Too little, too late

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Please join us for a Slack Q&A about Hong Kong this Thursday, September 5, at 10 a.m. New York time (10 p.m. Hong Kong time) with Antony Dapiran. Antony previously appeared on Sinica twice: once in June to discuss the beginning of the protests, and again in July, following the occupation of the Legislative Council. If you haven’t already joined the Slack channel, click here to do so

Our word of the day is “five key demands” (五大訴求 wǔ dà sùqiú). 

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Image from Standnews shows Hong Kong protesters “give key demands.” 

1. ‘Too little, too late’ — Carrie Lam withdraws extradition bill

The Hong Kong government has backed down on “the detested extradition bill which triggered months of anti-government protests,” per Jeffie Lam of the South China Morning Post

But the announcement from Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) that the bill “would be formally withdrawn has left many protesters cold.” In the words of activist Joshua Wong (黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēng) on Twitter:

1. Too little and too late now — Carrie Lam’s response comes after 7 lives sacrificed, more than 1,200 protestors arrested, in which many are mistreated in police station.

2. The intensified police brutality in the previous weeks have left an irreversible scar to the entire HK society. And therefore, at this very moment, when Carrie Lam announced withdrawal, people would not believe it is a ‘sincere’ move.

3. Instead, HK people are well-aware of her notorious track record. Whenever there are signs of sending a palm branch, they always come with a far tighter grip on exercising civil rights. Earlier today Ronny Tong has already advised using secret police.

4. We urge the world too to alert this tactic and not to be deceived by HK and Beijing Govt. They have conceded nothing in fact, and a full-scale clampdown is on the way.

5. In short, Carrie Lam’s repeated failure in understanding the situation has made this announcement completely out of touch – She needs to address to ALL Five Demands [which also include] STOP PROSECUTION, STOP CALLING US RIOTERS, INDEPENDENT INQUIRY OF POLICE and FREE ELECTION!

As the SCMP points out, Wong is not alone in calling for the “five demands”: “LIHKG, the Reddit-like site which has been the de facto virtual command centre of the protest movement, was flooded with messages [in Chinese] saying: ‘Five key demands, not one less’ [五大訴求,缺一不可 wǔ dà sùqiú, quē yī bùkě].”

Expect protests to continue. 

Further reporting:

—Jeremy Goldkorn

2. Single mother fights for maternity benefits

After a prolonged legal battle to claim maternity benefits for her only child, Zhāng Méng 张萌 — a Chinese single mother — appealed to the Shanghai Supreme People’s Court for a retrial in June. Last week, news came (in Chinese) that the highest court in the city had accepted her case. The decision has reignited her hopes of protecting her reproductive rights as an unmarried mom after China’s legal system failed her for more than two years.

Zhang had filed a lawsuit against the Shanghai Social Insurance Management Center, which handles all sorts of social benefits, including pensions and maternity leave. It has been dubbed the first case in China where a single mother took legal action in order to get maternity benefits, which, in Zhang’s case, amount to around 50,000 yuan ($7,000) as a salary compensation for five months of maternity leave.

For details, please click through to SupChina.

—Jiayun Feng

3. A moment of calm in the U.S.-China techno-trade war 

Donald Trump has — perhaps — begun to realize that tariffs are going to strain the Christmas shopping budgets of his base. Meanwhile, Beijing has settled in for a long confrontation with a president who negotiates like a toddler

And so, despite the tweets of the American president — no link provided, you know where to find them — there seems to be a moment of respite in the war of words and tariffs across the Pacific today. 

Here are the headlines you need to know: 

“Chinese Vice-Premier Liú Hè 刘鹤 has called for a group of visiting American lawmakers to ‘deepen mutual understanding,’ saying the year-long trade war was bad for both China and the U.S.,” reports the South China Morning Post

The meeting between US senators and Liu, China’s top negotiator in trade talks between the countries, followed news that efforts to resume discussions this month may be faltering.

The congressmen, led by Republican senators Steve Daines and David Perdue, met Hong Kong lawmakers in the United States in August, but there was no information on whether anti-government protests in Hong Kong were raised in their meeting with Chinese officials on Tuesday.

Senators Daines and Perdue also met with Lì Zhànshū 栗战书, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. Xinhua provided a bland readout of the event, in English and Chinese:

Top legislator Li Zhanshu met with a delegation led by U.S. Senator Steve Daines and Senator David Perdue here on Monday.

Commending their long-term efforts to promote the development of bilateral relations and exchanges between the legislative bodies, Li…said this year marks…the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States.

He said history has proven that China and the United States stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation and a healthy China-U.S. relationship meets the common interests of both countries and the world.

In related news: The Australian government “has identified 15 rare earth and critical mineral projectsit aims to champion as part of joint Australia-U.S. efforts to challenge China’s dominance in the supply of materials commonly used in the defence and high-tech industries,” reports the Financial Times (paywall). 

4. Russia is going Huawei, all the way 

Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow and chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, tweeted an interesting thread about Huawei in Russia, reproduced in abridged form below:  

Huawei is on its way to cement dominance in the Russian and Eurasian 5G market… [B]ased on my recent conversations with Russian officials and business executives, I conclude that consensus in the Kremlin is tilting towards a simple line: if Russia is to build 5G, dependency on Huawei is inevitable.

