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Something wicked this way comes


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. Access members can use the discount code ACCESS for 25 percent off their ticket. 

—Jeremy Goldkorn and team


1. Thugs attack in Hong Kong as Beijing dials up rhetoric 

Has Hong Kong reached a turning point? Or, rather, has the Communist Party run out of patience with the city’s protestors? Is Beijing preparing a crackdown? The signs are not good: 

An organized group of thugs attacked protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday night. The South China Morning Post reports:

At least 45 people were injured in unprecedented late-night violence at a Hong Kong railway station on Sunday, as a rampaging mob of men in white T-shirts attacked black-clad protesters and passengers indiscriminately.

No police officer was in sight as dozens of men, who witnesses suggested were triad gangsters, stormed into Yuen Long MTR station at around midnight by forcing open closed entrances.

They hurled objects at protesters and travelers alike, and assaulted members of the public, including journalists.

Beijing has begun a coordinated propaganda offensive that includes editorials calling for the “rule of law,” and articles and TV news packages depicting the protesters as violent anarchists. 

As the Wall Street Journal puts it (paywall): “China’s state media aired images from the aftermath of Hong Kong’s latest antigovernment protests, a change in tack that appears aimed at fanning public anger against the demonstrations, as Beijing signaled support for a stronger crackdown by authorities in the city.” Anne-Marie Brady, a noted scholar of Chinese influence campaigns abroad, tweeted a reaction to this article:

This is a worrying development. The last time Central Propaganda Department permitted mass negative news on a protest was 2009 when their instruction was “show the ‘true face’ of East Turkestan”. The result was vicious racial attacks, and Xinjiang’s internet/phone were cut off.

“Prison awaits them,” says one state media editorial, just one shot in the fusillade of propaganda. A Chinese-language piece from China News is currently the top result on searches for 香港 (Hong Kong) on Baidu News. Money quote: “The country has prestige and the law speaks of dignity. The militants have challenged ‘one country, two systems.’ Their violence has misled the people of Hong Kong which the law can no longer tolerate in the Mainland or in Hong Kong.”

“The actions of the anarchist Hong Kong elements (乱港分子 luàn gǎng fēnzǐ) are contrary to the mainstream public opinion of Hong Kong,” says the People’s Daily. “Touching ‘one country, two systems’ is a bottom line that we will not tolerate,” according to the Global Times (in Chinese). The English version of Global Times warns that Hong Kong rioters can’t get away with their acts: “These people are as frenzied as rioters and as cowardly as villains. But all their tricks will be useless… The criminals who insulted China’s national emblem will eventually be in the defendant’s seat. Prison awaits them.”

Further reading

2. Beijing white paper says Uyghurs are not Turkic 

In the 1950s, the South African government began a campaign to manipulate history by inventing a narrative that black South Africans did not actually come from South Africa. The Chinese government appears to have taken a leaf out of apartheid South Africa’s book, and published a white paper that rejects any notion that Uyghurs may have an identity or a culture that is separate or different from “Chinese civilization.”  

History cannot be tampered with and facts are indisputable. Xinjiang has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory; never has it been the so-called East Turkistan. The Uygur ethnic group came into being through a long process of migration and integration; it is part of the Chinese nation. In Xinjiang, different cultures and religions coexist, and ethnic cultures have been fostered and developed in the embrace of the Chinese civilization. Islam is neither an indigenous nor the sole belief system of the Uygur people. 

See also: 

Erdogan backtracks?

The South China Morning Post reports:

At a closed-door gathering of diplomats at the Turkish embassy in Beijing last week, Turkish officials said Erdogan’s comments about the troubled region in China’s far west were mistranslated and Beijing refused to correct them.

According to a report by Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Erdogan told Chinese President Xi Jinping during a trip to Beijing on July 2 that people in Xinjiang “live happily”…

But Turkish officials at the embassy meeting last week said the comment was mistranslated by the Turkish side and Beijing refused to correct the statement once the error was detected, according to people with knowledge of the meeting.

Seeking support in Sri Lanka

The Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka has sought the support in that country “as allegations mount on the Xinjiang issue,” reports the Colombo Gazette

“I can strongly feel the pain of the Sri Lankan people from all ethnic communities. The attacks reminded us once again that terrorism and extremism are common threats for both China and Sri Lanka. We believe that people from all circles of Sri Lanka society can tell what is right from wrong, and can fully understand China’s efforts in fighting terrorism, extremism and separatism,” he said.

The Ambassador called on Sri Lanka to work together with China to enhance cooperation on security and law enforcement, encourage more exchanges between different ethnic and religious groups of the two countries, and uphold peace and safety of the two peoples.

