Two million march in Hong Kong; TikTok in Cannes; U.S. companies launch ‘furious bid to prevent new China tariffs’

Access Archive

1. Two million Hong Kongers march on the streets

WHAT HAPPENED?

For the third time in a week, enormous numbers of people in Hong Kong took to the streets on June 16 to demand government accountability to their voices and the permanent cancellation of a controversial extradition bill.

  • The extradition bill that the people feared would fracture Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and give Beijing the ability to scoop up dissidents in the city has been shelved, for now. The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é), has given a public apology. But the protesters have clear and specific further demands:

  • WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

    • Yesterday’s protest was the largest in Hong Kong history. Hong Kong’s total population is only 7.5 million, meaning that about 25 percent of the city turned out for these demonstrations.

    • “Obviously, you can’t just scale that up for other populations, but let’s try it anyway:
      10 million Canadians
      18 million Britons
      88 million Americans
      380 million mainlanders
      …on one march,” calculated China Digital Times editor Samuel Wade.

    • The protests are a major embarrassment, not only for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam but also for Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, who leads the government that has failed to convince Hong Kongers to trust it more in the years since the 1997 handover of sovereignty from Britain.

    • The whole affair is sending a stench across the South China Sea to Taiwan, where the idea of a Hong Kong–style “one country, two systems” formula for the eventual unification that Beijing wants is now political poison. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) has long said, “As long as I’m President, ‘one country, two systems’ will never be an option,” but now even China-friendly opposition politicians like Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜 Hán Guóyú) are saying that this way for unification won’t happen unless “over my dead body.”

    WHAT’S NEXT?

    Beijing won’t let Carrie Lam step down even if she wants to, according to “a senior city government official close to her” cited by Reuters. He added that the “extradition law she delayed on the weekend was effectively withdrawn.”

    Many observers see the government’s retreat as a victory for the people of Hong Kong, and a symbol of hope that people power can force accountability on Beijing.

    But the official media in mainland China — in the few cases where the demonstrations in Hong Kong are mentioned — is blaming the protests on foreign agents from the U.S. and Europe, and characterizing them as violent events that most Hong Kongers do not support. This is a sign of a direction the Party leaders in Beijing may be considering in terms of propaganda and of punishments for those who will be branded as instigators.

    Joshua Wong (mentioned above) is just out of prison from charges relating to protests in 2014. Aided by its loyal caretakers in Hong Kong, the Party has many years to do whatever it takes to pursue its agenda.

    However, here’s a more optimistic take from James Griffiths of CNN, who lives in Hong Kong:

    The newly reinvigorated and unified pro-democratic camp will be targeting marginal seats in an attempt to wrest back veto power in the legislature, and pro-Beijing lawmakers have already warned that the controversies over the bill could cost them seats.

    So though some protesters and opposition figures may complain that Lam has only suspended rather than withdrawn the bill, the effect may end up being the same.

    MORE TO READ AND WATCH

    2. The global march of video app TikTok

    The Financial Times reports (paywall):

    The most hotly anticipated debut at this year’s Cannes Lions festival will be TikTok, a Chinese viral video app that is plotting a raid on the advertising dollars flowing to Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

    The app, which has now been downloaded more than 1bn times according to third-party estimates, will address advertisers from the main stages, where Stefan Heinrich, its U.S. brand director, is speaking, and in a series of invitation-only roundtables.

    As it plans its push into the US and Europe, TikTok has made a series of high-profile hires, including Blake Chandlee and Vanessa Pappas, from Facebook and YouTube.

    TikTok is a smartphone app for making and sharing short videos. Launched in 2017 by Bytedance, the company behind AI-powered news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, TikTok specifically targets markets outside of China, where it has met with success in the U.S., India, and elsewhere.

    3. U.S. companies ‘in furious bid to prevent new China tariffs’

    The business world is scrambling to plan for an uncertain future of a never-ending trade and tech cold war between the U.S. and China. Here is a summary of today’s news:

    “Companies in furious bid to prevent new China tariffs as summit looms”

    The above is the Washington Post headline of a story on how:

    Hundreds of companies are scheduled to testify before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) over seven days of hearings on the president’s proposal to expand tariffs to an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports.

    USTR has received more than 1,600 written comments on the plan, with the overwhelming majority warning that additional tariffs would raise prices for consumers, cost American jobs and disrupt production at companies.  

