Dear Access member,
Over the weekend, we published a profile and obituary of writer and activist Su Beng (史明 Shǐ Míng), who died on Friday in his native Taipei, after a lifetime of support for revolutionary causes, from communism in China in the 1930s to Taiwanese independence in his later years.
Taiwan-based journalist Chris Horton interviewed Su in March this year for SupChina. As far as we know, this was the first interview Su did with an English-language media outlet. Sadly, we are sure it will be the last.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
1. Uyghur prisoners shaved, shackled, and blindfolded
More grim news for Muslims in China:
The image above is from a video widely circulated on social media on the weekend that appears to show several hundred prisoners, presumably Uyghurs, blindfolded and shackled, with shaved heads, being lined up for transportation at a railway station in Korla, Xinjiang.
A “European security source”told Sky News that the footage “appears to be genuine.” In addition, cyber security researcher Nathan Ruser posted to Twitter a compelling explanation of how he verified that this video was likely filmed at Korla West Station in late August 2018. Click here to view the location on Google Maps.
“A crackdown on Islam is spreading across China,” says the New York Times (porous paywall), describing the growing restrictions on expressions of Islamic faith on the Hui, a Muslim ethnic group that has so far escaped the mass internment policies that are being applied to the Uyghurs. On the same topic, the Washington Post has published: ‘Boiling us like frogs’: China’s clampdown on Muslims creeps into the heartland, finds new targets.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Sunday: “I want to make clear that China’s repressive campaign in Xinjiang is not about terrorism. It’s about China’s attempt to erase its own citizens. We call on all countries to resist China’s demands to repatriate the Uyghurs,” per Al Jazeera.
2. A very expensive trade war
Four hundred and forty-four days after Trump declared the first tariffs on Chinese manufactures, the “easy to win” trade war is getting expensive:
“At $28 billion so far, the farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion,” reports Bloomberg (porous paywall).
China hawks in Trump’s administration want Beijing to quit subsidizing strategic industries, yet that hasn’t deterred the White House from doling out billions in aid to American farmers, who have become more dependent on government money than they’ve been in years… And farmers expect the money to keep flowing: In an August survey by Purdue University and the CME Group, 58 percent said they anticipate another round of trade aid next year.
Despite the farm subsidies, “‘Farmers are in serious, serious financial straits,’ John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, told HuffPost on Saturday. “He said he fears Trump ‘does not have the skill set or the experience to fix things’ with China.”
Other news from various fronts of the U.S.-China techno-trade war:
“The cancellation of a Chinese trade delegation’s trip to American farm states, news of which roiled U.S. markets, was not down to any failure in trade talks, according to a senior member of the delegation,” reports the South China Morning Post. “The planned trip to farms in Montana and Nebraska will be rescheduled at a later date,” said the official. This would not give me much hope if I were an American farmer.
“More Chinese manufacturers are looking to Thailand as a production base to avoid U.S. tariffs, based on trends in demand for the Southeast Asian nation’s industrial estates,” reports Bloomberg via Yahoo.
“Trump’s next trade feud has parcels from China in its sights,”says Bloomberg (porous paywall), noting the American administration’s plan to pull out of the Universal Postal Union, which we wrote about last week Monday
“After a decade of booming enrollment by students from China, American universities are starting to see steep declines as political tensions between the two countries cut into a major source of tuition revenue,” reports the Associated Press.
U.S. home sales to Chinese buyers are likely to drop to an eight-year low in the year ending next March as a prolonged Sino-U.S. trade war hits demand, according to estimates from Chinese real estate website Juwai.com, reports Reuters.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, “said on Sunday that White House Asia policy advisor Matt Pottinger would become his top deputy.” Last year, we noted an event at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., where Pottinger’s remarks on truth and language — and his quoting of Confucius in clear Mandarin — caused a small stir. Pottinger was previously a Wall Street Journal reporter based in Beijing, which he left to join the Marines.
3. ‘Oddball’ insurance — aka innovation
ZhongAn Online Property & Casualty Insurance — a six-year-old company backed by Ant Financial and Tencent, and Ping An Insurance — offers an insurance policy that pays a lump sum of “as much as 200,000 yuan (about $28,000) if their child aged 14 and under genuinely goes missing and a police report has been made,” reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall). The annual premium is around $70.
Other innovative insurance plans that the Wall Street Journal describes as “oddball policies…capitalize on people’s worries about unlikely events like ineffective vaccinations, and common mishaps like ecommerce shipping delays and broken smartphone screens.” The enormous numbers of Chinese people online and accustomed to mobile payments means that the insurance companies can keep marketing and customer acquisition costs low, and therefore offer reasonably priced premiums.
Zhongan offers more traditional products such as health insurance. But some of its plans have an interesting twist:
One ZhongAn product requires no premiums. Customers sign up, log their daily steps with the insurer’s mobile app and can earn medical-protection coverage of up to 50,000 yuan a year depending on how much they move. The plan promises lump-sum payouts if policyholders are diagnosed with any of 70 critical diseases or illnesses, including cancer. More than 26 million people have signed up since the plan was introduced in late 2015. After signing up these customers, the company tries to sell them additional products.
