We’ve got four things at the top for you today and the usual links below.
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.
Have we ever linked to an article that was a waste of time? Today I am requesting feedback from Access members on a particular question:
Have you ever clicked through to an article we linked, and thought it was a waste of time? If you have, please let me know: I spend a non-trivial amount of time DELETING links from our daily newsletter if I think they are not worth you reading. If that is not working, I’d love to know.
All the best for the fortnight before Halloween,
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
1. Niu scooters — bullish on beng bengs
In the late 1990s, one of my favorite innovations from China’s urban grassroots was the bèng bèng chē 蹦蹦车, a three-wheeled motorcycle often licensed as a mobility aid for disabled persons but used as an unlicensed taxi.
China’s densely populated, congested cities make a natural laboratory for personal transportation tools. Within living memory, most urban adults commuted on bicycles — still, for my money, the best personal transportation device ever invented. Which is perhaps partly why electric bicycles became popular in China over the last ten years despite government attempts to regulate them out of existence in many cities.
With the growing capacity of lithium batteries, and fast-developing self-balancing technologies reminiscent of and sometimes copied from the Segway, I expect companies that make personal mobility machines to thrive in the coming years.
That’s one reason why I scripted a hoverboard into the science-fiction film I made as a farewell gift to myself when I left Beijing in 2015. It’s also why I am not surprised to see this news, via TechCrunch:
Chinese electric scooter startup Niu Technologies has filed for an initial public offering on Nasdaq to raise up to $150 million. In its form, Niu said it is “the largest lithium-ion battery-powered e-scooters company in China,” according to data from China Insights Consultancy, and also a market leader in Europe based on sales volume.
Founded in 2014 and based in Beijing, Niu says it currently holds a market share of 26% in China based on sales volume. Niu’s debut will the latest in a string of recent Chinese tech IPOs, the most prominent of which include the recent Hong Kong listings of Xiaomi and Meituan.
Niu’s scooters connect with an app that give drivers maintenance and performance data and also delivers firmware updates. As of the end of June, Niu claims it had sold more than 431,500 smart electric scooters in China, Europe and other markets.
Niu’s Chinese name is 牛 niú, which means “cow” or “bull.” It’s also in the Chinese words for “bull market” 牛市 niúshì and “show off” 吹牛 chuīniú, as well as other words I won’t mention in a family newsletter.
See also: Niu Technologies IPO: 116.83 percent revenue growth and undervalued, on Seeking Alpha.
In other news of Chinese vehicle innovation: “Chinese electric carmaker NIO said on Monday it delivered 3,268 electric SUVs in the third quarter, exceeding its own target of 2,900-3,000 vehicles,” reports Reuters.
2. ‘You tell me’ — Ambassador Cui Tiankai
Cuī Tiānkǎi 崔天凯, China’s ambassador in Washington, gave an interview to Chris Wallace of Fox News. The Chinese embassy published a transcript of the interview, “including contents not being broadcasted.”
Wallace opened with a question about U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s allegation in his October 4 speech that China is meddling in American elections. Much of the Chinese state media coverage of the interview focused on Cui’s denial of this — in my opinion, laughable — allegation.
Wallace also pressed Cui on trade issues, intellectual property, espionage, North Korea, and China and America’s behavior in the South China Sea, but not the Xinjiang re-education/concentration camps, which the government calls “vocational centers.” Cui dismissed, denied, and defended China against all accusations. He comes off as a competent diplomat, but his performance is unlikely to win any converts to the Party’s cause.
Perhaps the only amusing exchange of the interview:
Wallace: Are you clear who President Trump listens to on trade issues, whether it’s moderates like Kudlow or Mnuchin, or hardliners like Navarro?
Cui: You tell me.
Wallace: You have confusion about this? I mean, that’s obviously part of your job, as the Chinese Ambassador, to be able to report back to Beijing who has the President’s ear?
Cui: Honestly, I’ve been talking to Ambassadors of other countries in Washington, D.C. This is also part of their problem.
Cui: They don’t know who is the final decision-maker. Of course, presumably, the President will take the final decision. But who is playing what role? Sometimes it could be very confusing.
