A boom in pocket rockets

Access Archive

Dear Access members:

The Slack Q&A with Oma Lee from earlier this week is now archived as a PDF on the #access_qa_archive channel, along with the dozen other chats we have done since SupChina Access was launched. Thanks to all who have participated in chats, and look out for an announcement for our next upcoming one!

Access discount for SupChina Women’s Conference

Join us on Monday, May 20, 2019, at the Harmonie Club of New York for our third annual SupChina Women’s Conference, featuring leading businesswomen and thought leaders, a cocktail reception, and a gala dinner. Standard tickets are $400 for the conference, $400 for the dinner, and $700 for both. As an Access member, you can get tickets for $250 for the conference, $300 for the dinner, and $500 for both.

For more information about the conference, and to purchase tickets, please click here. Use the discount code SUPACCESS to get your Access member special price.

—Jeremy Goldkorn and team

1. China’s new boom in pocket rockets

In this article, Ryan Woo of Reuters looks at China’s 15-plus private rocket manufacturers that are betting on future demand for nanosatellites, which “weigh less than 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) and are in some cases as small as a shoebox.”

  • Nanosatellites may be used in “massive constellations…that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking coal shipments.”

  • NewLine Baby is the name of Linkspace’s reusable prototype rocket, still in its very early stages of development and 8.1 meters (27 feet) tall.

  • When the rocket is ready, the company “hopes to charge no more than 30 million yuan ($4.48 million) per launch…a fraction of the $25 million to $30 million needed for a launch on a Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Pegasus, a commonly used small rocket.”

  • In 2018, investors poured 3.57 billion yuan ($533 million) into Chinese space startups. One company, LandSpace, “secured 300 million yuan in additional funding for the development of its Zhuque-2 rocket” a month after its failed Zhuque-1 orbital launch in October 2018.

  • The government is also getting in on the action: “China’s state defense contractors are also trying to get into the low-cost market.”

  • Also from Reuters: Photo gallery of China’s rocket startups.

2. Two Chinese workers kidnapped in Nigeria

Premium Times of Nigeria reports:

Two Chinese nationals, Sun Zhixin and Wang Quinghu, have been kidnapped in Ebonyi State, southeast Nigeria. The two men are workers of Tongyi construction company.

They were working on a road project in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State when they were forcefully whisked away by armed gunmen.

Ebonyi State’s Commissioner of Police said “a track down rescue team has been dispatched to move on in order to rescue the Chinese nationals unhurt,” but she also “expressed shock that the company moved to such a lonely site without applying for security from the police.”

China-Africa-watcher Eric Olander commented:

The security of Chinese nationals in Africa is going to become a fascinating issue to follow in the years ahead now that China has a forward military deployment on the continent but is also still publicly hamstrung by its doctrine of non-interference.

Context from Nigerian Confucius:

Last year, gunmen also kidnapped a Chinese national in Zamfara state.

Chinese companies are quite active in Ebonyi state. Last month, I reported that the state is set to partner with  Foshan Sunchees Energy Company to develop a solar panel and battery manufacturing factory at a cost of US $4m.

About ten Chinese construction companies are already handling different projects in Ebonyi, while some other 20 are handling mining activities.

3. French warship in the Taiwan Strait

A French warship passed through the Taiwan Strait on April 6, U.S. officials told Reuters, “a rare voyage by a vessel of a European country that is likely to be welcomed by Washington, [and] a sign that U.S. allies are increasingly asserting freedom of navigation in international waterways near China.”

  • The vessel was the French frigate Vendemiaire, according to the U.S. officials, who also said that “as a result of the passage, China notified France it was no longer invited to a naval parade to mark the 70 years since the founding of China’s Navy.”

  • The spokesperson for France’s military chief of staff declined to comment to Reuters.

  • China’s response was to accuse France of “illegally entering Chinese waters,” according to the Financial Times (paywall).

  • Calling such a passage through the Taiwan Strait “illegal” is new. “This would be new language,” said Alexander Huang, an expert on the Chinese military at Tamkang University in Taipei and a former senior government official working on cross-Strait relations, cited by the FT.


