Tramp the bygone cession

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Beijing has been making some extraordinarily cringe-making propaganda lately, but this weekend, the spin doctors of the China Dream outdid themselves with an English rap video about the Two Sessions, the annual legislative performance in Beijing. You can watch the video and read a transcript of the lyrics on SupChina.

That’s really all you need to know about the Two Sessions today, but here are two reports if you need a backgrounder or to know about the latest non-events:

Two notes:

  • We are proud to announce the launch of our conference-call dialogue series, SupChina Direct, a series of small group conference calls with business leaders, subject experts, and people with deep experience and knowledge of different aspects of China. Click here for more information about our first call with Cheng Li.

  • Join me and Kaiser Kuo on March 6 in New York as we chat with Samm Sacks of New America in a special live taping of the Sinica Podcast. Sacks is a recognized expert on global cyber policy, the digital economy, and emerging technology governance, particularly data protection policy. We will discuss the current complicated U.S.-China tech relationship and how it shapes the two countries’ relationship at large.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


1. Huawei hits back with lawsuits, Beijing dangles detained Canadians

On March 1, the Canadian government approved extradition proceedings for Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟. The reaction from Huawei and the Chinese government so far:

LAWSUITS

  • “Meng Wanzhou is suing the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP and the federal government alleging ‘false imprisonment’ and ‘breach of constitutional rights,’ according to B.C. Supreme Court documents,” reports The Star Vancouver. Follow reporter Perrin Grauer on Twitter for updates.

  • Why? “[T]he likely motivation for the lawsuit is its use as a tool in her longer-term bid to avoid extradition to the United States to face criminal charges,” said a Vancouver-based criminal lawyer cited by The Star Vancouver.

  • Huawei is also preparing to sue the U.S. government “for barring federal agencies from using the company’s products, according to two people familiar with the matter,” reports the New York Times (porous paywall). “The move could be aimed at forcing the United States government to make its case against the Chinese equipment maker more publicly.”

HOSTAGE DIPLOMACY

China today accused detained Canadian citizen Michael Kovrig “of stealing state secrets which were passed on to him from another detained Canadian, Michael Spavor,” reports Reuters:

In a short statement on its microblog, the ruling Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission said Kovrig had often entered China using an ordinary passport and business visas, “stealing and spying on sensitive Chinese information and intelligence via a contact in China.”

“Spavor was Kovrig’s main contact and provided him with intelligence,” the commission added, without giving details.

—Jeremy Goldkorn

2. An underwhelming trade deal forms

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both reported over the weekend that a U.S.-China trade deal is forming. The WSJ added that the expected Mar-a-Lago summit to seal the deal will happen “probably around March 27, after Mr. Xi finishes a trip to Italy and France.”

  • The NYT says the deal would “largely require Beijing to make big purchases of American agricultural and energy goods and to lower some barriers that prevent American companies from operating in China. In return, the United States would most likely drop its tariffs on at least $200 billion of the $250 billion worth of Chinese imports currently subject to American levies.”

  • But “early details indicate it would do little to substantively change the way China has long done business and would not force Beijing to curtail cybertheft or the subsidies that the administration complains create an uneven playing field for American companies.”

  • The focus of the agreement is, unsurprisingly, on the bilateral trade balance, which the WSJ calls “a tactic designed to appeal to President Trump, who campaigned on closing the bilateral trade deficit with China.” The products that China is gearing up to buy more of to please Trump include:

    • Cars: China is “speeding up the timetable for removing foreign-ownership limitations on car ventures and reducing tariffs on imported vehicles to below the current auto tariff of 15%.”

    • Natural gas: “China’s state-owned China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, would agree to buy $18 billion of liquefied natural gas from Cheniere.”

    • Ethanol, currently hit with a 70 percent tariff at the Chinese border.

    • Dried distillers grains, an ethanol byproduct “used to feed cattle.”

    • Polysilicon, a “raw material in solar panels that was hit with 57% tariffs as part of an earlier trade fight with China.”

    • “Soybeans and other agricultural goods.”

Separate from the trade agreement, Beijing is attempting to address some American complaints about foreign investment and technology transfer with a new foreign investment law. A draft version of the legislation was revealed last December, and the National People’s Congress is expected to vote on a revised version at the end of next week.

  • But this, too, is underwhelming in the eyes of American and European business groups. The New York Times (porous paywall), summarizing the reaction, states that “the new law is made up of many single-sentence pronouncements on complex issues, with no details on how those rules would be carried out.”

For more trade-related links for today, please click through to SupChina.com.

