Beijing blames Hong Kong protests on American ‘black hands’

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Between the U.S.-China techno-trade war, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang, the flood of news about China every day can be overwhelming. As writers and editors of this newsletter, it can be difficult to judge if we are getting the length of this daily email right. 

We’d love to hear your feedback on this question. Is the daily email too long, too short, or just right? Do you want more detail on big stories, or just short, punchy summaries? 

Please email me (jeremy@supchina.com) with your thoughts on this or anything else, if you have a moment to spare. Non-grammatical bullet points and partial sentences like “Too long!” are fine. Our whole team would appreciate it. 

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


1. Beijing blames Hong Kong protests on American ‘black hands’

Here is the latest news from the troubled Pearl of the Orient (or one of them):

PROTESTS AND PROTESTERS

  • “No negotiation and no compromise” is what the South China Morning Post says protesters vowed, “a day after Beijing’s top official overseeing Hong Kong affairs said one of their demands — an inquiry into the recent political saga — could happen only when the chaos has ended.”  

  • Thousands of lawyers and legal sector professionals “staged their second ‘black clothes’ march in two months urging for an end to political prosecutions, for the Department of Justice to retain its independence and for the government to form an independent commission of inquiry to investigate events that occurred during two months of anti-extradition bill protests,” according to Hong Kong Free Press

  • Hundreds of Catholics held a candlelight march on the evening of August 8 “to call for peace amid Hong Kong’s political unrest.” The South China Morning Post has video.

BEIJING BLAMES AMERICAN “BLACK HANDS”

  • In the People’s Republic, the people are always happy. So when there is unrest, for example in 1989, it must be the fault of a small group of “black hands” (黑手 hēishǒu) and hostile foreign forces working behind the scenes. So to explain why Hongkongers are on the streets, we get this absurd conspiracy theory, per the New York Times (porous paywall): 

China’s ruling Communist Party identified a novel reason for the unrest: the secret machinations of an American woman working as a diplomat in the United States Consulate in Hong Kong.

The woman, Julie Eadeh, a political counselor, has become a central figure in a growing Chinese narrative that Hong Kong’s protests are the work of traitors who are being directed by foreign, particularly American, “black hands” bent on fomenting an uprising in the former British colony.

CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, described Ms. Eadeh on Thursday as “the behind-the-scenes black hand creating chaos in Hong Kong.”

Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper controlled by the Communist Party…described Ms. Eadeh, a graduate in Arab studies from Georgetown University, as “a mysterious and low-profile expert on subversion.”

  • Today, the top Chinese envoy in Hong Kong demanded “that the US consulate ‘make a clean break from anti-China forces’ following media reports of a meeting between an official and local independence activists, including Joshua Wong [黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēng],” reports the South China Morning Post

ANXIETY IN BEIJING 

COMPANIES CAUGHT UP IN THE TURMOIL

  • Cathay Pacific is being attacked by state media and social media users for what the nationalist rag Global Times calls “tacitly encouraging anti-government strikes, taking part in protests and leaking confidential customer information.” 

  • Wharf Real Estate Investment Company, which “owns several major shopping centers in Hong Kong, has asked police not to enter its malls unless a crime has taken place, after anti-government protesters threatened to disrupt businesses at one location,” per the South China Morning Post.

  • Taiwan’s Yifang Fruit Tea franchise chain is the target of a boycott campaign by mainland Chinese internet users. “The online furore began when closed one of its Hong Kong shops for a day and put up a sign that said in Chinese: ‘Stand together with Hong Kongers,’” reports the Guardian

2. Chinese exports up as Beijing signals the yuan is in play  

Chinese exports staged what the Wall Street Journal called (paywall) a “surprising turnaround” despite Donald Trump’s best tariffs. Growth in shipments to Southeast Asia and the European Union markets is apparently the cause, but both the WSJ and Caixin (paywall) say that economists expect the turnaround to be short-lived.

In other news from various fronts of the U.S.-China techno-trade war, day 399:

Currency wars: “China signaled on Thursday that it might continue to weaken its currency, a move that threatens to again escalate the trade war with the United States,” according to the New York Times (porous paywall).

New Huawei ban: The White House Office of Management and Budget has banned “federal purchases of telecommunications equipment, video surveillance gear and other products from Huawei, its rival ZTE, radio systems provider Hytera, camera maker Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and video surveillance products maker Dahua Technology,” reports the South China Morning Post

“China’s rare earths association said it would support Chinese counter-measures in the escalating trade row with the United States, which it accused on Wednesday of ‘bullying,’” according to Reuters

Chinese imports from the U.S. fall and fall and fall: The Associated Press reports: “Imports of U.S. goods fell 19 percent from a year earlier to $10.9 billion, customs data showed Thursday, though that was an improvement over June’s 31.4 percent fall.”

The Trump administration is rushing to finalize “a list of $300 billion in Chinese imports it plans to hit with tariffs in a few weeks’ time, as U.S. companies make a last-ditch appeal to be spared from the latest round of duties,” says Bloomberg (porous paywall).

The way forward? Scholar Jim Milward has published what he called (on Twitter): “My attempt to articulate some new principles for US-China policy. In 800 words.” Here it is: We need a better middle road on China. Here’s how we can find it.

Who is paying for tariffs? Not China, as Donald Trump would have you believe, according to this new paper from scholars at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, who conclude that almost 100 percent of the costs of tariffs is being passed on to American importers, not their Chinese suppliers.  

