Dear Access member,
I was hoping to lead with the wonderful news that China and Japan have agreed to stop threatening each other and cease mutual aggression, but the story of a guy with a background in the Ministry of State Security being appointed to run China’s Harvard somewhat spoiled my sunny mood.
As always, let me know what you think!
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
P.S. The transcript for Darren Byler’s chat earlier this week is available on our Slack on the #access_qa_archive channel. It is posted as a PDF along with all other guest expert chats we have done this year.
1. Security apparatchik to lead Peking University
Peking University is China’s oldest modern university, founded as the Imperial University of Peking in 1898. Often called PKU or běi dà 北大, the university’s alumni include Chén Dúxiù 陈独秀 — co-founder and first general secretary of the Communist Party of China — Máo Zédōng 毛泽东, and several leading 20th-century writers and public intellectuals, such as Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅, Hú Shì 胡適, and Lín Yǔtáng 林语堂.
PKU’s pleasant campus in northwestern Beijing has been the breeding ground for some of the most significant political movements in modern Chinese history:
May 4, 1919: Students from 13 universities led by PKU activists marched to Tiananmen to protest the Treaty of Versailles, and demand the resignation of three government officials. This protest launched the May Fourth Movement.
May 25, 1966: A lecturer at PKU wrote a big-character poster (大字报 dàzìbào) that criticized the university leadership for trying to restrain the revolutionary fervor of the students. This was one of the first acts of what became the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: Mao endorsed the dazibao as “the first Marxist big-character poster in China.”
April 15, 1989: Students at PKU and other universities in Beijing erected shrines to deceased Party leader Hú Yàobāng 胡耀邦. On April 17, around 3,000 PKU students marched from the campus toward Tiananmen Square, starting the ill-fated demonstrations there.
The year 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, and the 30th year after the Tiananmen demonstrations and their violent suppression. The Communist Party isn’t taking any chances. Which is probably why they chose a man with experience in China’s secret police to lead the university.
On October 23, the Ministry of Education announced (in Chinese) that Qiū Shuǐpíng 邱水平 was appointed as Party secretary of PKU, a vice-minister-level position in the Party hierarchy. Qiu’s predecessor was demoted to president of the university: As with all organizations in China, the Party secretary is the person with the power. This is a summary of Qiu’s résumé, sourced from Baidu’s encyclopedia (in Chinese):
1979–1990: Student and teacher at PKU’s law school and Jiangxi University.
1990–1996: Deputy secretary and then secretary of PKU’s Communist Youth League Committee.
1996–2013: Big-shot roles at various Beijing city government organs ranging from head of a state-owned construction company to director of the city’s massive Chaoyang District.
2013–2017: Various leadership roles in the Beijing government’s Political and Legal Committee, which oversees the police. From 2013 to 2014, Qiu was also Party secretary of the Beijing branch of the Ministry of State Security, China’s intelligence and counter-intelligence agency, which also handles domestic threats to the Party’s rule.
Qiu spent 2017 and most of this year as head of the Higher People’s Court of Shanxi Province, before his transfer this week back to his alma mater.
No doubt his orders are clear: Make sure nothing remotely like 1919 or 1966 or 1989 happens at PKU in 2019. We can expect further purges of the faculty, and clampdowns on all kinds of student activities.
2. Japan and China agree ‘that we do not threaten each other’
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe concludes his three-day visit to Beijing tomorrow. This is what has come out of the trip so far:
Speaking at a forum today, Abe said that bilateral relations with China are at a “historic turning point,” according to Reuters, calling today “the dawn of new Japan-China cooperation,” and mentioning cooperation “in industries such as infrastructure, logistics, healthcare and finance.”
Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强 and Abe gave a press conference today. According to the South China Morning Post, Li announced that China and Japan had signed more than 500 business deals, as well as a series of cooperation agreements. These include reviving a currency-swap deal dropped in 2013 worth $29 billion.
