float 100 millimeters above the ground due to a close-to-vacuum railway environment and magnetic levitation technology.”
Entertainment industry taxes and Xinjiang
China’s film companies flee Xinjiang tax haven in wake of Fan Bingbing evasion scandal / SCMP
“The exodus from Khorgos, close to China’s border with Kazakhstan, started in June and coincided with the start of an inquiry into Fàn Bīngbīng 范冰冰, the nation’s highest-paid actress.”
Solar subsidy problems
Chinese subsidy backlog ‘leaves solar projects facing bankruptcy’ / SCMP
“Rapid growth in the sector causes finance ministry to struggle to keep up with payments to help renewable energy compete with cheaper coal.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
High-profile rape and sexual assault cases
Australian court jails ‘arrogant’ Chinese developer for non-consensual sex after JD.com founder Richard Liu’s party / Reuters via Straits Times
“A Chinese property developer was sentenced to at least 2½ years in jail by an Australian court on Friday October 12 for non-consensual intercourse with a woman after a Sydney dinner party hosted by billionaire JD.com-founder Richard Liu (刘强东 Liú Qiángdōng). Xú Lóngwěi 徐龙伟, who pleaded not guilty, was convicted in July of forcing himself on the woman in an hour-long ordeal at a hotel room.”
#MeToo hits WWF China as executive sues woman who accused him of sexual assault / SCMP
“A senior executive at the wildlife conservation organization WWF China is suing a former employee who accused him of sexual harassment in July under the #MeToo banner, according to a post on the woman’s social media account.”
Will China’s middle class vanish or thrive?
The question mark hanging over China’s 400 million-strong middle class / SCMP
One of a series of South China Morning Post articles that define China’s middle class and look at its future.
Modi and Putin meet, but has Moscow ‘bent’ before China?
India and Russia may be allies, but can they find common ground on China? / SCMP
“The summit meeting last week between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin was an effort by New Delhi to allay Moscow’s growing apprehension that its long-standing strategic partner and largest arms buyer has been lost forever to the United States… Others believe Moscow has already bent before China. An Indian Express editorial after the summit wondered:
As it quarrels with America, Europe and Japan, Moscow has drawn ever closer to Beijing. If China’s rising power provides the biggest challenge to India, how can Moscow, in a tightening embrace with Beijing, strengthen India’s ‘strategic autonomy?’”
Ye Jianming and CEFC China Energy financial crimes ?
Missing Chinese oil tycoon linked to bribery case / FT (paywall)
“The disappearance in March of Yè Jiǎnmíng 叶简明, founder of CEFC China Energy, has been one of the country’s biggest corporate mysteries this year… Details of Mr Ye’s alleged crimes finally surfaced on Friday in a state television report on the trial of Wang Sanyun, who was the highest-ranking official in northwestern Gansu Province until his arrest last year.”
Guo Wengui ?
China hits fugitive tycoon’s company with $8.7 billion fine / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“A Chinese court levied a 60 billion yuan ($8.7 billion) fine against a company controlled by tycoon-in-exile Guō Wénguì 郭文贵, escalating the financial squeeze facing the outspoken Communist Party critic.”
Patriotic education: Now streaming online
China’s biggest streaming site to bring patriotic education to the countryside / TechNode
“China’s biggest streaming service is planning to ‘alleviate the problem of cultural poverty’ in China’s disadvantaged rural areas by showing a series of patriotic testosterone-fueled flicks. iQiyi will leverage its ‘vast resources in the entertainment industry,’ to bring rural areas cultural gems such as Wolf Warrior II.”
Fishing in West Africa
Chinese investors are using “opaque” deals to control Ghana’s fishing industry / Quartz
“Chinese control is widespread in Ghana’s industrial fishing fleets despite national legislation prohibiting foreign ownership, a new study claims. Operating through ‘front’ Ghanaian companies, over 90% of Ghana’s industrial trawl sector is now linked to Chinese firms.”
MOFA to protest U.N.’s exclusion of Taiwanese visitors / Focus Taiwan
“Responding to a media report that Taiwanese visitors were denied entry into the United Nations headquarters in New York, Taiwan’s government said Friday it will lodge a protest to the U.N. over the issue.”
African swine fever
African swine fever reaches Tianjin as China reports new outbreaks / Reuters via Channel News Asia
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Language wars, from Montreal to Beijing by Ian Johnson / China Heritage
Street art in Hong Kong
Climbing higher with Bao / Neocha
“Street art in Hong Kong is still very young, and Bao is one of its leading lights. Even though she’s only been painting for the past three years or so, she competes with the globe-trotting artists who headline festivals worldwide.”
Meet MoreFree, the Chinese streetball pioneer who can’t stop battling NBA stars / Radii China
A profile of a fanatic player of street basketball and the grassroots scene he has helped to grow.
