Constructive discussions

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Below you can find details of three upcoming SupChina events, followed by our usual summary of today’s news from China.

Have a great weekend!

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Beijing: Female science-fiction writers

At the Beijing Bookworm literary festival on March 31, you can attend a spirited discussion hosted by the NüVoices Collective with authors Táng Fěi 糖匪 and Jī Shǎotíng 姬少亭 (link in Chinese), two up-and-coming writers on China’s burgeoning science-fiction scene.

New York: Free beer and pizza…and Howard French

Free beer and pizza will be available for the audience of our live taping of the Sinica Podcast with Howard W. French of Columbia University on April 3. 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. SupChina Access members get in free. Details here.

New York: Women’s Conference: Only 2 days left for early-bird tickets!

We are hosting our third annual SupChina Women’s Conference in New York on May 20, 2019. It’s a conference about business, technology, and finance in the U.S.-China sphere with an all-female lineup of star panelists.

If you’d like to attend the conference, buy your tickets now, as early-bird prices (a 25 percent discount!) only run until March 31. As an Access member, be sure to claim your additional 10 percent off any ticket with the promo code SCWCACCESS2019.

Also, this year, we are once again going to honor SupChina Female Rising Stars for recognizable professional success in the early years of their career, one in business and one from the nonprofit sector. Please submit your nominations before the deadline of April 5 to Click here for more information and for nomination criteria.

1. Trade war day 267 — ‘constructive discussions’

The second day of U.S.-China trade negotiations wrapped up in Beijing, and both sides sent out mildly positive and tight-lipped statements (relevant excerpts below). It’s anyone’s guess what this means:

The two parties continued to make progress during candid and constructive discussions on the negotiations and important next steps.

The United States looks forward to the meetings planned with Vice Premier Liu He and the Chinese delegation in Washington next week.

The two sides discussed the related text of an agreement and achieved new progress.

(The Chinese text reads the same.)

Beijing-based economic consultancy Trivium has its own take on the status of progress towards a deal, based on developments over the past month:

It now looks unlikely that [Trump and Xi] will meet before June…A deal, which seemed so close a month ago, now seems much more unlikely.

This assessment is largely based on how Trump seems to have spooked Beijing by walking away from Hanoi without a deal with Kim Jong-un, and by saying that he wants to keep some of the tariffs in place even with a deal.

Other trade-related links:

  • Preventing losses in translation
    China, U.S. Pore Over Details of Trade War Text Agreement / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “Negotiators have been working line-by-line through the text…to ensure there were no discrepancies in the English- and Chinese-language versions of the text…The focus on the joint wording has become a key issue after U.S. officials complained that Chinese versions of the text had walked back or omitted commitments made by negotiators, the officials said. The two sides have very different understandings of certain words, according to one of the officials, who noted that China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen started his career as a translator at the ministry.”
    “The U.S. focus on translation issues came after negotiators felt China was backtracking on previous commitments it made on IP and tech issues. After the latest round of face-to-face talks, Chinese negotiators frustrated U.S. officials by sending back text on IP with entire sections crossed out that had already been agreed to by Lighthizer and Liu, people familiar with the situation said.”  
    Lost in translation? How verbal mishaps and lack of Chinese-language document threaten US-China trade deal / SCMP
    When it comes to negotiating with China, the devil is in the details / Washington Post
    Neil Thomas, a research associate at MacroPolo, writes about how “In December 1978, in their rush to normalize bilateral ties with China, U.S. diplomats blundered by allowing Beijing to slip an important change into the Chinese text of the Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations.”

  • Lasting effects of trade war
    US-China soy trade war could destroy 13 million hectares of rainforest / Guardian
    “The Amazon rainforest could be the greatest casualty of the trade war between the United States and China, warns a new study showing how deforestation pressures have surged as a result of the geopolitical jolt in global soy markets.”
    Who Is Winning Trump’s Trade War with China? So Far, It’s Mexico / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “America’s imports from Mexico surge the most in seven years as Trump’s policies shift supply chains.”
    Corporate Boards Are Pessimistic About Trade Between the U.S. and China / Harvard Business Review
    Michael Witt writes, “In a recent study I led at INSEAD we surveyed 109 board members from across the globe about the likelihood of this ‘new Cold War scenario’ between the U.S. and China, with two separate blocs with trade and investment flows between them curtailed or outlawed. Almost three quarters of respondents in primary industries and manufacturing — and 50% of those in service industries — believe that such a scenario is likely. And a solid majority across all three sectors (including 71% in primary industries and 53% in services) expect a negative or very negative impact on their businesses as a result.”