Noted writer Wáng Lìxióng 王力雄 warns of coming trouble in Xinjiang on ChinaChange

Like many things that undergo a shift from the quantitative to the qualitative, there is a tipping point. Before that, there is still room for recovery. But once that critical point is passed, Xinjiang will descend into a perennial ethnic conflict, like the war between Palestine and Israel to which there is neither a solution nor a foreseeable ending date. 

The latest international reactions to the Xinjiang camps: 

3. Does TikTok have a target on its back? 

Here is the latest news from various fronts of the U.S.-China techno-trade war, day 382 by our count:

Does TikTok have a target on its back? The dangers to America of the popular Chinese-made social media app was the subject of a New York Times op-ed by Nick Frisch published in May (porous paywall). Now the D.C. insider website Axios is calling TikTok “China’s next big weapon in the battle for personal data.”

“U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had a very good talk with his Chinese counterpart, amid signals from China that officials could soon meet face-to-face in their bid to end a yearlong trade war,” reports Reuters.

“Face-to-face negotiations between the top Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators could happen soon, according to Chinese state media, after a number of goodwill gestures by Beijing over the weekend,” reports Bloomberg via Yahoo:

Chinese companies asked U.S. exporters about buying agricultural products and also applied for exemptions from China’s retaliatory tariffs on the goods, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday. That shows China’s “goodwill” and its commitment to fulfill its promises to the U.S., Xinhua said early today in a separate commentary.

“Growing distrust between the United States and China has slowed the once steady flow of Chinese cash into America, with Chinese investment plummeting by nearly 90 percent since President Trump took office,” reports the New York Times (porous paywall). 

“Some Chinese companies have been applying for tariff exemptions on American agricultural products they are considering importing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, which framed the matter as a sign of reciprocal good faith to ease recent China-U.S. trade tensions,” reports Caixin (paywall).

“Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese tech giant embroiled in President Trump’s trade war with China and blacklisted as a national security threat, secretly helped the North Korean government build and maintain the country’s commercial wireless network,” according to internal documents obtained by the Washington Post.

4. MIT president against racial profiling

MIT university president Rafael Reif has published an open letter in support of Chinese scholars feeling unfairly targeted by the Trump administration’s efforts to root out perceived Chinese threats to national security:

As head of an institute that includes MIT Lincoln Laboratory, I could not take national security more seriously. I am well aware of the risks of academic espionage, and MIT has established prudent policies to protect against such breaches.

But in managing these risks, we must take great care not to create a toxic atmosphere of unfounded suspicion and fear. Looking at cases across the nation, small numbers of researchers of Chinese background may indeed have acted in bad faith, but they are the exception and very far from the rule. Yet faculty members, post-docs, research staff and students tell me that, in their dealings with government agencies, they now feel unfairly scrutinized, stigmatized and on edge – because of their Chinese ethnicity alone. 

See also: 

5. Fortune magazine says it’s China’s world

Fortune magazine says “It’s China’s world”:

China has now reached parity with the U.S. on the 2019 Fortune Global 500 — a signifier of the profound rivalries reshaping business today.

As the Chinese Century nears its third decade, Fortune’s Global 500 shows how profoundly the world’s balance of power is shifting. American companies account for 121 of the world’s largest corporations by revenue. Chinese companies account for 129 (including 10 Taiwanese companies). For the first time since the debut of the Global 500 in 1990, and arguably for the first time since World War II, a nation other than the U.S. is at the top of the ranks of global big business. 

6. Want Want wants to gag Financial Times

Last week, Kathrin Hille of the Financial Times reported that journalists working at the China Times and CTiTV — owned by food and beverage giant Want Want’s media subsidiary — said “that their editorial managers take instructions directly from the Taiwan Affairs Office, the body in Chinese government that handles Taiwan issues.”

Now the Taipei Times reports that Want Want China Times Media Group has announced “that it would file defamation lawsuits against the London-based Financial Times, Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency (CNA) and all media companies that have cited” Hille’s report.  

7. Housing half a million Chinese ‘professionals’ in Pakistan

Here’s something that won’t please the Baloch Liberation Army, an insurgent group that sees China’s development projects in Pakistan as an infringement. The News of Pakistan reports:

A leading Chinese investment company has announced to invest $500 million in Gwadar in first phase of project aimed at building homes for around 500,000 Chinese professionals expected to locate in Gwadar by 2023.

China Pak Investment Corporation (CPIC) announced a partnership with Top International Engineering Corporation (TIEC), a Chinese state owned company with over $100 billion worth of projects delivered since 1950, to develop China Pak Hills the first Chinese built Master-Community in Gwadar. 

—–

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:

  • Huawei in Europe
    China’s intelligence law looms over EU 5G safeguards: official / Reuters
    The European Union cannot ignore China’s National Intelligence Law, which requires Chinese citizens to support state information-gathering, as Brussels seeks rules for super-fast mobile networks, a senior EU official said on Friday.