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

Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • The price of pork, China’s favorite meat, is set to hit record levels later this year as a result of the havoc that African swine fever has wreaked on the country’s hog farms. The incurable disease has now spread to all 31 provinces, province-level cities, and autonomous regions of China, and over 1 million pigs have been culled to stop the spread of the virus.

  • Hong Kong jailed four key leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, with two democracy activists receiving 16-month sentences. In another blow to freedom of expression in the city, Hong Kong’s largest state-controlled book distributor announced plans to relocate its warehouse to Guangzhou Province, meaning that Beijing will be able to censor materials as they pass through customs.

  • The second Belt and Road Forum was attended by 37 top foreign politicians, and Beijing used the opportunity to push a message of more debt-sensitive, transparent, and green investment projects. Oddly, the forum itself appears to have been hastily put together, as the agenda of events was still blank hours before opening. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal highlighted numbers that showed, it said, “Japan’s silent belt and road is beating China’s.”

  • Women now buy more suits than men in China, at least according to data from Alibaba affiliate websites. The trend has been picking up steam for a while, but has recently been turbocharged by the streaming-TV series All Is Well (都挺好 dōu tǐng hǎo), in which the gender-bias-busting protagonist played by Yáo Chén 姚晨 wears a suit.

  • Fàn Bīngbīng 范冰冰 has returned, but the internet mob does not want her. Six months after the superstar actress’s tax evasion scandal, she made a surprise appearance at the ninth anniversary gala of iQiyi, one of China’s most popular video-streaming platforms. But one of the most upvoted comments on a posting about Fan’s presence at the event reads: “Get the f**k outta here.”

  • China’s luxury consumers are alive and well and buying Birkins, the Hermès handbags that sell for $10,000 to $300,000 a pop. The French luxury house posted quarterly results that showed the fastest revenue growth in more than four years, much of it attributed to Chinese consumers.

  • The United Kingdom has approved the use of Huawei equipment for at least some parts of its 5G data network, despite American pressure. The Trump administration had for months been calling on many countries, especially allies, to reject the use of Chinese telecom equipment, especially from Huawei.

  • Xi Jinping wants China to be a “strong maritime nation” (海洋强国 hǎiyáng qiángguó), and has made a focused effort to modernize the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Meanwhile, a series of Reuters reports is documenting how “China is replacing America as Asia’s military titan.”

  • In U.S.-China “tech cold war” news, there are growing worries about Chinese use of artificial intelligence research funded by foreign organizations, and an American cancer research center has dismissed three scientists in connection with national security worries. The Wall Street Journal also reported that China is exploiting U.S. satellites “to strengthen [its] police and military power.” At the same time, the world is slowly realizing that it is no longer possible to shut out Chinese technology.

  • A migrant construction worker in Qingdao complained about low-quality helmets, making a viral video showing the differing quality of his helmet and a manager’s. He claims he was fired and blacklisted from construction contractors for his complaint.

  • Over 200 million Weibo posts will be archived by the National Library of China. No word on what the National Library will do with the many millions of Weibo posts that are censored each year.



One of the world’s largest and most sensitive cosmic-ray facilities has begun operation with its first set of detectors. Located about 4410 meters above sea level in the Haizi Mountain in Sichuan Province in southwest China, the 1.2 billion yuan ($180m) Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO) will attempt to understand the origins of high-energy cosmic rays.


Despite the received wisdom about China’s inexorable urbanization, the country now has more than 900 cities that are shrinking like Qiqihar, most of them in the north-east. The demographic consequences, in the form of an increasingly elderly population, offer another preview of tomorrow’s China.

President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 sought to allay mounting scepticism and fears over his global infrastructure and trade plans on Friday, promising to prevent debt risk, promote sustainable growth and make the Belt and Road Initiative more transparent and inclusive.In a speech to almost 40 world leaders in Beijing, the Chinese leader also made a series of commitments designed to address concerns over the country’s domestic reforms.

