1. Dead pigs are washing up on Taiwan’s shores
“A pig carcass infected with African Swine Fever has washed up on the shores of Taiwan’s Kinmen Island, just 5km off of China’s coast,” tweeted Taiwan-based journalist Chris Horton, based on an Apple Daily front-page story (click on the link for an image). Horton notes that “Taiwan has repeatedly asked China to share information about its nationwide outbreak of the disease and has been met with silence.”
“The dead pig was clearly brought by the tide as there are no pig farms on the Kinmen-administered islet,” says Focus Taiwan. The article cites an official who says that “200 to 300 tons of garbage float from the mainland to Kinmen each year.”
“Taiwan has been on high alert” since the first confirmed case of African swine fever (ASF) infection was reported in China’s Liaoning Province in August, “worried that an outbreak of the extremely deadly virus could devastate the country’s NT$80 billion ($2.58 billion) pig farming industry.”
“The discovery of the dead pig in Kinmen proves that China’s disease control and infection reporting are problematic, and more infected pigs might float to Matsu or other nations,” said Taiwanese Premier William Lai (賴清德 Lài Qīngdé), according to the Taipei Times. Lai called on China to “honestly publicize its infection situation and work with other nations to curb the disease’s spread, a responsibility that it should shoulder, instead of worrying about ‘losing face.’”
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) previously complained about China’s lack of transparency in her New Year’s Day speech:
During our recent efforts to prevent an African swine fever epidemic, China’s government has never followed the relevant agreements and provided Taiwan with accurate, real-time reports about the epidemic situation… If we can’t even have sincere cooperation on epidemic prevention and treatment, how can we talk about both sides of the Taiwan Strait being one family?
On the other side of the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese government is also asking for transparency — from its pig farmers. Reuters reports:
China’s animal husbandry and veterinary affairs bureau is stepping up investigation and punishment of illegal activity in the pig industry, said a statement published on the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs website on Friday, January 4.
Failing to report deaths and privately slaughtering and selling sick or dead pigs would be pursued under criminal law, it said, and compensation of 1,200 yuan ($175) for each pig culled was sufficient incentive for farmers to report the disease.
Other hog news:
Shares in DaBomb Protein Corp — the best company name I have seen in a while — “which makes advanced soybean meal animal feed, surged this week as the threat of African swine fever boosted sales,” reports the Taipei Times. Wholly plant-based protein feed is “a vital method to maintain biological security” in the face of an epizootic.
“China reported an outbreak of deadly African swine fever on a huge pig farm part-owned by a Danish investment fund, showing the spread of the virus to modern industrial farms expected to have the best levels of disease prevention,” according to Reuters.
2. Trade war, day 183: Talks scheduled in Beijing for January 7-8
A little over a month since Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met face-to-face at the G20 in Argentina on December 1, resulting in a vague 90-day tariff ceasefire, American and Chinese officials will meet in Beijing for talks next week. The January 7-8 negotiations will end with about 50 days to go in that 90-day period, which officially ends on March 2.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry confirmed the talks, the SCMP reports, and framed them as “proactive and constructive.”
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish will lead the U.S. side, the ministry said, though this has not been confirmed by the USTR, and the Chinese lead negotiator has also not been identified.
Recent talks have been “a little more optimistic than usual,” Larry Kudlow, economic advisor to Trump, told Bloomberg (porous paywall).
The talks “will address issues including intellectual property, agriculture and industrial purchases,” sources also told Bloomberg.
The talks will occur in the midst of a season of disappointing news for the Chinese economy, as described in the previous Access newsletter. The U.S. stock market also took a beating with Apple’s announcement yesterday that it was downgrading its revenue outlook for the first quarter of 2019, largely due to slowing sales in China.
But today at least, Chinese stocks “bounced,” the Financial Times reported (paywall), as “The CSI 300, a benchmark index for Chinese equities, closed 2.4 per cent higher.” That’s because the People’s Bank of China announced it would cut the reserve ratio requirement for banks by one percentage point, in a move that “will essentially free up 1.5 trillion Chinese renminbi, or about $218 billion, for [the] economy,” according to the New York Times (porous paywall).
