A tailor-made straitjacket

Access Archive

1. No straitjacket for China

Two views of China’s behavior and role in the trade and tech war with the U.S., and its behavior as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO):

  • “China plans to propose reforms of the World Trade Organization, China’s ambassador to the WTO Zhang Xiangchen said” at a meeting in Paris last week, according to Reuters. But he warned against other countries (read: America) trying to restrict China’s growth or autonomy:

If someone wishes, in the name of reform, [to] put China in a tailor-made straitjacket of trade rules to constrain China’s development, I think they will be very much disappointed.

  • The highly respected Lóng Yǒngtú 龙永图, who led the talks that led to China’s entry to the World Trade Organization, “openly criticised Beijing’s trade war tactics on Sunday, singling out the decision to impose tariffs on soybeans as ill-thought out.” Per the SCMP:

In particular, Long said it was unwise to impose import duties on soybeans in retaliation for US President Donald Trump’s decision to slap additional levies on Chinese imports.

“Agricultural products are very sensitive [in trade], and soybeans are very sensitive as well … We should have avoided targeting agricultural products because targeting agricultural products should be the last resort,” Long said. “But we have targeted agricultural products, or soybeans, right from the start.”

2. ‘Eco-tourism’ kills endangered Chinese sturgeon

Since the start of this year, 36 mature Chinese sturgeons (aged over 20 years) and about 6,000 babies (aged up to two years) have died at the Hengsheng aquafarm in Jingzhou, Hubei Province.

“A panel appointed by the provincial fisheries bureau said the deaths were ‘directly linked to the shocks, noises and changes of water sources’ caused by the construction of the Jinan Eco-cultural Tourism Zone,” reports the South China Morning Post.

The Chinese sturgeon can grow up to 13 feet (four meters) long. The species is critically endangered, and almost extinct in its native Yangtze River.

Another piece of wild China in danger is the subject of this New York Times report: A rural patch of Hong Kong where rare birds sing and developers circle (porous paywall).

Jeremy Goldkorn

3. Trade war, day 137: Chaos at APEC

The weekend’s APEC summit in Papua New Guinea (PNG) resulted in a fiasco as U.S.-China sparring over trade spilled over to consume the event. “The entire world is worried” is how PNG’s prime minister summed up the result.

  • For the first time in APEC’s 29-year history, world leaders at the annual summit failed to issue a joint communique at its conclusion because the U.S. was insisting on language which Beijing pushed back against

  • Reports vary on what exactly it was the U.S. wanted to see in the statement. According to the WSJ (paywall), it boiled down to one phrase: “We agreed to fight protectionism including all unfair trade practices,” which Beijing took personally.

  • Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and Mike Pence dueled in their speeches over the weekend, with the Chinese leader blasting American protectionism, while Pence took aim at China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

  • “We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road,” Pence scoffed, drawing Chinese rebukes.

  • Police were reportedly called when a group of Chinese officials attempted to force their way into PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato’s office “in an eleventh-hour bid to influence a summit draft communique, but were denied entry,” the AFP reports. Both sides, however, have since attempted to downplay or deny the incident.

  • “Experts said the stalemate…would set up a high-stakes showdown at the Group of 20 conference in Argentina this month, which Mr. Xi and President Trump are expected to attend,” according to the New York Times (porous paywall).

  • One note of optimism came from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said that “there is a lot more progress being made here than is probably being acknowledged,” reports the Guardian.  

  • Trade negotiators on both sides will head directly to Buenos Aires instead of meeting first in Washington, according to the SCMP. “The change, if confirmed, suggests that stakes will be raised for the leaders’ meeting, with more weighty matters likely to be on the agenda.”

  • This all comes after Trump raised hopes on Friday with his suggestion that he might not raise tariffs after all, despite earlier statements to the contrary from other members of his administration.

China’s regional ambitions

Upside for some

Technology tensions

  • China alleges ‘massive’ evidence of chipmaker violations / FT (paywall)
    “Officials in Beijing said a price-fixing investigation into South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix and US-based Micron Technology had made ‘important progress,’ without offering any specific examples of wrongdoing.”

