Taiwan legalizes same-sex marriage

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Today, the world lost a man whose works literally tower above us: the architect I.M. Pei (貝聿銘 Bèi Yùmíng), designer of the Louvre pyramid, the Bank of China building in Hong Kong, and many other notable buildings.

I enjoyed these two obituaries:

There’s been a lot of news today. Read on for more.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. Taiwan legalizes same sex marriage

Deutsche Welle reports:

Lawmakers in Taiwan on Friday voted 66-27 in favor of a law permitting “exclusive permanent unions” for same-sex couples and to allow them to apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

Taiwan is the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Divisive vote

  • Friday’s vote gives same-sex couples full marriage rights under law, including matters such as taxation, insurance and child custody.

  • Full parity on adoption rights, however, is not [included] in the law.

  • Conservatives tried to remove references to marriage, proposing instead same-sex unions under another name.

  • Same-sex couples will now be able to register their marriage from May 24 onwards.

LGBT delight…The voting was accompanied by the presence of hundreds of gay rights supporters near the parliament, who hugged one another enthusiastically in the rain when the approval was announced.

See also:

2. The week U.S.-China rivalry got real

It’s been a stressful week for anyone involved in Sino-American relations, or doing any kind of global business that depends on the state of those relations. One of the beneficiaries of the stress has been the price of Bitcoin. As one cryptocurrency news site puts it: Bitcoin is already winning the U.S. and China trade war.  

This is a summary of what else happened this week in China-U.S. rivalry:

  • China retaliated against Trump’s tariffs, and timed its announcement for maximum stock market impact at 9 a.m. New York time on May 13. The Dow dropped 600 points. Meanwhile, Beijing signaled its trade war readiness to a domestic audience with a message during the CCTV 7 p.m. evening news broadcast, stating that China is “not afraid to fight” — the clip of the message was viewed billions of times on social media within hours. Meanwhile, state media prominently featured an editorial declaring a “people’s war” against the United States.

  • The Trump administration drew up a new list of potential tariffs on another $300 billion worth of imports from China, and also prepared as much as $15 billion in aid to farmers hurt by tariffs. Though some farmers say they have lost support for Trump as tariffs have wrecked their business, most Trump supporters see the trade war as a patriotic fight. Meanwhile, China declined to confirm a date for the next round of trade talks, and the future for trade as an anchor of the U.S.-China relationship looks dim.

  • Tension around Huawei ratcheted up by several notches. On May 15, Donald Trump issued an executive order declaring a national emergency caused by foreign adversaries. It did not name Huawei, but the Chinese telecom giant was clearly the target. If the threat implicit in the executive order goes through, Huawei will not be able to buy American-made components that are vital to its supply chain.

  • Two Canadians held as hostages were formally charged with crimes. Former diplomat and International Crisis Group associate Michael Kovrig was charged with gathering state secrets, while entrepreneur and North Korea specialist Michael Spavor was charged with stealing and providing secrets for overseas forces. They had both been detained in December 2018 soon after the arrest of Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 in Vancouver.  

Published today are these pieces on Huawei, Trump’s tariffs, and other aspects of the new U.S.-China rivalry:


Every pundit in the journalism business is blabbing about the U.S.-China tensions. Today’s only don’t-miss commentary is by economist Yukon Huang: Did China break the world economic order?. The answer, in short: “No. Other countries’ reaction to its rise are a greater threat.”

Beijing reactions

China will certainly retaliate for barbaric suppression Huawei received. It’s a unanimous attitude of officials and ordinary people. I believe Beijing is selecting retaliation targets and approaches, minimizing damage to itself and not weakening confidence in China’s opening up.

Trade war effects

3. Cash for Luckin Coffee as Baidu loses money

As we noted on May 15, China’s two biggest internet companies, Tencent and Alibaba, reported great quarterly earnings, even as new economic data indicated the economy continues to slow.

Tencent in particular seems to be doing well. The Wall Street Journal says (paywall) “Gaming giant Tencent has patched up the differences with regulators that battered its stock last year” and that after a “horrible year…China’s top tech company is back in the game.” (If you’re interested in Tencent, you’ll enjoy this from the South China Morning Post: Here’s a rare glimpse into what WeChat insiders are worried about.)

Not so for Baidu, which may or may not still be China’s third-biggest internet company, and which once was part of the trio BAT of first-generation Chinese internet giants. Nikkei Asian Review reports:

China’s top search engine Baidu has unveiled its first loss in 14 years, amid regulatory headwinds, a softer Chinese economy and the departure of top talent.

…Nasdaq-listed Baidu lost 327 million yuan ($49 million) in the January-March quarter, according to its filing on Thursday night U.S. time. It is the company’s first net loss since listing in 2005.

The weak showing risks knocking Baidu out of the so-called Big Three tech companies of China, alongside e-commerce platform Alibaba Group Holding and social media leader Tencent Holdings. Though often grouped together as the “BAT” companies, Baidu is increasingly lagged behind the two companies in financial performance.

