A boost to the global economy or a farce?

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Here are two free newsletters you might find interesting if you can’t get enough of your China fix from SupChina:

  • If you’re following Xi Dada’s signature project, the Belt and Road Monitor from RWR Advisory Group is a regular source of numbers and reporting on new deals and developments.

  • If you are feeling depressed by the constant stream of bad news on both sides of the Pacific, sign up for Abe Sorock’s Atlas China Top 8, a weekly review of news about technology and business in China, from one of the most optimistic people living in that country.

Finally, a quick reminder about some upcoming events:

November 11: The Chinese Finance Association’s 24th annual conference, “U.S.-China Relationship Rollercoaster, Blockchain-Crypto Turbulence: Where Is the Global Economy Heading To?” Speakers include a number of luminaries from the U.S.-China business community.

November 13: The next monthly installment of SupChina’s Women’s Networking Series, which will feature guest speaker Ingrid Yin, Ph.D., a cofounder of MayTech Global Investments and a winner of the 2018 SupChina Female Rising Stars Award. Our theme is innovation in medicine and biosciences in China. Only a handful of tickets are left!

November 15: Project Pengyou, the organization that promotes Sino-American friendships and Mandarin study, is hosting its fourth annual National Pengyou Day on November 15. Click here for details on the activities organized and how to take part.

Have a great weekend,

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. Shanghai import extravaganza: A boost to the global economy or a farce?

“A timely shot in the arm for world economy” is what Xinhua News Agency is calling the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), which concludes this weekend in Shanghai. Fulsome praise of the expo is the theme of the top story on the Chinese websites of the People’s Daily and Xinhua.

The Shanghai correspondent for the Economist, Simon Rabinovitch, was less impressed. He tweeted: “China really put the ‘show’ in its big import trade show over the past week,” and linked to this Reuters story:

China’s choreographed trade expo more ‘theater’ than deal clincher

After one signing, a foreign participant told Reuters that he had nothing to do with the company he was representing.

“Everything you saw at the signing ceremony was theater or farce. I’m essentially an actor, hired for the duration of the expo, in order to give the impression of international cooperation,” the person said, asking not to be named.

2. A conciliatory tone from the Global Times

Today, the three prominent stories on the website of the Party’s snarling-dog newspaper, the Global Times, are:

  • A conciliatory opinion piece titled “This is what we want to say about the China-U.S. high-tech battle,” which defends the Made in China 2025 policy but also admits problems in the country’s economic policies, for example:

We probably need to take the U.S. complaints more seriously, listen to outside opinions and make necessary adjustments in the way of achieving scientific and technological progress. For example, the issue of subsidies for state-owned enterprises and the fair treatment of enterprises with different ownership systems, some of the common practices under the market economy system can and should be adopted more.

  • General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 today “conferred the flag to the new national fire and rescue team, ordering them to be loyal to the Party, disciplined and devoted to the people… The national fire and rescue team was formed based on the country’s fire services and armed forestry police.” That’s also the top story on the Global Times English website.

  • The China-US diplomatic and security dialogue was held in Washington today. U.S. media: Talks will not directly deal with trade issues” is the headline of the third top story (see the trade war update below for more on the dialogue).

—Jeremy Goldkorn

3. Trade war, day 127: Peter Navarro unhinged

The postponed U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue got under way on Friday in Washington.

  • Chinese Politburo member Yáng Jiéchí 杨洁篪 and defense chief Wèi Fènghé 魏凤和 sat down with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss non-trade-related issues such as “how we can work together to avoid mistakes or accidents that can happen in the military arena,” according to Ambassador Terry Branstad, who also said it was a chance for a “‘frank and open’ exchange of views on issues like North Korea, human rights, and cooperation on Afghanistan and Iran, where the U.S. is pressing Beijing to cut oil imports.”

  • While this meeting “signals an effort by the two sides to contain the slide in the relationship,” says the Associated Press, it’s something of a placeholder ahead of a planned meeting at the end of the month between President Donald Trump and China’s President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 at a Group of 20 summit in Argentina.

  • Not much is expected to come out of the security talks, says the South China Morning Post. As to the outlook for the Trump-Xi meeting in Buenos Aires: The SCMP says, “No quick fix to US-China trade war — even with a Trump-Xi meeting, top Beijing economic adviser says.”

Beijing made some effort to show its goodwill in opening markets this week, though maybe too little, too late.

  • American Express got the green light from the Chinese central bank to establish card-clearing services in a 50-50 joint venture with a Chinese firm. The WSJ (paywall) reports that the move “comes more than a decade after Beijing promised to open the sector and more than a year after it pledged anew to do so — part of a package meant to forestall the tougher trade measures President Trump has since imposed.”

