Dear Access member,
Maria Repnikova will join us for a Slack Q&A this Friday, August 2, at 10 a.m. EST (10 p.m. in Beijing). Maria is a professor at Georgia State University, and her new project is on China’s global nation-branding. Specifically, she examines how China expresses and transmits its values, norms, and cultural practices through the prism of its engagement in Ethiopia. She also occasionally digs into China-Russia issues and comparative non-democratic governance.
Listen to Maria on the Sinica Podcast discussing her 2017 book on media politics in China: ‘Critical’ journalism in China, explained by Maria Repnikova
Watch a short video about her experience in Addis Ababa on MacroPolo.
To join the Slack channel, if you haven’t already, click here. We hope to see you there on Friday!
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
1. Hong Kong: Beijing blames ‘traitors’ and foreign forces
Support for the demonstrations in Hong Kong is not waning, judging from this New York Times vox pop piece (porous paywall) titled “We can’t give up,” with quotes from Hong Kongers. But the government in Beijing is not backing off. On the contrary, state media and propaganda organizations appear to be preparing to target and punish the instigators, real and imagined.
Here is the latest from China’s beleaguered international city:
“The heart of Hong Kong’s business district was turned into a war zone on Sunday night as riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of protesters to chase them off the streets, after a day of defiance that saw them lay siege to Beijing’s liaison office for the first time in the social unrest over the now-suspended extradition bill,” reports the South China Morning Post.
The government “issued a late-night statement to strongly condemn protesters for deviating from their mandated march route and challenging Beijing’s sovereignty by besieging the liaison office, where they vandalised the national emblem.” The statement promised an investigation.
Today the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, the government organization in charge of Hong Kong, gave its first press conference since the handover in 1997 to condemn foreign “interference,” call for the punishment of “radical protesters,” and to emphasize that the central government supports the actions of the Hong Kong government. The South China Morning Post has a partial transcript or see these reports from Hong Kong Free Press, the Guardian, and New York Times (porous paywall).
Chinese state media continues to dial up the paranoid rhetoric, blaming the enormous demonstrations on hostile foreign forces and the machinations of “traitors.” An editorial published today by the Party’s newspaper, the People’s Daily, “calls for ‘forceful’ police action to end Hong Kong unrest,” per the South China Morning Post.
“Traitor” is a word being bandied about in state media to describe supporters of the demonstrations. Publisher Jimmy Lai (黎智英 Lǐ Zhìyīng) and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee (李柱銘 Lǐ Zhùmíng) receive special attention. See for example, this mouth frothing Global Times article (English, Chinese) for a description of the conspiracy theory:
As demonstrations by extremist forces in Hong Kong grow increasingly violent, the intervention of foreign forces has become more apparent. However, such intervention cannot grow in Hong Kong society without the cooperation and assistance of a group of traitors. Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and Martin Lee Chu-ming are representatives of this group of traitors.
From last year to this year, these so-called democratic leaders have had unprecedented levels of contacts with the U.S. government and Western parliaments, forming increasingly brazen collusion that has fueled the expansion of street politics in Hong Kong.
2. Tough new cyber rules to punish American companies?
The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that “proposed cybersecurity regulations by China are vexing U.S. businesses, who see the rules as new barriers to the Chinese market, and loom as a potential sticking point in coming U.S.-China trade talks.”
The new draft rules and standards, released over the past two months with little fanfare, flesh out an existing cybersecurity law that the U.S. and many foreign businesses already consider draconian. Some forbid certain data from leaving China or slow down the process of sending data overseas, increasing uncertainties and costs. Tough procurement rules could also place foreign products at a disadvantage…
The timing suggests Beijing is using them to show Washington it has options to punish U.S. businesses, experts said. “These are the tools in the arsenal that can be ready to be fired,” said Samm Sacks, a cybersecurity expert at the Washington-based think tank New America.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports (porous paywall) that the U.S. and China have resume trade negotiations today, but there are “slim hopes for a deal” as “both sides appeared more focused on preventing tensions from escalating before the 2020 presidential election than on making concessions.”