Other links related to the Chinese economy, U.S.-China relations, and the Canadian detainees:
Chinese investors still confident in leading companies
China’s tech titans dodge falling Apple / FT (paywall)
“While stocks caught up in Apple’s orbit suffered damage, there were only small moves in companies most exposed to the Chinese consumer, such as Tencent, the gaming company, and Alibaba, the ecommerce platform…in recent weeks some investors have grown more bullish, convinced that demand is more durable than prices would suggest.”
Data on the economic downturn
Josh Chin on Twitter: “Here’s why this downturn in China is not like the others. Retail sales growth lowest in 15 years, consumption tax (applied to luxury goods) in free fall. In other words, Chinese consumers are hurting. More on this from @GraceWSJ and @QiLiyan here: [Apple Warning: Seven Charts That Show the Pressure on China’s Consumers – WSJ]”
Services still doing fine?
China’s service activities expanded in December despite broader economic slowdown / SCMP
“Growth in the Chinese service sector accelerated to a six-month high in December, according to a private gauge released on Friday, demonstrating some resilience in the world’s second largest economy. The service sector purchasing managers’ index (PMI), compiled by Markit and published by Chinese financial news outlet Caixin, rose to 53.9 in December.”
Tech cold war
Bipartisan bill unveiled in US Senate to stop China tech threats / Reuters
“Senators Mark Warner, a Democrat and a vice chairman on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Marco Rubio, a Republican on the panel, introduced…[a bill that] aims to create the Office of Critical Technologies and Security to coordinate an inter-agency strategy to fight high-tech threats to national security posed by China and other foreign actors.”
Apple iPhone Loses Ground to China’s Homegrown Rivals / WSJ (paywall)
“Once a top-seller in China, Apple has slipped to the fifth-biggest phone seller in that country, trailing four domestic producers that have all been growing in popularity. Despite developing more features targeted at Chinese consumers, Apple’s market share has stagnated.”
13 Canadians detained in China since arrest of Huawei executive in Vancouver, officials reveal / The Star (porous paywall)
“Three of those thirteen Canadians — ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig, entrepreneur Michael Spavor and teacher Sarah McIver — were previously known to the public.
Eight of those people, including McIver, have been returned to Canada since their arrests, said Global Affairs spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé in a statement. Of the eight Canadians that have been returned, only McIver was named.”
Emily Rauhala on Twitter: “Not sure why people are running with ‘13 Canadians detained’ headlines. Numbers appear consistent with normal arrest rates. Hope I’m not wrong, but when China holds foreign nationals on spy charges amid massive political disputes, we hear about it, right?”
Opinion: China thinks it can arbitrarily detain anyone. It is time for change / The Guardian
By Michael Caster, co-founder of the human rights organisation Safeguard Defenders.
Ankit Panda on Twitter: “I’ve decided not to go ahead with a planned trip to China later this month. Michael Kovrig (a @CrisisGroup scholar and friend) and Michael Spavor remain unjustly detained. Neither have been charged with any crime and the circumstances of their detention remain unexplained.”
Tesla to start delivering Model 3 to China buyers in March / Reuters
Huawei staff demoted over tweet sent from iPhone / Taipei Times
3. The reverse population bomb
Quartz reports that China’s looming population crisis is very likely more urgent than people thought, according to a report (in Chinese) released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on January 3.
In the paper, named “Green Book of Population and Labour,” demographers warn that if China’s total fertility rate (TFR) — the number of children a woman is likely to have in her lifetime — holds steady at the current level of 1.6, the country will enter an era of negative population growth as soon as 2027, three years sooner than a United Nations estimate.
The CASS paper warns that China’s fast-growing aging population and falling birth rates pose a significant threat to its economy. Since 2013, China’s working-age population, defined as those under the age of 64, has been decreasing continuously. The report raises alarm that a shrinking workforce will have disastrous impacts on China’s economic growth.