3. Xinjiang concentration camps: Five years until ‘total stability’
Chris Buckley at the New York Times has another landmark report on the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Muslims in concentration camps in the Xinjiang region (recall his last report made the front page of the Times on September 9). The new piece is titled “The Leaders Who Unleashed China’s Mass Detention of Muslims” (porous paywall) — here are a few excerpts:
Beijing says the facilities provide job training and legal education for Uighurs and has denied carrying out mass detentions.
But speeches, reports and other documents online offer a clearer account than previously reported of how China’s top leaders set in motion and escalated the indoctrination campaign, which aims to eradicate all but the mildest expressions of Islamic faith and any yearning for an independent Uighur homeland.
Mr. Xi has not publicly endorsed or commented on the camps, but he ordered a major shift in policy soon after visiting Xinjiang in 2014 to weaken Uighurs’ separate identity and assimilate them into a society dominated by the Han majority, according to the documents…
The public has been told to prepare for a long offensive, which one local official last week called a “campaign of intellectual emancipation.” The Xinjiang government decreed late last year that the security drive would last five years before achieving “total stability.”
In other news from Xinjiang, a “Chinese official says ‘sinicization’ of religion in Xinjiang must go on,” Reuters reports.
The “sinicization” of religion must be upheld to promote ethnic solidarity and religious harmony, a senior Chinese official has said in the troubled western region of Xinjiang, which is home to a large Muslim population.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency on Saturday quoted You Quan, head of the ruling Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, which oversees ethnic and religious affairs, as making the remarks on a visit to Xinjiang this week.
The original report from Xinhua is here: 尤权：大力促进民族团结和宗教和谐 努力实现新疆社会稳定和长治久安
4. Trade war, day 102: Bolton endorses strategy of China containment
Besides Cui Tiankai, several other important players in U.S.-China relations spoke to the press over the weekend. One of them, of course, was Donald Trump. In an interview with CBS, the U.S. president:
Said he “might” impose more tariffs on the Chinese, but “they wanna negotiate” first.
Reemphasized he has “great chemistry” with Xi Jinping, but he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.”
Denied that American consumers are paying more for tariffed products from China.
Conflated the Chinese stock market — “they’re down 32 percent in four months, which is 1929,” he said — with the Chinese economy.
Rebranded the trade war as a “skirmish,” or a “battle.”
Accused China of election interference in the 2016 campaign, not just the upcoming 2018 midterms.
Said China is “a bigger problem” than Russia when it comes to election interference.
John Bolton, the national security adviser and important China hawk reportedly advising Trump on his increasingly adversarial position toward Beijing, was also interviewed on the Hugh Hewitt Show. Bolton’s most interesting answer is a full-throated endorsement of a strategy of containing Chinese power:
We were being taken to the cleaners for decades. Ever since China came into the World Trade Organization, they have pursued a mercantilist economic policy in what should be a free trade environment. And they’ve gone well beyond that. They’ve violated rule after rule after rule. And they’ve defied the prediction of those who advocated admitting China to the WTO, that if they came in, international pressure would make China conform to these rules and norms of behavior. They’ve done the opposite. They’ve gotten worse. They steal our intellectual property so they’re able to compete with us without the investment that’s required in research and development. They force technology transfers from American and European companies. They discriminate against us in terms of their domestic policies. And because of the economic growth that they’ve sustained, not only by abandoning their Marxist principles, but basically by violating the international norms we expected them to comply with, they’ve gained substantial economic strength. And on the basis of that economic strength, they’ve built military strength. I think what the president’s doing, because of his business background among other things, is he’s challenging them on the economic grounds. And if they’re put back in the proper place they would be if they weren’t allowed to steal our technology, their military capabilities would be substantially reduced. And a lot of the tensions we see caused by China would be reduced.
Also, on the South China Sea, Bolton indicates there will be continued challenges to Chinese claims: “They need to know they have not achieved a fait accompli here.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and People’s Bank of China governor Yì Gāng 易纲 were also quoted over the weekend:
Mnuchin denied that Trump and Xi are committed to meet at the G20 at the end of November, casting doubt on a Wall Street Journal report last week that indicated the White House was “moving ahead with” such a meeting, the SCMP reports.