  • Trump administration rhetoric
    China’s island-building and ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ are part of same defence strategy, says US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo / SCMP

—Lucas Niewenhuis

2. Is China expecting an apology from New Zealand?

The New Zealand Herald reports:

Improving access to China for exports of New Zealand wood and paper products are among key areas of focus for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her talks in Beijing next Monday… Ardern said progressing the upgrade of the 11-year-old free trade agreement with China was among priorities…

…Also on the agenda is likely to be New Zealand’s decision to join other nations late last year in accusing Chinese government agencies of coordinated cyber attacks and the decision by the Government Communications Security Bureau’s decision not to allow equipment from Chinese telecommunications provider Huawei to be included in the country’s 5G, next generation internet infrastructure.

Asked whether she would raise the cyber attacks, Ardern said she hadn’t “finalized everything I intend to raise”…

…With the eyes of the Muslim world on Ardern’s response to the Christchurch mosque attacks, she said she would reassert New Zealand’s consistently expressed concern about the treatment of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, which is the subject of a massive security surveillance and “re-education” programme as Beijing seeks to shut down the potential for domestic Islamic terrorism.

Nationalist rag Global Times — which is not the official voice of the Chinese government but does a very good job of representing the Party’s id — is expecting an apology tour:

New Zealand PM to begin ties-mending visit to China

Key points to be observed include New Zealand’s attitude on Chinese firms’ participation on its 5G network construction, and whether there is new commitment on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the run-up to the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held in Beijing in April…

But the issue is: will the Ardern administration stop actions that damage China-New Zealand ties.

3. Huawei profits jump 25 percent

Reuters reports that “Huawei Technologies, the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, reported a 25 percent jump in 2018 net profit, buoyed by a solid performance in its home market and a booming smartphone business.”

Other Huawei news:

—Jeremy Goldkorn


Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • On his Europe trip, Xi Jinping persuaded Italy to sign on to the Belt and Road, and then met with French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron was less keen on Belt and Road, and shares the concerns about increasing Chinese influence of many European leaders, but nonetheless scored wins as France signed 15 business contracts with China, including a 300-plane order for Airbus worth 30 billion euros ($33.94 billion).

  • Famous liberal intellectual Xǔ Zhāngrùn 许章润, a professor of law at Tsinghua University in Beijing, was suspended and put under investigation. A parallel but opposite case of a not famous professor of Marxism at Tsinghua being denounced by students for imperfectly towing the Xi Jinping line, and being placed under investigation, was reported by SupChina yesterday.

  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he does “not know much” about the internment camps in Xinjiang or China’s treatment of Muslim minorities. Given Pakistan’s financial dependence on China, it’s unlikely that Khan will be motivated to learn any more about what is going on in Xinjiang.

  • U.S.-China trade talks in Beijing had either “moved forward in all areas” or had stalled and could take a “few more weeks” or even “months” to finish, depending on which Trump administration official you went by.

  • The European Union declined to make a policy on Huawei, at least for now, and instead gave its member states until July 15 to write their own reports on risk assessments of 5G technology.

  • Tencent is starting to get more scrutiny from western observers over its role in surveillance and repression in Xinjiang, its connection to the security services, how it censors user conversations, and more.

  • Canada should “correct the mistakes it made earlier,” the Chinese foreign ministry said, making clear that the recent blocking of Canadian canola oil at customs is a retaliatory measure for the country approved extradition proceedings for Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟.

  • 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.

  • A third U.S. navy transit through the Taiwan Strait in three months happened on March 24 — one of several U.S.-China relations updates from Monday.

  • The SenseNet facial-recognition data leak was discussed in detail in the most recent ChinAI newsletter.