“We also agreed that we do not threaten each other and do not direct aggression toward each other,” Li said, according to the SCMP, adding, “We need to have constructive ways to eliminate any kind of frictions or conflicts between the two countries.”
Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 met Abe today and made nice noises. Xinhua has a report. Excerpt:
“Under the new situations, China and Japan, increasingly interdependent in bilateral areas, also share more common interests and concerns on multilateral occasions,” Xi said… The two sides should effectively implement the consensus that they are partners rather than mutual threats, facilitate positive interactions, and deepen mutual political trust, Xi said.
Shinzo Abe says Japan is China’s ‘partner,’ and no longer its aid donor / NYT (porous paywall)
Previously on SupChina:
3. State media: Xi tells his troops to prepare for war, then shakes Abe’s hand
But the Party’s newspaper, the People’s Daily, leads with a story (in Chinese) that is also prominent on all other central state media about Xi inspecting the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command. Here is Xinhua’s short English report on the inspection. Xi gave a speech to the troops urging preparedness for combat, calling on the PLA “to strengthen its sense of mission, resolutely eliminate weaknesses of peacetime, and concentrate on preparing for war” (集中精力推进备战打仗 jízhōng jīnglì tuījìn bèizhàn dǎzhàng).
My take on the jingoistic noises in state media: to ensure the citizens do not think Xi is talking to visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from a position of weakness. Related: The Global Times does not want you to think that American pressure has anything to do with China’s warming to Japan, either. One of the nationalistic rag’s classic tortured opinion pieces published today is titled Internal factor promotes China-Japan ties. The Chinese version is titled “Abe’s China visit: Internal factors in Japan and China far outweigh external forces.”
More messaging from the Global Times — this cartoon, showing a supplicant Abe arriving at the imperial gates of the Forbidden City (source).
4. The mystery of Room No. 13 in a Shandong internet bootcamp
The Fourth People’s Hospital of Linyi, Shandong Province, which accommodates the most notorious internet addiction treatment center in China, has come under fire (in Chinese) after a viral video in which a boy can be heard screaming for his mother while receiving “treatment.”
Weibo user IADSER龙徒 (lóng tú) captured the moment and shared the one-minute clip on October 22. He says that he took the video while eating in a nearby restaurant, and that the boy had been crying for over 10 minutes before he started shooting the video.
“I spent a month in the internet addiction treatment center. I shot the video at the window of Room No. 13. That’s where they used to punish us with electric shocks,” says IADSER龙徒.
Although the clinic was ordered to close in August 2016 after earlier abuses were exposed, IADSER龙徒 says it was not shut down: “They just removed the sign outside.”
Linyi is notorious for its thuggish security services: Ruffians acted on behalf of the Linyi government, which persecuted blind self-taught lawyer Chén Guāngchéng 陈光诚 for nearly a decade.
5. Trade war, day 113: RMB nearly hits seven to the dollar
Today, one U.S. dollar traded for 6.9647 Chinese yuan (RMB). According to Reuters, that’s a 22-month low for the Chinese currency, and about 6 percent weaker than it was at the beginning of the year. But sources tell Reuters that the currency won’t be allowed to weaken further:
Two sources involved in internal policy discussions, but who are not the final decision-makers, said that a defense of the yuan at seven per dollar would be mounted to show investors that the authorities wouldn’t allow a runaway market.
The seven-to-the-dollar threshold is psychologically significant, and economists like Leland Miller, the international CEO of China Beige Book, have said that passing that milestone would be effectively a “declaration of currency war.”
The U.S. Treasury Department has repeatedly warned China against using currency devaluation to offset the effects of tariffs, but in the end agreed with most economists that China was not artificially devaluing its currency. In its semi-annual report earlier this month on the currencies of major trading partners again declined to name China a “currency manipulator.”
Here are just a couple other links relating to the trade war and U.S.-China relations:
Trump’s trade war may create new auto jobs. In China. / NYT (porous paywall)
“Caught in a crossfire of tariffs, BMW and other foreign carmakers are gauging whether to relocate some manufacturing to China. Jobs could follow.”