Some demographers are even more pessimistic. While official population figures for 2018 haven’t been released yet, Yì Fùxián 易富贤, a long-standing critic of China’s family planning policy, said (in Chinese) that based on his calculations, China’s birth rate in 2018 was around 1.05, which is far from what the government predicted four years ago. By his estimate, there were 10.31 million births and 11.58 million deaths in China last year. If his numbers are right, negative population growth starts in 2018.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:
China’s Chang’e 4 Moon probe successfully touched down on January 3 on the far side of the Moon, popularly but inaccurately called the “dark side of the Moon.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) gave a speech (English, Chinese) on New Year’s Day, outlining “four musts” (四個必須 sìgè bìxū) for a “healthy and normal” relationship between Beijing and Taipei. About 24 hours later, General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 gave a speech to mark the “40th Anniversary of the Chinese Mainland’s Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” (Xinhua report, full text of speech in Chinese). The vision of Taiwan’s future he set out was irreconcilable with Tsai’s.
Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote a letter (full text; CNBC report and interview with Cook) to investors on January 2 that reported slowing sales particularly in China. A top White House economic adviser framed the news as a plus for Trump’s leverage against China in the trade war. Meanwhile, two articles on Robert Lighthizer indicate that the U.S. Trade Representative leading negotiations is enjoying immense influence in the Trump administration at the moment.
Hong Kong-based food critic Chua Lam (蔡澜 Cài Lán) has stirred up a ruckus on the Chinese internet after criticizing Chinese hotpot, saying that it’s “a cooking method totally lacking cultural significance.”
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Bionic eyes in Taiwan
Bionic eye implants help man see son for the first time / Taipei Times
“Doctors in July last year surgically implanted bionic eyes in a 30-year-old man, helping him fulfill his dream of being able to see his son.”
Chinese homegrown chips
Chinese voice recognition startup AISpeech releases its first custom chip / TechNode
“Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) unicorn AISpeech announced at a press conference today its first AI voice chip Taihang after more than a year of research and development.”
Luxury gray rhino ?
Chinese government delays Shandong Ruyi’s acquisition spree / Jing Daily
“The Chinese government appears to have hit the brakes on the overseas shopping spree of Shandong Ruyi. The Chinese conglomerate has recently demonstrated its ambition to become something of China’s LVMH Group, following its high-profile acquisitions of luxury fashion brands including Bally and SMCP (which owns Maje, Sandro, and Claudie Pierlot).”
New internet censorship campaign
Baidu, Sohu get caught in latest Chinese internet clampdown / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“China’s cyberspace police have ordered Baidu Inc. and Sohu.com Ltd. to suspend a plethora of news services for a week, kicking off an online clean-up campaign with two of the country’s biggest internet corporations.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
The origins of “Xi Jinping Thought”
China Discourse Report: What was hot-and-not in 2018 political terminology / Hong Kong Free Press
Qian Gang of the China Media Project writes, “For 2018, we could say that the most important testing point (测试点) in China’s political discourse arena was the contraction of President Xi Jinping’s political ‘banner term,’ or qizhiyu (旗帜语), ‘Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ (习近平中国特色社会主义思想), which was formally introduced at the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in November 2017.”
Xi Jinping calls for army to be ready for war, yet again
Chinese President Xi Jinping gives army its first order of 2019: prepare for war / SCMP
“Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 on Friday ordered the People’s Liberation Army to prepare for combat and war as the country faces unprecedented risks and challenges. Xi’s speech was made at a meeting of top officials from the Central Military Commission (CMC), which he heads, and broadcast later on national television.”
See also on SupChina: November 3, 2017: Xi Jinping: ‘Our army must be prepared to fight wars and win wars’; January 4, 2018: Prepare for real combat.
East China Sea
Japan protests Chinese survey ship operating near Okinotorishima atoll, a small but vital piece in Tokyo’s maritime territory claims / SCMP
“Japan has lodged an official protest with Beijing after a Chinese government survey ship was identified operating in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around Okinotorishima, an atoll some 1,740km south of Tokyo that is the most southerly point of Japan. The protest may fall on deaf ears, however, as Beijing has in the past carried out similar surveys and insisted Okinotorishima is merely a few rocks that would not be above the waves without reinforcement.”
