Dumb move, U.S.A.

Access Archive

1. Dumb move, U.S.A.

This is appalling. Bloomberg reports (porous paywall):

The dossier on cancer researcher Wú Xīfèng 吴息凤was thick with intrigue, if hardly the stuff of a spy thriller. It contained findings that she’d improperly shared confidential information and accepted a half-dozen advisory roles at medical institutions in China. She might have weathered those allegations, but for a larger aspersion that was far more problematic: She was branded an oncological double agent.

In recent decades, cancer research has become increasingly globalized, with scientists around the world pooling data and ideas to jointly study a disease that kills almost 10 million people a year. International collaborations are an intrinsic part of the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Moonshot program, the government’s $1 billion blitz to double the pace of treatment discoveries by 2022. One of the program’s tag lines: “Cancer knows no borders.”

Except, it turns out, the borders around China. In January, Wu, an award-winning epidemiologist and naturalized American citizen, quietly stepped down as director of the Center for Public Health and Translational Genomics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center after a three-month investigation into her professional ties in China. Her resignation, and the departures in recent months of three other top Chinese American scientists from Houston-based MD Anderson, stem from a Trump administration drive to counter Chinese influence at U.S. research institutions. The aim is to stanch China’s well-documented and costly theft of U.S. innovation and know-how. The collateral effect, however, is to stymie basic science, the foundational research that underlies new medical treatments. Everything is commodified in the economic cold war with China, including the struggle to find a cure for cancer.

See also: Professor at Emory University seeks legal support amid US probe into academics’ ties to China / SCMP  

“A professor of Chinese ethnicity at an American university is seeking legal advice amid an investigation by the FBI and other organizations aimed at exposing Chinese influence in US state-funded science and research that last month led to the sacking of two of his colleagues.”

2. Xi schmoozes Central Asian leaders

“Chinese President Xíj Jnpíng 习近平 on Friday called on members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to build a closer community with a shared future for the group,” reports Xinhua (and this is the state-owned news agency’s Chinese website’s top story today).  

The SCO was established on June 15, 2001, in Shanghai, with an announcement by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan joined the SCO as full members on June 9, 2017, at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Central Asia is, of course, key to the Belt and Road Initiative. Xi also has a strong interest in convincing Central Asian leaders not to make a fuss about Xinjiang.

3. Trade and tech war

The latest headlines:

“Walmart, Target, and more than 600 other companies urged U.S. President Donald Trump in a letter on Thursday to resolve the trade dispute with China, saying tariffs hurt American businesses and consumers.”

“Figures from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office showed a 5.5 percent drop in arrivals from China in 2018, and industry analysts say the decline appears to be deepening this year.”

“China has launched an investigation into FedEx for ‘failing to deliver express packages’ to the correct addresses in the country.”

The Trump administration is expanding efforts to block the use of Chinese technology in advanced vehicles, denying additional requests by Tesla Inc for tariff relief on key components of its electric vehicles, and rejecting ride-hailing company Uber’s petition to waive tariffs on electric scooters and at least 50 separate requests by General Motors Co.


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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • Hundreds of thousands protested in Hong Kong on June 9 against a controversial extradition law proposal that they fear would give China’s Communist Party–controlled legal organs the power to arrest anyone in Hong Kong and send them to mainland China to face an opaque and arbitrary justice system. The protests “might well have been the largest Hong Kong has seen since the 1997 handover — organizers say 1.03 million people took part, while police estimate 240,000 at its peak,” according to William Yang, who reported for SupChina. The mass demonstrations propelled Hong Kong police in riot gear to fire rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons in skirmishes with protesters in the mass demonstrations. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) condemned the demonstrators in a TV appearance, vowing to “press ahead with the legislation despite deep concerns across large swathes of the Asian financial hub that on Sunday triggered its biggest political demonstration since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.”

  • “Serious violations of discipline and law” are the charges against Dài Zìgèng 戴自更, former publisher and co-founder of popular daily newspaper The Beijing News. Such language is usually a prelude to being done in on corruption charges. “The discipline inspection commission of the Party’s Beijing branch announced” the charges on June 10, reported the South China Morning Post.