  • Still, Amex’s decision to work with a local partner rather than setting up a wholly owned entity highlights the challenges faced by foreign firms trying to do business in Chinese markets, and the joint venture structure has “drawn particular ire from some Trump administration officials who see them as a tool China uses to reduce American companies’ profits and siphon off their technical know-how.”

But this morning, director of the White House National Trade Council, Peter “Death by China” Navarro, gave a speech at the Washington, D.C., think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He ranted against China, and even against colleagues in his own government and other trade advisers, using the anti-Semitic dog whistle “globalists.” From the Financial Times (porous paywall):

The White House’s top trade adviser has accused “globalist billionaires” of trying to pressure President Donald Trump into ending his tariff brinkmanship with China, saying their “shuttle diplomacy” to Beijing meant that any truce would have a “stench around it”…

…Navarro, the most prominent China hawk in Mr Trump’s inner circle of economic advisers, called on Wall Street to “get out of the negotiations” and warned that if a deal is reached when the president meets with Xi Jinping at a G20 summit in Argentina this month, it would have “imprimatur of Goldman Sachs”… Navarro accused a “self-appointed group of Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers” that were part of a Chinese “influence operation” of putting a “full court press” on the White House ahead of the G20 meeting. “The mission of these unregistered foreign agents, that’s what they are…is to pressure this president into some kind of deal,” Mr Navarro said.

Other trade-war-related news:

—Sky Canaves

4. Political vetting before college entrance exam? Officials downplay controversial announcement.

Chongqing Daily has been at the center of a controversy started by a news article (in Chinese) published on November 6, which says candidates who fail a “political evaluation” (政审 zhèngshěn) will be denied access to this year’s college entrance exam, also known as the gaokao (高考 gāokǎo) in China.  

While the article is rather vague about the evaluation criteria, it asserts that people who “object to the Chinese Communist Party’s Four Basic Principles, have criminal records, or are morally corrupt” will fail the evaluation. In addition, candidates who apply for police schools, military institutions, or other colleges with special requirements need to pass further examinations.

The Four Basic Principles were first introduced by the former Chinese president Deng Xiaoping in 1979 (see this Chinese People’s Daily article) and have since then become the main criteria to decide whether a citizen’s political beliefs align with the Party line. They are:

  • We must keep to the socialist road.

  • We must uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat.

  • We must uphold the leadership of the Communist Party.

  • We must uphold Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.

There was a massive social media backlash, especially against the term “political vetting,” which is reminiscent of similar practices carried out by the Party during the anti-Rightists movements in the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution (1966–77).

Click through to SupChina for details.

—Chauncy Jung


Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • China yet again promised to open its economy, reduce trade barriers, and protect intellectual property, and newly promised to launch a new “technology innovation board” for equity raising in Shanghai, and specifically “bake a 40-trillion-dollar big import cake.” Journalists at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, where Xi Jinping made the promises, noted the relative lack of important foreign leaders at the grand expo, and pointed out that the 40 trillion number, upon closer inspection, was effectively meaningless. The Expo officially attracted 400,000 buyers, but it’s not clear how much the buyers are actually buying, or whether deals would have taken place without the expo. Like the Expo, the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen saw a dismal showing from foreign tech dignitaries.

  • China made an effort to reach out to the U.S. at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, where vice president and Xi Jinping sidekick Wáng Qíshān 王岐山 said his side is “ready to have discussions…for a solution on trade acceptable to both sides.” Wang chafed slightly at his introduction by Michael Bloomberg as the “most influential political figure in China.” Also at the Forum, former U.S. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson warned of a looming “economic Iron Curtain” between the U.S. and China.

  • China sent further conciliatory messages to the U.S., with Xi Jinping meeting “old friend of Chinese people” Henry Kissinger and saying that “China is committed to working with the US.” Top diplomat Wáng Yì 王毅 and Politburo member Yáng Jiéchí 杨洁篪 both talked up the Trump-Xi meeting in a few weeks at the G20. Meanwhile, Chinese exports surged despite the burden of tariffs, and luxury sales in China continued to boom.

  • Mass relocations in Xinjiang were reported by state media, as China faced harsh criticism over its human rights record at the UN. Xinjiang scholar Adrian Zenz published new evidence that the internment camps in Xinjiang function more like prisons than “vocational training” schools. The forced homestay program in Xinjiang was also covered in state media this week.

  • Tensions with Australia were highlighted in a Global Times opinion piece, which argued that “Australia has left a bad impression on the Chinese people, probably the worst of all Western countries.”

