An uncompromising speech by China’s defense chief

Access Archive

Dear Access members,

The 30th anniversary of June Fourth is here, and a large roundup of recently published stories worth checking out related to the infamous crackdown are included below. One common misconception to address is that Tiananmen is “forgotten” in China. Despite what the BBC may want you to believe based strictly on Beijing residents’ immediate reaction to the “Tank Man” image, the memory of Tiananmen lives on, even in China. Here are a few examples to think about:

  • Eric Fish in TIME: “While researching a book on Chinese millennials and their relationship with the state, I interviewed at length more than 130 youths from across the socioeconomic and geographic spectrums. Those conversations would usually find their way to Tiananmen Square, but one of the biggest surprises was that often I wasn’t the one who brought it up…Overall, complete ignorance of Tiananmen among my interviewees by the time they reached their 20s was the exception rather than the norm.”

  • Kaiser Kuo on SupChina: “I’ve been told by many Chinese people that they’ve deliberately told foreign reporters asking them about the suppression of the student uprising in Beijing that they knew nothing about it, because it was the fastest way out of a conversation that to them had no upside at all.”

  • Anonymous contributor to ChinaFile conversation: “I personally disagree with the narrative that the younger generation, especially the generation under 25, does not know or is not interested in June Fourth. It is not true from what I have observed of the young people I know. I am studying in the U.S. now, and my young friends are very curious about and eager to know the truth.”

—Lucas Niewenhuis, Associate Editor

1. China’s defense chief gives uncompromising speech at Shangri-La Dialogue

Yesterday, Chinese Defense Minister Wèi Fènghé 魏凤和 made an important speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue, the largest regional security forum for Asia, in Singapore. Bloomberg has the key quotes (porous paywall):

  • “China has no intention, no power, to be the boss of this world, and against the United States to fight for this status… If the U.S. wants to talk, we will keep the door open. If they want to fight, we will fight to the end.”

  • “Huawei is a private company. China is opposed to the attempt of other countries to impose sanctions on private companies. Huawei is not a military company.”

  • “The policy in China’s Xinjiang is absolutely right because over the past more than two years, there is no single terrorist attack in Xinjiang and the living standards of the local people have improved.”

  • “First, who on earth is threatening security and stability in the South China Sea? Over 100,000 ships sail through the South China Sea each year. None has been threatened. The problem, however, is that in recent years some countries outside the region come to the South China Sea to flex muscles, in the name of freedom of navigation.”

  • “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national unity. No attempt to split China will succeed.”

  • Wei added an analogy about Abraham Lincoln, Bloomberg separately notes: “American friends told me that Abraham Lincoln was the greatest American president because he led the country to victory in the Civil War and prevented the secession of the U.S. The U.S. is indivisible, so is China. China must be and will be reunified.”

“Is there anything in this Wei speech at SLD we haven’t heard literally a thousand times before?,” asked Foreign Policy editor James Palmer, later commenting, “A lot of the reaction to Wei’s speech seems to be people taking seriously things the PRC has been saying for years or decades.”

Lyle Morris, an analyst at RAND, wrote that “China has manufactured a security dilemma” regarding the South China Sea “that legitimizes all future Chinese militarization.” He added, “China started using this talking point a few years ago. But it’s clearly become the narrative now for Chinese leaders. The US is not going to stop FONOPS. If anything, they will increase. So we are faced with the reality that China will continue to militarize and blame the U.S.”

—Lucas Niewenhuis

2. June Fourth, at 30

Minister Wei took a surprisingly large number of questions after his speech, but the one that received the most attention may be one posed by Sophia Yan at The Telegraph: Will the People’s Liberation Army recognize what happened on June 4, 1989? Via The Telegraph:

China’s defense minister says Tiananmen crackdown was ‘correct’ ahead of 30th anniversary

“Everybody is concerned about Tiananmen after 30 years,” Mr Wei said Sunday at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue. “China under the Communist Party has experienced many changes in those 30 years – how can we say that China did not handle the Tiananmen incident well? There was a conclusion to the incident. The central government took measures to stop that political turbulence.”

“Due to that, China has enjoyed stability and development. If you visit China, you can better understand that part of history.”

The nationalistic rag Global Times followed up with an editorial titled, “June 4 immunized China against turmoil.” It reads about exactly as you would expect.

The governments of both the U.S. and Taiwan, which have long been held up as democratic foils to China’s authoritarian system, both put out forceful statements:

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday urged Beijing to correct its “historical mistake” of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre…

For 30 years, the Chinese government has lacked the courage to reflect on the historical significance of the June Fourth Incident, choosing instead to “block information, distort the truth and attempt to cover up its mistakes and the events of 1989,” the council said in a statement.

Many more reports, commentaries, and remembrances worth reading were published over the weekend:

Every June 4 evening, tens of thousands of people light candles in one of the city’s landmark public parks to commemorate those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and condemn the perpetrators, China’s ruling Communist Party.
Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil where such massive demonstrations, which feature chants and banners denouncing the central government in Beijing, are tolerated. As demonstrators prepare to mark the 30th anniversary this coming week, one question on people’s minds is: For how much longer?