  • Tomorrow Holding, one of China’s most secretive conglomerates, “has shed its stakes in more than 10 financial institutions, all of which are now managed by new shareholders, the country’s top banking regulator said, noting that the institutions are operating normally,” Caixin reports. The group’s founder, Xiào Jiànhuá 肖建华, was taken away from his apartment in January 2017 by Chinese security agents and spirited across the border to an unknown location in mainland China. His whereabouts are still unknown.

  • Washington, D.C., is signaling its commitment to the Western Pacific — a favored umbrella term for any part of the Pacific Ocean that China claims as its own — more and more frequently, and in a number of ways. The U.S. Pacific Marine Corps released photos showing Taiwanese Major General Liu Erh-jung (劉爾榮 Liú Ěrróng) at the Pacific Amphibious Leaders Symposium in Hawaii last week. His presence was, according to the South China Morning Post, “the latest in a series of moves that Taipei said demonstrated closer relations with Washington.” Bloomberg reported (porous paywall) that the “U.S. Coast Guard is touting increased operations in the Western Pacific, thousands of miles from American shores, as China’s coast guard and civilian fishing militias increasingly assert the country’s territorial claims.”

  • Scientists in China are looking to deploy an army of predatory stink bugs named Arma chinensis to battle a fall armyworm incursion that threatens to devastate the country’s grain crops, according to Bloomberg. We offer no comment.

  • The U.S.-China trade war is nearing its one-year anniversary. We count Day One as July 6, 2018. “Trump’s trade war with China is officially underway,” screamed the New York Times on that day, while the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said it would be “the biggest trade war in economic history.” At this point, the pattern of threat from Tariff Man, speculation of a summit, and ever-rising stakes is extremely familiar. Recently, there is plenty of speculation in the media on what Trump and Xi and their negotiators are thinking, and the likelihood of a deal, but much of it is as informative as “gossip from the small streets” (小道消息 xiǎodào xiāoxī).

  • Huawei has “put on hold indefinitely” plans to launch a new laptop computer because of the U.S. blacklist that prohibits American companies from supplying the Chinese tech giant, reports the South China Morning Post.

  • Mary Meeker, the financier famous for her highly respected Internet Report, published annually since 1995, has released the 2019 edition. China plays a big role. She notes Meituan and Pinduoduo as non-U.S. innovators; “direct financial services” such as mobile payments and digital wealth management products being pioneered in China; VIPKid, which connects American English teachers to students in China online as a model of future educational tech companies; and that short videos are driving internet usage in China.

  • Ancient weed: Archaeologists have found 10 wooden bowls and several stones containing burnt residue of the cannabis plant in a 2,500-year-old graveyard in western China, reports the Associated Press.


Chinese brokerages in Hong Kong stepped into the furor surrounding comments by a top UBS Group AG official about a “Chinese pig,” with an industry group urging the bank to fire all people involved in the incident and a rival firm cutting business ties.

The Swiss bank and its chief economist, Paul Donovan, had previously apologized for the comment, saying it was “innocently intended.” But the Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong, a group that represents financial institutions including the Hong Kong branches of mainland companies, demanded dismissals and a further apology. Haitong International Securities Group Ltd. said Friday it had suspended its activities with UBS.

Donovan, in a discussion of the rise in Chinese consumer prices that was mainly due to sick pigs, had asked whether that mattered. “It matters if you are a Chinese pig. It matters if you like eating pork in China,” he said in the UBS Morning Audio Comment.

The remark sparked outrage on social media sites in China, with users saying it humiliated Chinese people. At least three public accounts published articles about the report on WeChat, drawing more than 10,000 hits.

See also: Lost in translation? UBS’s “Chinese pig” comment stirs controversy / What’s on Weibo

Zhōng Huìjuān钟慧娟 quit her job teaching chemistry to teenagers and got into the drug business.

The career switch has paid off handsomely.

