The India-China oil bloc?

Access Archive

Dear reader,

Another slow news day in China, but we’ve highlighted two very interesting bits of news that emerged today.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. Will China and India team up to buy oil?

Mint and the Economic Times report that India and China, the world’s biggest consumers of energy, have been in talks to establish a buyers bloc for oil and liquid natural gas (LNG). The group would give the two countries much more bargaining power in global energy markets.

  • A “joint working group” on energy has already been set up, according to Mint. Talks were accelerated last week by the visit of a “high-level representative from China’s National Energy Administration” to New Delhi.

  • Tightening U.S. sanctions on Iran seems to be one factor behind the Sino-Indian deal — China is Iran’s biggest buyer of oil, while India is the third after Japan.

  • Another factor is production curbs by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which have driven oil prices up.

Interestingly, there is no coverage of the deal in the Chinese news media as of this writing, with the exception being an English-language article in the Global Times that seems mostly based on Indian media reports. This might indicate that — from the Chinese government’s point of view — the deal is very far from being done.  

2. U.S. Navy chief warns China over gray zone naval ops

The South China Morning Post says, “Beijing on Monday ‘expressed concern’ after two U.S. warships passed through the Taiwan Strait, but stopped short of lodging a ‘stern protest’ as it has previously done over similar transits.”

  • The two destroyers USS Stethem and USS William P. Lawrence sailed the seas between China and Taiwan on Sunday and Monday, the seventh such operation since July 2018.

  • 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.”

  • China’s response to France was much sterner: The Foreign Ministry accused France of “illegally entering Chinese waters,” according to the Financial Times (paywall), apparently the first time that the Chinese government has called such a passage through the Taiwan Strait “illegal.”

Meanwhile, Demetri Sevastopulo and Kathrin Hille of the Financial Times report (paywall):

Admiral John Richardson, head of the U.S. navy, said he told his Chinese counterpart, vice-admiral Chén Jīnlóng 沈金龙, in January that Washington would not treat the coast guard or maritime militia — fishing boats that work with the military — differently from the Chinese navy, because they were being used to advance Beijing’s military ambitions.

“I made it very clear that the US navy will not be coerced and will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world, in order to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all,” Adm Richardson told the Financial Times.

The two biggest complaints of the U.S. and China’s neighbors in the South China Sea are about the construction and militarization of artificial islands, and China’s use of the coast guard as well as fishing and other non-military vessels for military purposes, and to harass and intimidate countries that have territorial disputes with China.


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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


Caught in the tariff cross-fire, Long Chen and other Taiwanese companies like it suddenly found that the proposition for doing business across the Taiwan Strait looked a lot weaker. That adversity has been seized as an opportunity by President Tsai Ing-wen, whose government last year started an ‘Invest Taiwan’ campaign to lure companies away from China.

  • Economic indicators — bank profits
    China’s biggest banks post higher profits amid fresh loan push / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “China’s largest lenders posted increases in first-quarter profit and higher interest income as authorities encouraged fresh lending to support the economy.”

  • Intellectual property
    China arrests 251 for film piracy on eve of new trade talks with US / SCMP
    “China on Monday said it had arrested 251 people who pirated dozens of films over the Lunar New Year in an apparent bid to support its claim it has tightened protection of intellectual property rights ahead of trade talks with the United States.”

  • Centrally planned wine business
    China’s wine egg hatches / Wine-Searcher  
    “An egg-shaped complex called Xīgē 西鸽 in Chinese, and known informally as Pigeon Hill in English, has risen from the dusty fields of Ningxia in north-central China… The Ningxia region’s government hopes it might be a kind of Penfolds, a respected high-volume national brand that makes everything from palatable entry-level wine to the finest reserve cuvées.”

  • “Industry-jolting” swine flu
    China’s unprecedented pig crisis to impact entire world, expert warns / Independent
    “In almost 40 years of analysing commodity markets, Arlan Suderman says he has never witnessed an industry-jolting event as dramatic as the contagion spreading across China ’s pig farms.”

