Shanghai gets serious about recycling

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

One thing to do tomorrow if you’re in New York:

Two things to read: 

  • Attacking Chinese on our campuses only hurts America, argues Frank Wu in Inside Higher Ed: “It would cause a tremendous setback in America’s global competitiveness and probably a brain drain in reverse.”

Now on with today’s news. 

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. Shanghai gets serious about garbage sorting and recycling 

In the 1980s, China began importing scrap metal, plastic from recycling programs, and just about every other kind of foreign waste that could be processed into usable materials. But three decades of economic growth also led to China producing plenty of its own garbage, much of it recyclable. 

So in 2018, bans on importing most types of foreign waste were implemented. But the recycling plants did not disappear, and the government is now taking steps to launch a domestic recycling program, starting in Shanghai.

  • Recycling in China relies on an informal network of solo garbage collectors who sort through piles of urban waste unsystematically. Residents do not sort their garbage. 

  • But on July 1, Shanghai launched a garbage sorting and recycling program that aims to make the city’s waste collection more efficient and maximize recycling. The program, outlined here (in Chinese), calls for all domestic garbage to be sorted into these categories: 

    • Recyclable, including paper, plastics, glass, scrap metal, fabric

    • Hazardous, such as batteries, light bulbs, medicines, paint 

    • Perishable — food waste and Chinese medicine dregs

    • Dry — anything that is not recyclable, hazardous, or perishable

  • Fines of up to 100,000 yuan ($14,500) are listed for companies and government organizations that contravene certain rules. There are no fines listed for individuals or households. 

  • The scheme encourages manufacturers to “improve the recycling rate of waste products and packaging materials” and promotes local recycling plants, although details are not given.

  • Shanghai residents are still struggling to understand the garbage-sorting rules: Agence France-Presse reports:

“It’s for the good of our homeland, but we keep making mistakes,” said Nie, a trading company staffer, laughing as he struggled to separate the bag’s contents into various bins.

“We have to get this right before the fines really start.”

2. China arrests another Canadian 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has announced the arrest of another Canadian, this time on drug charges. The spokesperson did not mention any connection to the arrest of Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟, or to the other Canadians currently detained in China, but the detention of foreigners for crimes is not usually announced by the Foreign Ministry. 

If there was any doubt about the connection between the latest arrest and Beijing’s anger at Ottawa, the Global Times dispels it with this quote from a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University: “Li warned that viewing China as an opponent was wrong and would only make Canada meet more setbacks in bilateral relations.” 

On the other hand, it is still unclear what exactly is behind the recent dismissal of a Chinese researcher from a Canadian biomedical lab, which we noted yesterday. 

Further reporting: 

3. U.S.-China techno-trade war — from Wall Street to pharma 

There’s no reason to hope for a swift or tidy end to the U.S.-China techno-trade war, now in day 376 by our count, but here is a selection of the latest reporting, speculation, and scuttlebutt:

“Wall Street is the latest front for U.S. suspicions about China,” suggests Jodi Xu Klein in the South China Morning Post, noting that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is leading “cries for vigilance as investors become more exposed to Chinese stocks” of companies with untransparent accounting standards.  

The Philippines chooses Chinese 5G: “The country got its first taste of next-generation 5G services in late June with gear supplied by Huawei,” reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall). This month, a new carrier “backed by state-owned China Telecommunications Corp.” will start rolling out a new network “largely designed in China, to be executed by Chinese engineers in the Philippines.” The article calls the moves “a blow to the U.S.”

Related, in the New York Times: As Duterte courts China, U.S. says don’t forget your old friend (porous paywall)

China’s not desperate for a deal. That is the takeaway from two interviews with respected analysts of the Chinese economy: 

  • In this video, James Kynge of the Financial Times says that “tariffs on exports are less important to China than Donald Trump thinks.”

  • “One of Wall Street’s leading authorities on Asia believes China is in no rush to cut a trade deal with the United States,” according to CNBC. “Despite China’s worst quarterly growth number in 27 years, Yale University senior fellow Stephen Roach contends its economy isn’t as bad as the latest figure implies.”

Scroll down to the BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY section of this email for more on China’s economy. 

Is someone on the inside profiting from Donald Trump’s erratic announcements about trade with China? Vanity Fair magazine asks: “Who knew Trump would offer a truce with Xi?”

Jimmy Lai (黎智英 Lǐ Zhìyīng), the “Hong Kong media magnate and democracy champion…thinks that President Donald Trump is wise to ‘play hardball’ with China’s ruling communists on trade because ‘that’s the only thing they understand,’” says the Wall Street Journal (paywall). “But Mr. Lai is also urging the U.S. to ‘show humility’ and allow China an opportunity to save face in striking a new deal.”