  • Xi Jinping, tariff man?
    China takes aim at steel imports from Indonesia, Japan, EU, South Korea / SCMP
    In what sounds remarkably similar to what Trump did back in March 2018 — and what we called “an extremely stupid move” at the time — China has announced it will impose duties on steel imports from Japan, South Korea, the European Union, and Indonesia. These anti-dumping duties range from 18.1 percent to 103.1 percent.

“Dumping from the EU, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia has caused substantial damages to the Chinese domestic stainless steel billet and hot-rolled stainless steel plate industry,” the Ministry of Commerce statement said. 

Western investors have spent years hankering for China to open its financial markets to outside investment. Now, Beijing is offering broader access to some of the country’s most risky and politically sensitive assets, which the vast majority of would-be buyers would be wise to avoid entirely.

Trading in China’s Nasdaq-style technology board got off to a solid start.

Shares surged in the so-called Star market with one top performer shooting above 400%.

Some 25 companies began trading on the new tech board, which is operated by the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Over the last year, one game company after another has quietly acceded to Chinese government demands to limit the amount of time young people spend on their games. Chinese players of American hits such as “League of Legends,” “Fortnite” and “World of Warcraft” are having their playtime tracked according to their national ID number. Those under 18 face heavy in-game penalties or outright expulsions if they play too long.

Although it’s Chinese policy driving the restrictions, data privacy advocates say that for Americans to participate in the creation of these tools represents the crossing of a concerning new threshold. They view the moves as part of a problematic trend of Western technology firms redesigning their services to create China-friendly versions aligned with the country’s tighter social controls.

On Thursday, Paramount debuted the first trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to the much beloved ’80s classic “Top Gun,” at San Diego Comic-Con. By Friday, eagle-eyed fans had spotted one big difference between the iconic leather jacket Tom Cruise wears in the first film and the one he dons in a new trailer.

In China, the world’s largest smartphone market with over 800 million users, a unique type of farm springs up in urban areas.

The only crops there are smartphones.

The operations, known as click farms, can house hundreds or thousands of iPhones and Android phones on the shelves. They are plugged in and programmed to search, click, and download a certain app over and over again. The goal is to manipulate the system of app store rankings and search results.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that China’s “repeated provocative actions aimed at the offshore oil and gas development of other claimant states threaten regional energy security and undermine the free and open Indo-Pacific energy market.”

Vietnam on Friday demanded China remove a survey ship from Vanguard Bank, which it says lies within Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety and has rattled smaller neighbors by constructing seven man-made islands in the disputed waters and equipped them with military runways and outposts…

Ortagus calls on China to “cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activities.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday insisted the West Philippine Sea belonged to his country, but defended his agreement with Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 to allow Chinese fishermen to operate in the area, saying it was not a constitutional violation.

A Chinese company that hired a group of Nepali women to work at its garment factory and then refused to pay them as per the contract is now demanding that it be paid compensation instead — to send the women home.

The women, who arrived in the northeastern city of Dandong in May, had reached out to the Nepali Embassy in Beijing, seeking assistance after finding out they had been duped.

When the U.S. government’s private-investment arm teamed with New York-based real-estate investor W.P. Carey Inc. to finance the expansion of a prestigious university in Ghana, it was meant to demonstrate a novel for-profit funding model for development projects in Africa.

Instead, it left a wasteland of unfinished lecture halls, dormitories and a pile of litigation. And it marked a high-profile setback for U.S. government efforts to counter China’s growing investment influence on the continent.

New Zealand is positioning itself to become a major, strategic link between China and South America under the Belt and Road Initiative. Although the idea has been around for some time, it has picked up new momentum as the BRI gains traction globally, said Stephen Jacobi, executive director of the New Zealand China Council and one of the key drivers behind the “Southern Link” concept.  

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

A visitor to Shanghai in the late 19th century would have found the city dominated by narrow, winding lanes of shikumen, the local equivalent of Britain’s Victorian terraced workers’ housing, or Philadelphia’s miles of rowhouse neighbourhoods. Laoximen is among the most famous of these neighbourhoods, the product of an earlier population boom that saw the city swell with rural residents coming to the fast-growing city, a hub of regional trade.

Beijing Guoan want to make Gareth Bale the highest-paid player in Chinese football history by offering him a route out of Real Madrid. Real manager Zinedine Zidane has revealed the club are working on Bale’s departure, prompting the Welshman’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, to label the former France international “a disgrace.”

Manchester City have been accused of being “disrespectful” and “arrogant” by China’s state-run press agency after their appearance at the Asia Trophy last week… an editorial with the headline “Chinese fans’ love for Man City goes unreciprocated on home soil” which appeared on Xinhua’s English language website on Monday appeared to suggest their conduct on the tour had produced the opposite effect. 


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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.