Science talent recruitment
China hides identities of top scientific recruits amidst growing US scrutiny / Springer Nature
“China’s flagship science talent recruitment programme, the Thousand Talents Plan, has gone underground amidst intensifying scrutiny by United States government agencies for China’s suspected role in the theft of US technologies and intellectual property.”
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:
Sinister new details of China’s internment camps in Xinjiang emerged: An Agence France-Presse investigation by Ben Dooley revealed that there are at least 181 such camps, and that evidence such as their purchases of cattle prods and handcuffs shows they are run more like prisons than schools. The BBC also interviewed some witnesses, and analyzed satellite photos to show that one camp in particular could hold between 11,000 and 130,000 prisoners. Anthropologist Darren Byler also documented an elaborate homestay program that is designed for forced cultural assimilation.
Chinese stock markets briefly surged, in reaction to expressions of confidence by four key economic officials — Liú Hè 刘鹤, Guō Shùqīng 郭树清, Yì Gāng 易纲, and Liú Shìyú 刘士余. But then a day later, the rally sputtered out. Economic anxiety is high, and a stimulus of $195 billion in special infrastructure bonds does not seem to have been very effective.
The U.S.-China trade war is at an impasse. It was first reported early this week that Trump “wants them to suffer more,” and then later in the week confirmed that U.S. officials were refusing to negotiate until China declares exactly what concessions it is willing to make. Meanwhile, tariffs were having a few unintended consequences, as it was reported that a Chinese-owned pork producer in the U.S. qualifies for government subsidies, soybeans are being routed through Southeast Asia, and foreign investment into China reached an all-time high. Companies with supply chains in China are preparing to move them, in many cases to Southeast Asia, as tariffs are set to again expand at the end of the year.
Xi Jinping embarked on a symbolic trip to southern China — but like his last “southern tour” in 2012, and unlike Deng Xiaoping’s in the early 1990s, we don’t expect it to lead to a new great opening up or reform.
The Cyberspace Administration of China set its sights on censoring blockchain transactions — though we don’t know how that would even be possible, as the whole point of blockchain is that you can’t change or delete the information it records. This article on Longhash says that the new regulations may break the blockchain industry in two, “just like the Internet has been.”
A massive bridge connecting Hong Kong to Macau and Zhuhai in the mainland was declared open by Xi Jinping on October 23. Though in theory it can cut travel time between its endpoints from three hours to 30 minutes, the entire project has been chased by controversy from start to finish.
U.S.-China relations remain gloomy, and several commentators are even warning that the chances of military confrontation are farther from zero than we would like to think. Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded with unexpected levity when addressing allegations that China had spied on Trump’s iPhone.
Bankers briefly panicked after a UBS wealth manager was delayed from departing Beijing. Several banks urged their staff to “to reconsider any travel plans to China,” and others in the financial industry wondered if more bad news would follow. But then UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti said that the employee’s delay was unrelated to the company’s activity in China, allaying fears.
Kǒng Línlín 孔琳琳, the CCTV reporter in London who slapped a volunteer at a conservative political event in the U.K., was charged with assault.
State-owned Chinese dairy company Yili Group accused its former president of embezzlement and defamation — but the details of the case are very murky.
Chinese medical tourism to South Korea is reportedly causing the majority of medical disputes in that country.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Cathay Pacific data breach
Hong Kong government weighs in on Cathay Pacific data breach, urging airline to cooperate with privacy watchdog in investigation / SCMP
“The government issued a statement on Friday expressing serious concern as affected passengers also questioned whether remedial measures taken by the city’s flag carrier were sufficient, with some worrying there would be further risk of data breach.”
Worried after Cathay Pacific’s data breach? Here’s all you need to know about privacy protection in Hong Kong / SCMP
Video game approval holdup
China gaming approval ‘green channel’ halted after one Communist Party official’s promotion / SCMP
The State Administration of Press and Publication ‘has yet to announce its new head’ since “Zhuang Rongwen…left the post in August after being named as the new chief of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet censor.”
