China’s first private satellite launch achieves orbit

Access Archive

1. After two failures, a Chinese private company follows SpaceX to orbit

China’s private space industry hit a milestone today: i-Space, a three-year-old Beijing-based startup, announced on WeChat (link in Chinese) that it had successfully launched a rocket into orbit. 

  • “Designed and built by i-Space, and measuring about 20 meters (66 feet) in length, the Hyperbola-1 took off at 1pm from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and just minutes later deployed the two satellites it was carrying into near-Earth orbits,” the South China Morning Post reported

  • Last year, i-Space was also the first company to launch a space rocket without a payload in April 2018. Its competitor, OneSpace, followed up the next month with the launch of a payload-carrying rocket. See the second top story in the May 21, 2018, SupChina Access newsletter for more. 

  • i-Space’s successful launch to orbit follows two failures, by OneSpace in March 2019 and by another company, Land Space, in October 2018. 

  • China’s private space industry is only five years old — prior to 2014, Beijing did not allow private investment in the sector, while in the U.S. SpaceX became the first private company to launch satellites in 2008. 

  • But the industry is growing fast in China, and “annual revenues from space-related business — currently worth $350 billion — could nearly triple in size by 2040, according to investment bank Morgan Stanley,” the Financial Times notes (paywall). 

  • For more general information on the launch and what it means for China’s private space industry, see:

    For a detailed look at the technical aspects of i-Space’s launch, and efforts by other private industry players in China, see SpaceNews: Chinese iSpace achieves orbit with historic private sector launch

    —Lucas Niewenhuis

    2. The techno-trade war, and the engagement debate

    The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has confirmed, per Xinhua, that the 12th round of U.S.-China trade talks in as many months will take place on July 30–31 in Shanghai. There are only a couple other pieces of news to report today:

    Soybean purchased: “The Chinese government has given the go-ahead for five companies to buy up to 3 million tons of U.S. soybeans free of retaliatory import tariffs,” according to Bloomberg (porous paywall). “There could be a second round of exemptions depending on how the trade talks progress,” Bloomberg’s sources added. 

    The U.S. “Department of Agriculture is preparing to deploy $16 billion in government funds to aid farmers hurt by the trade battle with China and wet weather that kept many from planting a crop this spring,” the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall). 

    Kenya rebuked the U.S. line on Huawei, as “Joseph Mucheru, Kenya’s information and communications technology minister, said the East African nation would make its own decisions on the issue,” the South China Morning Post says

    Chinese state media is not too optimistic about the trade talks. 

    Can a trade deal be reached before the 2020 US presidential election campaign reaches fever pitch? The schedule was clearly in the White House’s original design. However, because the strategic defense against each other between Beijing and Washington has greatly expanded, frictions ranging from cross-Straits, South China Sea to human rights have been tough to control. Both sides’ original plans and expectations have become uncertain.

    • That Global Times editorial and many other outlets in Chinese state media also objected to an open letter signed by many military veterans in the U.S. urging a tough line on China. The letter shows “US hawks are unleashing their power to affect the US position on China,” the Global Times says. 


    If you’re following the debate about U.S.-China competition and what Washington’s new strategy should be, these are two essential reads:

    On balance, the US’s comprehensive national power still far surpasses China’s… In addition, China faces numerous strategic liabilities: it is surrounded by a combination of volatile neighbours and capable democracies; its demographic prognosis is among the bleakest in the world; it has few, if any, stable allies, only transactional partners; and its ideology — what Jessica Chen Weiss of Cornell University labels “a parochial, ethnocentric brand of authoritarian nationalism” — has limited global appeal.

    In brief, contemporary analysis sometimes exaggerates the scale and import of China’s ascendance… 

    Every reigning power in history has trained a vigilant eye on potential challengers: anxiety inheres in pre-eminence. The essence of [Sam] Huntington’s advice is to instrumentalise that sentiment in the service of national purposes, avoiding the twin temptations of complacence and fatalism. The US’s long-term competitiveness will be served neither by assuming that China is fated to collapse on account of its internal contradictions nor by presuming that it is destined to preside over a world order with Chinese characteristics. Sustainable strategy requires a measured disposition.

    Heeding Huntington’s guidance will arguably be even more essential today than it has been in decades past, for the US’s central imperative is one for which its postwar history offers no self-evident playbook: it is tasked not with winning a decisive victory over an unalloyed antagonist, but with forging a durable modus vivendi with a complex competitor.

    • Why the new China consensus in Washington scares me / by Daniel Drezner in the Washington Post
      Drezner’s first of four points is shared with Wyne above: “I am pretty sure that most China hawks in Washington are overestimating China’s power relative to the United States.” 

    On the subject of anxiety about China’s influence, and the overcorrecting that Washington appears to be going through, the SCMP reports: Three more US universities pledge support for Chinese-American scientists caught in growing web of suspicion. “The University of Pittsburgh, California Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University recently joined 12 other leading schools — including Yale, Columbia and Stanford — to issue statements supporting Chinese-American scientists.”

    3. Hong Kong Yuen Long protest is banned, protesters still plan gathering

    Whoever organized the triad gang attacks in Yuen Long in Hong Kong on Sunday is probably pleased with this effect of their intimidation:

    • “The heads of 11 universities in Hong Kong have urged their students to refrain from attending a rally in Yuen Long on Saturday citing concerns for their personal safety,” the Hong Kong Free Press reported

    • Then, the protest was banned: “On Thursday, the police issued a letter prohibiting the protest, after considering public safety, public order, other people’s rights and freedom,” also per HKFP

    • However, protesters have found a workaround: BBC correspondent Stephen McDonnel tweeted: “So this is a bit cheeky: Hong Kong protestors denied permission to march on Saturday to the site of last weekend’s triad gang attacks on pro-democracy activists are now saying that they want to gather to commemorate the death of former Premier Lǐ Péng 李鹏.” Hong Kong law does not allow the police to deny permission for religious gatherings, which include mourning ceremonies.  