Jade Rabbit on the dark side of the Moon
First photo of China’s lunar rover Yutu 2 leaving ‘footprints’ on far side of moon / SCMP
“China’s lunar craft Chang’e 4 has released its rover Yutu 2 to explore the far side of the moon after making the world’s first soft landing on the moon’s uncharted side on Thursday. Photos of the rover leaving humankind’s first tracks there on Thursday night were sent back to Earth by the lander after the vehicle separated from it.”
‘Toxic’ running track leaves 100 Chinese schoolchildren sick / SCMP
“More than 100 children at a primary school in eastern China have been treated for nosebleeds, vomiting, rashes and dizziness since a new running track was installed there in September.”
Mammoth tusks in demand
Chinese demand for prehistoric tusks fuels ‘mammoth rush’ in Siberia / SCMP
“Mammoth bones are widespread in Yakutia, an enormous region bordering the Arctic Ocean covered by permafrost, which acts as a giant freezer for prehistoric fauna. But over the last few years this part of the world has experienced something of a mammoth rush: after China banned the import and sale of elephant ivory, its traditional carvers turned to the tusks of the elephants’ long-extinct ancestors.”
India and Pakistan
Opinion: China’s Indian Ocean plans are decidedly anti-India / Hindustan Times
“Beijing sees Pakistani Navy as a helpful partner in tying down Indian resources in the Arabian sea – far away from the choke points in the eastern Indian Ocean region.”
China closer to equipping warships with electromagnetic railguns, state media reports / CNN
“Military expert Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center…said it was significant that China appeared to be transitioning from copying foreign weapon designs to ‘developing their own’ technology. ‘It also tells you (that China) is no longer 10-15 years behind (the US)… They are now approaching parity with the west in terms of weapons development.’”
China tests its own ‘Mother of All Bombs’ / AFP
“China has tested its most powerful non-nuclear weapon, dubbed the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ by official media in a reference to a US munition used in Afghanistan. In a short video published on the website of state arms manufacturer Norinco, the massive bomb drops on to a plain and produces a gigantic ball of fire and black smoke.”
China announces top anti-corruption buzzwords of 2018 / Sixth Tone
“Snails, umbrellas, and golden name cards are among the top anti-corruption buzzwords of 2018, according to a joint announcement Tuesday from literary magazine Yaowen Jiaozi and China’s central discipline watchdog.”
Two voters showed up to a county election in China. So officials decided to cast the ballots themselves / SCMP
American newspapers in China
Former NYT editor claims publisher drafted letter “all but apologizing” to China for tough story / Fast Company
“In her new book Merchants of Truth, former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson claims that the news outlet’s publisher [Arthur Sulzberger at the time] drafted a letter ‘all but apologizing’ to the Chinese government for a tough investigative story [from 2012, titled ‘Princelings’ in China use family ties to gain riches’] about corruption in the country. The story went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.”
Earthquake in Sichuan
Nearly 2,600 People Affected by Quake in China’s Sichuan Province – Authorities / UrduPoint News
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
The Reunion: a new science-fiction story about surveillance in China / MIT Technology review
“Technology is making people unhinged and violent. Can an algorithm stop them?” A story by Chén Qiūfān 陈楸帆, translated by Emily Jin and Ken Liu.
Speculative fiction in translation: Novels, collections, and short stories 2018 / Locus
Of the 79 translated works in the survey, 6.3 percent were translated from Chinese.
For Ha Jin, unabridged novels feel rich after a youth of condensed tales / Boston Globe
“Acclaimed novelist and poet Hā Jīn 哈金 turns to biography with his newest book, ‘The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai,’ which traces the nomadic life of the influential Tang Dynasty poet.”
Horrible family crimes
Chinese families in court over sentence for man who killed mentally ill neighbour in grave vandalism dispute / SCMP
“A man in Henan Province who was jailed for seven years for killing a neighbour who vandalised his parents’ grave is at the centre of an appeal battle with his victim’s family.”
Jail for Chinese mother who drowned son over cerebral palsy fears / SCMP
“A court in central China rejected an appeal against a five-year prison sentence handed down last year to a woman who drowned her four-month-old son because she suspected he had an incurable neurological disorder.”