China in Israel
China’s quest for tech chutzpah goes through Israel’s Silicon Wadi / TechNode
Russian investment in Shenzhen
China welcomes Kremlin-backed hi-tech investment fund to Shenzhen / SCMP
“Russia’s Da Vinci Capital Management – with US$500 million in capital – has established a 600 million yuan (US$86 million) fund with state-owned China Electronics Shenzhen, in the southern province of Guangdong. The aim is to invest in firms combining Russian software and Chinese hardware.”
Air Strike to be released after all
Scandal-plagued Bruce Willis movie shot in China, Air Strike, to open in US / Bloomberg via Straits Times
“The plot — behind the film, that is — only thickened. The original producer fled the country after his business got caught up in a peer-to-peer lending scandal, leaving director Xiao Feng, who retold the story of Willis’s hotel deposit on his blog, to dig into his savings to finish the film.”
“Then, Fan Bingbing, one of the top Chinese stars in the movie, went missing after becoming embroiled in a tax evasion scandal that shook the industry.”
Armed drones, iris scanners: China’s high-tech security gadgets / Phys.org
Creating the ultrawealthy
China ‘creates two billionaires a week’ / BBC
“China produced billionaires at the rate of two a week in 2017, says a report by Swiss bank UBS and auditors PwC…. The report said China was currently the leading country for entrepreneurs to create wealth.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Kindergarten attack in Sichuan
Knife-wielding woman injuries 14 children at kindergarten in Sichuan, China / AFP via HKFP
China kindergarten stabbing injures 14 children / NYT (porous paywall)
“The suspect, who was identified only as a 39-year-old woman with the surname Liu, was arrested immediately after the stabbing spree. Video posted by Chinese news outlets showed police officers surrounding a woman wearing a red top as bystanders screamed, kicked and punched at her.”
Xinjiang internment camps
Three Australians were detained in China’s re-education camps in the past year, DFAT reports / Australian ABC
“Three Australians were detained and released from China’s political re-education camps in Xinjiang province in the past year, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).”
China’s decimation of Uyghur minds / Asia Dialogue
Aydin Anwar on Twitter: “A bit of my own story — what it has felt like being the only Uyghur on Duke’s campus while doing activism on an ethnic cleansing that most people don’t seem to know or care about. I’m also sure many Uyghur diaspora members can relate.”
As China rattles its sword, Taiwanese push a separate identity / NYT (porous paywall)
“China’s pressure campaign appears to have hardened Taiwanese resolve against the Chinese Communist Party, while fueling resentment toward the awkward Cold War labels Taiwan operates under in the international sphere. As a result, many Taiwanese are hoping to take control of their identity, and their fate, through the ballot box, despite the threat of attack from China that hangs over such moves.”
United Liberation Front of Assam
India asks China to act against ULFA leader / Economic Times of India
“India has used the presence of the Chinese Public Security Minister to demand action against fugitive ULFA leader Paresh Baruah and a crackdown on smuggling of arms and narcotics into India’s Northeast.
Anti-corruption prosecution overseas
China will prosecute graft, terror suspects even if they flee / Reuters
“China changed its law on Friday to allow judgments to be delivered in corruption and terror cases even when the suspects do not appear in court, as Beijing ramps up pressure on dozens of suspected criminals hiding overseas.”
Taiwan arms sales
Taiwan to get upgraded F-16V fighter jets after US arms sale approved / SCMP
“Upgrading Taiwan’s fighter jets to F-16Vs will boost the self-ruled island’s defences, but in terms of combat capability the revamped aircraft will still lag behind Beijing’s, military analysts said.”
Continuing crackdown on Occupy protesters in Hong Kong
Fourth Occupy protester, 72, is jailed over 2014 violation of order to clear streets as 13 others fined and hit with suspended sentences / SCMP
Anthracite coal for Hebei
China’s Hebei to ensure clean coal supply for 2018-2020 winters / Reuters
Anthracite coal, the highest grade of coal that Reuters is referring to as “clean coal,” has “less dust and fewer emissions when it burns compared with normal thermal coal.”
