Sweep away the yellow

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

We’ve got seven things at the top for you and the usual links below.

A heads-up: We’re planning to increase our membership fees, and to restrict our newsletter to paying members four days each week instead of two. Watch this space for details on how you can lock in your current subscription rate!

And, a reminder — we’ve opened a shop. I highly recommend the “qualitative measures” T-shirt, emblazoned with 质量型的措施 zhìliàng xíng de cuòshī, the ominously vague non-tariff retaliations that China has threatened against the U.S. in the escalating trade war.

Have a great weekend,

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. 600,000 yuan reward for reporting porn and ‘illegal’ content

China Police Net reports (in Chinese) that a variety of government organizations have started a campaign against pornography illegal materials online. Agence France-Presse also has an English report on the move.

  • “Sweep away yellow and hit illegal” (扫黄打非 sǎohuáng dǎfēi) is what the government is calling it, sometimes translated as “eradicate pornography and illegal publications.”

  • “Yellow” means pornography, “illegal” refers to anything the Party doesn’t like. The phrase is often employed by China’s media regulators in campaigns against politically subversive content, online scams, and sometimes even pornography, which is illegal but widely circulated in China.  

  • The Ministry of Finance, the General Administration of Press and Publication, and the National Copyright Administration announced the campaign jointly. Starting on December 1, people can earn rewards of up to 600,000 yuan (US$86,500) for reporting pornography and other “illegal content” on the internet or elsewhere. The previous guidelines specified a reward of 300,000 yuan.

  • If you would like to report an illegal or pornographic website, you can submit a complaint to the website of the Small Working Group for Sweeping Away Yellow and Hitting Illegal (in Chinese). The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) also has a page (in Chinese) with multiple methods of reporting naughty websites.

In other news from the CAC, its former chief — the oleaginous Lǔ Wěi 鲁炜, who was felled by a corruption investigation last year in November — is back in the news.

  • A handwritten letter of repentance by Lu “is among the featured attractions at an exhibition in Beijing to mark the 40th anniversary of the country’s reform and opening up,” according to the South China Morning Post.

  • CAC’s own website this week published an article (in Chinese) titled: “CAC firmly supports the decision of the Central Committee to expel Lu Wei from the Party and public office for serious violation of discipline — resolutely remove the bad influence of Lu Wei on the internet industry.”

2. ‘We don’t have to invest in the U.S.’

Tech investor, former president of Google China, and Sinica Podcast guest Kai-fu Lee (李开复  Lǐ Kāifù) told Bloomberg that his firm Sinovation Ventures might stay away from the United States if trade tensions with China are not resolved.

  • “We don’t have to invest in the U.S.,” Lee told Bloomberg: “Our U.S. strategy is pending on the Argentina meeting [between Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and Donald Trump], to see if there is a U.S. strategy…”

  • Lee is particularly concerned about the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which has greatly tightened its scrutiny over Chinese acquisitions and investments:

CFIUS regulation is probably the most worrisome for us all… The easy thing for us to do is to look for smart, technical Chinese people in America and bring them back to China. That is what the current American policy is forcing us to do. That can’t be good for the future, but if you’re in my shoes, what other choice do you have?

  • Founded in 2009, Lee’s company Sinovation Ventures “manages about $2 billion between six funds in U.S. and Chinese currencies,” and owns shares in more than 300 companies, mostly in China.

  • Under new rules passed in August, U.S. Congress strengthened the review powers of CFIUS. Now, Bloomberg says, “even a small investment can be flagged for CFIUS review.”

It’s not just investors that may stay away if the U.S. continues to advance policies that are hostile to or perceived as hostile by immigrants and foreigners:

  • “Why declining international student numbers — which are almost certainly due to Trump’s restrictionist policies — are a bad thing for the United States” is the start of a worthwhile Twitter thread by Bloomberg opinion writer Noah Smith.

