The censorship capital of China

Access Archive

Dear Access members:

First, a new online resource: The Committee, from the Paulson Institute’s MacroPolo project. It’s an interactive database that contains bilingual biographical data for all 375 members of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

Second, two events:

  • The China Institute is hosting its Executive Summit on April 11, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., in New York with this theme: The next U.S.-China frontier: Technology, disruption and social innovation. Use the promo code “CIPartner” to receive a $30 discount on regular tickets.

  • If you’re in New York on April 3, please join me and Kaiser Kuo for a special live taping of the Sinica Podcast with Howard W. French of Columbia University. French is a career foreign correspondent and the author of five books, including three works of nonfiction, a work of documentary photography, and a forthcoming memoir of his life in journalism. Access members get in free. Details here.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


1. The internet censorship capital of China

The city of Jinan in Shandong Province was somewhat late to capitalize on the astronomical growth in the digital media business, but it has finally carved out an unconventional niche as China’s internet censorship capital.

Writing on Journalist’s Station (记者站 jìzhě zhàn), a WeChat public account focusing on the Chinese media industry, Lěi Zǐ 磊子 reports (in Chinese) that People.cn, the internet arm of the Party’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, has decided to make Jinan home to an information technology company affiliated with it. Local newspapers reported that the firm’s establishment is part of a “strategic cooperation agreement” made between the local government and the People’s Daily, which hopes to cultivate a grand army of internet censors in the city. In return, Jinan offered a number of incentives, including cheap office space.

Journalist’s Station notes that People.cn is not the first media platform to locate its team of web censors in Jinan. Beijing-based news aggregator Yīdiǎn Zīxùn 一点资讯, New York-listed Phoenix New Media, and online content recommendation platform Zuìyòu 最右 all earlier chose to move their censorship departments to the city. Because of this, Jinan is already home to over 5,000 internet censors, according to Journalist’s Station.

Please click through to SupChina for a longer version of this story.

—Jiayun Feng

2. Professor Xu Zhangrun relieved of teaching duties and salary  

In our 2018–2019 Red Paper (free for Access members at this link), we noted:

The increasing authoritarianism of Xi’s rule drew few public high-profile criticisms within China. The most notable (in Chinese) was written by Xǔ Zhāngrùn 许章润, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, on July 24. In a long essay full of literary allusions, Xu described an “uncertainty about the direction of the country” that was rising to the level of panic under Xi, and directly called on Beijing to reverse the term-limit decision.

The scholar Geremie R. Barmé, who worked on a detailed translation of Xu’s essay, called it “a challenge from the cultural heart of China to the political heart of the Communist Party.” Barmé predicted that its message will “resonate deeply throughout the Chinese party-state system, as well as within the society and among concerned citizens more broadly.” Many overseas China-watchers commented that this essay might come to be seen as the peak of the Xi Jinping cult.

Yesterday the grimly predictable happened. Xu has been punished with a suspension, and is now under investigation by Tsinghua University authorities. Chris Buckley of the New York Times reports (porous paywall):

In a series of mobile phone messages, Professor Xu said that several Tsinghua University officials ordered him on Monday to stop all teaching and research and told him his pay would be cut drastically. He said a university “work team” would investigate him, focusing on the essays he had written since July.

He said he was questioned for one and a half hours by the officials.

“I don’t know what they’ll do next,” he said. “I’ve been mentally preparing for this for a long time. At the worst, I could end up in prison.”

Further reading

—Jeremy Goldkorn

3. EU lets member states decide on Huawei

Per Bloomberg (porous paywall), the European Union decided today against issuing a bloc-wide policy on 5G technology, at least for now, despite U.S. pressure to ban Huawei equipment. Instead, the European Commission “gave member states until July 15 to report back after carrying out risk assessments of 5G network infrastructure in their individual countries.” The EU will then decide on any bloc-wide policies “by the end of December.”

European Security Commissioner Julian King said at a press conference:

We’re not talking about bans today, what we’re talking about is a process that will be based on a thorough analysis of the risks and vulnerabilities.

Bloomberg adds:

No European countries currently have Huawei bans in the works. Germany and France have proposed tighter security rules for data networks rather than outlawing Huawei, while the U.K.’s spy chief has indicated that a ban is unlikely.

Other Huawei news:

  • Huawei’s revenue is soaring, according to the company’s rotating chairman, Eric Xu, who “affirmed that Huawei’s revenue jumped 36 percent over the first two months of 2019 and was set for a 15 percent annual spike to US$125 billion,” according to Reuters. The company just unveiled its P30 Pro smartphone, which aims “to take on Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Apple’s iPhone X,” at an event in Paris, Reuters separately reports.

  • More canola from Canada is being turned away at the Chinese border, Reuters reports via Global News. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reportedly considering sending a high-level delegation to Beijing over the canola dispute, which began early this month days after Canada approved extradition proceedings for Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟.

A few more links:

—Lucas Niewenhuis

4. Other notes from the U.S.-China trade war, day 264

  • “China could increase U.S. pork imports to the highest ever this year as part of its commitment to bolster purchases of American farm goods to resolve the trade war between the two countries,” reports Bloomberg (porous paywall).

  • U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke to NPR ahead of his return to China for continued trade talks.