4. Chinese tech giant goes big into pig farming
Chinese tech giant NetEase, whose major services are computer games and ecommerce, “will build its third pig farm as the government vows to boost domestic pork production in response to the African swine fever disaster,” reports Caixin.
Netease first invested in pig farms in 2009 — so this move long predates the current swine fever crisis. The new farm is in cooperation with the city of Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, and is intended to “produce half a million hogs a year.”
Alibaba and JD are two other internet companies that are investing in pig farming and other agricultural projects, according to Abacus.
5. Another weekend of protests in Hong Kong
From a Guardian photo gallery titled “Teargas, flames and barricades: Hong Kong’s weekend of protest”:
Protests in Hong Kong show no signs of abating as demonstrators took to the streets in the 16th consecutive weekend of unrest. Tensions are escalating in the run-up to a significant political anniversary for Beijing, and riot police fired teargas, pepper spray and bean bag rounds on protesters who vandalised metro stations and set improvised barricades ablaze.
Protests continued today: “More than 100 pupils in school uniform and local residents took part in a flash mob singing protest at a shopping centre in the Hong Kong residential district of Wong Tai Sin on Monday evening,” reports the South China Morning Post:
The crowd sang the latest protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong and Chandelier by Australian singer Sia with modified lyrics that mocked police…The protest was similar to one held on Sunday night at the Times Square mall in Causeway Bay.
Other news from Hong Kong:
“The Hong Kong police arrested two 13-year-olds on the fringes of antigovernment demonstrations over the weekend, including a girl accused of burning a Chinese national flag, the authorities said on Sunday,” reports the New York Times (porous paywall).
“Hong Kong is set to tone down Chinese National Day celebrations, including moving guests indoors at the traditional flag-raising ceremony on October 1, to avoid potentially chaotic disruptions by anti-government protesters who are poised to escalate their actions to embarrass Beijing,” reports the South China Morning Post.
“Police dressed as protesters: How undercover police in Hong Kong severely injured people” is the title of a New York Times investigation in text and video (porous paywall) into the events of August 11, when, “for the first time, officers disguised as demonstrators were seen beating protesters and conducting arrests.”
Companies offering immigration services and overseas real estate are among the businesses doing well despite the downturn in Hong Kong’s economy, says the South China Morning Post.
Will police use their guns? “The head of Hong Kong’s biggest frontline police association has warned that officers could be forced to open fire if protesters try to snatch their guns,” according to the South China Morning Post.
“Hong Kong police have denied accusations they kicked a man during a rally in Yuen Long on Saturday and challenged witnesses to come forward, saying a video filmed by a local only showed officers kicking ‘a yellow object,’” reports the South China Morning Post. As you would expect, “yellow object” has already become an internet meme.
The employee of nationalist rag Global Times “who was assaulted by anti-government protesters at Hong Kong airport in August has been awarded 100,000 yuan ($14,000) for his ‘work performance,’” says the South China Morning Post. See our piece Hong Kong: The propaganda is working, for more on the incident, which we predicted would be milked for everything it’s worth.
6. A bald-faced lie from New Zealand’s biggest Chinese newspaper
Established in 1863, the New Zealand Herald has the highest circulation of any newspaper in the country. In 2015, the Herald’s owner, NZME Publishing, formed a 50:50 joint venture with a former banker named Wáng Lìlì 王立立 to publish the Chinese NZ Herald.
Today, Kiwi website Newsroom has this to report:
An investigation by Newsroom, with the help of China propaganda experts, found the news organization’s operational structure, and its Chinese state internet and security permits, amounted to the news site coming under the supervision and control of various Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities.
NZME denied the substance of the article, saying “the Chinese NZ Herald is not beholden to China’s media guidelines and censorship requirements.”
But the Chinese NZ Herald advertises state control on its own website! If you scroll down to the bottom of any webpage on the Chinese NZ Herald, you’ll see this: “京ICP备13048822号-26 京公网安备 11010202007750号.” That is a registration number from the Beijing internet authorities, tied to a Beijing registered company (called 北京中新唐印科技发展有限公司) — you can look it up on the Chinese government’s website registration portal (in Chinese).
In order to maintain this registration, the company has to comply with Chinese internet censorship laws, no exceptions. Displaying the registration number is as clear and loud an advertisement of control from Beijing as an enormous hammer and sickle and Chinese flag would be.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Electric cars death watch — Nio on life support
After $5 billion in losses, China’s Tesla fights to survive / Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance
It took Tesla Inc. about 15 years to rack up $5 billion in losses. The company some regarded as China’s Tesla did it in four.