“Beijing would like to reset relations with Australia by revisiting the Huawei decision and the South China Sea issue. But Labor has made it clear that there’s no going back on those policies,” says the Lowy Institute’s Richard McGregor.

“So in that respect, I don’t expect a Labor victory, if that’s what happens, will offer a clean slate on relations with China. There will be lots of inbuilt tensions straight off the bat.”

Lǐ Ruì 李锐, a former aide to Chairman Mao, took notes.

In his diaries, he documented the inner workings of the ruling Communist Party, including everything from what he witnessed during the Cultural Revolution to Mao’s swear words.

The diaries are being held by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, but a lawsuit filed in China is now seeking to prevent them from seeing the light of day.

Li, who died at the age of 101 in February, was a personal secretary to Mao Zedong and later a critic of the Chinese leadership, a rarity among China’s political elite.

Li started keeping a diary in 1935, when he was an 18-year-old Communist activist, and only stopped in the spring of 2018, when he was hospitalized. His daughter, Lǐ Nányāng 李南央, has given the diaries to the Hoover Institution, a public policy think tank.

But according to the daughter, her stepmother and Li’s second wife Zhāng Yùzhēn 张玉珍 has filed a lawsuit against her at Beijing’s Xicheng district court, demanding that the writings be handed over to Zhang.

The suit says Zhang is the rightful owner of the documents as the heir to Li’s estate. It also seeks to prevent his daughter or the Hoover Institution from making their contents public.

A Hong Kong bookseller who disappeared into Chinese custody for half a year said Friday he has fled to Taiwan after the financial hub announced plans to approve extraditions to the mainland.

Lam Wing-kee [林榮基 Lín Róngjī] was one of five publishers selling gossip-filled tomes on China’s leaders who vanished at the end of 2015, resurfacing in Chinese custody and making televised confessions.

He was allowed back to Hong Kong in June 2016 on condition that he pick up a hard drive listing the bookstore’s customers and return to the mainland.

Instead he skipped bail and went public with explosive testimony detailing how he was blindfolded by mainland police after crossing the border at Shenzhen and spent months being interrogated.

  • Lam’s colleague Guì Mǐnhǎi 桂敏海 is still in detention in China.

  • Remembering 1989 in Hong Kong
    Tiananmen museum reopens in Hong Kong to mark anniversary / Kyodo News
    “A museum documenting the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre reopened in Hong Kong on Friday after a three-year hiatus, marking the 30th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy protest.”


Whoever killed Xiè Tiānqín 谢天琴 went to a lot of trouble to make sure nobody found her body. For seven months they succeeded. Inside her apartment, the slain 49-year-old woman was wrapped in layer after layer of plastic, with activated charcoal placed inside to absorb the smell. Surveillance cameras and infrared alarms were set all around, rigged to be remotely monitored and controlled with a smartphone.


Yu Bao on data protection, blockchain, and the role of Shenzhen in China

Yu Bao, a member of the UNESCAP Task Force on Digital Economy, has more than 15 years of experience in innovation incubation and investment in China’s technology sector. We spoke with him in New York City in April to learn about his insights into the current development of blockchain technology in China, data protection in the country, and Shenzhen’s advantages compared with those of Silicon Valley in the tech sector.


An introduction to Chinese poetry in translation: Five anthologies

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and we’re celebrating with a series of articles that looks at Chinese poetry, both past and present. We’ve featured poets across all eras, from Li Bai of the Tang dynasty to Xiao Hong of the 1930s to Zheng Xiaoqiong of the present day. Today we have recommendations that also stretch across the eras: anthologies of Chinese poetry that are excellent starting points for the curious reader.

The SupChina Quiz: The May Fourth Movement

It’s the last Thursday of the month, which means it’s quiz time! Last month was a quiz about U.S.-China diplomatic history. Today, with the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement just around the corner, we present…May the Fourth be with you! Ten questions to test how much you know about one of the most significant moments in the history of modern China. Let us know how you do — tweet your score to @supchinanews.