VIDEO ON SUPCHINA THIS WEEK
Viral video: This golden retriever is smarter than yours!
This four-year-old golden retriever named Tire is one of the most popular dogs on Kuaishou, a Chinese video-sharing app, where he has 9.4 million fans.
SupChina presents: Ballroom dancing and my American Dream
The first episode of our immigration documentary series is about Jason Chao Dai, who came to the U.S. from China when he was 12. He’s been dancing professionally for 18 years.
FEATURED ON SUPCHINA
Chinese football prepares to kick off at AFC Asian Cup
The quadrennial AFC Asian Cup — Asia’s answer to the Copa America or European Championships — kicks off in the UAE on Saturday, with China facing Kyrgyzstan on January 7 to start what will be Marcello Lippi’s farewell tournament as national team coach. Also, China hosts the FIBA Basketball World Cup toward the end of the summer, while its athletes prepare for the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, later this year.
Film Friday: ‘The Great Buddha+,’ Taiwan’s award-winning dark comedy, is worth the hype
The Great Buddha+ 大佛普拉斯 won five awards at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards last year, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. In April, it won Best Film from Mainland and Taiwan at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and Taiwan submitted it as a candidate for the foreign-language category of the 2018 Oscars. Director Huang Hsin-yao 黄信尧’s dark comedy about class, political corruption, and religion in Taiwan is well worth the hype.
The ‘patriotism’ of not speaking Uyghur
Darren Byler writes for SupChina: Uyghur “patriotism” in China’s Xinjiang region now requires the active disavowal of the Uyghur way of life. There is an ongoing attempt by Han Chinese authorities to erase a native system of knowledge and the basic elements that make Uyghur life Uyghur: language, religion, and culture. It begins with an insistence on the “national language”: Mandarin Chinese.
China Business Corner: Introducing Yinyu, the Chinese virtual KTV app
China’s latest entertainment app addiction is 音遇 (yīnyù, which translates literally to Music Meetup). In just over three months, this app has garnered daily average user numbers in the millions and made a home at the top of App Store charts. The fun comes from not just singing your KTV favorites, but also the interaction in the virtual space with fellow users, with little to no trolling to be found.
The most bizarre China news of 2018
The year 2018 had a bountiful accumulation of outlandish, unusual, and offbeat China stories, including racing pigeons that took the high-speed train, husbands mistaken for burglars, and Jacky Cheung concerts that turned into criminal magnets. We’ve compiled a bunch. Enjoy.
Kuora: Lucky numbers in China and Chinese URLs
What are the lucky numbers and the unlucky numbers in China? Why do so many Chinese websites use numbers in their domain names? Kaiser Kuo answers in this week’s Kuora.
Friday Song: A Beijing New Year’s Eve tradition with Macondø
This year, Beijing’s Temple Bar sets a tradition in stone with the fourth “Macondø NYE Bash,” headlined by Macondø, a Beijing-based four-piece post-rock outfit that has developed a somewhat cult-like following of locals and expats. There are certainly other, more “traditional” songs that can be chosen to honor the end of another year, but this is a shout-out to those making noise in the ever-deepening pocket of the Beijing music scene.
SINICA PODCAST NETWORK
Sinica Podcast: Meng Wanzhou’s arrest: The legal dimension
This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Julian Ku, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Maurice A. Deane Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at Hofstra University. After the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 in Vancouver at the behest of the U.S. Justice Department dominated international headlines in December 2018, U.S.-China relations have entered uncharted territory. The three convened to discuss the many legal aspects of her arrest and what this means for the bilateral relationship moving forward.
ChinaEconTalk: Chinese policymaking made easy
Chinese politics is boring and confusing. Or is it? This week, Jordan speaks with Andrew Polk and Trey McArver, economics and politics specialists at Trivium China. The three discuss the size of the Chinese bureaucracy, how policy is formed and implemented, and the Chinese economy.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Yunnan locals snack on peanuts and dried melon seeds while drinking the popular herbal tea Jiaduobao to celebrate the Lantern Festival, the fifth day of the first month in the lunar calendar, which falls on March 2 in 2019. Photo by Matthew Chitwood. His Instagram account is @theotherchina.