Good air in Beijing?
Chart of the Day: Beijing’s air pollution level dips to new low / Caixin
“People living in Beijing breathed the best air since 2013 in September, according to government data.”
Opinion: Retired Hong Kong bishop preaches message of hate / by Alex Lo in SCMP
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Zhang’s tallest test could be a huge step up the ladder / China Daily
“For the first time in his professional career, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound southpaw from Zhoukou, Henan province, will face an opponent who can look down at him when he defends his WBO Oriental title in a 10-rounder against 6-foot-8, 280-pound Alexander Ustinov of Russia on Nov 24 in Monaco.”
Ian Johnson on learning Chinese and China-watching
China watching — language wars, from Montreal to Beijing / China Heritage
Disrespecting middle-aged women
‘Dama’: A history of China’s ageist, sexist slur / Sixth Tone
“‘Dama’ 大妈 dàmā is a loaded word these days. Although originally nothing more than a benign descriptor for a kindly, hardworking, middle-aged woman, the term has somehow morphed into a globally recognized byword for a grasping, domineering, nouveau riche matron. In popular media, for example, damas are typically portrayed as uncultured, easily swayed by gossip, and utterly unwilling to listen to reason.”
A Chinese farmer couldn’t fly a plane, so he built one / AFP via Channel NewsAsia
“The full-scale replica of the Airbus A320 built by farmer Zhu Yue is now nearly finished, permanently taxied on a short piece of tarmac surrounded by wheat fields in northeast China.”
Social media memes
‘Falling Stars Challenge’ takes the humble out of humblebragging / NYT (porous paywall)
The manic mashups charming China’s internet / Sixth Tone
VIDEO ON SUPCHINA
Video feature: Donna Dillenberger on blockchain technology in China
Blockchain in Chinese is 区块链 qūkuàiliàn. It might be one of the hottest words in the tech world. What is it, and why do we care about it? We spoke with Donna Dillenberger, global leader of enterprise systems at IBM, about how this technology can impact our lives, and the new changes it will bring.
We also published the following videos this week:
FEATURED ON SUPCHINA
Vampires & Ghosts: A Brief History of Chinese Horror, Part 1
Chinese horror films might not be internationally renowned — and indeed, they are frowned upon in today’s Chinese film industry — but they have a rich history, with roots in ancient folklore, featuring stories of ghosts, zombies, monsters, and magic, full of creepy crawlies and psychedelic weirdness. In this first of a two-part series, Tristan Shaw takes a look at some influential early Chinese horror flicks.
The SupChina Quiz: Chinese Film
It’s quiz time at SupChina! This month: 18 questions to test how much you know about the Chinese film industry.
UFC and ONE Championship’s turf war, snooker’s hand-washing controversy
With UFC set to make its Beijing debut next month, it’s a worrying time for some of the more established MMA federations in this part of the world, such as Singapore-based ONE Championship — whose financials show it might be on shaky ground. Meanwhile, in snooker, Adam Duffy refused to shake hands with his Chinese opponent, Luo Honghao, after a narrow loss, saying it was because Luo didn’t wash his hands after using the loo.
Beijing Ren: The Bakeries of Sanlitun
Western-style cafes and bakeries are becoming popular in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and are particularly prevalent in fashionable areas like Sanlitun in the center of Beijing — the forefront of all international trends in China. Join Yuan Ren and Hannah as they explore the area and stuff their faces with Angry Bird bread, durian-cream croissants, chestnut bread, chocolate croissants doused in cocoa powder…and more.
Mingbai: Explaining Chinese idioms and the stories behind them
Mingbai (明白, meaning “understand”), written by Christian Føhrby and Deng Jie, is a newsletter that drops knowledge on things “everyone in China knows, but almost nobody outside the country knows.” Today’s column, about the stories behind China’s most common idioms, marks the return of Mingbai to SupChina. It’ll appear in this space on the final Wednesday of each month moving forward.
