New Zealand’s turn in the doghouse

Access Archive

Today’s news in six bullet points:

  • New Zealand has joined the club of Turkey, Canada, Norway, Australia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania as a recent target of Beijing’s wrath.

  • Anti-Beijing sentiment is rising in countries around the world, for a variety of reasons.

  • Beijing’s proof-of-life video response to Turkey over concern about the fate of folk poet Abdurehim Heyit appears to have backfired: Uyghurs around the world are now demanding evidence that their relatives in Xinjiang are still alive, using the hashtag #MeTooUyghur.

  • Trump indicated the March 2 trade talks deadline could “slide for a little while,” as American negotiators meet with their counterparts in Beijing.

  • Sex workers and their clients may no longer be detained extrajudicially as soon as later this year, if reports are true.

  • China’s most famous living director, Zhāng Yìmóu 张艺谋, just had a film pulled from the Berlin Film Festival by Chinese authorities.

  • Announcements:

    Our first Slack chat of 2019 will be a digital fireside get-together with our own Kaiser Kuo on Monday, February 18, at 10 a.m. EST (11 p.m. Beijing time). If you need any help getting logged on to the Slack channel, please email You can find transcripts of previous Slack chats in the #access_qa_archive channel.

    If you are in New York, or will be at any time in the next few months, please scroll down to the bottom of this email to read about our upcoming events. We have a lot planned, and even more to come.

    —Jeremy Goldkorn and team

    1. New Zealand’s turn in the doghouse

    New Zealand has joined the club of Turkey, Canada, Norway, Australia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania as a recent target of Beijing’s wrath. The New Zealand Herald reports:

    Diplomatic links with China appear to have plummeted to a new low as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is given the cold shoulder by Beijing and a major tourism promotion is postponed by the superpower.

    Ardern was scheduled to visit China early this year but the invitation has been put on hold.

    The 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was meant to be launched with great fanfare at Wellington’s Te Papa museum next week, but that has been postponed by China…

    …The GCSB’s version that Huawei posed a risk to national security isn’t enough for Beijing. It wants a better explanation before opening the door to Ardern.

    In related news:

    • An Air New Zealand flight was forced to return to Auckland after several hours in the air en route to Shanghai. New Zealand news website reports that the issue was that paperwork for the flight “included reference to Taiwan, which China took to be an acknowledgement that the island was independent.”

    • China’s hostage diplomacy is starting to spook New Zealanders. One pundit warned on a TV news show that if the country continues “down an inevitable path towards banning Huawei, then I would simply say that if you are doing business in China, if you are a New Zealand resident in China, you need to be cognisant of the fact that there could be a knock on your door and you could be taken away on corruption charges or turpitude charges.”

    2. Anti-Beijing sentiment spreads across the globe

    2019 is shaping up to be the year when China’s relationships with many countries will be “complicated.” The following are just from today’s headlines:

    Defence secretary Gavin Williamson’s speech today is another demonstration of how the UK government’s attitude to China has changed. In the Cameron Osborne era, the UK was determined to be China’s best friend in the West. All the emphasis was on creating a ‘golden era’ in Anglo-Chinese relations. But now, the government strikes a more realistic — and hawkish — tone on China. In his speech today, Williamson brackets China with Russia as a threat.

    Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris didn’t mince words in his evaluation of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China and the security concerns about Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei… “President Trump is right about that: This has been a long time where we closed eyes on China raping us. So, by the time you come and tell them, ‘You need to change,’ I mean, they just used to be so comfortable and do whatever they want,” he said.

    China’s economic outreach in the Western Balkan region poses risks for the EU, notably in terms of increased reliance on Chinese loans, the 2019 Munich Security Conference report, published on Monday, warns.

    Huáng [Xiàngmò 黄向墨] described the idea that his donations in Australia and political connections in China were “threatening (Australia’s) national security” as “ridiculous”… Relations between Beijing and Canberra soured in December 2017 after the Australian government introduced a package of foreign interference laws, amid growing concerns over China’s influence on politics, academia and media in the country.

    3. Uyghurs to China: Show us proof-of-life videos, too

    Lily Kuo of the Guardian reports:

    Beijing’s latest efforts to dispel criticism of its treatment of Uighur Muslims in the northwestern Chinese territory of Xinjiang appear to be backfiring.