Her Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group, China’s largest maker of psychotropic drugs, is poised to go public on Friday in Hong Kong with a market value of $10.4 billion. Zhong holds a 68 percent stake, giving her a $7.9 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Chinese lithium firm Youngy Co Ltd’s wholly owned subsidiary, Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium Co Ltd, resumed production at its spodumene — a hard-rock mineral used for lithium — mine on June 10, an official told Reuters on Thursday.

Strong demand from the country’s battery sector has prompted lithium producers to boost production over the past few years, in line with China’s fast-growing new energy vehicle (NEV) market.


China has announced regulations to curb the smuggling of human organs and tighten oversight on the use of human genetic materials in research, months after a Chinese scientist caused a global outcry by claiming that he gene-edited babies.The announcement comes as 贺建奎 Hè Jiànkuí’s controversial experiment continues to transfix the scientific community, with researchers saying the procedure  may significantly affect life expectancy.


Hong Kong is preparing for another weekend of protests over a controversial China extradition bill — just days after police tactics during violent demonstrations drew international condemnation.

Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) said it was planning to hold a third protest on Sunday afternoon against the bill that would allow fugitives to be extradited to mainland China. Hong Kong police have granted the political advocacy group permission to do so.

A US man accused of kidnapping and killing a scholar visiting from China two years ago was obsessed with Ted Bundy and other serial killers, prosecutors said on Wednesday as they shared with jurors grisly details of how the victim was allegedly raped and brutally beaten before her death.

Opening statements began in the federal death-penalty trial of Brendt Christensen, a case closely watched by Chinese students across the US. Christensen is accused of luring 26-year-old Zhāng Yíngyǐng 章莹颖 into his car in June 2017 as she headed to sign a lease off campus

In the wake of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Forum in Beijing last month, Ethiopia gained another Chinese debt-concession. China’s second-largest African borrower and prominent BRI partner in infrastructure finance also received a cancellation on all interest-free loans up to the end of 2018. This was on top of previous renegotiated extensions of major commercial railway loans agreed earlier in 2018.


In the speech translated below Wáng Kē’er 王珂兒, a high-school senior, confronts the topic of 祖國 zǔguó, the ‘mother-/ fatherland.’ The text of Wang’s speech was circulated online in October 2014 , although assiduous official Net-Nazis scrubbed it from the Internet as quickly as it spread. It resurfaced again in early 2019.  

George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four turned seventy this week. For a country that is labeled ‘Orwellian’ so often, it is perhaps surprising that the modern classic, describing a nightmarish totalitarian state, is well-read within the People’s Republic of China and is not banned from its bookstores.


From Hong Kong’s mass protest to pot in graves, our top news this week

From a massive protest in Hong Kong that turned violent to Huawei’s “indefinite” plan to delay launching a new computer to cannabis in a graveyard for 2,500 years, here are some top news items we covered this week.


Click Here

In Beijing, two parks where the old and single look to mingle

In China, more than 43 million seniors are widowed, divorced, or unmarried. In Beijing, you’ll find many of them at Changpu River Park and Tiantan Park, where they seek their “second spring.” It’s unclear when these two public parks became hot spots for elderly dating, but it happened organically. Word travels by mouth: There are no WeChat groups for this scene, or apps. It’s possible that the scene developed from the better-known marriage markets nearby, in which parents seek partners for their grown children — that still happens, but nearby, seniors also seek for themselves.

Chinese Corner: Baidu’s bad year, doping for the gaokao, and the perfect sex doll

Chinese Corner is Jiayun Feng’s weekly review of interesting nonfiction on the Chinese internet. This week: Baidu’s very bad year continues; high school students are turning to ADHD medication to get them through the gaokao, China’s national college entrance exam; the perfect sex doll; and elderly suicide rates in rural China are four to five times higher than the rest of the world.

Whispers of ‘Umbrella Movement II’ as protesters gather in Central, Hong Kong

SupChina’s Anthony Tao is in Hong Kong observing the ongoing protests in the city. Click here to read his latest report, and see the photos and video that he took.