3. Xi Jinping’s cousin, triads, and a casino in Australia
Australia’s Crown Casino has long targeted Chinese high-rollers. Based on a six-month joint investigation by the Australian 60 Minutes TV show, and the newspapers The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, behind the scenes “Crown was prepared to get into bed with junket operators backed by Asian organised crime syndicates called ‘triads’, including the most powerful drug-trafficking syndicate in the world.”
Among the revelations: Xi Jinping’s cousin is a high roller.
A cousin of Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 was aboard a private jet for high-roller gamblers when it was searched by federal agents on the Gold Coast in 2016 on suspicion that it was involved in international money laundering.
The initial target of the police search of the jet’s passengers was an alleged criminal fugitive and business partner of Crown Resorts, Tom Zhou. But the search also revealed that one of Mr Zhou’s travelling companions was Mr Xi’s cousin, Ming Chai.
These are the other parts of the investigative package:
Crown Casino exposed. Sex trafficking, drugs, money laundering / 60 Minutes Australia on Youtube
4. 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on China
Here’s an addition for our 2020 Presidential election China tracker. From Axios:
Each candidate was asked if they plan to take the China issue back from Trump, and if so, how? Specifically, we asked whether the candidates would immediately remove the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese imports, and if so, how else they would address China’s theft of America’s Intellectual Property?
In brief: They all talk tough on China.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
The Alibaba banking revolution
Jack Ma’s $290 billion loan machine is changing Chinese banking / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Jack Ma’s online bank is leading a quiet revolution in the way China lends to small businesses, taking aim at a credit bottleneck that has held back Asia’s largest economy for decades.
Using real-time payments data and a risk-management system that analyzes more than 3,000 variables, Ma’s four-year-old MYbank has lent 2 trillion yuan ($290 billion) to nearly 16 million small companies. Borrowers apply with a few taps on a smartphone and receive cash almost instantly if they’re approved. The whole process takes three minutes and involves zero human bankers. The default rate so far: about 1 percent…
For China’s $13 trillion economy, which expanded at its weakest pace since at least 1992 last quarter, the implications could be profound.
Booming private school sector
Private education / Xinhua
Private K-12 schools accounted for about 35 percent of China’s total school enrolments in 2018.
China’s private schools totaled 183,500 in 2018, an increase of 5,815 from the previous year.
53.78 million students enrolled in private schools in 2018, up 5.03 percent from 2017.
China’s 5G domestic roll-out
Huawei to start selling 5G smartphones in August / Caixin
“Chinese telecoms giant Huawei said Friday that its 5G-ready smartphone, the Mate 20 X, will formally go on sale on August 16, marking the second launch this week of a handset supporting fifth-generation wireless technology produced by a Chinese company.”
China’s 5G economy takes shape as carriers step up investment / Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall)
China’s state-run telecommunications companies are rushing to usher in the 5G era, [as] China Mobile aims to build over 50,000 5G base stations in more than 50 cities across the vast mainland, enabling it to launch commercial service by the end of this year.
New Huawei chip
Huawei set to beat Apple with world’s top chip despite US ban / Asia Nikkei Review (porous paywall)
Huawei Technologies is set to leapfrog Samsung Electronics, Apple and Qualcomm with the introduction of two of the world’s most advanced chips in the coming months, despite the U.S. crackdown on exports to China’s flagship tech company, sources familiar with the matter told the Nikkei Asian Review.
Shanghai’s dimming STAR
China’s new Star stock venue is losing its luster / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Shanghai’s new Science and Technology Innovation Board — aka STAR Market — has had a somewhat disappointing first week. Bloomberg sums up the uncertain sentiment:
Though traders viewed the launch positively, the question is whether interest in existing shares will be maintained as more firms come to the table.
“With just a few trading days since its launch, it’s difficult to assess the success of the Star board,” said Tiffany Hsiao, a portfolio manager at Matthews Asia in San Francisco.
China’s AI path
Is winter coming for Hikvision? / ChinAI newsletter
Jeffrey Ding translates (and comments on) a Chinese-language article written by a Chinese investor who gives his take on Hikvision, “the world’s largest manufacturer of video surveillance products and solutions.”
AI for stability in the New Era / China Media Project
A profile of the new approaches Chinese authorities have taken to maintaining social and political control in China through the use of surveillance technology and big data, along with their related neologisms, eg., “intelligent governance,” or zhìnéng guǎn zhì 智能管治.