    In an effort to dispel rumours of the death of famous Uighur musician Abdurehim Heyit, who disappeared in Xinjiang in 2017, Chinese state media released a video of Heyit attesting to his health. In the video, he says he is in police custody and has “never been abused.”

    Now, activists and members of the Uighur diaspora are calling for proof of life videos of their relatives who have disappeared into a network of internment camps that China claims are “vocational training centres.” Under the hashtag #MeTooUyghur, members of the Uighur community are posting the names and photos of their missing family members…

    Other relevant reporting:

    To note: ‘Rising political star’ sent to Xinjiang

    “Beijing has sent a trusted senior cadre — with a track record of versatility and economic development — to join the highest decision-making body of China’s highly sensitive Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region,” reports the South China Morning Post.

    Wáng Jūnzhèng 王君正, 56, was appointed to Xinjiang’s 14-member Communist Party standing committee, but a specific role “was not specified in the two-paragraph announcement.” For further speculation on Wang’s posting to Xinjiang, see this bilingual note from Mingjing.

    —Jeremy Goldkorn

    4. Pacific Reset, day 222: Trump indicates trade talk deadline could ‘slide for a little while’

    American and Chinese trade negotiators are meeting in Beijing, and will be for the rest of this week. The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall):

    Discussions between midlevel officials began on Monday in China’s Commerce Ministry. Next, a high-level U.S. delegation led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will hold two-day talks, starting Thursday [February 14], with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and his entourage.

    Both sides hope to hash out a framework of a deal, the people said, with the goal of getting it finalized in a meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The date for such a session hasn’t been set.

    We wrote yesterday that the two governments’ desires for a presidential-level meeting to seal a trade and economic agreement was likely to extend the March 2 talks deadline. Today, Trump confirmed this by telling reporters at the White House that “If we’re close to a deal… I could see myself letting [the deadline] slide for a little while.”

    Other news from the Pacific Reset:

    —Lucas Niewenhuis

    5. An end to extrajudicial detention of sex workers and their clients?

    At East Asia Forum, Emile Dirks writes:

    If reports are true, this year China may abolish its system of extrajudicial detention for sex workers and their clients. This is welcome news. China’s sex workers deserve to live and work in safety and eliminating this system would be a major step towards achieving this end. But if this is a victory, it’s a partial one. Though sex worker detention may soon be abolished, similar systems targeting users of drugs and Xinjiang’s Muslims continue to grow.

    6. Back to the ’90s: Zhang Yimou film removed from Berlin Festival

    China’s most famous living director, Zhāng Yìmóu 张艺谋, just had a film pulled from the Berlin Film Festival by Chinese authorities. Agence France-Presse reports:

    The highly unusual move, which comes amid a Beijing crackdown on the domestic entertainment industry, was announced in a festival statement citing “technical difficulties encountered during post-production.”

    Zhang’s “One Second” (一秒钟 yī miǎo zhōng) had been scheduled to screen on Friday. It is billed as an intimate portrait of a prisoner who escaped from a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution and is on a trek to see a key newsreel in a rural village cinema…

    …The cancellation follows another Chinese film, “Better Days,” being withdrawn last week, also for “technical reasons.”

    Good ol’ “technical reasons.” To translate this choice piece of officialese: “Just see what kind of story it tells and you know why it happened,” one Chinese social media user commented, according to the South China Morning Post, which also notes:

    The last time Zhang, who has won numerous accolades including the Golden Bear and Golden Lion awards, had trouble with the film regulators was decades ago. In 1994, his epic “To Live” was banned in China, even though it won awards in Cannes that year.

    He was fully “rehabilitated” by the Communist Party in 2008 when he was appointed director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games.


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    —Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


    • Ecommerce — JD’s new hotel
      JD to turn Beijing hotel into a research and commercial center / TechNode
      “China’s e-commerce giant has acquired 100 percent ownership of the Jade Palace Hotel in Beijing for $400 million. The Nasdaq-listed company is planning to transform the building into a space for technology innovation and commercial business.”

    • Electric vehicles and copper
      China’s demand for electric vehicles charges copper / FT (paywall)
      “The number of petrol cars made in China this year is expected to drop by 9 percent, according to Citi, while electric car production is set to rise by 53 percent. That results in net copper demand growth of 0.3 percent for the sector.”