Scenes from Hong Kong’s anti-extradition protest

“No extradition to China, oppose evil law” — 返送中, 抗恶法 — so went the refrain on Sunday in Hong Kong during one of the largest protests in the city’s history, in which hundreds of thousands walked west from Victoria Park to the city’s Legislative Council Complex in Admiralty in opposition to a proposed extradition bill. Here’s what it looked like.

Hong Kong ‘not ready to give up’: Historic protest against extradition bill

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Sunday in Hong Kong to demonstrate against a controversial proposed extradition bill. Demonstrators chanted “No China extradition” and “Oppose evil law” while marching from Victoria Park to the city’s legislative council offices about two miles west. At the center of the conflict is a set of amendments to Hong Kong’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, first proposed by the Hong Kong government in February, which critics say could leave any Hong Kong resident or foreign visitor passing through vulnerable to extradition to mainland China, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party.

Kuora: Revisiting the ‘Taiping Civil War’

The outcome of the Taiping Civil War — as Stephen Platt, the author of the excellent book Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom, calls it — could easily have been different. Platt argues quite convincingly that the major foreign power of the day, the British, was close to being persuaded either not to intercede on behalf of the Qing dynasty or to actively support the Taiping.

China enters Women’s World Cup with high expectations but brutal draw

China has reached the quarterfinals in six of the last seven FIFA Women’s World Cups, with 2011 the sole exception as the team failed to qualify. A run to the quarterfinals this year, though, could be extremely tough. Despite having one of the best players in the world in Wang Shuang 王霜 — the reigning Asian Women’s Footballer of the Year — China’s Group B draw is brutal, with No. 2 Germany, No. 13 Spain, and No. 49 South Africa.

Sina Finance publishes remarkably sexist, ageist commentary, angers everyone

An article about Taiwanese supermodel Lín Zhìlíng 林志玲 and her recent marriage to Japanese pop star Akira, which was published online by Sina Finance on June 8, has been removed by the publication after it was widely panned for being grossly lowbrow, offensive, and sexist. Sina Finance, an online media outlet affiliated with Sina News, apologized and fired the editors involved in publishing the piece.


Sinica Podcast: A student leader 30 years after Tiananmen: Wu’er Kaixi reflects on the movement

This week, Kaiser is joined by Nury Turkel of the Uyghur Human Rights Project in an in-depth conversation with Wu’er Kaixi (Örkesh Dölet), best known as one of the student leaders in the Tiananmen protests that rocked Beijing 30 years ago. He talks about the heady intellectual freedom of the 1980s, the movement’s goals in 1989, the frustrations of exile, and his growing involvement in the Uyghur diaspora’s efforts to draw attention to Beijing’s draconian detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

Ta for Ta, episode 20: Jen Loong

This week, Juliana spoke with Jen Loong, the managing director for Greater China at HYPE. Prior to her work in venture capital, Jen led Hong Kong and China market entries for Groupon, Lululemon, and TOMS. At Lululemon, she built the initial retail team and showroom presence while introducing yoga as a concept and practice at events throughout Hong Kong and China. At TOMS, she launched the brand through retail distribution of more than 28 flagship stores, an ecommerce setup, celebrity endorsements, and grassroots shoe-giving partnerships to activate social giving as a lifestyle.

ChinaEconTalk: Peter Hessler talks China, Egypt, and the craft of foreign correspondence

In the latest ChinaEconTalk, Jordan Schneider talks to veteran journalist Peter Hessler, who spent seven years in China as a correspondent for The New Yorker, followed by five years in Egypt. He’s witnessed immense change during his long and prolific career reporting on the society, politics, and culture of these two dynamic nations, which he tells us about. He also considers the similarities and differences in the ways the Chinese and Egyptian people make sense of their respective places in the world.

ChinaEconTalk: The Future of U.S.-China Relations: Trump cards and Thucydides traps

This week, in the second installment of the series “The Future of U.S.-China Relations” on ChinaEconTalk, Jordan speaks with Professor Hal Brands of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Zack Cooper, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In addition to offering some prescriptions for relieving some of the tension points in the U.S.-China relationship more generally, the pair discuss the major takeaways from their co-published paper in the Texas National Security Review, “After Responsible Stakeholder, What? Debating America’s China Policy.”