—–

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
    Wave of layoffs washes over China’s tech giants / Nikkei Asian Review
    “China’s information technology companies, among the most sought-after workplaces for the country’s top talent, are rushing to streamline their workforces as the nation’s economy slows. Shockwaves rippled throughout China’s tech sector when news broke Tuesday that Tencent Holdings will demote 10 percent of middle managers for falling short of expectations.”

  • Health and fitness apps
    From online doctors to counting steps: Top 5 Chinese health & fitness apps / What’s on Weibo
    A review of popular fitness and health apps, from a menstruation tracker to mobile doctor consultations.

  • Insurance startups
    Two listed companies eye separate insurance start-ups / Asia Insurance Review
    “Hainan Haiqi Transportation Group and Chengdu Haoneng Technology, both of which are listed on the Shanghai stock exchange…announced separately that they plan to establish insurance companies, to be called Haijin Property Insurance and Western Agricultural Insurance respectively.”

  • Electric vehicles
    China scales back EV subsidies / Seeking Alpha
    “The Chinese government says it will lower the highest subsidy for new energy vehicles by 50 percent as part of a plan to scale back completely after 2020.”
    Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 buildout hits overdrive as China’s workforce mobilizes 24/7 / Teslarati
    “At this point, there is no doubt that Gigafactory 3’s construction is hitting overdrive, and China’s formidable construction workforce is being mobilized fully.”

  • Australian companies still have China dreams
    Australian companies to invest more in China despite short-term jitters / Australian Financial Review (paywall)
    “Australian companies in China are less upbeat about their operations in the country than they were a year ago… However, long-term sentiment towards China was largely unchanged, with 81.5 percent of companies positive about their China operations over the next five years, which was a 1.5 percent reduction on last year.”

  • The trade in human poop
    Got poop? Guangzhou hospitals will pay you for it / That’s Guangzhou
    “According to Toutiao News, multiple hospitals in Guangdong’s capital city are accepting ‘poop donations,’ with successful donors eligible to receive up to RMB500 in compensation for each contribution… [Hospitals] transplant the bacteria to help ‘rebuild patients’ gut flora’ in order to heal them.”

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

In February 2019 Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman paid a much-publicized visit to China where 35 memorandums of understanding were signed, including an oil deal worth a reported US$10 billion.

Some saw this as a reflection of worsening US–Saudi ties in the wake of the Jamal Khashoggi murder in 2018. It is actually part of a growing bilateral relationship between China and Saudi Arabia that has been deepening since diplomatic relations began in 1990. This in turn is part of China’s growing relations with the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

—The two highways will run a combined length of 300km, and will cost an estimated US$400 million.

—Financing for the two projects may take two options: wholly funded by China, or split between China and Moldova 85:15.

The Hong Kong government has announced that nine types of commercial crime will be excluded from the upcoming update to the city’s extradition laws. The new plan will allow Hong Kong to handle extradition requests from places such as mainland China and Taiwan. The business sector had voiced concern about the government’s proposal , fearing those accused of commercial crimes could be extradited to the mainland. They said that violent crimes should be handled first, and commercial crimes removed.

  • The Vatican’s deal with Beijing
    Vatican China negotiator reveals decades-long path to deal / Crux
    “The Vatican official who negotiated a landmark agreement between the Holy See and China on bishop nominations said Monday that the path to normalizing Catholic life in the country ‘is still long’ but that a new future is now possible.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • Homeschooling parents to be punished — Ministry of Education  
    Guideline threatens punishment against home-schooling parents / Sixth Tone
    “Taking children out of school for home schooling or to admit them to facilities such as sīshú 私塾 — which focus on teaching China’s literary classics — is illegal under current law, the [Ministry of Education] emphasized in a set of guidelines [in Chinese] published Monday.”

  • Facial recognition in schools
    Camera above the classroom / Sixth Tone  
    “While advocates claim that using facial recognition to monitor students’ in-class behavior can accurately assess attention levels and help them learn more efficiently, most students I spoke with had a different opinion.”

  • Sexual assault and kidnapping
    Taxi driver in China arrested for kidnapping teenage girl and holding her as sex slave / SCMP
    “A man in his 50s has been arrested in central Hunan Province in China for kidnapping a teenage girl, then keeping her as a sex slave in a home-made dungeon for 24 days.”

  • Elephants running amok
    Elephant in ‘bad mood’ joins commute in Chinese town / BBC
    “The animal wrecked several cars in [the city of Meng’a in Yunnan Province] after being forced out of its herd.”


VIDEO ON SUPCHINA

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Take your after-dinner exercise to the next level

Going for a walk after dinner is a habit that many Chinese practice to stay healthy. Some also like to do light exercises such as dancing or rope jumping. The second can sound a little dull, but these guys pour creativity into their moves, making their after-dinner exercise almost a performance!


SINICA PODCAST NETWORK

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 81

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: the ongoing trade war talks between U.S. and Chinese officials, an explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China, the development of the so-called Jing-Jin-Ji 京津冀 cluster, and more.


PHOTO OF THE DAY

Tattoo work

A young man gets inked at a tattoo studio in Rizhao, Shandong Province. Once regarded as taboo in China, as they were associated with prisoners, vagrants, and the criminal underworld, tattoos have become more socially acceptable over the last decade. Photo by Daniel Hinks.