“When we talk about BAT, B no longer stands for Baidu; it refers to ByteDance,” said a venture capitalist who focuses on Chinese tech companies. ByteDance is the operator of hugely popular short video app TikTok and the company last year surpassed Silicon Valley ride-sharing heavyweight Uber in valuation according to research company CB Insights.

Meanwhile in New York, shares of Luckin Coffee “surged as much as 50 percent Friday morning in the Chinese up-start retailer’s Nasdaq debut,” reports CNBC.

The opening trade under the symbol LK was $25 per share. On Thursday night, Luckin priced its initial public offering at $17 per share, for an implied market value of roughly $4 billion. The Beijing-based chain also boosted its IPO to 33 million shares, 3 million more than initially planned. Its IPO price was on the high end of its expected range of $15 to $17 per share.

Is Luckin Coffee a scam? Many people seem to think so. See for example, this tweet from tech journalist and SupChina contributor Elliott Zaagman:

Literally everyone covering Chinese companies:

“This company is one big red flag, run for your lives.”

The fund managers who I’m sure are in charge of a portion of my money in one way or another:

“I saw a headline that said ‘Chinese Starbucks!'”

Breathe, Elliott. Breathe.

See also:

4. Destroying the languages and cultures of Tibet and Xinjiang

Today brings more grim news from China’s west — not only from Xinjiang but also from Tibet, which has not been in the news much recently.

The theme that connects most of the articles linked below is the Chinese Communist Party’s determination to weaken or wipe out the culture and language of Uyghurs, Tibetans, and any other ethnic minority that is not satisfied with dancing in colorful costumes and making tourist pennies in their villages.

5. Outside perception of New Zealand’s weakness to China grows

There has been very little discussion on the New Zealand media — and almost no comment from the government — on the growing fears that New Zealand is vulnerable and unprepared for Chinese espionage and influence operations.

But this perception is growing, not only among China scholars but perhaps more importantly among the American political class. And now the Kiwi press is noticing. The New Zealand Herald reports:

An influential United States Congress hearing has been told “one of the major fundraisers for Jacinda Ardern’s party” is linked to the Chinese Communist Party and it showed China had penetrated New Zealand’s political networks.

As a result, U.S. lawmakers needed to consider whether New Zealand should be kicked out of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance because of problems at its “political core.”

The bombshell testimony included claims from a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst that “anything on China that was briefed to Bill English was briefed to Mr Yáng Jiàn 杨健,” the National MP revealed last year as having trained spies for China.


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:

  • On the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony, marking the completion of the first American transcontinental railroad, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao (趙小蘭 Zhào Xiǎolán) gave a keynote address remembering Chinese laborers who contributed to the “economic transformation” of America.  

  • Wikipedia is now completely blocked in China in all languages, not just Chinese. The move slams shut one of the largest remaining gates in the Great Firewall, making China’s censorship structure closer to a hermetic seal than the mostly inconvenient Net Nanny that it was a decade or more ago.

  • Gunmen from the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) stormed a hotel in Gwadar, Pakistan, killing four hotel workers and a Pakistan “Navy soldier.” This was the BLA’s biggest attack expressing anger at the Chinese presence in Pakistan since its failed suicide bombing of the Chinese consulate in Karachi last November.

  • Ahead of the May 18 Australian federal elections, the Labor Party has written to Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, “raising concerns about ‘malicious and misleading content’ and ‘fake news.’” At the same time, an Australian research team found that Beijing-aligned WeChat accounts instead “have a clear anti-Liberal story coming out of them.”

  • Swine fever is a “national crisis,” an official from the China Animal Agriculture Association said, adding that the economic impact on the country’s US$128 billion pork industry will be “stunning.” Meanwhile, foreign exporters of meat are seeing booming business as Chinese seek to avoid inflated domestic pork prices.

  • The illegal egg donation industry involving young women donors and aspiring parents battling with infertility issues was exposed in a Beijing Youth Daily investigation.

  • An investigation into Falun Gong’s finances, and the Shen Yun song-and-dance and anti-Beijing propaganda shows that the exiled group organizes, was published by Radio France Internationale.

Also this week in our newsletter, with the latest developments above in our top news section:

  • China retaliated against Trump’s tariffs.

  • Trump drew up a list (PDF here) of potential tariffs on another $300 billion worth of imports from China.

  • Despite the pain, most Trump supporters see the trade war as a patriotic fight.

  • China declined to confirm a date for the next round of trade talks, and the future for trade as an anchor of the U.S.-China relationship looks dim.

  • U.S.-China tension around Huawei ratcheted up by several notches.

  • Two Canadians held as hostages were formally charged with crimes.

  • Tencent and Alibaba reported great quarterly earnings, even as new economic data indicated China’s economy continues to slow.