Money pours into industry claiming to turn kids into learning machines / Caixin (paywall)
App-based homework-helper Knowbox announced this month that it secured $150 million of additional funding from investors led by internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Yet despite the money sloshing around, the slew of companies that have entered the industry are still struggling to find sustainable business models due to high marketing costs.
The ongoing decline of Wanda
Wanda fundraising marchs on with sports IPO, film unit stake sale talks / Caixin (paywall)
Following a weak (initial public offering) IPO on Wanda Group’s sports division last Friday, in which it raised a mere $190.4 million from its original target of $500 million, the conglomerate is now “in talks to sell a stake in its Legendary Entertainment film unit, continuing an asset sell-down to ease its debt burden.”
Pepsi buys into health food
Pepsi sinks its teeth into Chinese health-food giant / Caixin (paywall)
PepsiCo will buy a nearly 26 percent stake in Shenzhen-based Natural Food International, a maker of health foods.
China breaks down forex holdings
How much of China’s foreign exchange reserves are in US dollars? / SCMP
By the end of 2014, US dollar assets accounted for 58 per cent of China’s total reserves, down from 79 per cent in 2005, the administration said, adding that the share of the assets in the US currency was lower than the global average of 65 per cent in 2014.
See also our SupChina explainer on China’s U.S. Treasury holdings — a key component of China’s forex reserves.
Kunlun has another go at Grindr IPO
China’s Beijing Kunlun to relaunch Grindr IPO / Reuters
“Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd is relaunching the process to float popular gay dating app Grindr Inc after it said a U.S. national security panel had dropped its opposition to the plan.”
The news offers some hope for Grindr, which has had a run of bad luck ever since the Kunlun bought it.
Chinese VC in India
How a wave of Chinese money is powering Indian start-ups / SCMP
“Indian start-ups have become a major target for deep-pocketed Chinese investors, who have been looking to emulate their United States counterparts such as Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital that dominate the sector.”
China’s pork prices to hit record level in 2019 due to African swine fever, even as imports surge, report says / SCMP
“China’s pork prices will reach a record level by the fourth quarter of 2019 due to the impact of African swine fever on domestic production, even as imports continue to surge.”
Troubled Bank of Jinzhou gets a lifeline
Bank of Jinzhou gets Chinese state backing as ICBC and other financial institutions buy more than 17.3 per cent stake in it / SCMP
China’s Bank of Jinzhou won government-backed reinforcement on Sunday as three state-controlled financial institutions said they would take at least 17.3 per cent in the troubled lender, whose shares have been suspended since April.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country’s largest lender by assets, and China Cinda Asset Management and China Great Wall Asset Management, two of China’s four largest distressed debt managers, said on Sunday they would take stakes in Bank of Jinzhou.
Jinzhou’s financial problems have led some to wonder why authorities haven’t seized it in the same way Baoshang Bank was taken over by the Central Bank in recent months. Bloomberg explains why China has chickened out of such measures.
More Joy for Chinese startups
Joy Capital closes $700M for early-stage investments in China / TechCrunch
In an online announcement (Chinese) posted by Joy Capital, the venture capital firm known for its investment in Chinese companies such as Luckin and Nio, says that it “just raised $700 million for a new fund focusing on early to growth-stage startups.”
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Gene-edited crops — China is leaping ahead
To feed its 1.4 billion, China bets big on genome editing of crops / Science Magazine
Gāo Cǎixiá 高彩霞 is one face of the Chinese government’s bet that CRISPR can transform the country’s food supply. A natural bacterial immune system, CRISPR was turned into a powerful genome editor just a few years ago in U.S. and European labs. Yet today, China publishes twice as many CRISPR-related agricultural papers as the second-place country, the United States. The explanation? “Because I’m here,” jokes Gao, who punctuates much of her speech with robust, giddy, infectious laughter.
In August 2013, her group modified plant DNA with CRISPR, a first, and the 50-year-old researcher has since written three dozen publications that describe using the genome editor on various crops. Daniel Voytas, a plant geneticist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul who invented an earlier genome-editing system and who has also adopted CRISPR, says Gao is an “outstanding cell biologist [who] jumped on CRISPR early on and has just been riding the crest of the wave.”