  • Chinese surveillance group faces crippling US ban / FT (paywall)
    “The supply chains illustrate just how heavily intertwined sourcing for the Chinese and US tech sectors are, creating potentially disastrous consequences for Chinese companies unable to immediately replace high-tech components as the trade war between the two countries simmers.”

Retaliatory investigation?

  • China launches anti-dumping probe into Australian barley imports / Australian Financial Review
    “Australia’s grain producers have scoffed at a move by China to launch an anti-dumping investigation into billions of dollars in barley imports from Australia saying they fear it is politically motivated after Canberra signed security and infrastructure deals to counter Beijing’s influence in the Pacific.”

—Sky Canaves

4. State media on Brunei

Central state media today focuses on friendly ties with Brunei, in English and Chinese.

The Global Times also prominently features an article (in Chinese) titled: “Chinese diplomats ‘charge the office of the foreign minister of Papua New Guinea’? [Foreign Ministry spokesperson] Gěng Shuǎng 耿爽: Does that sound even possible?”


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





Viral on Weibo: China launches two navigation satellites

China successfully launched a pair of navigation satellites on Monday at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province. The launch was an expansion to the country’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, which was designed by the Chinese government to reduce reliance on the American-owned GPS system and form its own global satellite navigation coverage.


‘Very complicated and very tough’ — China’s African swine fever challenge

In its second breakout from its indigenous environment in the sub-Sahara, African swine fever (ASF) has finally achieved what many veterinary scientists and virologists have long predicted was terrifyingly inevitable. It is on the move throughout China, home to more than half the world’s pigs.

Chinese marathon runner loses gold medal after volunteers thrust national flag

Imagine that you are in first place at the end of a marathon, sprinting toward the finish line, when suddenly a patriotic volunteer barges into you to hand you a national flag… This is what happened to Hé Yǐnlì 何引丽 at the Suzhou Taihu Marathon in Jiangsu on November 18. A supporter rushed onto the track and thrust a Chinese flag at He. She continued running without taking the flag, but then a second bystander appeared and pushed the flag on He. She took it, and then dropped it.

Kuora: When does a foreigner ‘really’ understand an adopted country?

What is native-level understanding of a country? From Kaiser Kuo’s viewpoint, short of fluency in at least one major language, he would expect someone who claims to understand an Asian country to be reasonably familiar with its geography, history, ethnography, culture, intellectual landscape, and psychology.


Sinica Early Access: Myth-busting China’s social credit system

This week on Sinica, Kaiser traveled across the Atlantic to host a live podcast at the Asia Society of Switzerland in Zurich. The topic of discussion is the social credit system (SCS) in China, a fiercely debated and highly controversial subject in the West, often construed as a monolithic and Orwellian initiative. Our guests are Manya Koetse, editor and founder of What’s on Weibo — a wonderful resource that aggregates and examines trending information from social media platform Sina Weibo — and Rogier Creemers, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Leiden, who has done extensive research on China’s governance and digital policy and has translated extensive primary source materials from Chinese government sources and publications on SCS.

  • Sinica Early Access is an ad-free, full-length preview of this week’s Sinica Podcast, exclusively for SupChina Access members. Listen by plugging this RSS feed directly into your podcast app.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 70

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: the controversy surrounding China’s drive to get ahead in 5G technology, the recent outbreak of African swine fever across the country, the gaming industry in China, and more.



Amazing Party!

Inside a “Party building” meeting room at iFlytek, a Chinese information technology company, in Hong Kong. One side of the wall is painted in red with a robot-like character wearing the National Emblem of China, a Chinese Communist Party propaganda slogan that can be translated as “Amazing [Communist] Party” (厉害了,我的党 lìhai le, wǒde dǎng), and the yellow hammer and sickle that symbolizes workers and peasants. Photo from Joy Qiuyi Dong, Hong Kong reporter for Sing Tao Daily.

Jia Guo