—Lucas Niewenhuis

3. From the Chinese government to McConnell’s back pocket

Mike Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee of the New York Times have a massive investigative story (porous paywall) on the family business and political connections of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao (趙小蘭 Zhào Xiǎolán). Secretary Chao is married to Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, and has served in both Bush administrations, so her connections in American politics are well known.

Here are some key findings the Times made about her family’s connections in China, and how they have formed a foundation of her husband’s political fortune:

  • The American Embassy in Beijing raised ethics questions after Secretary Chao requested to include “relatives who were fairly wealthy and connected to the shipping industry” in meetings in China in 2017. Those meetings were later “abruptly canceled.”

  • These requests were “alarmingly inappropriate,” said David Rank, a top American diplomat in Beijing who “learned of the matter after he stepped down as deputy chief of mission in Beijing earlier in 2017.”

  • Foremost, Secretary Chao’s father’s business, is a small but successful American shipping company whose “fleet is overwhelmingly focused on China.”

  • “Foremost has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan commitments from a bank run by the Chinese government… Foremost has relied on the Export-Import Bank of China, or China EximBank, to finance at least four ships in the past decade… As of 2015, the bank had made at least $300 million available to Foremost, it said at the time.”

  • “The Times found that the Chaos had an extraordinary proximity to power in China for an American family, marked not only by board memberships in state companies, but also by multiple meetings with the country’s former top leader [Jiāng Zémín 江泽民], including one at his villa.”

  • “Public records show that she has benefited from the company’s success. A gift to Ms. Chao and Mr. McConnell from her father in 2008 [“valued between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal disclosures”] helped make Mr. McConnell, the Republican majority leader, one of the richest members of the Senate.”

  • “In all, from 1989 through 2018, 13 members of the extended Chao family gave a combined $1.66 million to Republican candidates and committees, including $1.1 million to Mr. McConnell and political action committees tied to him, according to F.E.C. records.”

See also a short article published by the Times with five takeaways from the investigation, and this Twitter thread by reporter Mike Forsythe that walks through some of the corporate documents and other evidence uncovered by the investigation.

—Lucas Niewenhuis

4. White paper further darkens trade war prospects

A few quick notes on the current status of the forever trade war:

  • China “blamed the United States for a breakdown in negotiations and saying it must withdraw its latest round of tariffs before a deal can be reached,” in a white paper published by the State Council Information Office, the New York Times reported (porous paywall).

  • The full, bilingual text of that white paper is available via China Law Translate.

  • Bloomberg also has a roundup of “the most interesting items in China’s trade white paper” (porous paywall).

  • “China warned students on Monday to think about the ‘risks’ associated with attending college in the United States, an apparent sign that the authorities in Beijing are expanding the boundaries of the trade war to include educational exchanges,” according to the Washington Post.

  • “The media has become the latest battleground in the conflict between the United States and China – after trade and technology – as journalists at the US arm of China’s state broadcaster were denied passes to cover Capitol Hill, a result of Washington’s requirement that some reporters there register as foreign agents,” SCMP reports.

More reporting on the implications of the trade and tech war:

—Lucas Niewenhuis


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


One of China’s largest listed drug makers that’s been under a regulatory probe for months said it overstated cash positions after using false documents and transaction records. The stock tumbled by the 5% daily limit.

Kangmei Pharmaceutical Co., a producer of traditional Chinese medicines, said in a filing on Wednesday that such methods have led to an overstatement of cash holdings by 29.9 billion yuan ($4.3 billion). The company admitted to “serious” deficiencies in its corporate governance and internal controls, according to the filing.

  • 5G technology
    China ministry will issue 5g licenses for commercial use in near future: Xinhua / Reuters

  • Huawei
    Memory card industry group denies suspending Huawei’s membership / Caixin Live
    “The SD Association, the Japan-based organization that sets global memory card standards, denied suspending Huawei’s membership in a statement to Caixin on Wednesday.”

    U.K.’s 5G Launch gives Huawei spot of good news after recent setbacks / Caixin (paywall)
    “Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. took a moment on Friday to acknowledge its own role in the launch of the U.K.’s first 5G network, even though Britain’s mobile phone operator EE Ltd. had said Huawei’s phones would be excluded from the launch.”
    Huawei is selling off its undersea cable business / The Verge
    “China’s Huawei has had to battle suspicions and worries about the security of its networking equipment for many years, which most recently culminated in it being placed on a US blacklist by the Trump administration. Now, Huawei is officially bowing out of one line of business, by agreeing to sell off its undersea cable operations, and reportedly shrinking another, by reducing smartphone production orders with supplier Foxconn.”
    How blacklisting affects the inside of a Huawei smartphone / FT (paywall)
    “The uncertainty over the effects of the ban has led some phone operators to delay the launch of new Huawei smartphones while they make further assessments. In the UK, EE and Vodafone have ‘paused’ the launch of Huawei’s 5G smartphones, while two of Japan’s largest mobile phone carriers, SoftBank and KDDI, have also suspended presales of the new Huawei P30 phones.”
    Huawei reportedly eyes smart vehicle market as US ban hits growth / TechNode

  • Baoshang Bank
    Central bank urges calm after taking control of Baoshang Bank / Caixin (paywall)
    “Baoshang Bank is an isolated case and its seizure by the authorities is linked to the embezzlement of funds by its controlling shareholder, financial conglomerate Tomorrow Holding, which created significant credit risks for the bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said in a statement on Sunday aimed at preventing further unnecessary panic in the markets.”
    Last Friday on SupChina Access: Who’s next after Baoshang Bank?