  • Iran sends foreign minister to Beijing
    Iran presses China and Russia to save nuclear deal / SCMP
    Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met his Chinese counterpart, Wáng Yì 王毅, in Beijing today, “following the deployment last week of a U.S. aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over alleged threats from Iran.”
    Zarif “urged China and Russia to take ‘concrete action’ to safeguard the nuclear deal, warning of a “dangerous situation” amid rising tensions with the U.S.”

  • Japanese man doing geological survey gets five years in jail for ‘stealing state secrets’
    China hands Japanese man 5.5 yrs in prison for state secret theft / Kyodo News
    Kyodo News seems to be the only source on this story so far, reproduced in full below:

A Chinese court on Friday sentenced a Japanese man in his 70s to five-and-a-half years in prison for stealing state secrets, sources well-informed about Sino-Japanese relations said.

The Intermediate People’s Court in northeastern China’s Shandong province also ordered the man, an executive of NC Geophysical Survey Co. in Funabashi, near Tokyo, to forfeit personal assets totalling 30,000 yuan (about $4,300), the sources said.

He was detained in March 2017 in the province while conducting a geological survey with his colleagues. What concrete actions had been deemed illegal or other details of the case remain unknown, the sources said.

Chinese authorities have indicted at least nine Japanese nationals on suspicion of espionage since 2015. The verdict was the sixth to be delivered among the nine cases.


Boys used to punch Zhāng Wěilì 张伟丽 in the face so often, she’d get nosebleeds almost every day.

But that’s how training worked at the…Chinese kickboxing, school she entered as a 12-year-old in northern Hebei province — with full-strength kicks and punches. There, trainers would punish male students if they held back against female counterparts, whom they outnumbered 500 to 30.  

  • Now Zhang is an internationally successful MMA fighter. MMA is 综合格斗 zònghé gédòu in Chinese.

  • Photography — Beijing swimming pools
    Surface Tension / ChinaFile
    A gallery from a “Beijing photographer at the pool.”


From a ‘people’s war’ to Taiwan’s gay marriage legalization: Our top news this week

From China’s declaration of a “people’s war” amid the trade dispute with the U.S. to Donald Trump’s announcement of a national emergency and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, here are some top stories we covered this week.

SupChina presents: My story as an Asian-American female entrepreneur

This is the story of Wen-Jay Ying, who was born in Long Island, New York, to parents from China. She details her journey of finding her own identity as an Asian American growing up in the United States through food and culture.


Q&A: Roseann Lake on China’s single women shaping the country’s economic future

Roseann Lake covers Cuba for The Economist and was previously based in China as a journalist for five years. During her time in the country, she became fascinated with the lives of the single women around her, whose stories she captured in the book Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower, which was published in China this year. We spoke with her about her life as a China correspondent and how Chinese women are becoming an increasingly vital force in the nation’s economy.

Speakers spotlight for SupChina’s third annual Women’s Conference

SupChina’s third annual Women’s Conference is just around the corner. To give you a taste of what to expect, we have published a series of interviews with the speakers, who told us some amazing stories about their careers and their thoughts on a range of topics.

‘Saved’ by state terror: Gendered violence and propaganda in Xinjiang

The ongoing atrocities targeting Turkic Muslim peoples in Xinjiang are, in many forms, gendered violence. As the “People’s War on Terror” campaign escalates, Han officials and settlers are removing Turkic Muslim men whom they perceive as threats to “security” and “safety,” emptying out a clear path for Han settlers to insert their presence onto Uyghur and Kazakh homelands. This comes at the expense of the women who remain — those who have never needed “saving” by any central authority, but instead need to have their own voices amplified.

Kuora: China’s eventual transition into democracy

Is there any possibility of a smooth and peaceful transition of China into democracy without running into social chaos and economic meltdown, like that in the Arab Spring?

Crosstalk artist sparks outrage for joking about Wenchuan earthquake

Zhang Yunlei 张云雷, a rising performer from China’s most distinguished crosstalk group, Deyunshe 德云社, recently sparked public outrage after a video surfaced of him making jokes about the Wenchuan earthquake during a New Year’s Eve show in Qingdao earlier this year. May 12 marked the 11th anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province, which claimed more than 69,000 lives.

Sponsored: ‘Fintech represents the future’: Kim Tong, COO of ECARD Inc., on making global transactions borderless

Imagine a truly borderless world in which individuals and companies can conduct business and make payments that completely transcend geographical limitations. That’s exactly the future ECARD Inc. envisions and helps to build.


Sinica Podcast: ‘Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy,’ with Sulmaan Wasif Khan

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Sulmaan Wasif Khan, assistant professor of international history and Chinese foreign relations at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, about his book Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping. He makes the case that China’s overriding concern is for maintaining the security and integrity of the state — something that, given China’s long history of foreign invasion, warlordism, civil war, and contested borders, hasn’t been easy.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 86

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: the U.S.-China trade war, the shutdown of the Melbourne office of JD.com, China’s tightening control of the deadly pig contagion, China’s rural migrant worker population, and more.