The big chill: Emily Feng of NPR tweeted: “I spent six months in Washington waiting for a visa for Beijing, watching as the people, goods, and money that flow between the U.S. and China slow down. So I wrote about it: Big chill with China takes its toll on flow of money, people and ideas.” 

3. Billionaire Ray Dalio upbeat on China

Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, has released a video interview on YouTube with its billionaire Ray Dalio about his views on China. 

Dalio remains a long-term optimist on China and a committed investor. He likens China now to the early stages of the Dutch and British empires and of America’s ascent to global superpower. And for him, we are still not too far above the ground floor. 

It’s worth watching even if you are not disposed to agree with him. 

4. Western scholars and Uyghur facial recognition  

Charles Rollet, a journalist who covers video surveillance, has published an article in Coda that describes how Western scholars and institutions are contributing to facial recognition and other artificial intelligence technologies that are used for ethnic profiling, especially of Uyghurs. 

  • “Last summer, a respected U.S. academic journal about data mining published a study titled ‘Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition,’ authored by four professors in China and one in Australia,” based on analysis of 300 Uyghur, Tibetan, and Korean students at Dalian Minzu University, a college for ethnic minorities.

  • “China’s largest biometrics research conference, last held in Xinjiang in 2018, included prominent U.S. artificial intelligence (AI) researchers as keynote speakers, including one from Microsoft.” Local police co-authored a paper presented at the conference on “ways to find ‘terrorism’ and ‘extreme religion’ content in Uyghur script.”

  • “Imperial College London is hosting an open facial recognition competition where one of the sponsors is a Chinese AI startup called DeepGlint which advertises its Uyghur ethnicity recognition capabilities to police on its Chinese website.”

In related news, the Japan Times reports that members of the small Uyghur diaspora community in Japan “are calling for help out of desperation to discover what has happened to their families back home.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Tesla is offering a 50 percent discount on the “fully driverless” version of its Autopilot assistance system in China, part of efforts to boost its adoption in the country.

The country’s [gaming] studios are stepping up efforts to expand abroad after a regulatory crackdown led to a slump in the domestic market, experts and industry executives said at ChinaJoy, China’s biggest gaming convention, which concluded in Shanghai this week.

The line, available on e-commerce platforms and in grocery stores, will help Starbucks diversify its presence in China beyond cafes at a time when it is facing growing competition from local challengers like Luckin Coffee Inc.

  • Crackdown on foreign teachers continues
    Guangdong cracks down on unqualified foreign teachers / That’s Mags
    The Guangdong Provincial Department of Education has “issued a notice stating that all educational institutions, from universities and colleges to training schools and kindergartens must enforce rigid background checks on all foreign teachers, and create files for each individual by September 15.”

  • Gorging on commodities
    China goes big on commodities purchase amid shifting trade war / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “Commodity purchases by China rebounded strongly in July. Imports of soy to coal and crude oil gained, signaling demand in the world’s biggest buyer remains solid even as a trade spat with the U.S. escalates.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 

China’s top conservation authority is set to release the first exhaustive revision of the country’s list of protected wildlife since the document was first released 30 years ago.

The draft is currently under official review, but leaked images of the document, verified by the official, show that more species have been added to the list, which gives certain animals priority for state-sponsored conservation efforts.

In English, the term ‘mental hygiene’ likely sounds a bit stale. Having gained a brief but widespread ascendancy in the first half of the 20th century, the phrase gradually faded from popular memory and was replaced by the expression ‘mental health’ in the 1950s. In Chinese, however, mental hygiene is still alive and well. Translated as xīnlǐ wèishēng 心理卫生  or jīngshén wèishēng 精神卫生, the phrase has been a mainstay in Chinese psychiatric policy for close to a full century. 

China has reprimanded 130 people and summoned more than a thousand company and government officials during a second round of nationwide environmental audits, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday (Aug 8).

  • The official report on the audits from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment is here (in Chinese).

  • Marine genetic resources
    High seas treaty: race for rights to ocean’s genetic resources / Chinadialogue
    As the UN enters the final stage of drafting a deal to regulate vast expanses of international waters, differences over the mining of deep-sea resources are emerging between developed and developing countries.
    For its part, China has joined the G77 nations, which collectively represent the developing world, to call for the agreement to be predicated on “the principle of common heritage of mankind,” which would entitle all countries to benefit from any one country’s exploitation of deep-sea resources.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Australia must now, somehow, hold on to our sovereignty and prosperity. We must balance security and trade. But most importantly, we must remain true to our democratic convictions while also seeing the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

Beijing is challenging Washington’s influence in Pacific island states where the U.S. maintains strategic defence access by offering financial incentives that could lead to “debt traps”…courting the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Marshall Islands and Palau, aiming to gain access to their strategically important waters.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:


SINICA PODCAST NETWORK

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Sinica Podcast: Wealth and Power 

This week, while Kaiser is vacationing on the Carolina coast, we are running a March 2014 interview with Orville Schell and David Moser. Orville is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York and formerly served as dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The discussion in this episode centers on the book co-authored by Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century, and the role of select members of the Chinese intelligentsia in the formation of modern China. 


PHOTO OF THE DAY

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BE京jing No. 14: Guard

This photo from Guozijian Street in May 2016 is part of BE京jing, a 30-part photo essay project by Gregorio Soravito