  • Electric vehicles
    With state subsidies and a firm hand, China races ahead with electric transport / Washington Post
    Gerry Shih reports, “The story of how this leafy tech hub in southern China [Shenzhen] became the first city in the world to turn nearly all of its buses and taxis electric is laden with economic and political subplots. It’s a study of how the Chinese government deployed an array of policies to gain an advantage in a strategic technology while the United States fell behind.”

  • Alipay in Nepal
    Alipay in talks with Nepali government to operate legally / TechNode
    “Alipay, the mobile payment app operated by Ant Financial, may start formally operating in Nepal in a few weeks. According to local news outlets, the head of business at Alipay and representatives from Ant Financial’s compliance, legal, and account departments met with officials from the Nepali central bank last week to discuss the launch of the payment service.”



  • Chinese ships in Sydney Harbour
    Chinese warships make surprise entrance into Sydney Harbour  / Australian ABC
    “Three Chinese warships have arrived in Sydney Harbour for a visit which was not publicly announced by the Government. A People’s Liberation Army frigate, an auxiliary replenishment ship, and an amphibious vessel are docking at Garden Island for a four-day stopover.”
    Chinese warships arrive in Sydney Harbor on Australian stopover / CNN

  • Belt and Road
    China’s $1.9 billion Belt-and-Road rail project goes off track / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “A planned light-railway system that was the most high-profile project in Kazakhstan of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure program has hit a wall… China Development Bank halted lending last year after the collapse of the bank where funds it had provided were deposited. Kazakh officials now say they will have to borrow domestically to complete the work.”
    Exports now targeted to Belt and Road / Xinhua
    “The United States remains an important export market for China, but with decreasing significance, according to China’s vice commerce minister. The US tariff hike will have some impact on China’s foreign trade, but is generally controllable, Wang Shouwen said.”

  • OIC summit
    Xi congratulates 14th OIC summit / China Daily
    “Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday sent a congratulatory message on the opening of the 14th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, in the Saudi city of Mecca on Friday. Xi said in his message that the OIC is a symbol of unity for the Islamic countries and he highly appreciates the contributions it has made to promoting cooperation among the Islamic countries since its establishment 50 years ago.”

  • Australian position on Taiwan and Pacific Islands
    Morrison deflects US pressure to weigh in on China-Taiwan contest in the Pacific / Australian ABC
    “Prime Minister Scott Morrison has brushed aside American calls for Australia to weigh into the diplomatic contest between China and Taiwan in the Pacific.”

  • Berlin talks
    China, Germany ‘agree to uphold global multilateral order’ in Berlin talks / SCMP
    “China said on Monday that it had Germany’s support in defending the global multilateral order, as its trade war with the US continues to escalate.”



Kuora: How many Chinese know about the ‘June Fourth Incident’? More than you think

Official accounts of what happened on June 4, 1989, at Tiananmen are by no means censored in China: These talk about a student-led uprising that was, in the official version, hijacked by “black hands” among intellectuals who were working at the behest of foreign governments for the overthrow of the Chinese Communist Party. There are certainly many people in Beijing and around China who care very deeply about what happened 30 years ago, who want the whole episode talked about openly and honestly. And there are, alas, many more who see nothing good coming out of such a reckoning.

Friday Song: ’99 Bends in the Yellow River’ and an elegy for Chinese civilization

“Do you know how many bends are on the Yellow River?” belts the singer, in Shaanxi dialect, to begin the folk tune “99 Bends in the Yellow River” (天下黄河九十九道湾). Listening, it’s easy to imagine he’s reaching deep into both heart and history to find those notes, washed up on the shores of the Yellow River itself. But there’s another story, one complicated by politics, involving the 1989 student protests at Tiananmen Square.


Sinica Early Access: China’s New Red Guards: Jude Blanchette on China’s Far Left

This week, Kaiser sits down with Jude Blanchette in the Sinica South Studio to talk about Jude’s new book, _China’s New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong_, which just came out on June 3. Jude explains the origins of the Neo-Maoists and others on the left opposition, and how overlooking the conservative reaction to Reform & Opening impoverishes our understanding of China and its politics.

  • Sinica Early Access is an ad-free, full-length preview of this week’s Sinica Podcast, exclusively for SupChina Access members. Listen by plugging this RSS feed directly into your podcast app.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 88

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: recent updates on the trade war, cheaper Tesla cars for the Chinese market, China’s rapidly growing short-video industry, Doug Young on a Hong Kong restaurant that’s in the news, and more.

Subscribe to the Business Brief on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, or Stitcher.