  • Trade war does not stop U.S. investors in China
    U.S. investors ‘confidently’ pouring money into China despite trade war / SCMP
    “Direct foreign investment into China from the United States increased by 65.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019, total foreign investment up 6.5 percent.”


A groundbreaking fusion reactor built by Chinese scientists is underscoring Beijing’s determination to be at the core of clean energy technology, as it eyes a fully functioning plant by 2050. Sometimes called an “artificial sun” for the sheer heat and power it produces, the doughnut-shaped Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) that juts out on a spit of land into a lake in eastern Anhui province, has notched up a succession of research firsts.


After seven years of construction and over $1 billion in expenses, a new mosque in Algeria is set to break new global records.

The Great Mosque of Algiers, or Djamaa El Djazair, sits on an area of 400,000 square meters and has a 265 meter (870 feet) minaret that houses observation decks. The compound’s domed sanctuary and outside courtyard overlooking the Bay of Algiers can house up to 120,000 worshippers and has an underground parking space with a capacity of 7,000 cars…

…The Algiers mosque constitutes a new feat for the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), a huge multinational that is involved in building heavy industry and infrastructure in Africa and across the world.


A small and growing community of Chinese programmers is pushing boundaries by coding while cross-dressing and cosplaying as female characters, wearing schoolgirl uniforms and lacy Lolita dresses.

While the Japanese-influenced trend is not new, it has been attracting wider attention with the establishment of an online group called Dress, aimed at “lovely boys” who want to practice their coding skills.

  • $6.5 million to get your kid into college
    In college admissions scandal, families from China paid the most  / WSJ (paywall)
    “Families from China were among those who allegedly paid the most in the college admissions scandal, a new sign of the reach of the cheating ring. One Chinese family allegedly paid $6.5 million to William “Rick” Singer, the California-based college counselor who has admitted to masterminding the scheme.”


Kuora: What is the most admired Chinese dynasty?

Many Chinese are very admiring of the Tang (AD 618–907), especially the years before the An Lushan Rebellion, which broke out in 755. During this time, the Tang capital at Chang’an was the largest city in the world, an extremely cosmopolitan city that sat at the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Central Asian music took hold, the three-colored Tang sancai glaze became very popular (these pieces remain very valuable to collectors today), and poetry flourished. Tang poems by the likes of Li Bai, Du Fu, Wang Wei, and Li Shangyin are memorized even today by most Chinese schoolchildren in the P.R.C., Greater China, and the diaspora.

China’s OPPO to become first Asian sponsor in Wimbledon’s 142-year history

Chinese upstart phone brand OPPO signed a five-year deal with the All England Lawn Tennis Club — Wimbledon’s home — to become the first Asian partner in the tournament’s 142-year history. Also in this week’s China sports news: The field has opened up for Ding Junhui at the World Snooker Championship; Liu Wenbo and Du Mohan, two female golfers from the China LPGA Tour, lined up against the men at this week’s Shenzhou Peninsula Open and are holding their own; and a Chinese call of Damian Lillard’s series-winning three-pointer.

‘Avengers: Endgame’ is breaking Chinese box office records — and moviegoers

Avengers: Endgame has already hit theaters in China, where it had a record-breaking debut, raking in more than $100 million on its opening day, Wednesday. In celebration of this significant cultural event, we collected a series of Avengers-related stories from China, from a fan who ended up in the ER after crying her heart out during the movie to a surprisingly effective crossover between the movie and a blacklist of credit defaulters.

Friday Song: ‘Second Farewell to Cambridge,’ Xu Zhimo’s poem that inspired multiple songs

“Second Farewell to Cambridge” 再别康桥 is a Mandopop song released last June on Taiwanese singer Yoga Lin’s 林宥嘉 debut album, Mystery Guest 神秘嘉宾, and is adapted from a well-known modern poem of the same name by Xu Zhimo 徐志摩. “Second Farewell to Cambridge” is arguably Xu’s most famous poem, written in 1928 after his last visit to Cambridge, expressing all his nostalgic love for the place upon his departure. The poem is now widely read in Chinese literature courses and has been sung to music various times.