The Hu Xijin paradox

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Dear Access member,

If you are in New York, this event may interest you: The Columbia China Forum on September 28 includes a live Sinica Podcast with Paul Triolo and Samm Sacks on technology’s role in U.S.-China tensions.

Our word of the day is the name of the mouth-frothing editor of nationalist tabloid Global Times: Hú Xījìn 胡锡进.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


1. The Hu Xijin paradox

The South China Morning Post reports:

The editor of mainland nationalist newspaper Global Times pushed back against Beijing’s tightened internet controls in the lead-up to China’s 70th anniversary celebrations in a now-deleted social media post on Wednesday.

“National Day is approaching and it’s extremely difficult to access the web; even our work at the Global Times is affected,” Hú Xījìn 胡锡进 wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform. 

“The overwhelming majority of our people are patriotic and love the Party with strong political conviction,” the post on Hu’s personal account said. “This country is not fragile. I suggest society should have more access to the outside internet, which will benefit the strength and maturity of China’s public opinion, scientific research, and external communications, as well as China’s national interests.”

Hu deleted his message shortly after posting it. 

2. Huawei reaches out, again

Last week saw Huawei chief executive Rén Zhèngfēi 任正非 make an extraordinary offer (porous paywall) to share its entire 5G platform with any American company that wants to operate it, which one editorial in the Economist called “a peace offering that deserves consideration.” Huawei’s deputy chairman, Ken Hu (胡厚崑 Hú Hòukūn), followed up on the offer. Per Bloomberg (porous paywall):

The company intends to build its base of partner-developers to 5 million eventually, Hu said. That army of firms and individuals could help craft apps optimized to run on Huawei’s Kunpeng and AI chip computing architecture, which will power everything from internet servers to machine learning solutions. “We have implemented this strategy and we’re looking forward to more partners joining us,” said Hu.

3. The software powering protests in Hong Kong 

Maciej Cegłowski is the proprietor of Pinboard, a website bookmarking service, and also one of the more perspicacious commenters on contemporary politics. He has spent the last few months in Hong Kong, and has compiled his observations on technology use in the Hong Kong protests. Here’s a taste:

It’s important to stress that Hong Kong protesters are young people improvising under stressful conditions. They are not ubernerds as they have been portrayed in some Western media accounts, but brave, scared, stressed out ordinary people in the hundreds of thousands who are defying China. Painting them as uniquely competent does them a disservice and discounts their very real courage.

Because leaders proved a vulnerable point in 2014, the protesters in 2019 have adopted a decentralized approach to organizing. There is no formal leadership, and the whole thing is held together by social media and personal ties. The result is a kind of “twitch plays protest” process of decision-making (or for those of you too old to get that, you can think of it as leadership by Ouiji board).

The protesters make heavy use of two software tools: LIHKG (Li-dan), a Reddit-like message board, and the messaging app Telegram.

Other news from the restive Special Administrative Region: 

“How China unleashed Twitter trolls to discredit Hong Kong’s protesters” is the title of a New York Times piece (porous paywall) on Beijing’s sketchy social media campaigns. NPR also has a new piece of analysis on how China used Twitter to disrupt Hong Kong protests, but efforts began years earlier

“Internet users in China are calling for a boycott of French bank BNP Paribas after discovering that one of its employees in Hong Kong apparently supports the city’s anti-government protesters, and noticing that the company refers to Hong Kong and Taiwan as ‘independent countries’ on its website,” says the South China Morning Post

“Only about one-fifth of the 458 district councillors invited to meet Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) on Wednesday night showed up as even pro-establishment allies snubbed her while participants urged her to go down to the ground and listen to ordinary Hongkongers,” reports the South China Morning Post.  

4. Kids song condemned for reinforcing sexist prejudices

“Mommy, don’t go to work. Cuz even if you go, you won’t make much money.” These are not phrases pulled from a Jordan Peterson speech, but the music that millions of Chinese children are listening to these days. Yán Lìfēi 闫立飞, the artist who wrote the song, has come under fire lately after people discovered that his entire discography is packed with misogynist lyrics that perpetuate gendered assumptions of women’s roles at home and in society. 

For details, click through to SupChina

5. Patriotic ‘flash mob’ gears up for 70th anniversary

In the last two years, both Donald Trump and Chinese state media have adopted the term fake news as a term of abuse for accurate reporting which they do not like. But Chinese state media has a long history of co-opting such words in this way. For example, Global Times and China Daily regularly use the word viral to mean “a piece of propaganda heavily promoted by state media.” And of course there’s democracy, which in Chinese officialese means “Shut up and listen to the Party, you ignorant lumpen proletariat.” 

With the approach of October 1, National Day, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic, here comes a new term: 

Flash mob, which Wikipedia defines as “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.” 

Here’s Xinhua

Passengers and staff members of Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station take part in a flash mob in east China’s Shanghai, Sept. 17, 2019. Participants chorused patriotic songs during the flash mob as a way to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Aside from this “flash mob” story, there’s not much about the 70th anniversary party in English from Chinese state media. But there’s plenty in Chinese. Here are three stories prominently placed on Xinhua’s Chinese home page today:

6. CGTN’s Westminster whisperer quits

The Guardian reports:

China’s state-owned global news channel CGTN has been dealt a blow to its U.K. expansion plans following the resignation of a former regulator hired in the wake of Ofcom’s investigation into allegations the broadcaster aired prisoners’ forced confessions.