China has won battle against hepatitis epidemic / Shanghai Daily
The prevalence of the hepatitis B surface antigen in children aged between 1 and 4 stood at 0.32 percent in 2014.
That met the World Health Organization’s goal of reducing that figure to below 1 percent ahead of schedule, said Chang Jile, head of the disease control bureau under the NHC.
The reported incidence rate of hepatitis A in the country registered a record low of 1.17 per 100,000 people, Chang said in Beijing earlier last week at a conference to mark the World Hepatitis Day which fell yesterday…
…There are still 86 million people infected with hepatitis B and 10 million infected with hepatitis C in China, Chang said, noting that tasks of fighting viral hepatitis are still arduous.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
12 years behind bars for Huang Qi, veteran activist
China sentences trailblazing online activist to 12 years in prison / Washington Post
A court in southwestern China has handed an unusually heavy punishment — 12 years in prison — to one of the country’s most prominent activists despite appeals for clemency from international rights organizations and U.N. experts.
Huáng Qí 黃琦, 56, was sentenced for “deliberately disclosing state secrets” to foreign parties, the Mianyang Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan province said in a brief online announcement Monday. Huang is the founder of the website 64 Tianwang, which aired accounts of government abuse, corruption and fecklessness from across China for two decades.
Uyghurs being relocated to prisons in Henan — sources
Over 2,000 Uyghurs secretly relocated to prisons in Henan / Bitter Winter
“Reports from several sources confirm that detainees have been transferred to two prisons, they are isolated from others; many held in solitary confinement, beaten.”
Free ebook: Ethnic Minorities in Xinjiang / Routledge
“In recent months, the treatment towards Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang has been at the forefront of global news. In order to understand recent events further, we have created a FreeBook which explores the past and present interactions between the Chinese State and the ethnic minorities of Xinjiang.”
Ambassadors from 50 countries voice support to China’s position on issues related to Xinjiang / Xinhua
“Ambassadors from 50 countries to the UN at Geneva (UNOG) have co-signed a letter to the President of the UN Human Rights Council (HCR) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to voice their support for China’s position on issues related to its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.”
Controlling the internet
China considers blacklist for online rumormongers / Caixin
China’s central internet regulator is mulling a potentially years-long blacklist for people who spread internet rumors or violate other online rules as the government seeks to further curb what it considers bad behavior online.
A draft regulation [in Chinese] released for public comment on July 22 by the Cyberspace Administration of China proposes restricting the internet access of users and providers of online information services that “fabricate, publish, or spread information that violates public morality, business ethics, or good faith” or deliberately provide technological assistance to those who do so…
Blacklisted individuals would generally be restricted from using the web, accessing online information services, or reentering the internet industry for three years, the draft regulation says.
Jiang Zemin appears at Li Peng funeral
Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin joins Communist Party chiefs at funeral of Tiananmen premier Li Peng / SCMP
“Former Chinese Premier Lǐ Péng 李鹏 was cremated on Monday after a grand funeral held in Beijing that was attended by top Communist leaders, including former president Jiang Zemin.”
Military drills in the Taiwan Strait
Chinese military starts Taiwan Strait drills amid rising tension with US over island / SCMP
“The People’s Liberation Army has started two large-scale military drills close to the Taiwan Strait, according to a notice from local maritime safety administration”
The Cambodian naval base report
Two pieces of analysis in response to the news, reported by the Wall Street Journal, that Cambodia had signed a secret deal to host the Chinese navy.
China’s Cambodia gambit / by Malcolm Davis in Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Why Cambodia yields to China’s strategic commands / Asia Times
Sebastian Strangio writes: ”The establishment of a Chinese naval presence in Cambodia is the logical outcome of America’s long-flawed policies towards Phnom Penh.”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Creative nonfiction in translation
The darkness after the fire / Chinarrative
The story of the Sichuan bush fires earlier this year that killed 30 people, translated from the Chinese online publication Meirirenwu.