  • “363,341 Chinese students studied in American colleges and universities during the 2017-18 academic year — up 3.6 percent from the previous year (still growing, but the slowest growth since 2005),” tweeted Eric Fish, author of China’s Millennials, earlier this week.

  • “America is rejecting more legal immigrants than ever before” is the title of this New York Times piece (porous paywall) on the declining rates of legal immigration under Trump at a time when “there are more job openings than job seekers in the United States.”

3. China rejects request from diplomats to visit Xinjiang internment camps

The Washington Examiner reports that “China will ‘firmly reject’ a request from a group of western diplomats seeking to visit” the internment camps in Xinjiang.

The article is based on this foreign ministry readout of the November 15 press briefing in Beijing. Relevant quote:

Q: Fifteen ambassadors to China have presented a letter to seek an audience with Xinjiang’s local authority and expressed their concerns over the situation in Xinjiang. Does China have any response to this?

A: I just saw the Reuters’ report on this. I don’t know why you chose to publish this kind of story? Do you think that it is meaningful for 15 ambassadors to write such a letter?

Xinjiang is an open area. You all know that over 100 million visits have been made to Xinjiang either over the past year or in the first three quarters of this year. If these ambassadors want to go to Xinjiang with goodwill, of course we welcome that. But if they want to go there to pressure the local government, then that would be problematic. Besides, that would also exceed their mandate under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. An ambassador is supposed to promote the mutual understanding, mutual trust and cooperation between the receiving state and the sending state, rather than raise unreasonable requests and interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving state based on hearsay.

Maybe you could interview these ambassadors and ask them whether they have got all the facts straight before writing this letter… I think what they have done is very rude and unacceptable. We hope that they could fulfill their duties and obligations as ambassadors, work to help their countries learn about China in a truthful, all-around and multidimensional way, and play a positive and constructive role in enhancing mutual trust, friendship and cooperation between their countries and China.

Other news from Xinjiang:

  • Scholar Timothy Grose tweeted that Xinjiang Daily’s Uyghur-language edition published “a three-part series on the region’s re-education centers (what they term as ‘professional skills instruction and training centers’).” Read the whole thread for a good summary of the propaganda directed at Uyghurs themselves about the camps.

  • On NPR, Rob Schmitz tells the story of “one Kazakh woman who Chinese authorities forced to undergo an abortion and then assigned local government ‘minders’ who were with her 24/7 as she attempted to escape China to Kazakhstan.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn

4. Trade war, day 134: No deal, no softening

In an upbeat report yesterday on the ongoing trade talks paving the way for an upcoming meeting between Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and Donald Trump, the Financial Times reported (paywall) that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has been telling executives that a major increase in tariffs on Chinese imports planned for January has been placed on hold, according to “one person familiar with the situation.”

  • But Lighthizer’s office issued a denial, according to CNBC: “Ambassador Lighthizer has made no representations to industry executives that future Section 301 tariffs are on hold.” A statement said the tariff plan announced in September “has not changed at all. Any reports to the contrary are incorrect.”

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reiterated that the plan is still on to raise tariffs on some $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, reports Bloomberg (porous paywall). Trump and Xi Jinping are “likely at best to agree to a ‘framework’ for further talks to resolve trade tensions” at their upcoming meeting at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires at the end of November.

  • No deal will be in place before the tariff hike takes effect, it seems, but Bloomberg notes:

Ross’s comments are a sign of what appears to be a growing appetite in the Trump administration to reach a deal with China to bring an end to the escalation of tit-for-tat tariffs that have unnerved investors and companies around the world. But they also were an acknowledgment of just how hard securing a deal will be.

Other trade-war-related news:

—Sky Canaves

5. Hangzhou is now hell for dogs

Police in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, have embarked on a gruesome killing spree of dogs this week, after implementing a series of strict policies on pet ownership. The citywide campaign of violence toward dogs has sparked social media outrage, and a boycott hashtag campaign on Weibo with a lot of traction.