  • A great explainer on the social credit system was published by China Law Translate, run by scholar of Chinese law Jeremy Daum. He concludes that contrary to dystopian depictions in Western media, the system is “pretty mundane regulatory law with only a few new wrinkles.”

  • Student activists continue to receive pressure from authorities, with one student at Renmin University saying she was under careful watch and had been warned against speaking out again. About 50 students from across China, including students from both Nanjing and Renmin universities, went to Huizhou in southern China in August to protest against the treatment of factory workers.





Viral on Weibo: Chinese kung fu master smashes 100 bricks in 37 seconds!

Wang Hua, a kung fu master, has studied a variety of martial arts since he was a kid.

We also published the following videos this week:


Singles Day preview: Join us on Saturday for a live blog extravaganza

Before the craziness begins at midnight for China’s annual 11.11 Global Shopping Day, a.k.a. Singles Day, there is the insanity of Alibaba’s Tmall Double Eleven Gala 双十一天猫晚会, a.k.a. Maowan 猫晚. This year, SupChina is hosting a live blog for those who want to gawk along at this pageant to consumerism. What is the Singles Day Shopping Festival, what is the Singles Day Gala, and why are we live-blogging it?

Jin Yong, China’s late great novelist, was a world-creator who shaped Chinese imagination

Jīn Yōng 金庸, who has been called the J.R.R. Tolkien of Chinese literature, dazzled readers by creating worlds with characteristics of the American Wild West or Batman’s Gotham, with “chaotic good” characters who fought for justice in unorthodox and heroic ways. There will never be another like him.

A porcine predicament for rural North Carolina

China has taken aim at American pork with two harsh rounds of tariffs in the trade war — U.S. pig products are now hit with a 62 percent tax upon import into China. Jason MacRonald reports for SupChina: As the trade dispute drags on, and an infectious disease withers China’s domestic supply of hogs, the country is establishing new pig trading relationships with no Americans involved.

Chinese Corner: Can we get some bad stories about male drivers, too?

In this installment of Jiayun Feng’s weekly review of interesting nonfiction on the Chinese internet, she looks at China’s unchecked and dangerous love of high-rise apartments, the media-fueled hostility toward female drivers, and more.

And now, an amazing Chinese rendition of ‘Cell Block Tango’ (with translated lyrics)

This is the best thing we’ve seen on Chinese social media in a while — a song by Tú Yǒuqín 徒有琴, a student at the Central Conservatory of Music. She plays the part of six women from six different parts of China who sing, in their particular dialects, about their horrible experiences with the men in their lives. It’s all set — fittingly and so very well — to the tune of “Cell Block Tango” from the musical Chicago.

Kuora: Irony and postmodernism in China

Irony doesn’t permeate the attitudes of young Chinese to nearly the same extent that it does their counterparts in the developed anglophone West, and there’s much more direct, unfiltered earnestness to the way that your ordinary Chinese person will approach literature, televisual media, music, fashion, or sports. This is, of course, not to say that irony and some of its arguably related phenomena, like postmodernism, don’t exist in China. They do, and, in the case of irony, they have for a very long time.

Chinese university draws controversy after sending students’ grade reports to parents

A department at Shenzhen University in Guangdong Province has found itself embroiled in controversy from its decision to mail detailed transcripts directly to parents without informing the students.


Introducing the Ta for Ta Podcast

In lieu of Sinica this week, we are proud to announce the newest addition to our network, Ta for Ta, hosted by Juliana Batista. Chenni Xu, a corporate communications executive and gender advocate, is the inaugural guest. She moved back to New York after spending nearly a decade abroad in Beijing.

TechBuzz China: The World’s Most Valuable Startup: Bytedance, maker of TikTok & Toutiao

In episode 28 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma talk about the Chinese AI company that recently toppled Uber to become the highest-valued startup in the world: Bytedance. Having just closed on a $3 billion funding round led by SoftBank, the company is currently valued at $75 billion.

ChinaEconTalk: KFC, the Business of Propaganda, and the ‘Toilet Revolution’

Why is KFC so big in China? What is the “Toilet Revolution” and why does it matter? How does Chinese propaganda work? How have bicycles’ role in Chinese society evolved over time? Neil Thomas of MacroPolo takes on all this in ChinaEconTalk’s latest show.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 68

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: Alibaba’s “hotel of the future,” the fall of Féng Lìzhì 冯立志, Google’s project to develop a search engine for the Chinese market, and what happened with the Brazil election and its meaning for China.


Harvesting oysters

A woman shows off the oysters she harvested at an oyster farm in Xiamen, Fujian Province. The fresh oysters can be used to make fried oyster omelet (海蛎煎 hǎi lì jiān), a popular snack in the city that is often sold in night markets.

Jia Guo