Suicide attempt by snake
Chinese man buys deadly snake online that bites him in ‘suicide attempt’ / SCMP
“A 25-year-old man is fighting for his life in eastern China after he was bitten by a venomous snake he bought online in what local media described as a suicide attempt.”
Shaky history of the Chinese seismograph
Pictures of iconic seismograph removed from Chinese textbooks / Sixth Tone
“For decades, China’s middle school students were introduced to the world’s first seismograph through an image in their history textbooks: a large, bronze urn with eight dragons perched the same distance apart along the outside, each with a copper ball hanging precariously in its mouth.… However, the 1951 model’s fame and ubiquity have worried seismologists, who aren’t convinced that the design holds scientific weight.”
VIDEO OF THE DAY
Video feature: Are Chinese students worried about their visas in the U.S.?
A report suggesting that Trump’s political adviser, Stephen Miller, almost convinced him to eliminate student visas for Chinese students has been circulating in Chinese student communities. What do Chinese students think of it? Here’s what we found at Columbia University in New York.
This week, we also published the following videos:
Chinese soccer, with its government meddling, still doesn’t get it
China, as everyone knows, is bidding to become a global soccer powerhouse — but does anyone really still think that has a chance of happening? For all the progress made over the past five years, the recent move to separate 55 young players from their clubs and throw them into a military-style training camp is symptomatic of a governance style that could set the country back a decade or more. Also in this week’s China Sports Column: Ding Yanyuhang sees court time with the Dallas Mavericks in Shenzhen, and China is embarrassed in cricket.
‘Havoc in Heaven’: How China’s first animators braved war, politics, and exile to create a masterpiece
Based on Journey to the West, Havoc in Heaven (also translated as Uproar in Heaven) is a hand-animated classic that took more than two decades to complete, with its creators — the three Wan brothers — suffering the vicissitudes of 20th-century Chinese history along the way. The final product is nothing short of a national treasure.
South Korea calls out Chinese TV producers for frequent plagiarism
It’s no secret that TV producers in China love stealing ideas from their South Korean counterparts. South Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily reports that from 2014 to 2018, China has trotted out 34 reality shows that bear uncanny resemblances to Korean programs, with the plagiarism ranging from copying graphic designs to ripping off formats.
Beijing Ren: The Old Beijing charms and traditions of Huguosi
A short walk from Houhai in central Beijing is an area of ancient alleyways vibrant with local history and culture. In name, it’s still known by the nearest city gate, Deshengmen 德胜门 (Gate of Virtuous Triumph), that once enclosed it, and an old temple, Huguosi 护国寺, that barely stands today. It is known for its Old Beijing street culture, with lines of famous shops, restaurants, and food stalls. But can this neighborhood survive the city’s increasing efforts to renovate, demolish, and commercialize?
Domestic violence in China and the limitations of law
Domestic violence is tragically universal, but China has been particularly late to offer legal protections to victims. Only in 2016, with the passing of its Domestic Violence Law, did the term domestic violence appear in a piece of national legislation. The law was initially celebrated as a victory for women’s rights, but two years later, its shortcomings are painfully evident. Here’s how it should be fixed.
Writing from in-between: A conversation with Yan Ge
Yan Ge is an Ireland-based Chengdu native and award-winning author of The Chilli Bean Paste Clan. She shares her thoughts on writing in a second language, living in foreign countries, creating a misogynist character, and her endeavor to carve out a new path as a Chinese writer.
ChinaEconTalk: David Dollar on U.S.-China financial friction
David Dollar is a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. He has previously served as the U.S. Treasury Department emissary to Beijing during the Obama administration and the World Bank’s country director for China and Mongolia. In the latest episode of ChinaEconTalk, he discusses his career and the recent history of U.S.-China financial relations, including the current trade war’s origins in the 2008 financial crisis.
Sinica Podcast: Nury Turkel and the Uyghur plight
This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy are joined by Nury Turkel, a prominent voice in the overseas Uyghur community and the chairman of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, now based in Washington, D.C.
TechBuzz China: The Man and the Firm Behind China’s Tech Renaissance
Rui Ma and Ying-Ying Lu talk about China Renaissance Group, a tech-focused investment bank founded and led by one of the country’s most famed rainmakers, Bao Fan aka “bald Shanghainese dude who loves F1 and MMA.”
NüVoices Podcast: Oral histories and family stories with Karoline Kan
In the sixth episode of the NüVoices podcast, Alice Xin Liu and Sophie Lu interview Karoline Kan 阚超群, a writer and reporter based in Beijing, currently working at the New York Times. They talk about Karoline’s writing, oral histories, sitting down with your family to tell their story, and how to get a book deal!
PHOTO FROM MICHAEL YAMASHITA
A Peking opera performer gets ready for a show at Mei Lanfang Grand Theater in Beijing.