However, Mnuchin received assurances from Chinese officials that they did not want the yuan to depreciate further, which has been an oft-cited concern of his for months. Bloomberg says (porous paywall) that the strong majority of market analysts they surveyed on October 10-11 do not expect the yuan to depreciate past the 7-to-the-dollar threshold, as had been earlier feared by some.
Yi Gang, meanwhile, said that China has a “prudent and neutral stance monetary policy,” but that there are tools available for the country to absorb the impact of the trade war: “We still have plenty of monetary instruments in terms of interest rate policy, in terms of required reserve ratio. We have plenty of room for adjustment, in case we need it,” he said, according to CNBC.
More U.S.-China, trade war, and related news:
Trump Embraces Foreign Aid to Counter China’s Global Influence / NYT (porous paywall)
“With little fanfare, Mr. Trump signed a bill a little over a week ago that created a new foreign aid agency — the United States International Development Finance Corporation — and gave it authority to provide $60 billion in loans, loan guarantees and insurance to companies willing to do business in developing nations.”
“The move was a significant reversal for Mr. Trump, who has harshly criticized foreign aid from the opening moments of his presidential campaign in 2015.”
Mattis’ Vietnam trip aimed at countering China’s influence / Taipei Times
“By making a rare second trip this year to Vietnam, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is signaling how intensively US President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to counter China’s military assertiveness by cozying up to smaller nations in the region that share the US’ wariness about Chinese intentions.”
State media: Accusations of “cyber fear-mongering”
Commentary: The ulterior motives behind Washington’s cyber fear-mongering against China / Xinhua
Chinese version: 人民日报：煽起“网络恐中”别有用心–观点–人民网 / People’s Daily
Chinese Media Slams Bloomberg, Pence for ‘Inciting Sinophobia’ / Sixth Tone
State media: Aircraft carriers “suggestion”
China mocks US with proposal to sell American aircraft carriers to Beijing to close trade deficit / Telegraph
Op-ed: US not at a disadvantage in economic and trade ties with China / People’s Daily
Stocks and investment
China stocks tumble on US trade war concerns / FT (paywall)
“On Monday, the CSI 300 [an index of some of the largest companies listed on the Chinese mainland] finished 1.4 per cent lower, bringing its decline since it peaked for the year in late January to 28 per cent.”
China’s stock regulator promises to protect investor interests as the market falls to four-year low / SCMP
“China’s securities regulator said it had met investors after the nation’s stock market fell to its lowest level in four years last week, pledging its commitment to protect investor interests and ensure a fair and transparent capital market.”
IMF Shows Risks in China’s Debt Markets as Global Popularity Booms / WSJ (paywall)
“China’s $12 trillion bond market is becoming more popular with foreign investors, but sharp swings in trading volumes could present a risk to the country’s financial stability, according to the International Monetary Fund.”
Read This Before You Sell Your Chinese Tech Stocks / Motley Fool
“Despite [these] headwinds, investors should still hold on to their top Chinese tech stocks for a simple reason: They’re still well-poised to profit from the long-term growth of several hot markets.”
Gold rises as Asian shares dip amid China concerns / CNBC
“Gold prices rose early on Monday as Asian stocks eased due to concerns about a potential decline in China’s economic growth amid an ongoing trade war and signs of tighter monetary policy by the U.S.”
China slaps anti-dumping duty on chemical from US, Japan / Reuters via Straits Times
China-US trade war yet to affect Malaysia, says PM Mahathir / Straits Times
The North Dakota soybean farmers caught in the US-China trade war crossfire / SCMP
Can Chinese state firms compete fairly? Beijing claims ‘competitive neutrality’ / SCMP
“Chinese government officials are referring to an obscure term promoted by Europe, ‘competitive neutrality’, as a new catchphrase to defend the country’s state-owned firms at a time when the United States and the European Union are complaining loudly about distorted competition caused by them.”