Uncivilized behavior in Beijing
Beijing has issued a new blacklist of ‘uncivilized behaviors’ / That’s Magazine
“Beijing authorities have decreed behavior that cause public disturbances, such as harming fish and birds, spitting and littering have become official no-nos in hope of creating better park environments, Xinhua reports [in Chinese].”
An unusual path into organized crime
From media to mafia: How a television journalist became a gangster / Caixin (paywall)
Miáo Yíngchūn 苗迎春 was arrested by police in July 2018, ending a 30 year career in broadcast journalism in Inner Mongolia, where he “used his position reporting on public security organs to establish a wide range of contacts within the police force and the prosecutorial system of Ulanqab,” and undertake a number of criminal activities.
Child sex abuse
China ‘must do more’ to protect its children from sex offenders / SCMP
“Reports that a foreign kindergarten teacher in east China has been formally charged with molesting a pupil have reignited calls for better protection for the country’s children.”
See also China vows to take a hardline on child sexual abuse on SupChina.
Hawaiian shirts’ colourful past and their Chinese connection / SCMP
Although there are other people who claim to have invented the garment, “it was Chinese-American Ellery Chun who first stamped his mark on Hawaiian shirts when in 1936 he registered the term ‘Aloha shirt.’”
FEATURED ON SUPCHINA
What’s it like being part of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team?
Wang Zhenwei 王振威 is a stuntman on the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, living in Tianjin and training at the Jackie Chan Stuntman Training Center. (Yes, Jackie Chan uses stuntmen.) You might recognize Wang as the antagonist who gave Jaden Smith a beating in the 2010 remake of “The Karate Kid,” though he has a number of other credits to his name, including “Operation Red Sea,” “Project X,” and “Animal World.” Victor Zheng recently sat down with him to talk about his career, how he got his start in the film business, and other fun stories from the job.
China Sports Column: The most hated person at the World Swimming Championships
A multitude of new high-profile post-race clashes at the ongoing World Swimming Championships in South Korea has been keeping Chinese star swimmer Sun Yang in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Meanwhile, Manchester City played in Hong Kong to a half-empty stadium after being accused of ignoring Chinese fans. Also: What on earth is Gareth Bale thinking?
Friday Song: Bohan Phoenix can save U.S.-China relations
Bohan Phoenix is an explicitly bicultural rapper whose identity is his bread and butter. He was born in Hubei but moved to Brooklyn when he was 11, the perfect pre-teen age to embrace hip-hop, a New York tradition. He raps across the U.S.-China culture gap, often harnessing his bicultural identity to inspire his lyrics. “3 Days in Chengdu / 回到成都,” off his album JALA (“add spice”), might be his most directly nostalgic song, which tells his origin story and offers raw admissions about the difficulty of being distant — emotionally and geographically — from his family and heritage.
Kuora: Will China ever be ready for democracy?
There’s no question that at present there aren’t institutions in place that could handle multiparty elections in China, no guides for how the state would actually operate. And there’s no semblance of a pluralistic political culture. But it is possible for China to reach a point where multiparty democracy is possible — it’s just that there’s no easy glide path to it from here. As Hu Shi once said, the only way to have democracy is to have democracy, and no “period of tutelage” as Sun Yat-sen envisioned is going to bring it about, especially not when the party in power is so dead-set against it.
SINICA PODCAST NETWORK
Sinica Early Access: China correspondent Emily Feng: From the FT to NPR
Emily Feng is one of the rising stars among China reporters. She’s about to take up her post in Beijing as National Public Radio’s correspondent after an illustrious run with the Financial Times. In a show taped a few months ago, Emily speaks with Kaiser and Jeremy about her most recent reporting for the FT, covering important topics related to Xinjiang and technology. She also reflects on why, as a Chinese American, she feels like she’s under added pressure to present accurate and balanced reporting on China.
Sinica Early Access is an ad-free, full-length preview of this week’s Sinica Podcast, exclusively for SupChina Access members. Listen by plugging this RSS feed directly into your podcast app.
The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 93
This week on the Caixin -Sinica Business Brief: Hong Kong’s pick of the next head of its de facto central bank, a recent investigation into FedEx, Huawei’s 5G-ready smartphone, Tianyu Fang on Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun, and more.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
BE-Jing No. 6: A peaceful procession
This photo from Caochangdi in August 2017 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.