The online protest began after a horrific video clip surfaced on the internet in which a white dog can be seen struggling underwater while trapped in an animal capture net. Although the video did not expose the perpetrator, Weibo user Huòbǐtè xiǎo féijī 霍比特小肥基 (Huobite hereafter), who shared the clip (in Chinese), said that the dog was drowned on November 9 by a group of urban management officers, also known as chengguan (城管 chéngguǎn). They apparently mistook the dog for a street dog as it was wandering freely, without a leash.

You can read more about this Hangzhou case on SupChina. Other cities are also struggling to maintain harmony between pet owners and dog haters: What’s on Weibo reports that Chengdu has banned 22 common dog breeds, sparking online fury.

—Jiayun Feng

6. New rules for handling sexual harassment in the classroom

“China’s Ministry of Education has published its first detailed protocol for handling abuse by teachers as part of a crackdown on sexual harassment and abuse following a series of scandals in the country,” according to Caixin, and to Sina (in Chinese). You can find the Ministry’s original document here (in Chinese).

If an abuse charge against a teacher, including “obscene” behavior and sexual harassment, is “verified,” the teacher must be dismissed, added to a national database, and blacklisted from working at schools.

The news comes at the end of a year when even Party secretaries at Chinese universities are beginning to fear the #MeToo movement. For more on recent cases of sexual harassment, please see the following links on SupChina:  

7. Swine fever spreads to wild boar, and to Sichuan

Yesterday, we noted that the government is now calling the African swine fever outbreak “serious.” This looks to be China’s most pressing disease crisis in the coming months:

  • “China’s agricultural ministry confirmed on Friday the first outbreak of deadly African swine fever in the southwest province of Sichuan, the country’s top pig-producing region, raising the likelihood of a major impact to pork supplies in coming months,” reports Reuters.

  • Today, the agricultural ministry confirmed it had found the first case in a wild boar, in Baishan City, Jilin Province, in northeastern China, also according to Reuters.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at jeremy@supchina.com.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • A crackdown on student activists has led to at least 12 student labor activists going missing. Peking University went so far as to accuse its student Marxists of “criminal activity.” For more on the struggles of the Peking University Marxist Student Association to survive, read this profile of the group on SupChina by Eddie Park.

  • The U.S. and China resumed high-level trade talks after a three-month hiatus, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liú Hè 刘鹤, had a phone conversation, and China reportedly gave the U.S. a response in writing to trade-related demands. China hawk Michael Pillsbury even said that “there is a consistency in the (Chinese) messages that can be seen by optimists as the outlines of a deal.”

  • But pessimism abounds for U.S.-China relations: Chinese Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强 and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence both repeated well-worn talking points from the past year, and a Washington Post interview with Pence hinted the Trump administration’s posture: that the upcoming G20 meeting “is China’s best (if not last) chance to avoid a cold-war scenario with the United States.”

  • American anxiety about technology and intellectual property remains very high: The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has released its annual report, which warns that China’s growing technological prowess is a major threat to the U.S. Also, Trump administration sources were not fully satisfied with the written response from China to trade demands, as they did not address the hot-button issues of technology transfer and intellectual property theft. Meanwhile, the World Bank gave the Chinese market a “quiet endorsement,” as its Doing Business index ranked China at 46 out of 190 economies worldwide, the first time it has entered the top 50.

  • The ban on rhino horn and tiger parts trade was temporarily reinstated, after the lifting of the ban at the end of October sparked an uproar among conservation groups.

  • Fifteen Western ambassadors signed a letter raising concerns about Xinjiang, in a rare coordinated effort. The American ambassador was notably absent, though the U.S. Embassy provided what appeared to be new, internally calculated statistics that “an estimated 800,000 to possibly more than 2 million” ethnic minorities have been detained. Six human rights experts at the UN also wrote a letter criticizing the Xinjiang internment camps as a violation of international law.