Trump, China, and Ah Q / by Kerry Brown in The Diplomat (porous paywall)
Speaking to people in China nowadays about Trump, the extraordinary thing is that so often there is barely concealed admiration for what the 45th president is doing — even at the same time as people are decrying his actions. He is showing to Chinese, people seem to be saying, that the United States still really has power, and that it can still prosecute its ideas with consequences and clout.
Ah Q, for those who have forgotten, was a figure created by great writer Lu Xun in the 1920s to lambast the national character – sycophantic to those more powerful, and harsh and bullying to those who were weaker. The Chinese today have to do everything they can to kick this habit – and one such step would be to use the Trump fight to show they no longer have this complicated, half-envious, half-admiring attitude toward the United States. In that sense, Trump could really do China a favor.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Clampdown on overseas M&A, anti-corruption, and who knows what else
Head of powerful Chinese lender swept up in corruption inquiry / NYT (porous paywall)
“Lài Xiǎomín 赖小民, the former chairman of Huarong Asset Management, was accused of using his position to amass money and ‘huge amounts of property’… Huarong helped China’s biggest companies make big splashy acquisitions overseas. Several of its clients have come under scrutiny by officials for big deals, including the HNA Group and CEFC China Energy, the oil giant whose founder has been missing since February.”
Property market woes
China property market feels fresh chill, ‘winter’ is coming / Reuters
“After almost two years of local and central government measures to calm the red-hot market, more signs are emerging that the property sector, a major pillar of China’s economic health, is finally slowing down. They come as the Chinese economy faces broader headwinds, including from an intensifying trade war with the United States and the effects of a campaign by the central government to clampdown on easy credit.”
Stock market woes
‘No chances of making money’: Chinese retail investors have lost more than 100,000 yuan each this year / SCMP
“‘Playing the stock market is the biggest mistake of my life,’ said Chen Yin, 37, a Shanghai-based retail investor.”
Emigration of the middle class
Desperate Chinese middle class take big risks to move money overseas / SCMP
“Growing worries are pushing more wealthy mainlanders to seek property and long-stay visas overseas — but for some, it has turned into a nightmare.”
China’s latest hit game is a wuxia universe created by amateur coder / SCMP
“Imagine Dungeons & Dragons and The Sims set against a background of Chinese mythology and wuxia tales. That is an apt description of The Scroll of Taiwu, on track to break sales records since its release on the Steam games platform on September 21.”
Apple’s earnings could be hit by weak demand in China, Goldman warns / Marketwatch
African swine fever hits China farm with 20000 pigs as risks rise / Reuters
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Censorship — national anthem law absurdities
China jails a video star. Her crime? Singing the national anthem. / Inkstone
Yáng Kǎilì 杨凯莉, a 21-year-old with tens of millions of followers online, had her accounts shut down and was detained for “patriotic education” after she “disrespected” the national anthem by singing a few seconds of it while waving her hands like a conductor.
Yang Kaili: China live-streamer detained for ‘insulting’ national anthem / BBC
Taiwan responses to military and diplomatic threats from Beijing
War games to be staged Tuesday, Wednesday / Focus Taiwan
“In response to a growing military threat from China, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) is to conduct two days of war games in eastern Taiwan from Tuesday, according to a government notice issued Monday.”
Large-scale drill simulates attack by China forces / Taipei Times
Taiwan lodges protest with the United Nations for denying entry to Taiwanese reporter / Hong Kong Free Press
“The Taiwanese government lodged a protest with the United Nations on Saturday after a Taiwanese reporter was refused entry into UN headquarters.”
Military training in Afghanistan
India, China launch joint training for Afghanistan, plan more projects / Economic Times of India
“India and China launched a programme on Monday to train Afghan diplomats and China’s ambassador said it would likely be followed by joint programmes in other fields to help war-torn Afghanistan.”
Vatican-Beijing deal and Taiwan
Taiwan invites pope to visit after historic China deal / AFP via Yahoo
Xi Jinping personality cult watch
Peter Martin on Twitter: “Both strange and useful: A calendar of reports on Xi’s activities since his first day as CCP General Secretary in 2012.” — People’s Daily: 习近平报道日历
Dissent in Hong Kong, and its discontents
Heeding China’s call, Hong Kong tightens grip on dissent / Reuters
“As Hong Kong’s government hews closer to Beijing, officials are taking a tough line on perceived national security threats, even deploying an elite police unit for political monitoring and surveillance — a sharp escalation in rhetoric and action.”
