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The trouble at Grindr

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Dear Access member,

She Loves Tech is partnering with SupChina to host the U.S. round of the world’s largest tech startup competition for women on August 5. You can read more about the New York pitch event here. Tickets can be purchased here

—Jeremy Goldkorn and team


1. The trouble at Grindr and the techno-trade war

Ryan Mac of BuzzFeed has the inside story into the troubles that have mounted for the popular gay dating app Grindr since it was bought by Kunlun Group. These range from a Facebook post in which the president of Grindr, Scott Chen, wrote that marriage should be “between a man and a woman” to its shelved IPO as a result of greater government scrutiny into its Chinese owner. 

Read the whole thing when you have some time: Grindr had dreams of making the world better for queer people. Then a Chinese gaming company bought it.

Other news from and related to the U.S.-China techno-trade war: 

“We’re hearing from CEOs that more and more supply chains are moving out of China right now,” BlackRock chairman and CEO Larry Fink told CNBC. “People are not waiting, companies are not waiting to see what the outcome is.”

“Canadians’ attitudes toward China and Huawei have worsened substantially in recent months, with more than two-thirds now rejecting closer ties with Beijing, and a similar proportion wanting Huawei banned from Canadian 5G networks, according to a survey” cited by the South China Morning Post. The poll conducted in early July “also found increasing support for Canada’s handling of the case of Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟.” 

Gulfstream may suffer in China: “General Dynamics, and its subsidiary Gulfstream Aerospace, as well as Honeywell and Oshkosh Corporation, were named in an article posted on the official WeChat channels of both the People’s Daily and state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday, criticizing their involvement in the sale of tanks and missiles to Taiwan,” reports the South China Morning Post

No progress in trade talks: “China and the United States remain divided over which negotiating text to base their revived trade talks on, with Washington demanding a longer document be used that lists earlier promises made by Beijing,” says the South China Morning Post.

“China is keeping all its economic policy tools within reach as the trade war with the United States gets longer and costlier, but still sees more aggressive action like interest rate cuts as a last resort should the dispute get uglier,” according to Reuters.

“The speed with which U.S. political leaders of all stripes have united behind the idea of a ‘new cold war’ is something that takes my breath away,” writes Edward Luce of the Financial Times (paywall). 

Eighteen months ago the phrase was dismissed as fringe scaremongering. Today it is consensus. Even if Donald Trump were not US president, and someone less nationalistic than Xi Jinping were running China, it is very hard to see what, or who, is going to prevent this great power rivalry from dominating the 21st century. 

2. Unease in Hong Kong and Taiwan, disquiet in Beijing

These are interesting times on China’s peripheries:

“Hong Kong’s embattled leader will not be making further concessions to the city’s protesters, two of her top advisers said, as the government digs in despite several large demonstrations over the past month and more planned for Sunday and the coming weeks,” reports the New York Times (porous paywall).

“Taiwan’s government has said it will provide assistance to Hong Kong protesters seeking sanctuary, after local media reported dozens of activists involved in an unprecedented storming of the city’s parliament had fled to the island,” according to the Guardian

“Taiwan’s president is expected to transit in the U.S. on Friday — for the second time in as many weeks — as she returns from visiting diplomatic allies in the Caribbean,” says CNBC. “The move is sure to make China angry.”

“A growing number of Taiwanese are willing to go to war to defend their country in the event of a Chinese invasion, according to the results of a survey released Friday by the government-funded Taiwan Foundation for Democracy,” according to Focus Taiwan

3. Can virtual reality treat China’s mental health problems? 

The Scientific American reports:

Virtual reality is touted as having the potential to transform how doctors diagnose and treat a number of mental illnesses, and the front lines of this revolution may be forming in China.

Cognitive Leap, an international VR company that focuses on mental health, specifically concentrates on this issue. The company’s CEO Jack Chen says the limited number of mental health providers in China — combined with a history of viewing some mentally ill people as criminals — exacerbates a situation in which trust is low and stigma is high. Technology, on the other hand, enjoys a greater level of confidence. “The VR system is viewed as very scientific and has zero stigma,” Chen says. “It’s such a pleasant and fun thing to do.”