—Lucas Niewenhuis

3. ‘Please don’t lose confidence in Chinese-made vaccines’

Following a string of high-profile vaccine scandals in recent years, Gāo Fú 高福, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, recently urged the public not to lose trust in domestically produced vaccines.

Gao made the remark at a March 4 press conference connected to the Two Sessions, the country’s biggest annual political meeting, which is currently taking place in Beijing. When asked about how China can eradicate faulty vaccines and ensure public health, Gao said (in Chinese) that “vaccine and vaccine problems are two separate issues” that shouldn’t be discussed together. Gao then proceeded to give a variety of excuses for why the government isn’t to blame for several high-profile safety failures in recent years:

  • As to the 2016 scandal in Shandong Province, Gao said that the compromised vaccines were of good quality when produced, but they were not adequately refrigerated before appearing in the markets in 24 provinces and cities.

  • Regarding the news about Changchun Changsheng, a vaccine producer in Jilin Province, which was caught producing and selling hundreds of thousands of substandard vaccines in 2018, Gao stressed that the firm was the one to blame for its shoddy production.

  • Commenting on the recent vaccine scandal in Jiangsu, where 145 babies received defective vaccines at a health center, Gao said the expired vaccines were given to medical facilities by health officials, which is a case of misconduct by human beings.

For more, please click through to SupChina.

—Jiayun Feng

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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


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

  • Tech winter
    Chinese tech scene hit by job cuts as austerity bites / FT (paywall)
    “Didi Chuxing has nixed free snacks and gym membership. ByteDance shrank its Chinese new year bonuses. Other Chinese technology companies are axing staff, fruit bowls and travel perks. For employees — like investors — times are tough.
    The new mood across China’s tech heartlands, from Shenzhen to Beijing via Hangzhou, is a sudden austerity after years of buoyant excess.”

  • The Science and Technology Innovation Board
    China’s high-tech board may tap almost $45 billion / Caixin (paywall)
    “Analysts estimated that about 300 billion yuan ($44.7 billion) of capital will be available to invest in China’s coming Nasdaq-style high-tech board.
    As of Monday, 18 fund managers submitted applications to the securities regulator for a total of 36 themed funds designed to invest in stocks to be listed on the new board being launched by the Shanghai Securities Exchange.”
    China finalizes rules for new technology exchange in Shanghai / Bloomberg (porous paywall)

  • WeChat payments
    WeChat Pay cross-border payments skyrocket in Hong Kong and Macau / TechNode
    “According to new data released by Tencent, tourists are increasingly taking their WeChat Pay habits with them to Hong Kong and Macau. Mainland users’ daily average number of transactions in each territory this past January grew 200% and 900%, respectively.”

  • Space exploration
    China to send rover to Mars next year / Caixin
    “China will send a rover to Mars to orbit, land and conduct astronomical observations, Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, said on Sunday before the opening of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).”

  • Tesla prices
    Tesla price cuts irk Chinese buyers, worry industry analysts / Sixth Tone
    “Over the weekend, photos and videos of Chinese people holding banners in front of Tesla stores in Changsha, in the central province of Hunan, went viral online. In one photo, a banner claims that Tesla’s ‘random price cut’ had ‘infringed customers’ legal rights and interests.’”

  • Using Communist heroes to sell junk food
    KFC opens restaurant in China to promote spirit of model soldier / SCMP
    “American fast food giant KFC has opened its first Lei Feng-themed restaurant in the hometown of the Mao Zedong-era model soldier lauded by the Chinese authorities for his selflessness.The restaurant opened its doors on Sunday in the Hunan provincial capital of Changsha, Lei’s hometown, just in time for the annual Lei Feng Day [雷锋日 Léi Fēng rì] on March 5.”

  • Ford and Toyota in China
    Why Ford is stalling in China while Toyota succeeds / FT (paywall)

Ford is one of several carmakers cutting production in China, the world’s largest car market where passenger vehicle sales fell 4 percent to 23m last year, their first annual decline in almost three decades…

But not all have fared badly. Sales at Toyota’s joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile surged nearly 35 percent last year, while BMW’s venture with Brilliance Auto saw a 20 percent sales rise.

Their differing fates show a range of factors — from investment in new models, competitive exposure to local brands, dealer relations, after sales service, and quality perceptions — can determine a brand’s success or failure in China.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • Obituaries
    Li Xueqin, key historian in China’s embrace of antiquity, dies at 85 / NYT (porous paywall)
    “Lǐ Xuéqín 李学勤, whose political savvy and intellectual brilliance helped shift the field of Chinese history toward emphasizing the wonders of the country’s past, a traditionalist approach in line with the Communist government’s efforts to identify itself with ancient China, died on Sunday in Beijing. He was 85.”