  • African swine fever has become “serious” in China, as it has spread to pig farms in more than half of the country’s provinces, a joint statement by China’s ministries of agriculture, transport, and public security said.

  • Taiwan is on high alert for election interference from China, leading up to the November 24 elections on the island. Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau already announced last month that it is investigating 33 cases of suspicious funding to political candidates — and disinformation on social media is also a concern.

  • Beijing may be easing up on “gray rhinos,” large corporations that last year had been labeled risky by the government for their overseas spending sprees.

  • A censorship spree swept up nearly 10,000 online accounts, including even the official WeChat account of Guancha.cn 观察者网, a pro-government news site associated with Eric X. Li (李世默 Lǐ Shìmò), the silver-tongued venture capitalist who writes op-eds in American newspapers defending China’s leadership.

  • Code of Conduct talks in the South China Sea will take another three years to complete, Chinese state media said. China security scholar M. Taylor Fravel explained that the talks are not even aimed at resolving underlying territorial claims, but instead are “about creating a diplomatic process and buying time, to lower tensions in the short term but without addressing the real issues that could spark another round of escalation.” Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said that China is “already in possession” of the South China Sea, and urged the U.S. to end military operations there.

  • There is “no deadline for deciding whether to press charges” against JD.com executive Richard Liu in the rape investigation against him in Minneapolis, according to a county attorney’s office. The case puts the University of Minneapolis “in an impossible situation,” as it wants to protect students claiming to be victims, but also got $10 million in tuition fees from the executive education program that brought Liu over in the first place.

  • Paying rent is a “large financial burden” on 82.1 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds in China, according to a survey by China Youth Daily.




  • Classical Chinese on a Shanghai wall
    Shanghai wall wisdom / Sinosplice
    “Spotted on a wall in Shanghai: It reads: 勿以恶小而为之, 勿以善小而不为 wù yǐè xiǎo ér wéi zhī, wù yǐ shàn xiǎo ér bù wéi. Because it’s from classical Chinese, it’s written in traditional characters and also reads right to left. It’s also a pretty simple introduction to classical Chinese, so if you’re intermediate or higher, it’s worth a closer look. Translation: Even in small matters, do no evil.”

  • Smoking
    Anti-smoking advocates fuming over china’s tobacco sales target / Sixth Tone
    “Anti-smoking advocates are not happy with a 2019 sales target announced by China’s state-controlled tobacco monopoly last week whose head said (in Chinese) “that the agency should focus on selling 47.5 million boxes of cigarettes — or nearly 119 billion packs — next year ‘with firm confidence and determination.’” According to a tobacco industry trade journal (in Chinese) 47.39 million boxes were sold in China in 2017.
    Chinese smokers twice as likely to have abnormal sperm / SCMP
    “In the study of 4,364 men, carried out at 25 medical institutes across China, 32 per cent of those who smoked were found to have abnormal semen, while the figure was 16.6 per cent for those who did not.”

  • Bullying and cyberbullying
    Guangdong passes law to stop school bullying / That’s Guangzhou
    “Guangdong “will soon test-run draft regulation aimed at putting an end to mean behavior in school. The new regulation , which will take effect on December 1, classifies three levels of bullying behavior ranked from ‘normal’ to ‘mildly serious’ to ‘serious or repetitive.’ The forms include name calling, damaging personal property, posting slanderous remarks or insulting videos on social media and inflicting physical violence.”

  • Feckless youth
    Teen girl uses mother’s bank details to borrow US$14,000 for Jade Dynasty costumes / SCMP
    “A teenage girl in northeast China spent more than 100,000 yuan (US$14,400) on props and costumes for a video game — funded by small loans she took out every day for six months using her mother’s bank account.”


Viral on Weibo: World’s deepest hotel opens in Shanghai

The InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland Hotel is located 290 feet underground on the outskirts of Shanghai. The 18-story hotel was built on the site of an abandoned quarry.