4. Crackdown on private schools and foreign teachers 

Caixin reports (paywall):

Less than a week after seven foreign teachers were detained in eastern China, three Chinese agents were sentenced to prison for arranging kindergarten teaching jobs for unqualified foreigners, a Beijing court ruled Tuesday…

Police arrested the three women in late 2017 for helping several foreigners, including two Ukrainian citizens, enter the Chinese mainland on student or business visas obtained with fabricated information. Working with a foreign contact, the three women helped foreigners obtain long-term visas and positions as English teachers at kindergartens in Beijing, even though their native language was Russian, according to court documents detailing the ruling.

Privately operated day care centers, schools, training centers, and English class providers in China have long been infamous for such sketchy behavior: One African-American friend of mine in Beijing who spoke perfect standard American English used to joke that it was easier for a blonde Russian without a word of the language to get an English-teaching job than it was for him. 

Racism and hiring cheaper, unqualified teachers just because they look foreign are only two of the problems associated with the private education industry in China, so it’s hardly surprising that the government is now cracking down. 

Anyone thinking of working for a commercial school in China should do their due diligence, as the authorities are coming after schools with everything they’ve got from drug tests for teachers to scrutiny of visa paperwork, teacher qualifications, and business registrations.  

—–

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


Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • The Trump administration is trying to strong-arm the U.K. on Huawei, reportedly telling British officials that if they don’t fall in with the American line on the Chinese technology company, there won’t be a post-Brexit trade deal. 

  • But the Trump administration can’t even decide its own line on Huawei, and that indecision is part of what’s holding up trade talks, the Wall Street Journal reported

  • China is not desperate for a trade deal, several respected analysts said this week. Meanwhile, 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.” Also, dronemaker DJI has lost a U.S. collaborator in Cape, a California-based startup, which cited security concerns as a reason to break off its work with its Chinese connection. 

  • Russia and Saudi Arabia were among the 37 states that expressed support for China’s ethnic policies in Xinjiang as a successful “counter-terrorism and deradicalization” program, in a direct response to the earlier letter from 22 countries condemning China’s policies in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, the U.S. government appears to be forming a line on the internment camps in Xinjiang. 

  • Shanghai is getting serious about garbage sorting and recycling, with a first-in-the-nation program that began on July 1 that requires companies and government organizations to sort waste into four categories. Shanghai residents are still struggling to understand the garbage-sorting rules. 

  • Trump-supporting billionaire and Facebook investor Peter Thiel alleged that Chinese spies had infiltrated Google. Despite the lack of any evidence presented for the assertion, Donald Trump promised to “take a look.” 

  • Google has “terminated” its censored search engine project, Google executive Karan Bhatia said. There are still at least five different areas in which Google works in China: artificial intelligence research, cloud computing, hardware, app development, and advertising. 

  • Chinese scientists in Canada are under scrutiny, as Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, her husband, Keding Cheng, and an unidentified number of her students from China were escorted out of Canada’s National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg. The atmosphere of suddenly heightened scrutiny carries similarities to the sinophobic trends in the U.S., where more Chinese scientists continue to be harassed and leave for China. 

  • Scientists at Peking University have developed a gene-editing technique that, they say, greatly improves on the current industry standard of CRISPR-Cas13. 

  • Researchers have nearly eradicated an invasive mosquito species from two islands in Guangzhou, in an experiment that could have major implications for the global fight against malaria. 

  • The Kuomintang presidential primary nomination in Taiwan was won by Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜 Hán Guóyú), a China-friendly populist, who beat out Foxconn founder Terry Gou (郭台銘 Guō Táimíng) and will face off against President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) in 2020. As the election ramps up, so do Chinese military operations close to the Taiwan Strait: the next few months will be bumpy. 

  • China arrested another Canadian, this time on drug charges. The arrest, notably announced directly by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, is the latest act of retaliation against the arrest of Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 in Vancouver last December. 

  • Senior Party leader Wāng Yáng 汪洋 now leads Xinjiang policy, as he was announced to be the new head of the Central Committee’s Xinjiang Work Coordination Small Group. 