  • Urban planning
    Building China: Rise of the superblock / Radii China
    “How China came to repeat the urban development mistakes of the U.S. and Europe, resulting in colossal building projects and car-centric living.”

  • Tattoo art
    More than skin deep / Neocha
    “Yao Meihui is not your parents’ tattoo artist. Reserved, almost self-effacing, she’s not the first person you’d imagine wielding a tattoo gun. Were it not for the Chinese character drawn on her left cheek — jīn (金), or gold — you might not guess she had an interest in body art, much less that she runs one of Shanghai’s most in-demand studios, Shizhuo Tattoos.”

  • Math competitions
    International math competition defeat prompts soul searching in China / Caixin
    “Chinese high school students generally outperform their western peers at math — at least, that’s what many in the country believe.
    That assumption was shattered Monday, when China placed a mediocre sixth at the 2019 Romanian Master of Mathematics (RMM), a major math competition for pre-university students. The U.S. won the championship for best team, while the highest individual prize went to an Israeli candidate.”


VIDEO ON SUPCHINA

Video blog: Here’s how I celebrated the Lantern Festival in Qingdao

SupChina’s Jia Guo reports: On February 19, I went on a street food tour at the annual Lantern Festival fair in my hometown of Qingdao. My family and I made dumplings and set off firecrackers to mark the end of this year’s Spring Festival.


FEATURED ON SUPCHINA

Why Chinese students don’t need ‘English’ names

Rebeka Fergusson-Lutz has taught English to native and non-native students of all ages for the past 16 years, and 98 percent of her Chinese students have taken an “English name.” Those names range from the sublime — Athena and Artemis — to the ridiculous — Potato and Bluebuff. While most foreign teachers of English in China accept this name duality as the status quo, as a foregone reality, Fergusson-Lutz has never been comfortable with this, and doesn’t think students ever need to go by anything other than the name given by their parents. She explains why.

Kuora: China’s New Culture Movement and the intellectual framework for the CCP

Chinese communism was directly connected to the New Culture Movement mainly because some of the prominent intellectuals of the New Culture Movement — chiefly Chen Duxiu 陈独秀 and Li Dazhao 李大钊 — were co-founders of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. During that time, not only had science and democracy appeared to commit mass suicide on the battlefields of Flanders and France in the mechanized horror of the Great War, but the treaty that settled the war, Versailles, represented a complete betrayal of China. No wonder some intellectuals turned to Marxism-Leninism, which filled a void left by the traditional worldview.

China made a rap song about its annual ‘Two Sessions’ political meeting

Behold “Two Sessions,” a jaw-dropping rap published yesterday on Xinhua’s website that is simultaneously awful and also awesome, because it is its own grand parody. It is galaxy-brain-level brilliant, destined to hook eyeballs to an otherwise dull exercise of Chinese political unity. It is the apex of propaganda, the meeting point of earnestness and satire. There is nothing on the other side but dystopia, a world where we can’t differentiate a well-meaning, fun, lighthearted “compliment song” from an attempt to commit capital murder of culture in broad daylight.


SINICA PODCAST NETWORK

Sinica Early Access: Everything you ever wanted to know about Taiwan but were afraid to ask, Part 2

This week, we feature the second half of an extensive interview (first part here) with Shelley Rigger, a political scientist at Davidson College and the leading U.S. expert on the politics of Taiwan. This second half of the interview, which covers the history of Taiwan through 1996, was conducted by Neysun Mahboubi of the UPenn Center for the Study of Contemporary China Podcast (one of our favorite China podcasts), and is republished here with the Center’s permission.

  • 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 78

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: MSCI’s decision to increase the weighting of mainland China in its indexes, Didi Chuxing’s joint venture with Volkswagen, Saudi Arabia embracing Huawei’s 5G infrastructure technology, and more.


PHOTO OF THE DAY

Festive night view in Qingdao

Many buildings near Qingdao’s seafront been wired to light up at night since the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit took place in the city in June last year. This photo was taken by Xianggang Zhong Road (香港中路 xiānggǎng zhōnglù) in Shinan District during the 2019 Lunar New Year celebration. The city also installed red lanterns alongside many roads to add a more festive atmosphere. Photo taken by Jia Guo. Her Twitter account is @JellyGuo and her Instagram account is @happyjiaguo.