Protesting in the name of science: The legacy of China’s May Fourth Movement

Yangyang Cheng writes on the legacy of the May Fourth Movement, which set China on a new course of democracy and science — only for one to be abandoned and the other to be appropriated for the consolidation of state power. When the revolutionary becomes the dictator, it understands too well how its own path to power is a threat to the power it now holds. Today, what is the role of scientists in affairs of the state? Do science and freedom go hand in hand? Between livelihood and freedom, between martyrdom and complicity, what choice does a Chinese scientist have?

Graveside poetry: Xiao Hong, Dai Wangshu, and the dead among us

Drawing from her experiences of war, poverty, and illness, writer Xiao Hong/Hsiao Hung 萧红 (1911–1942; given name Zhang Naiying 张乃莹) produced acclaimed novels such as Tales of Hulan River and The Dyer’s Daughter.

Zheng Xiaoqiong, the migrant poet

Zheng Xiaoqiong is a seminal figure in the emerging genre of migrant worker poetry and one of the most significant living Chinese poets. Though she seems to come out of a world completely foreign to the traditional poetry reader, her work has a universal resonance. As such, her writing is more than a wellspring of meaning for each reader; it is an ocean that connects readers from worlds that might otherwise never meet.

Kuora: The usefulness of learning Chinese

Is learning Chinese (Mandarin) really worthwhile for business? Unfortunately and rather unhelpfully, the only truthful answer is “It depends.” Make no mistake: It’s a huge investment of time. One never truly masters it as a second language. For an adult non-native learner, investing enough time to learn to speak enough of the language to demonstrate respect and interest is one thing. Learning to speak well enough to actually conduct business in China is quite another.


Sinica Podcast: An American Futurist in China: Alvin Toffler and Reform & Opening

This week on Sinica, China-watching wunderkind Julian Gewirtz joins Kaiser and Jeremy to chat about his recent paper on the American futurist Alvin Toffler (author of Future Shock and The Third Wave), who found a surprisingly receptive audience in the China of the early 1980s. His ideas on the role of technology in modernization were widely embraced by leaders of China’s reform movement — including both Dèng Xiǎopíng 邓小平 and his right-hand man, Zhào Zǐyáng 赵紫阳. Julian describes how Toffler came to the attention of the reformers, and discusses the lasting impact of his influence.

TechBuzz China: Douyu’s IPO, Panda.TV’s Death — Let the Gaming Live-Streaming Games Begin

In Episode 43 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma dive into the world of gaming live streaming, which is a pretty big industry in China. Specifically, our co-hosts focus primarily on two companies, Douyu and Panda.TV. The former has just filed to go public on the NYSE at a valuation of $500 million, and the latter officially shut down on March 30 of this year. Notably, these and several other players mentioned in today’s episode have all received Tencent investment at one point or another — not a surprise, since gaming is in Tencent’s lifeblood. Our co-hosts, while both not gamers, acknowledge that the topic of today’s episode is interesting because it is one of the most global ones out there, with plenty of opportunities for cross-border capital.

ChinaEconTalk: Red Guards to Red Entrepreneurs: How Mao Era Thought Seeps Into Modern Chinese Business

In this episode of ChinaEconTalk, host Jordan Schneider interviews Christopher Marquis, the Samuel C. Johnson Professor in Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business. Christopher discusses a few of his recent publications, which focus primarily on how Chinese communist ideology impacts thinking within private sector firms and policy implementation by Chinese politicians.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, Episode 84

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: New data on China’s economic growth, the civil lawsuit against JD’s Richard Liu, China’s pension system, the child-modeling industry, Doug Young on what’s going on with Amazon China, and more.

Middle Earth #08: How to Make a Movie in 14 Days

Making a feature film can be a long and painful process — especially when you’re shooting an indie film in below-freezing conditions 16 hours per day for 14 days. But that is exactly what the creative team behind The Last Sunrise 最后的日出 was able to do. Along the way, it generated useful insights into China’s science-fiction movie scene and the realities of filmmaking in China on a shoestring budget. Featuring: Wen Ren, director, and Elly Li, producer and co-writer.