    Meanwhile, a resolution to the trade war looks no closer: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross played down prospects of a major trade deal if President Trump and China’s President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 meet at the Group of 20 summit in Japan later this month, but he said he believes the two sides will ultimately get back to negotiations,” reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

    Rare earths

    Beijing continues to signal that rare earths may be used for leverage in the trade war, judging from the official sources and state media comments summarized here by Channel NewsAsia.  

    Huawei news

    “Huawei’s American chip suppliers, including Qualcomm and Intel, are quietly pressing the U.S. government to ease its ban on sales to the Chinese tech giant,” reports CNBC.

    Meanwhile, Huawei founder Rén Zhèngfēi 任正非, speaking at an event at the company’s Shenzhen headquarters today, said that the company’s smartphone sales would tank in the next year, but that the firm would recover in 2021. See reports from the BBC and New York Times (porous paywall).

    The American consumer-voter

    “The trade war is taking money from your wallet, and returning some, too,” says this New York Times piece (porous paywall). In short: Consumer goods are more expensive, but gasoline is cheaper “because the markets are jittery about the trade war.”

    An end to the Massachusetts train company that China built?

    “Will U.S. espionage fears scupper Chinese rail group” asks the Financial Times (paywall). The article is about the Changchun Railway Vehicles Company (CRRC) plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, on which SupChina reported earlier this year. The FT says, “Leading U.S. politicians from both parties have accused the company of using its links with the Chinese state to compete unfairly for contracts and of being a vehicle for possible Chinese espionage.”

    Related: WTO market economy status

    “China has halted a dispute at the World Trade Organization over its claim to be a market economy, a panel of three WTO adjudicators said on Monday, meaning Beijing must accept continued EU and US ‘anti-dumping’ levies on cheap Chinese goods,” reports Reuters.

    ——–

    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


    BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

    • Shared housing startup nabs Baidu exec
      Chinese housing startup Danke hires ex-Baidu executive / TechNode
      “Danke Gongyou, a Chinese housing startup valued at $2 billion, has hired Gù Guódòng 顾国栋 as its chief operating officer. [Gu previously] oversaw marketing staff for search, Baidu’s highest-grossing division, helping earn annual sales of around $14.4 billion.”

    • New Greater China chief for Google
      Google appoints new chief to oversee tumultuous China region / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
      “Alphabet Inc.’s Google has appointed a new Greater China head, as the company tries to reset a checkered relationship with Beijing while tensions with Washington flare. Stanley Chen (陳俊廷 Chén Jùntíng) will become managing director of Greater China sales.”

    • Investors still betting on Chinese consumption
      Seeking shelter from trade war, fund managers bet on China’s consumers / Reuters
      “China may be an odd choice for investors seeking shelter from a Sino-U.S. trade war. Yet, money managers in Asia are pouring funds into Chinese stocks as the long-term promise of a growing middle class trumps more immediate fears about tariffs.”

    • London-Shanghai Stock Connect
      UK to launch ‘groundbreaking’ China stock market link / BBC
      “UK-listed firms will become the first foreign companies to be able to list in mainland China under a new stock link, the Treasury said. Chancellor Philip Hammond is due to launch the London-Shanghai Stock Connect on Monday.”

    • Chinese hotpot chains go global
      Popular Chinese hotpot chain sets its sights on U.S., to open first outlet in New York early next year / SCMP
      “Xiaolongkan, one of China’s largest hotpot chains, will open its first shop in the U.S. in early 2020 and add nine more restaurants overseas in the next two years, the latest indication of the Chinese hotpot industry’s global ambition.”

    • The death of unmanned shops  
      China’s unmanned store boom ends as quickly as it began / Nikkei Asian Review
      “Across China, shops once considered the future of retail have been shutting their doors for good.”

    SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

    • Malaria treatment: New progress in China
      Chinese scientists may have found a way to tackle resistance to malaria drug artemisinin / SCMP
      Nobel Prize winner Tú Yōuyōu 屠呦呦 “says her team has found a way to tackle resistance to malaria drug artemisinin… Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme in Geneva, said the work of Tu and her team had been ‘groundbreaking.’”

    • Global experiments for Chinese space station
      International experiments selected to fly on Chinese space station / Space News
      Six experiments proposed by institutions “based [in] Belgium, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Switzerland…have been granted a place aboard to the future Chinese Space Station through a joint international cooperation initiative, with three more receiving conditional acceptance.”  

    POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

    Located between the Gulfs of Oman and Aden, Oman’s Duqm port has special importance as it lies along the Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

    With this strategic location, it is not only close to South Asian countries like India and Pakistan, it is also easily accessible from East Africa. Since joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2018, Oman has acquired additional importance as it has emerged as China’s first base-station in the Gulf.

    • June 4: Former student leaders go to the UN
      Tiananmen exiles seek UN investigation into 1989 crackdown / SCMP
      “Exiled Tiananmen Square protest leader Wáng Dān 王丹 and more than 20 other Chinese activists are lobbying the United Nations’ human rights body to investigate the 1989 crackdown over ‘gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.’”

    • China’s crackdown on North Korean escapees
      Chinese raids hit North Korean defectors’ ‘Underground Railroad’ / Reuters
      “A decade after leaving her family behind to flee North Korea, the defector was overwhelmed with excitement when she spoke to her 22-year-old son on the phone for the first time in May after he too escaped into China.”

    • Nepali elite schools cash in on Mandarin fever
      Mandarin made mandatory in many schools / The Himalayan Times
      “Many schools across the country have made it mandatory for students to learn Chinese lured by the Chinese government’s offer to cover salaries of teachers who teach Mandarin. Principals and staff of at least 10 renowned private schools that THT talked to said Mandarin was a compulsory subject in their institutions.”

    SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

    • Propaganda film and censorship
      Propaganda films to dominate Chinese theaters in anniversary year / Variety
      “A presentation at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday shed light on the welter of propaganda films that will compete with Hollywood blockbusters for the attention of Chinese cinema goers in the second half of this year.”
      Why the first Chinese Imax war film The Eight Hundred was pulled from Shanghai film festival / SCMP
      “The film, telling the story of the defense of the Sihang Warehouse against the Japanese army, was canceled for ‘technical reasons.’ The cancellation led to online anger with some saying the film was canceled for glorifying the Chinese Nationalist army.”

    • Photography: Chinese farmers and their homemade airplanes
      Someplace like home: Xu Xiaoxiao’s quest to capture ‘Wenzhou’ / Sixth Tone
      “The project — simply titled ‘Wenzhou’ — and the follow-up shots in Qingtian were later published as a book, ‘The Way to the Golden Mountain.’ Since then, [Xú Xiǎoxiǎo 徐晓晓] has photographed several projects in China, most notably ‘Aeronautics in the Backyard,’ about idealistic Chinese farmers who built airplanes out of scrap metal in their attempts to become airborne.”

    • Science fiction: A profile of Li Cixin
      Liu Cixin’s war of the worlds / The New Yorker
      Jiayang Fan writes about the significance of the work of author Liú Cíxīn 刘慈欣, which has been “credited with establishing sci-fi, once marginalized in China, as a mainstream taste. Liu believes that this trend signals a deeper shift in the Chinese mind-set — that technological advances have spurred a new excitement about the possibilities of cosmic exploration.”


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    Kuora: Misconceptions about the Chinese and dog meat

    The southern Chinese city of Yulin in Guangxi Province holds an annual dog meat festival called the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, which begins on June 21. This week’s column, on the subject of dog meat, comes from one of Kaiser’s recent answers originally posted to Quora on September 2, 2011: How common is the eating of dog meat in China?

    China’s firefighting agency slams a random internet user for criticizing its job

    The national firefighting department under China’s Ministry of Emergency Management has gone off on a Weibo user with only 114 followers who questioned how the government failed to adequately equip Chinese firefighters with proper training and equipment.

    Decision time for China at World Cup: Play to win, or play to progress?

    As expected, China lost its opening game at the Women’s World Cup (to Germany, 0-1), but won its second game (vs. South Africa, 1-0), setting up a bizarre winner-takes-almost-certainly-nothing clash with Spain on Monday. That’s because the team that wins will likely finish second in Group B behind Germany, and go into a Round of 16 tie against the reigning champions, the USA.

    Friday Song: Vinida takes the lead among China’s underground rappers

    There’s something convincing about the way Vinida turns her parasol and raps “I’m the future you long for.” Her song 主角 (zhǔjué) — i.e., “lead role” or “protagonist” — is, like all of her songs, confidently hostile. It’s off her full-length album Solo, whose tracks speak on themes of independence and self-love, replete with healthy levels of negging.


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