Is Chinese pharma the next target of the Trump administration’s decoupling program? An article published in several American newspapers warns of America’s overreliance on pharmaceuticals made in China, and calls on the U.S. to consider medicine a “strategic asset.”

4. Peter Thiel sees Yellow Peril at Google

The Trump-supporting billionaire and Facebook investor Peter Thiel spoke to a gathering of self-described conservatives in Washington, D.C., on July 14. Without presenting any evidence, Thiel suggested that Chinese spies had infiltrated Google. Fox News picked up Thiel’s remarks, leading to a Donald Trump tweet promising to “take a look.” 

This is yet another inflammatory insinuation that will make life a little more stressful for engineers and scientists at American companies, and a new one for our Sinophobia Tracker

See also:

5. Parenting and senior care by GPS  

Nearly 17,000 primary school students in Guangzhou were given free watches with tracking chips connected to Beidou, China’s homegrown version of GPS, reports the Guangzhou Daily (in Chinese, or see this SCMP report):

  • Unaware of the trap she has just walked into, one fourth grader enthused: “With this watch, Mom and Dad can know where I am, and I can call and voice message them immediately after class.” Wearing the watches is voluntary — the parents signed up for the scheme. 

  • A “safety bracelet for the elderly” is the next phase of the program run by the China Satellite Navigation System Management Office, which runs Beidou.


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


Drug maker Cipla on July 16 said it had entered into an agreement with Shanghai-based Jiangsu Acebright Pharmaceuticals to set-up a joint venture company in the People’s Republic of China for local manufacture of respiratory products…

In China, respiratory diseases are the second largest cause of death. It is estimated that of the 100 million Chinese — who are thought to have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — only 30 percent have been diagnosed and only five million are receiving any kind of treatment.

Didi Chuxing “which has some 550 million registered users in China, announced this week (July 15) that passengers will soon be able to order services provided by newcomers to the ride-share industry, including Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC), First Automobile Works Group (FAW), and Dongfeng Motor (DFM) on Didi’s app. 

Net profits at China’s state-owned enterprises hit record high of 158.5 billion yuan ($23 billion) in June, a rise of 8.4 percent from a year earlier, but net profit growth slowed substantially as the country’s economic growth rate slid to its lowest reading on record.

The nation’s total stock of corporate, household and government debt now exceeds 303 percent of gross domestic product and makes up about 15% of all global debt, according to a report published by the Institute of International Finance. That’s up from just under 297 percent in the first quarter of 2018.



Authorities in western China’s Sichuan Province have imposed tight travel restrictions on the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist center, barring visits from outside the area and setting up checkpoints to monitor the movements of vehicles, Tibetan sources say.

The new restrictions follow efforts beginning in May to reduce the number of monks and nuns living at the sprawling complex in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture’s Palyul (Baiyu) County, with thousands forced out and sent back to their hometowns for political re-education.

An anonymous source recently sent a letter to RFA’s Uyghur Service claiming that Alimjan Emet, 22, was beaten to death while being interrogated at a camp in Kashgar’s Yengisheher (Shule) county because he had denied praying in secret — an allegation that had earlier led to his removal as an employee at a loan office in his home township of Ermudan.

The comments came a day after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad confirmed his government had seized more than 1 billion ringgit ($244 million) from a bank account of China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau as the oil and gas pipeline projects, worth $2.3 billion, had been canceled.

Opponents of the now-suspended extradition bill are planning to expand their protests to Hong Kong’s hugely popular annual book fair by targeting booths run by a mainland China state-owned publishing conglomerate.

The massive protests that have rattled Hong Kong in recent weeks will put hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese tourists off visiting the city this year, according to HSBC.

It has revised down its estimated growth of mainland tourist arrivals for the year to 9 percent from 9.7 percent, according to a research report it released on Tuesday. Visitor numbers increased by 14 percent in 2018.



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China Film Administration: We want more good (read: patriotic) content

As Chinese audiences were grappling with an unusually bleak summer season caused by an array of high-profile cancellations of hotly anticipated movies, the China Film Administration, the top regulator of the country’s film industry, held a meeting last week with government officials from local propaganda departments and professionals in the movie sector. The head of the organization said China lacks “high-quality content” on the big screen, specifically, “blockbusters with Chinese characteristics” that have the potential of “rejuvenating national spirit and displaying Chinese people’s feelings for home and country.”


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Middle Earth #15: Center stage in China: Live performances today

Live art is one of the few mediums that hasn’t been radically transformed by the digital age. No screen is yet able to capture the magic of in-person performance, be it a comedy show, theater, or even Peking opera. The live performance scene is particularly vibrant in contemporary Beijing, where comedy and theater offerings are as diverse as they are popular. In this episode, Aladin interviews some of Beijing’s emerging live performers to discuss what happens on the stage — and behind the scenes.