    • Signs of the slowdown
      China’s private firms going bankrupt after guaranteeing others’ loans / Reuters
      “The warning bells are already sounding in the once-prosperous eastern city of Dongying, a hub for oil refining and heavy industry in Shandong Province. Here, at least 28 private companies are seeking to restructure their debts and avoid bankruptcy, mainly due to souring loans that they guaranteed for other firms, court rulings seen by Reuters show.”
      China’s grey economy losing ability to be employment backstop for laid off industrial workers / SCMP
      “Chinese internet-based service companies, which served as the employment backstop in the last economic downturn, have themselves fallen on hard times, only adding fuel to rising lay-off worries. Online search traffic for the keyword ‘lay-off’ has shot up since December to a level higher than at any time since the beginning of 2011 when such data first became available, according to Baidu Index.”

    • Gold at the central bank
      China on gold-buying spree? PBOC adds 11.8 tonnes to reserves in January / Kitco News
      “The latest reserve data from the People’s Bank of China shows its gold holdings increased by 11.8 tonnes to 1,864 tonnes as of the end of January. The newest increase follows December purchase of just under 10 tonnes of gold, the first time the central bank increased its reserves since October 2016.”

    • Tesla
      Tesla is staking its future on China — here’s what it’s up against / CNBC
      “CEO Elon Musk recently warned that without manufacturing in China, Tesla won’t be able to produce 10,000 Model 3 electric sedans per week (as the company has aimed to do for years) and won’t be able to offer the eagerly awaited base model at a price of $35,000.” Click through to the article for a list of reasons Musk might not find it so easy.


    Zhao Weidong, a Twitter user from the northern province of Shaanxi, was called in for questioning by police in the provincial capital Xi’an and fined after he forwarded a post to social media critical of the country’s beleaguered authoritarian government. He was issued with an administrative fine of 500 yuan on Jan. 29 for retweeting “false information,” according to a copy of the fine notification seen by RFA.



    More unexpected things you can do with an excavator

    Remember the talented excavator operator in China who has been filming tricks of dexterity with heavy construction equipment and going viral on the video platform Kuaishou? His newest feats include turning on an iPhone, igniting a row of lighters, and transporting a lightbulb.


    ‘Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj’ highlights China’s #MeToo movement, online censorship, and Uyghur repression

    In the first episode of its second season, Netflix’s current events and culture satire show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj focuses on censorship in China. Minhaj explains the topic through the lens of how China’s #MeToo feminist activists have fought the system and built arguably the largest social movement in the country since 1989. He also highlights China’s imprisonment of a million Uyghur Muslims, a topic that receives barely more attention on American television than it does on Chinese.

    Rural Love in China: The Auntie of Sanpi

    In 2018, Clarinda Blais spent nine months living in Sanpi 伞陂, a small village in Huangchuan County, Henan, about 230 kilometers from Wuhan. She returned this year to spend Spring Festival with her host family in hopes of answering a question: What is love in rural China? This story is about Sun Jieping, a 43-year-old woman who attempted suicide five years ago when her husband revealed he kept mistresses. She has since found purpose through taking care of the village’s children.


    The Houhai swimmers

    Freelance journalist Beimeng Fu took this photo upon the first real snowfall of the winter in Beijing (click here for a gallery of more photos). She writes:

    It was my first stroll in the Year of the Pig along Houhai Lake near where I live, and I had almost forgotten about the ice swimmers — but here they are! Business as usual. Onlookers gather, eyes wide open. “I bet it must be warmer in the water,” one commented. Others shot back with friendly laughter, “Why don’t you go down and have a try!’”

    SupChina events this week and beyond

    In New York City, we are hosting several events:

    February 14: Spend Valentine’s Day with me, my Sinica co-host, Kaiser Kuo, and Zhá Jiànyīng 查建英, author of the books China Pop and Tide Players! We’ll record a live podcast about activism in the current Chinese political climate — specifically through the lens of Zha’s brother, a democracy activist who has been jailed and has seen firsthand how the state suppresses those accused of “subversion.” Zha recently wrote about her brother for the New Yorker in a story we highly recommend: China’s bizarre program to keep activists in check. If you’d like to attend, please reserve your space here.

    On February 28, we will have a SupChina Women’s Network Monthly Series event with Jolyne Caruso, CEO of The Alberleen Group — details here.

    On March 12, our next Women’s Network Monthly Series event will feature Catherine Li, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of ChainDD, who will talk about how blockchain is developing in both China and the U.S., and how it is changing our markets. Details here.

    Finally, mark your calendars for the third annual SupChina Women’s Conference! Early-bird ticket sales are coming soon.