The tweets did not kill the talks

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Want to join our next direct conference call with Miranda Carr? It’s free for the first 10 Access members to respond. Please click the banner above for details, and email to join the call.

—Jeremy Goldkorn and team

1. Trump tweets don’t stop trade talks this week

This week began with a pair of tweets from Trump threatening new tariffs on Chinese goods, despite recent reports that trade talks between the U.S. and China were nearing a satisfactory conclusion. There has been something close to a blackout in the Chinese media about Trump’s tweets and the new tariffs, but the Party seems to have taken the news in its stride:

  • China’s commerce ministry confirmed that top negotiator Liú Hè 刘鹤 will still visit the United States on May 9–10 for trade talks, reports Reuters.

  • As with all important stories, state news agency Xinhua was characteristically tight-lipped, issuing only this two-line story (in Chinese) to confirm Liu’s visit.

  • However, “Beijing will not make concessions in trade talks in response to Donald Trump’s latest tariff threats, Chinese state media said in a commentary published a day after the U.S. president announced increases in duties on Chinese goods,” reports the South China Morning Post.

  • Beijing is also projecting confidence on the economy to a domestic audience: Xinhua, the People’s Daily, and all major central state media prominently ran a story today (in Chinese) titled “China’s economic development is highly resilient.”

2. China and India oil buyers bloc unlikely?

On April 29, we noted Indian media reports that India and China, the world’s biggest consumers of energy, had 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. 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.

An editorial in the Hindustan Times today pooh-poohs the idea, saying that “the idea of a buyer’s club to negotiate on oil prices has long been floated without much success,” and that there are too many misalignments between China and India for it to work. There has been almost no mention of the possible buyers bloc in Chinese media, which seems to support this point of view.

3. Australian elections: Misinformation via WeChat

With less than two weeks until Australia’s May 18 election, “Chinese social media has become an increasingly powerful tool for all political parties, especially in seats with large numbers of Chinese-Australian voters,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

But a high volume of misleading anti-Labor material, some of which can be traced back to Liberal Party members, is garnering concern. Conservative campaigns resonate strongly in some portions of the Chinese-Australian community.

The issue has prompted Labor to write to Tencent, the site’s parent company in China, raising concerns about “malicious and misleading content” and “fake news.”

One of the misleading postings mentioned is “a doctored tweet” purporting to come from Labor Party leader Bill Shorten that says: “Immigration of people from the Middle East is the future Australia needs.”

There does not seem to be any suggestion of Chinese government involvement, but there seems to be evidence that local operatives working on behalf of the Conservative Party are responsible for some postings.

4. Another prominent Canadian urges China rethink

Yesterday, we noted an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail by David Mulroney — Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012 — urging his country’s government to take a new approach to China that pushes back “against a China that uses hostage diplomacy, economic blackmail and even the threat of execution to achieve its objectives.”

Now another prominent Canadian has called for drastic changes in his country’s relations with China. Andrew Scheer, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, called “for a ‘total reset’ of the Canada-China relationship — and says Canada should not expand trade with the growing superpower until that reset is secured,” reports the Toronto Star.

“So long as China is willing to hold our exports hostage, all the while committing human rights violations on an industrial scale, we have no choice as Canadians but consider other trade partners,” Scheer’s remarks read.

The Conservative leader will vow to launch a complaint with the World Trade Organization over Chinese trade “blockades,” and pull out Canada’s contribution to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.


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


The government plans to transfer the trading assets of stockpiler Sinograin to food giant Cofco Corp., according to people with knowledge of the plan… The revamp of the biggest state companies in China, the top consumer and importer of farm products, will take Cofco closer to its goal of rivaling the storied ‘ABCD’ group of international commodity powerhouses that dominate flows of agricultural products, while extending its ability to secure food supplies for the world’s most populous country.



[T]his year the Imam Asim shrine is empty. Its mosque, khaniqah, a place for Sufi rituals, and other buildings have been torn down, leaving only the tomb. The offerings and flags have disappeared. Pilgrims no longer visit.

It is one of more than two dozen Islamic religious sites that have been partly or completely demolished in Xinjiang since 2016, according to an investigation by the Guardian and open-source journalism site Bellingcat that offers new evidence of large-scale mosque razing in [Xinjiang].

The armed conflict between China and Taiwan has been dormant for decades, but a wider war over global influence has ensnared multinational corporations, regional celebrities, and cross-strait meme creators.

Most international analysts focus on the India–Pakistan nuclear equation as a bilateral issue, but it’s essentially triangular in its origin and core dynamics. China has largely escaped accountability for its cynical role in nuclearising the region. Beijing’s irresponsibility needs to be called out.



What’s in a name? Taiwan and China are fighting a war of words over identity and sovereignty

The armed conflict between China and Taiwan has been dormant for decades, but a wider war over global influence has ensnared multinational corporations, regional celebrities, and cross-strait meme creators. Conventional wisdom suggests that Taiwan, the island of 23.5 million lying just off the coast of China’s Fujian Province, is bearing the brunt of the influence offensive waged by the government and internet users of its 1.4 billion-strong cross-strait neighbor.

Famous crosstalk artist under fire for crowdfunding abuse

Wú Shuài 吴帅, a Chinese comedian affiliated with the country’s most prestigious crosstalk performance group Déyúnshè 德云社, has caught heat from social media after his family launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the medical expenses of his cerebral hemorrhage.


Ta for Ta, episode 18: Leta Hong Fincher

Juliana Batista interviews Leta Hong Fincher, a best-selling author, journalist, and scholar. Fluent in Mandarin, Leta is the first American to receive a Ph.D. from Tsinghua University’s Department of Sociology. Leta has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, Ms. magazine, the BBC, CNN, and many others. She received the Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism in 2002 for her China reporting. She is also the author of two best-selling, critically acclaimed books: Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China (2018) and Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (2014). Identified by The Telegraph as an “awesome woman to follow on Twitter,” Leta was named a Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia University and recently moved to New York.

NüVoices Podcast: Rocking while female

In episode 15 of the NüVoices Podcast, co-host Alice Xin Liu interviews the co-founder and lead singer of Xiao Wang 小王, Anlin Fan. Since she started the band with her best friend, Yuyang, just a few years ago, Xiao Wang has become a staple of the Chinese rock and punk scene. When Anlin isn’t tearing up the stage, she spends her time finishing her master’s degree at McGill University. Here, she discusses growing up in China, the Riot Grrrl movement, tips on starting a rock band, her work with Rock Camp for Girls in Montreal, and her take on feminism and intersectionality. This episode also samples Xiao Wang’s new demo, “Sonic Baby,” and provides new recommendations for self-care.

Middle Earth #09: China’s growing VR industry

Virtual reality (VR) is a new medium that many a technology guru has predicted will revolutionize cinema — or would, if it weren’t for the pesky problem (among others) that VR interface still requires the viewer to wear what essentially amounts to a “head box.” Nevertheless, VR markets around the world are slowly but surely expanding. Many of the major film festivals (Sundance, Venice, and Cannes, to name a few) now feature a special VR section. Overall, the industry is indeed growing — especially in China.