Chinese man detained over attack on doctors who refused to give his wife a caesarean / SCMP
“Attacks on medical staff frequently occur in China, as patients take out their frustrations over long queues to see doctors and overcrowded, under-resourced facilities.”
South China Sea — friendly moves
China’s navy to join Thailand and Malaysia for training exercise in Strait of Malacca / SCMP
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Chinese food with Fuchsia Dunlop
After demystifying Sichuan food in West, author finds audience in China / SCMP
“Fuchsia Dunlop, who said her mission was to promote Chinese food to the world, has recently published a Chinese-language edition of her widely acclaimed work Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. It is her first publication in mainland China.”
Listen to a Sinica Podcast: The delights of cooking Chinese food: A conversation with chef and author Fuchsia Dunlop.
Opinion: Speak Cantonese loud and proud – there is no need for it to play second fiddle to Mandarin by Louisa Tam / SCMP
“Like the youngest child in a family, Cantonese, which is unpredictable and delightful, does not follow rules and is far more influential than people give it credit for.”
Long-awaited Chinese opera venue to open at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon cultural hub on January 20 with star-studded performance / SCMP
“A long-awaited Chinese opera theatre at the city’s West Kowloon arts hub will officially open on January 20 next year with a star-studded performance of a classic piece under the direction of legendary diva Dr Pak Suet-sin.” The venue “will be used for Cantonese opera and other genres.”
Chinese food in New York
Goldthread on Twitter (video): “New episode of Chef’s Plate! Amelie Kang, the restaurateur behind MáLà Project in NYC, shares with us one of her favorite dishes: zhajiang noodle, a classic northern Chinese dish.”
Chinese tourists’ selfie mania destroys rare pink grass / SCMP
“A field of pink, cloud-like muhly grass flowers in a park in eastern China had to be cut down on Sunday after it was trampled by selfie-seeking tourists, it was reported.”
1990s Chinese pop culture
90s rewind: The Chinese entertainment comebacks we want to see / Channel NewsAsia
VIDEO OF THE DAY
Viral on Weibo: A cleaning vehicle you can only see in China!
Wondering how creative Chinese people can be? Check out this one-of-a-kind cleaning vehicle!
Kuora: Considering the Republican-era thinkers Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao (for president)
What would have happened to China if a political reformer like Kang Youwei or Liang Qichao had been elected president of the Republic of China? Kang and Liang fled the country (for good reason), ceding power to the likes of Yuan Shikai.
Friday Song: MC HotDog’s ode to Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road
In this song from 2015, Taiwanese rapper MC HotDog and crosstalk performer Yue Yunpeng 岳云鹏 deliver an ode to Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road. While Beijing drivers typically lament the city’s terrible traffic, MC HotDog (real name 姚中仁 Yáo Zhōngrén) finds comfort in its predictably miserable state.
Sinica Podcast Early Access: Kai-Fu Lee and the U.S.-China AI rivalry
This week on Sinica, Jeremy and Kaiser speak with Kai-Fu Lee 李开复, who has returned to discuss his new book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. Kai-Fu is a prominent member of the international artificial intelligence community and is the chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, founded in 2009. Kai-Fu brings to Sinica a wealth of knowledge on topics that have developed into rather large points of contention in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship over the past year.
Subscribe to Sinica Early Access by plugging this RSS feed directly into your podcast app.
The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 65
This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: Chinese stocks, the richest man in China, Hong Kong’s ban on electronic cigarettes, the sentence of veteran regulator Yao Gang 姚刚, Doug Young on Brilliance Auto and its partnership with BMW, and more.
PHOTO FROM MICHAEL YAMASHITA
Bridge crossing the Mekong River
This photo from 1991 shows the section of the Mekong River (湄公河 méigōnghé) in Zadoi County, Qinghai Province. The river, which runs through several countries in Southeast Asia, is the world’s twelfth-longest river and the seventh-longest in Asia.