Chinese Space Station; Xi and Trump’s chat

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Don’t forget, tomorrow on June 19 we’ll be hosting another SupChina Direct conference call. Our guest this time: Stephen Roach, a former head of Morgan Stanley Asia and currently a professor at Yale University. It’s free for all Access members — please click here to sign up.

—Jeremy Goldkorn and team

1. The China Space Station

Yesterday, we noted a story on SpaceNews about how China’s Manned Space Agency had selected nine scientific experiments proposed by international teams to be conducted on the China Space Station (CSS). The process was organized with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

The CSS is the planned successor to Tiangong 1 and Tiangong 2, which were designed as prototype space laboratories. The CSS is going to be the real deal: a large, fully functional manned space station, open to the astronauts and experiments of nations and companies friendly to China.

SpaceNews says that “China is maintaining that the target for completion of the CSS is ‘around 2022,’” but suggests that the actual date may be delayed. However, there’s no doubt that the CSS will be in orbit within a few years.

Today, Nature magazine has more information about the program and the experiments:

  • There was a “special effort to encourage participation from…low- and middle-income countries including Kenya, Mexico and Peru.” Scientists from Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Switzerland are also amongst the teams whose experiments were selected.

  • Experiments include studies on:

    • Fluid and fire behavior

    • Mapping “dust clouds and star-forming regions of space using ultraviolet light”

    • The effect of microgravity and radiation in space “on the mutation of DNA in human ‘organoids’ — 3D biological structures that mimic organs”

    • Solar cells performance

    • The “polarization of energetic γ-ray bursts from distant cosmic phenomena”

None of the experiments come from the United States. Nature magazine notes that since 2011, the U.S. “has forbidden NASA researchers from collaborating with China without congressional approval,” but that would not stop a scientist not affiliated with NASA from applying. Some did, but no project with the participation of an American scientist was selected.

The future of humans in space is being shaped now, and it’s looking a lot less American. Nature magazine concludes:

The United States is planning to cut its funding for the ISS from 2024, as it concentrates its space efforts on building an outpost in the Moon’s orbit from 2022. This could mean that the Chinese space station becomes scientists’ only laboratory in low Earth orbit from 2024.

See also: 中国空间站向世界开放的幕后故事 / Sina

2. Trump and Xi have a chat

This morning, Donald Trump tweeted:

Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.

Not long afterward, Xinhua News Agency changed its website’s top headline to “Xi, Trump hold telephone conversation.” The story is the same in English and Chinese versions:

Chinese President 习近平 Xí Jìnpíng held a telephone conversation with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, on Tuesday at the latter’s request.

Trump said he looks forward to meeting Xi again during the upcoming Group of 20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka later this month, and conducting in-depth discussions on bilateral ties and issues of common concern.

Xi said he stands ready to meet Trump in Osaka to exchange views on fundamental issues concerning the development of China-U.S. relations.

The Chinese leader also stressed that the two sides should solve their trade problems through talks on an equal footing.

Markets (the fools!) reacted with immediate exuberance. The Washington Post reports:

Stock markets surged Tuesday after President Trump said he will have an “extended meeting” next week with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, raising investors’ hopes that a truce on global trade could be within reach…

…By Tuesday’s close, the Dow was up 356 points, or 1.4 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 closed nearly 1 percent higher and the Nasdaq Composite index had advanced 1.4 percent.

But Party messaging is not suggesting that Beijing is in the mood for any kind of climb down whatsoever. The top opinion piece (in Chinese) on Party newspaper People’s Daily’s website today is typical of several central state media pieces (links in Chinese) maintaining a defiant tone:

After the Sino-U.S. trade frictions began, an argument circulated on the internet that China should understand how to compromise, how to make concessions, how to act pathetic to get everything we want, and do these in order to win more development time for ourselves. It must be said that this idea is really stupid and naive…

In fact, the United States has not given us a way to retreat. It wants China to abandon its national dignity and sovereignty, lose its ability to develop, and live by sacrificing our environment, resources, and labor…The inherent essence [of Sino-U.S. trade friction] is that the United States regards China as a major strategic competitor and intends to comprehensively suppress and contain China.

But perhaps optimists may take heart in the following: None of the state media pieces on the trade war published today that I could find used the term trade war (贸易战争 màoyì zhànzhēng or 贸战 for short).