    Other developments related to the volatile situation in Hong Kong: 

    The head of the Hong Kong stock exchange has cautioned against Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong, saying it is not up to the People’s Liberation Army to do the police’s job.

    Addressing a group of business and professional executives on Thursday, HKEX chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia said the PLA was “supposed to be here to…point [at] outside enemies. It’s not supposed to help Hong Kong to deal with our own problems.”

    • Should Beijing intervene forcefully in Hong Kong? / Hu Xijin in Global Times
      The editor of the nationalistic tabloid writes, “Would you like Beijing to be forceful, such as ordering the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to take to the streets to maintain order? Personally, I am against this idea.” But he goes on to list three scenarios where he could find “a need” for strong intervention. 

    • 社评:香港出了一批有迷惑性的现代汉奸 / Global Times
      The Global Times separately says that protestors in Hong Kong are “confused traitors.” 

    Links to understand Hong Kong and what is happening now

    Hong Kong–related protest in Australia

    —Lucas Niewenhuis


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    —Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


    US cloud software company Salesforce has partnered with Chinese technology giant Alibaba as it seeks to gain a larger piece of China’s booming $12bn cloud computing industry. 

    Under the terms of the deal, “Alibaba will become the exclusive provider of Salesforce to customers in mainland Chinese, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, and Salesforce will become the exclusive enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) product suite sold by Alibaba,” Salesforce said in a blog post.

    Alibaba Group Holding has unveiled its first self-designed microprocessor, potentially marking a key step in China’s efforts to promote chip self-sufficiency amid clashes with the U.S. over access to technology.

    The new processor could be adopted by Chinese device makers to power smart speakers, self-driving cars or other internet-connected equipment requiring high-performance computing, Alibaba said at an event on Thursday.

    Toyota Motor Corp. is investing $600 million in China’s biggest ride-hailing company, the latest in a global set of investments designed to prepare Toyota for growth beyond car manufacturing.

    The deal with Didi Chuxing Technology Co. follows Toyota investments last year of $500 million in Uber Technologies Inc. and $1 billion in Southeast Asia’s Grab Inc.




    Chinese fans are expressing support online for swimmer Sūn Yáng 孙杨, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, after he feuded with competitors at the World Aquatics Championships in South Korea.

    At the medal ceremony, Duncan Scott, a joint bronze medalist from the UK, refused to shake Sun’s hand or pose for photographs with the Chinese swimmer.

    The Ministry of Education on Tuesday announced plans to set up 3,000 “soccer kindergartens” nationwide by the end of 2019, aimed at “grabbing the sporting interests of 3- to 6-year-olds” and guiding kindergartens to develop soccer-related activities for young children.

    A 54-year-old Chinese woman who was once hailed as a philanthropist for adopting 118 children has been sentenced to 20 years in jail.

    The former orphanage owner, who was once nicknamed “Love Mother,” was also fined 2.67 million yuan ($388,000).

    “[She] committed fraud together with the gang amongst other crimes to obtain vast economic benefit,” said a post released by the Wu’an City People’s Court on microblogging site Weibo. 

    • Flower soft power
      China selects peony as national flower / China Daily
      “The peony has won overwhelming public support in an online poll over which flower should be China’s national bloom, the China Flower Association announced on Tuesday…The association said the peony — the flower it had recommended — is now awaiting approval from the central government to become the country’s national flower.” 


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    The SupChina Quiz: Chinese food

    It’s the last Thursday of the month, which means it’s quiz time! Today we present: 12 questions about Chinese food, from General Tso’s chicken to làzijī.

    Justin Bieber joins Weibo. Is his China ban lifted?

    Justin Bieber was banned from performing in China in 2017 by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture, but two years later, the ban may have been lifted, at least partially, as Bieber joined Sina Weibo last week and has been pretty active on the microblogging platform since.


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    Sinica Podcast: Michael Swaine on the ‘China is not an enemy’ open letter

    The Washington Post recently published an open letter signed by five scholars and former government officials: M. Taylor Fravel, Stapleton Roy, Michael Swaine, Susan Thornton, and Ezra Vogel. The letter laid out seven main arguments for why the U.S. should not treat China as an enemy, and not surprisingly, the letter got a lot of pushback from more hawkish China-watchers. This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy talk to Michael Swaine, the primary author of the open letter, about the origins and intentions of the letter and the reactions to it. 

    Ta for Ta episode 23: Joy Chen

    This week on Ta for Ta, Juliana speaks with Joy Chen, former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and author of Do Not Marry Before Age 30. An internet star and new-media entrepreneur in China, she uses her fame as a platform for her mission: to help 100 million Chinese women realize their full potential. Joy discusses the creative processes and inspiration behind writing her book (which went to print 20 days after being submitted), her experience as a contestant on the Chinese oratory show Super Speaker 超级演说家, where she gave a 15-minute speech entirely in Mandarin with only one day of preparation, and the personal importance of her Chinese identity.


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    BE-Jing No. 4: Shared bike

    This photo from Donghuangjia, Beijing, in May 2018 is part of BE京jing, a 30-part photo essay project by Gregorio Soravito. It’s about everyday life on the streets of the Chinese capital, a kind of narration about the people who live in this unpredictable city and are constantly growing, changing, and upgrading. BE京jing is a collection of moments that tries to transmit, through a gesture or a facial expression, an identity both individual and collective. It focuses its attention not on places but on people: the human resources that make this gigantic city feel natural and alive.