  • Economic growth continues to slow, as the official second-quarter growth data reached the lowest level in nearly three decades. 

  • Iran is offering a visa waiver program to Chinese tourists, in a bid to attract up to one million Chinese people to pump up the local economy, as it has been hit badly by U.S. sanctions. 

  • Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 faces tough choices in how to deal with Hong Kong and the trade war with the U.S., while a backlash against Beijing among developed countries continues to gather steam, respected political analysts said this week. 

  • Watches with tracking chips were given to nearly 17,000 primary school students in Guangzhou. The watches connect to Beidou, China’s homegrown version of GPS. 

  • China might abolish mailing addresses in favor of a geolocation code, according to recent reports. The codes are intended to be short and easy to remember, and will enable “geographical precision” and “allow couriers to identify both the recipient and intended delivery address for any parcel.” 

  • China has issued its first set of regulations for commercial rocket companies, many of which are similar to those required of American rivals. 

  • The first Zulu-Chinese textbook and Zulu-English-Mandarin dictionary were recently published. 


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

South African ecommerce giant Naspers said on Friday the delayed multi-billion euro listing of its international internet assets, including its over 30 percent stake in China’s Tencent, will go ahead on September 11.

Chinese scientists have achieved a series of breakthroughs in stealth materials technology that they claim can make fighter jets and other weaponry lighter, cheaper to build and less vulnerable to radar detection.

  • Government supports electronic gaming industry
    The unusual courtship of China’s esports queen / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    As the economy slows, Beijing is coming out in support for competitive gaming, and municipalities are taking the hint, setting up funds to support “esport professionals [who] can make triple the national average salary, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 

Fifty years after Neil Armstrong took his one small step, there’s a renewed race to put human beings back on the moon ⁠— and the next one to land there may send greetings back to Earth in Chinese.

China, which didn’t have a space exploration program when Apollo 11 landed in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969, is planning a series of missions to match that achievement. China could have its own astronauts walking on the moon’s surface and working in a research station at its south pole sometime in the 2030s.

A top liver surgeon who was embroiled in a controversy two years ago for leaving a patient halfway through an operation to perform another scheduled procedure at a private hospital has been hired by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s medical faculty.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

China and Australia clashed on Friday over the detention of an Australian-Chinese writer who is held in Beijing on national security grounds — the latest source of tension between the two countries.

Canberra said it was “deeply disappointed” with the criminal detention of Australian author and democracy advocate Yang Jun, who was detained in January after making a rare return to China from the United States.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday defended signing a letter along with 36 other countries in support of China’s policies in its western region of Xinjiang, where the United Nations says at least one million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims have been detained…

When asked about Saudi’s support for the letter, Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told reporters in New York that the “letter talks about China’s developmental work, that’s all it talks about, it does not address anything else.”

“Nobody can be more concerned about the status of Muslims anywhere in the world than Saudi Arabia,” he said. “What we have said in that letter is that we support the developmental policies of China that have lifted people out of poverty.”

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan are investigating Early Rain Covenant Church pastor Wáng Yí 王怡 on charges of “incitement to subvert state power” and “illegal business activities.” Wang, who founded the church, was detained by police in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu on December 14, 2018 on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power,” alongside dozens of church members. 

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

The early life of the historian Jerome Ch’en (陈志让 Chén Zhìràng), who has died aged 99, ran in parallel with the upheavals in modern China that he went on to document. Once dynastic rule collapsed after 1911, the warlord period (1916-28) was followed by the Japanese invasion (1931-45) and the civil war.

By the end of the civil war, in 1949, the Communist party was triumphant and Jerome was studying in London. He stayed abroad, and spent the rest of his life working out, as a historian, how it was that the decades he had lived in China had led to the Communist conquest.

In a sharply worded notice Wednesday, Xunyang County police in Shaanxi province said that law enforcement officials, along with the local courts and prosecutors, will punish any “disobedient and unfilial behaviors.” The move, according to the notice, is aimed at “promoting traditional Chinese virtues and safeguarding the rights of the elderly.”


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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.