A timeline of #MeToo in China
To celebrate the #MeToo movement’s first birthday, the Initium 端传媒 published an interactive article documenting some of the major events that defined China’s #MeToo in the past year. In addition to a timeline of how the movement unfolded and evolved, the article includes abundant data from relevant surveys, detailed explanations on why the country’s legal system failed to protect victims of sexual assault, and insights into social media reactions to this ongoing conversation about gender and power.
Kuora: Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek, and the battle for Chinese hearts and minds
In which we look at the White Terror of April 1927, which killed off urban communists, and revisit the 1938 Yellow River flood (花园口决堤事件 huāyuán kǒu juédī shìjiàn), which ultimately contributed to Chiang’s demise.
‘Who on earth adds marijuana to maple syrup?’ Chinese consumers panic over Canadian legalization
On October 17, Canada became the largest country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana. While it’s still too soon to tell what kind of long-term impact the legalization may have on the country’s marijuana industry, the decision has already initiated a wave of panic in China, where customers are deeply concerned about getting stoned by mistakenly consuming THC-infused snacks brought from Canada.
China’s stringent nationality requirements is hurting its national teams
China is known to be looking at its nationality law with particular regard to athletes. Options that spring to mind could include a temporary swap of passports, an Olympic exception for dual nationality, or even widespread reform of the entire nationality law, allowing dual citizenship or perhaps a true path to naturalization. Also: Zeng Cheng 曾诚 is awaiting punishment after wearing HUF’s “Plantlife” socks — which promote weed culture — in a recent game against Syria.
Nanjing University professor under investigation for academic misconduct
Nanjing University announced today that Liáng Yíng 梁莹, a sociology professor who earned several prestigious titles such as Changjiang Scholar, is currently being investigated after allegations of plagiarism and complaints about her failure to fulfill teaching responsibilities.
International school principal ousted after parents find expired food in cafeteria
The Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration and Education Bureau jointly announced today that the head of SMIC Private School, an international K-12 school located in the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park of Pudong, Shanghai, was dismissed after parents discovered moldy vegetables and out-of-date seasonings in a kitchen that prepares food for students.
SINICA PODCAST NETWORK
Sinica Podcast: Danny Russel on the rebalancing and decoupling
This week on Sinica, Kaiser speaks with Danny Russel, career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 2013 to 2017, and currently vice president for international security and diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). The conversation centers on all things diplomatic in East and Southeast Asia.
TechBuzz China: The O2O Local Services War: Alibaba vs. Meituan? Part 2: Koubei
In episode 26 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma discuss Koubei, rounding out a two-part deep dive into the local services space in China. An Alibaba subsidiary, Koubei recently merged with ele.me, another Alibaba-owned (via acquisition) entity, which was covered in episode 25 last week. Listeners will also hear from Ed Sander of ChinaTalk, a China trip leader and prolific writer on the topic of ecommerce and China.
ChinaEconTalk: When Trade Wars Turned Bloody: The Opium War With Stephen Platt
When it came to trade wars, the British didn’t mess around. Four steam-powered battleships sent by the English to force China to change its trade policy in the mid-19th century altered the course of history. But how did they end up fighting the Chinese in the first place, and what are the contemporary echoes of this historical trade fight? Stephen Platt, the author of the recent Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age, answers these questions and more on the latest episode of ChinaEconTalk.
The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 66
This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: China’s slowing economic growth, a dispute between two state-run newspapers, corruption-related developments in Chinese banks, and Doug Young on a few stories this week on energy in China.
PHOTO FROM MICHAEL YAMASHITA
Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge
This 1982 photo shows the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge (南京长江大桥 Nánjīngchángjiāngdàqiáo) — a double-decked road-rail truss bridge that spans the Yangtze River between Pukou and Xiaguan in Nanjing. Completed and open for traffic in 1968, it was the first heavy bridge designed and built by Chinese engineers. Watch this video to learn more about China’s modern bridges, including the world’s longest sea-crossing project.