  • Nana Ou-Yang 欧阳娜娜, the teen Taiwanese artist who was nearly cancelled by Chinese internet users last week due to her perceived ambiguous position on Taiwan’s relationship with mainland China, has gone further to align herself with Beijing’s views on Taiwan.

  • The shadow of 19th- and 20th-century history hangs over U.S.-China relations, as Beijing sees it as imperative that a trade deal not be seen as China “surrendering” to a western nation as it had centuries ago. Meanwhile, the widely reviled former Trump advisor Steve Bannon helped restart the paranoid anti-communist organization The Committee on the Present Danger with a focus on China, which it called an “aggressive totalitarian foe.”

  • Female wealth managers are becoming more common at global banks including UBS, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and HSBC Holding Plc, as there is a need to “make Chinese clients — and increasingly Chinese women clients — feel comfortable,” Bloomberg reported.


Resentment against long working hours in China’s tech industry is growing among software developers that use the Github open development platform after a user posted a copy of China’s labour laws on the site and named two e-commerce companies that practice the 996 work schedule – 9am to 9pm, six days a week…The post also named Chinese e-commerce firms Youzan and as practising 996.


“One of the most alarming characteristics of wildlife trafficking is the growing use of threatened species in traditional medicines,” conservation group ADM Capital Foundation said in a recent report.

It identified the traditional Chinese medicine industry as accounting for more than three-quarters of the trade in endangered wildlife products in Hong Kong over the past 5 years.


The main point of contention is the new Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, which quietly came into effect earlier this month, and is basically a publicly available list of political lobbyists working “on behalf of” a foreign power. Former Cabinet ministers and Government officials will also need to register if they start working for a foreign organisation.

But leaders within Australia’s Chinese communities are frustrated with the law’s ambiguous language,as well as the lack of consultation, which has left many unsure about whether they needed to sign up.

  • Indonesia and Chinese money
    Indonesia election: Widodo has courted Chinese cash. He’s about to find out the cost / SCMP
    “Critics accuse President Joko Widodo of not protecting the country’s national interests in his drive to attract foreign investment from Beijing.”

  • Under-reporting swine fever
    Swine fever tests China’s transparency credentials / Reuters
    “African swine fever is testing China’s transparency credentials. Grains trader Cargill is the latest company to cite outbreaks of the highly contagious hog disease as a drag on business. It’s likely to fuel fears that the world’s biggest pork producer may be under-reporting the issue. That taint adds to a fast-spreading problem for Beijing.”

  • Suppression of religion
    China city offers cash for information in religion crackdown / AP via Star Tribune
    “A notice posted on the official website of the Guangzhou Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs said up to 10,000 yuan ($15,000) would be paid for verified information and assistance in hunting down key members and leaders of illegal foreign religious groups and revealing their structures.”

  • Excluding Taiwan
    Taiwan blasts China over its ‘barbaric behavior’ in Czech Republic / Focus Taiwan
    “Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday blasted China for what it called ‘barbaric behavior’ after Taiwan’s representative in the Czech Republic was forced out of an economic meeting held recently in the Central European country.”


  • Shenanigans at the Xuzhou International Marathon
    Uncivilized, shameful and scandalous — Xuzhou marathon marred by bizarre behavior / SCMP
    “Last weekend’s marathon staged in China’s Jiangsu Province attracted scorn both on and off the track with a woman runner brazenly using a bicycle during the marathon, while there were cases of looting from bystanders after boxes of bananas and water bottles placed along the race route were taken away for personal consumption.”

  • Education and pseudoscience
    Brain scan or brain scam? Shenzhen authorities investigate school’s use of ‘IQ machine’ / SCMP
    “Education authorities in southern China are investigating reports that a privately run school in Shenzhen used a pseudoscientific ‘brain scanner’ to measure its pupils’ intellectual potential.”

  • Painting
    Bodies in darkness and light / Neocha
    “Her process for this series began with setting the lights and photographing her subjects… Based on the photos, she then drew on the canvas, painted the first layer, waited several days for it to dry, and then painted the second layer. It took her years to complete the entire series.”