Other reports from various fronts of the U.S.-China tech and trade war (day 348 by our count):

  • Chinese scientist visa denials
    AFP reports: “The rising number of visa denials have prompted a warning from China’s education ministry that students and academics could have their study or research plans foiled by refusals or delays.”

  • Trump administration split on arms sales to Taiwan
    “Some officials fear that the proposed $2 billion deal could hinder trade talks with China,” says the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

  • New China tariffs
    The companies that have been “pleading” for the U.S. government to cancel planned new tariffs on goods from China “expect to be ignored,” according to the New York Times (porous paywall).

  • New action against Huawei
    Senator Rubio targets Huawei over patents / Reuters

  • Wavering support from Britain
    The Guardian reports:

Britain is aware of the risks facing sensitive areas of the economy from greater levels of Chinese investment, Philip Hammond has said, as London forges closer economic ties with Beijing despite U.S. concerns.

Speaking after a joint economic summit between Britain and China in London that is set to open up deals for companies in the two countries worth more than £500m, the chancellor said he welcomed the closer cooperation.

3. No foreign names for companies in Hainan

The civil affairs office in Hainan has launched (in Chinese) a cleanup campaign to purge local business names deemed “improper” by the local government. In the first notice issued on June 11, more than 84 buildings, including both residential and commercial, were ordered to rename themselves. Over 40 were accused of being too foreign because of the inclusion of Western words in their names.

According to the announcement (in Chinese), names like Victoria Garden (维多利亚花园 wéiduōlìyàhuāyuán) and Olympics Garden (奥林匹克花园 àolínpǐkèhuāyuán) are all in violation of local policy because of their “blind worship of foreign and exotic ideas.” Other names targeted in this initiative include those that “sound feudal” or contain “deliberate exaggeration,” such as Royal Knights Hotel (皇家骑士酒店 huángjiāqíshìjiǔdiàn) and Pacific Villa (太平洋别墅 tàipíngyángbiéshù).

Click through to SupChina for more details.


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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


UBS AG has lost a lead role on a US dollar bond deal for state-backed China Railway Construction Corp, just days after a Chinese outcry over a senior UBS economist’s use of “pig” in connection with Chinese food price inflation.

While UBS apologized for the remark on Thursday and put the analyst on leave on Friday, the furor led Haitong International Securities, a leading Chinese brokerage, to suspend all business with the Swiss group as some Chinese bankers and analysts criticized the bank for a lack of cultural awareness.


In education, Mandarin has displaced Uyghur as a language of instruction. In commerce, bookstores have curtailed the sale of Uyghur language publications. On street signs and university emblems, the Uyghur script has been removed. And in private domains, Uighurs are pressured to use Mandarin to demonstrate their loyalty to the Chinese government.

The death toll from a strong earthquake in Sichuan province Monday night has risen to 12, with 125 injured, officials said.

The 6.0-magnitude quake’s epicenter hit counties in Yibin city at 10:55 p.m and damaged buildings, roads and communication facilities.


A public university in southern China has become the first in the country to waive tuition fees, a move funded by donations from the personal foundation of Hong Kong’s richest man [Li Ka Shing – 李嘉誠 Lǐ Jiāchéng].

Shantou University in Guangdong province announced on Sunday that as part of its full tuition scholarship programme funded by the Li Ka Shing Foundation it would not charge the fees for undergraduate students enrolling this year.”


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U.S.-China supply chains and innovation: The risks the Huawei hawks don’t understand

The American government’s campaign to take down a $110 billion company with global operations that underpin critical infrastructure in over 100 countries around the world may fill China hawks in D.C. with glee. But, Paul Triolo writes, if you ask anyone deeply involved in information and communications technology (ICT) supply chains, you will instead hear their dread of the impending broad losses in revenue, harm to R&D capacity, and significant setback for 5G network deployment.


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Middle Earth #13: Crowded clubs and fancy festivals: The live music industry in China

Clubs and live performances featuring international music started taking off in China in the 1980s. Initially, the scene was very focused on foreign diplomats, journalists, and students who rented out restaurants and other spaces on the weekends. Gradually, as policies governing public radio broadcasts underwent reforms that allowed the performance of international music, a broader audience had access to the genre. Fast-forward to the present day: There is no shortage of music festivals, clubs, and other venues in China that feature performances by artists from around the world — to the extent that, if current trends continue, electronic music will be the most popular genre on Chinese radio airwaves by the early 2020s. In this live recording of the Middle Earth Podcast at the 2019 WISE festival, a few industry insiders discuss the current trends in this lively line of work.