Huawei has been cultivating Russian and CIS markets for years, and it’s all over 4G networks in this part of Eurasia. All the major cellphone operators in Russia (MTS, MegaFon, Beeline) experiment with Huawei’s 5G equipment, the only exception is Tele2 that works with Ericsson

Part of Huawei’s success in Russia beyond quality of its products and prices is its ability to play on the Russian pride. The Kremlin wants to project an image that local companies are part of Huawei’s global supply chain, including on the high end, and Huawei is happy to play along…

Since Xi’s visit to Russian in June 2019 and amid escalating U.S.-China tensions, Huawei was in talks with the Russian government to install Russian Aurora OS (based on initial Nokia design) on Huawei devices to potentially offset problems with Google’s Android.

This experiment will be limited, and so far only use of Aurora on Huawei-supplied tablets for Russian population census is agreed. But the Kremlin gets a symbolic gain, and Huawei uses it to position itself as a benevolent partner for Russia in 5G

Huawei is also interested in integrating Russian IT specialists into its supply chain, and has announced plans to quadruple its R&D personnel in Russia by 2024 bringing total to 2,000 engineers.

Huawei is also trying to buy into existing high-tech companies [in Russian] looking for cheap and reliable Russian technologies that could advance its R&D in China and help to offset the effect of Trump’s sanctions…

“We can’t do 5G equipment locally, maybe just a little. So the basic choice is simple: do we buy hardware from the West or from China? And are we bugged by NSA or by MSS?” a senior Russian official once explained to me.

The concern of the Kremlin with regard to 5G is not that much an ability of foreign intelligence services to use the new networks for intelligence gathering, and they know Huawei hardware is unlikely to prevent NSA from being able to spy on Russian civilian-use networks.

What worries the Kremlin the most is ability to use the “killer switch,” or knock out some of 5G-enabled services in Russia because of implants in Western equipment. The Russians believe China won’t do it because, unlike the West, it doesn’t seek regime change in Russia.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


On Tuesday, Luckin announced it would spin off its bubble tea business — just five months after setting foot in the sector. It said it would open separate stores that will focus on selling tea drinks across the country.

  • People’s Daily goes after Siri
    人民网三评“苹果偷听”之一:Hi Siri,我还敢信你吗–观点–人民网 / People’s Daily
    The People’s Daily has an op-ed on the recent controversy involving Zao, the new “deepfake” app to take Chinese users by storm, while at the same time causing worries over data privacy. The People’s Daily takes a hard line against technology that threatens personal data, and also takes a swipe at Apple’s Siri along with Zao, the deepfake app from social media company Momo. 

  • News from Bank of Jinzhou just gets worse
    Embattled Bank of Jinzhou reports huge losses / Caixin Live
    “Bank of Jinzhou is reporting total net losses of 5.4 billion yuan ($752.7 million) in 2018 and the first half of 2019, spelling more bad news for the embattled regional lender.”
    It’s the latest news to suggest the troubled bank, which recently received a lifeline from the Chinese state, still has a long way to go before it gets out of its financial funk.


Four years after the introduction of amended rules on tobacco advertising considered China’s toughest yet in the war against smoking, related ads and other promotions remain common and are even on the rise… according to a report on the subject released Tuesday by the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.


Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Zarif paid a visit to his Chinese counterpart Wáng Yì 王毅 at the end of August to present a road map for the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership, signed in 2016…

The central pillar of the new deal is that China will invest $280 billion developing Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors… There will be another $120bn investment in upgrading Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure…

Among other benefits, Chinese companies will be given the first refusal to bid on any new, stalled or uncompleted oil and gasfield developments. Chinese firms will also have first refusal on opportunities to become involved with any and all petchems projects in Iran.

Comparing China to the East India Company, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed has alleged that without firing a bullet Beijing has grabbed more land than East India Company…

“Get hold of a government, buy up a parliament, change the laws, get unsolicited contracts then inflate the price of the contract to the level due to which business plans failed here. Give commercial loans and then, of course, they will not be able to pay it back. When you can’t pay back, they ask for equity and with equity, you relinquish sovereignty, including the peace of the Indian Ocean. I am referring specifically to China,” [said] Nasheed.


When Niè Yuánzǐ 聂元梓 put up a vitriolic wall poster one day in 1966, she plunged into the political maelstrom of 毛泽东 Máo Zédōng’s Cultural Revolution. For the rest of her life, Ms. Nie wrestled with the fame, and the infamy, that her act of rebellion would bring. The poster brazenly denounced the Communist Party secretary of Peking University, where Ms. Nie worked, as well as two other Beijing officials.

  • French food snobs bewildered by Chinese cuisine
    It’s official: The Beijing edition of Michelin Guide is coming / That’s Online
    “On Monday, world-famous food bible Michelin Guides announced that the launch of a Beijing edition is officially set for November 28. There. The secret is out. Everyone can talk about it openly now. Yes, after Hong Kong, Macao, Shanghai and Guangzhou, this hidden gem of a city is finally hidden no more.”


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How companies profit from forced labor in Xinjiang

Darren Byler writes: Factories of Turkic Muslim internment, part of China’s reeducation camp system, are subsidized and directed by the state, and employ many former detainees at a fraction of the minimum wage


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ChinaEconTalk: How China Can Take Over Tech

Douglas Fuller is an associate professor in the Department of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong and the author of Paper Tiger, Hidden Dragons: Firms and the Political Economy of China’s Technological Development.