  • LGBT rights and film censorship
    Chinese gay rights activists out to challenge censored cut of Freddie Mercury movie Bohemian Rhapsody / SCMP
    “Campaigners say they find cinema-goers are baffled by edits to Bohemian Rhapsody.” A Beijing activist wrote to the film censors to ask for an explanation for the bowdlerization of the film.

  • Sexual misconduct amd #MeToo censorship
    Chinese university strips dean of duties amid sexual misconduct investigation / SCMP
    Dài Sōngyuán 戴松元, 52, dean of North China Electric Power University’s school of renewable energy in Beijing, has been dismissed “after claims surfaced online that he sexually abused a woman colleague and harassed students.”
    Censored on WeChat: #MeToo in China / Global Voices
    “Our data set indicates that online allegations of sexual misconduct were one of the most heavily censored topics on WeChat in 2018.”

  • Why the creepy Tom Hiddleston ad is secretly brilliant
    Tom Hiddleston: Why China loves the ‘creepy’ Centrum ad / BBC
    “Creepy, uncomfortable and downright weird are just some things an advertisement starring Tom Hiddleston has been called, but none of that will matter as it’s found success with its intended audience — Chinese women, as the BBC’s Yvette Tan explains.”


A video recap: Top 5 news this week

From the ongoing trade talks between the U.S. and China to Huawei to a silenced professor at Tsinghua University, here are five things we covered this week.

We also published the following videos this week:


Subtle Asian Traits: The Facebook group rallying Asian youth around the world

Memes, jokes, stories of shared common experiences…they’re all on Subtle Asian Traits, a Facebook group that began among a few Chinese-Australian friends before ballooning into a community of more than 1 million people, mostly English-speaking Asians, from around the world. Numerous spin-off groups have been created, such as Subtle Asian Dating (slyly abbreviated as SAD). But fun as they are, these groups alternate between bringing the Asian diaspora together and splitting it apart.

Thicker than blood: A young Chinese woman’s coming of age

For a young Chinese woman, pursuing a career in the physical sciences implies defying societal expectations of a woman’s body, intellect, and obligation to put family first. It may also mean disobeying a mother’s wishes. Yangyang Cheng, in this month’s Science and China column, writes about her coming of age: “I am my mother’s missed period. Our bond is thicker than blood. The crimson tide tells a story of four generations of Chinese women, their loss and pain, birth and survival, pride and shame.”

The Massachusetts train company that China built

Western Massachusetts is likely not the first place that comes to mind when talking about U.S.-China cooperation, particularly amid the current trade war. But it’s here, in Springfield, Massachusetts, that one Chinese company is striving to create a brick-and-mortar identity for itself on American soil, with employees hailing from both sides of the Pacific. CRRC MA has won several contracts to build trains for urban rail lines in the U.S., and along the way, has promoted local initiatives praised by politicians at all levels.

The SupChina Quiz: U.S.-China Diplomatic History

How much do you know about the history of U.S.-China relations? Take this 12-question quiz to find out. Let us know how you do — tweet your score to @supchinanews.

Kuora: China has grand ambitions, but these factors are holding it back

What are the biggest problems, e.g., economic, social, cultural, et cetera, facing China as it redevelops into a world power? The below is Kaiser Kuo’s quick-and-dirty — and incomplete — list. Please note that it conveys a pessimism about the country’s future that isn’t an accurate reflection of Kaiser’s actual outlook, which falls a good bit short of blithely optimistic but is, nonetheless, not utterly bleak.


Sinica Podcast: Samm Sacks on the U.S.-China tech relationship

This live Sinica Podcast recorded in New York on March 6 features Samm Sacks, Cybersecurity Policy and China Digital Economy Fellow at New America. She and Kaiser Kuo discuss the many facets of U.S.-China technology integration and competition, touching on topics such as data security, artificial intelligence, and how to build “a small yard with a high fence.”

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.

NüVoices Podcast: ‘Black Mirror’ China and Dystopian Female Futures with Cate Cadell

In episode 13 of the NüVoices podcast, co-hosts Alice Xin Liu and Sophie Lu interview Cate Cadell, a tech writer for Reuters who is based in Beijing. Cate covers Chinese tech companies with a focus on cybersecurity, AI, surveillance, censorship, and ethics issues.