Nick Pollard, a former non-executive member of Ofcom’s board, was taken by CGTN last year as a consultant to help it abide by television rules as it built a new European base, but has left due to his concerns about the impartiality of the broadcaster’s coverage of the protests in Hong Kong.

CGTN is the international channel of China Central Television and is currently the subject of an Ofcom investigation that could end in sanctions or the loss of its licence following claims that it aired forced confessions.

7. Xinjiang abuses at the UN 

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the World Uyghur Conference have written a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “to condemn the Chinese government’s detention of more than a million Muslims in the Xinjiang region and call for the immediate closure of government detention camps,” reports the Associated Press

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the United States “is considering how to confront China during the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations next week over its detention of some 1 million Muslims in a remote region, as some diplomats warn that U.S. leadership in global institutions is waning and China’s influence is growing.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Australia’s coalition government will face its biggest test regarding investment from mainland China since its May re-election with at least two corporate buyouts likely to require approval from a regulatory body increasingly vigilant against security risks.

Beijing-backed Mengniu Dairy on Monday offered $13.25 per share to buy Bellamy’s, valuing the infant milk powder producer at A$1.5 billion ($1.03 billion)… 

The second deal widely expected to require FIRB approval is conglomerate Lendlease Group’s sale of an engineering services business plagued by cost overruns and writedowns of as much as A$750 million ($513 million).

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus plans to launch on-demand helicopter services in China, the company said Wednesday during a briefing.

George Xu [徐岗 Xú Gǎng], Airbus China’s CEO, told reporters that the company expects to roll out the services in southern China’s Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area sometime around the end of this year, adding that the area’s high urban density and consumption power show the business potential of short-distance air trips. Some of the flights may eventually be piloted by unmanned helicopters, Xu said.

China is moving forward rapidly its plans for a controversial social credit rating system that will include 33 million companies, raising fears of reprisals among foreign firms as Beijing seeks to extend its control over the business environment in the country.

Cattle ranchers in Argentina, which recently edged out neighbour Brazil as the leading exporter of beef to China, are hoping to build upon that status by winning Beijing’s approval for more meatpacking plants, industry officials and other sources said.

Self-driving company TuSimple on Tuesday announced it has secured an additional $120 million in an extended Series D, just seven months after receiving $95 million from Chinese internet company Sina as global investors rush to back startups powering the autonomous driving boom.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

China and Russia Tuesday agreed to further enhance cooperation in trade, energy and other areas, setting a goal to double bilateral trade volume.

The agreement came as Chinese Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强 visited Russia and co-chaired the 24th regular meeting between Chinese and Russian heads of government with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed on Tuesday to extend a U.N. political mission in Afghanistan after last-minute talks overcame a Chinese threat to veto if there was no reference to Beijing’s global Belt and Road infrastructure project. 

The final language — drafted by Germany and Indonesia — adopted by the 15-member council does not mention the project…

The resolutions mandating the mission in 2016, 2017 and 2018 all included a reference welcoming and urging efforts like China’s Belt and Road initiative to facilitate trade and transit, but in March the United States and some other council members said they could no longer accept that language.

China on Tuesday said the Kashmir issue may not be a “major topic” of discussion during the planned second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, notwithstanding the high voltage campaign by its close ally Pakistan over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

The U.S. is considering how to confront China over its detention of some 1 million Uygurs in the remote Xinjiang region when world leaders gather at the United Nations next week…

A senior U.S. administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the White House was considering whether Trump might mention China’s treatment of the Uygurs and possibly its broader human rights record in his speech to the 193-member UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

  • Panda diplomacy fail
    Outrage in China as giant panda on loan to Thailand zoo dies / Guardian
    “The sudden death of a beloved giant panda on loan to a zoo in Thailand has led to outrage in China and calls for no more of the bears to be lent to the country.” 

  • Birth tourism
    Chinese woman pleads guilty to running U.S, ‘birth tourism’ scheme / SCMP
    “A Chinese national pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges of running a ‘birth tourism’ scheme in California that catered to wealthy Chinese clients, including government officials, who paid large sums of money so their children would be U.S. citizens… She faces up to 15 years in prison at her sentencing on December 16.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

What makes a work of art queer? Sometimes it’s a touch of camp, a nod to drag, an urge to turn convention on its head. Sometimes it’s a fiery voice, a call to storm the patriarchal prisonhouse of gender. Sometimes it’s a subtler note — a longing sigh, a wary glance, a pained admission of forbidden love.

And sometimes it’s just rainbows and sex. Hui Ma’s work delights in every sort of erotic conjunction, with women and men and trans and nonbinary folk, in couples and singles and groups, all hugging, kissing, touching, rubbing, licking, romping, cavorting, frolicking, and fornicating their way across scene after libidinous scene. There are bodies of every description and shape and gender and hue — especially every hue: the rainbow colors seem to run together, like a pack of Skittles that’s melted onto the page.


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