We also published the following videos this week:


China Sports Column: On China’s World Cup hosting ambitions

It’s no surprise that China wants to host the World Cup, but we wouldn’t expect it to happen anytime soon — certainly not as soon as 2030, when current FIFA rules disallow any country from the Asian Football Confederation to submit a bid. Meanwhile, Shanghai has ordered a feasibility study on hosting the 2032 Summer Olympic Games.

The Red Runners of Peking University

Eddie Park reports for SupChina: A fascinating look inside the Peking University Marxist Student Association, which is struggling to stay together as its members disappear.

We’ve opened a shop!

Click through to check out the goods — and let us know what you think! On SupChinaShop.com, you can find a curated assortment of our favorite books and posters, and goods from China or influenced by Chinese culture.

Chinese Corner: Is modern tai chi a fraud?

In this week’s review of interesting Chinese nonfiction writing: The ‘long-term despicable behavior’ of an ambitious abbot; how much effort Chinese people will make just to have a son; Bì Zhìfēi 毕志飞 takes “the worst film on earth” to court; and — is modern tai chi a fraud?

Live-blogging Alibaba’s insane Double Eleven Gala

Before the craziness began at midnight for China’s annual 11.11 Singles Day shopping extravaganza was Alibaba’s Tmall Double Eleven Gala 双十一天猫晚会, which is a pageant hosted in a stadium all about consumerism. Honestly, it should be a national holiday. SupChina was there with a live blog to record the insanity as it happened.

Kuora: Why does the Chinese Communist Party believe it is essential to China?

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) doesn’t suffer the existence of opposition because it’s an autocracy, and autocracies don’t suffer the existence of opposition groups. But that’s probably a bit of an unsatisfying answer. Why does the Communist Party believe that its monopoly on power is essential to China’s continued stability, wealth, power, and prestige?


Shadow banking, P2P lending, and pyramid schemes: Lucy Hornby on China’s gray economy

This week on Sinica, Kaiser speaks with Lucy Hornby, the deputy bureau chief of the Financial Times in Beijing and a veteran guest on the show. The two discuss shadow banking in China and its history; the cat-and-mouse relationship between regulators and shadow financiers; the advent of fintech and the proliferation of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms; and Lucy’s reporting on a pyramid scheme involving selenium-infused wheat in Hebei.

TechBuzz China: Alibaba Singles’ Day $30.8 Billion Extravaganza — The Real Deal, or Not?

Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma talk about China’s version of “Black Friday,” the biggest ecommerce shopping festival of the year, which Alibaba invented out of thin air in 2008 and now falls yearly on November 11. Rui and Ying-Ying delve into the history behind the “Double 11 Shopping Festival,” as Chinese media title it.

NüVoices Podcast: Eleanor Goodman on the art of translating Chinese poetry

Alice Xin Liu and guest host Lijia Zhang interview Eleanor Goodman, who is renowned in the literary translation world as one of the foremost translators of Chinese poetry into English. Eleanor is the noted translator of Wáng Xiǎobō 王小妮, and she has also penned many a poem herself.

ChinaEconTalk: How Chinese firms succeed and fail at internationalizing — featuring Bytedance

What is Bytedance and how does it make its money? How do politics and culture get in the way of Chinese firms’ internationalization efforts? What can Chinese phones in China and electric buses in LA teach us about localization challenges? Elliott Zaagman, co-host of TechNode’s China Tech Investor podcast, takes on these issues for the latest episode of ChinaEconTalk.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 69

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: Car sales in China, a high-tech stock board in Shanghai, the arrest of Lài Xiǎomín 赖小民, Xiaomi’s move to enter the British market, the Import Expo in Shanghai, and more.


Practicing tai chi

A master monk practices tai chi in the Wudang Mountains (武当山 wǔ dāng shān) in the northwestern part of Hubei Province. The mountains, which are renowned for the practice of tai chi and Taoism, are an important destination for Taoist pilgrimages.

Jia Guo