And the bleeding continues. Shanghai-based NIO Inc. is poised to report Tuesday that it lost another 2.6 billion yuan ($369 million) — around $4 million a day — during the second quarter, according to the average of two analysts’ estimates.
Self-driving taxi licenses issued in Wuhan
Wuhan issues first autonomous vehicle licenses for commercial uses / Caixin Live
The central city of Wuhan issued Sunday China’s first licenses allowing companies to operate autonomous vehicles for commercial use, local state-run newspaper Changjiang Daily reported [in Chinese], in a move that paves the way for companies to roll out “robotaxi” services in future.
Shanghai recently approved a pilot program for robotaxis in the city’s Jiading district.
Stimulus — easy credit for Hubei students?
A Chinese province wants to lend students $1.4 billion to spend / Quartz
The Hubei Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission has announced plans to expand credit to the province’s university students — at around 5,000 yuan per student — “in a bid to replace the illegal campus loans that have surfaced in recent years.”
Stimulus — local government bonds
Local governments urged to rush bond plans amid fresh signs of slowdown / Caixin (paywall)
Beijing has instructed local governments to submit their plans for issuing special-purpose bonds as soon as possible, Caixin has learned.
The directive signals that central government policymakers are in a hurry to square away funding for growth-boosting infrastructure projects amid fresh signs that growth is slowing.
Government officials at private firms in Hangzhou
China to send state officials to 100 private firms including Alibaba / Reuters
China’s top technology hub Hangzhou plans to assign government officials to work with 100 private companies including e-commerce giant Alibaba [and auto maker Zhejiang Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd], according to state media reports, in a move likely to raise concerns over the growing role of the state.
Large firms already have Party representation, usually at a senior level. It is unclear what role the newly assigned officials will play.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Antibiotic resistance in farm animals
Alarm as antimicrobial resistance surges among chickens, pigs and cattle / Nature
Antibiotics for both human and animal use are not tightly controlled in China, and it’s starting to show, as farm animals all over the developing world “are becoming more resistant to common antimicrobial drugs.” Click through to see a heat map showing affected areas: Northeast China is glowing bright red.
Using mosquitoes to kill mosquitoes
How a ‘mosquito factory’ in southern China could help fight disease / Caixin (paywall)
Malaria and dengue fever are two of the most serious illnesses affecting the developing world, and they are both carried by mosquitoes. This article profiles an international group of scientists directing a factory in Guangzhou that produces male mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria. When released into the wild, they mate with female mosquitoes who lay infertile eggs.
Although early results are promising, the efficacy of this method is not yet established, but it’s one of many new attempts to provide alternatives to pesticides that are environmentally unsound, and difficult to use effectively at scale.
Grim news on air pollution
How air pollution makes people unhappy and irrational, and why in China it is likely to keep getting worse / SCMP
Scientists have warned of 20,000 additional deaths per year and rising levels of unhappiness in China due to rapid growth in air pollution.
Three separate studies indicate that the country has been unsuccessful in curbing methane emissions and continues to pump climate changing gases into the atmosphere despite tough new regulations.
The biggest deployer of renewable energy in the world
John Holdren on China’s climate leadership / China Dialogue
John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, states:
China has become the biggest deployer of renewable energy in the world, including not only hydropower but also wind and solar. That is an important form of leadership in deploying the cleanest energy technologies. Besides, China has been rapidly increasing its research and development on advanced technologies, faster than the US has been increasing its investment in that domain.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
New British probe into CGTN
Ofcom investigates CGTN over coverage of Hong Kong protests / Guardian
The Chinese state-backed news channel CGTN is under investigation by the British media regulator over claims its coverage of protests in Hong Kong breached broadcasting rules…“requiring news to be presented with due impartiality” on four occasions in August and September…
The channel has been aggressively hiring hundreds of staff in the UK for the launch of its London-based operation, offering substantial salaries to staff from the likes of Sky News and the BBC. The new set-up is due to formally launch in the coming weeks but the channel now faces being drawn into the same regulatory quagmire which has plagued the Russian state-backed news channel RT.
CGTN is already the subject of an ongoing inquiry into claims the channel aired the forced confessions of prisoners, including one of a British citizen who was arrested while he was based in China.
The Taliban visit Beijing
China urges US to continue to engage with Taliban after talks in Beijing / SCMP
China on Monday called on Washington to continue to engage with the Taliban following talks with the insurgent group in Beijing, after negotiations with the U.S. collapsed earlier this month.
A nine-member Taliban delegation traveled to the Chinese capital and met the country’s special representative for Afghanistan, Dèng Xījūn 邓锡军, on Sunday, the group’s Qatar-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a tweet [in Pashto].
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Gěng Shuǎng 耿爽 confirmed the meeting, saying Beijing was committed to the peace process in Afghanistan.
All about the optics — Malaysia and China establish bilateral maritime dialogue
How will Malaysia and China’s consultation mechanism affect the South China Sea dispute? / SCMP
In a meeting between Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and China’s State Councillor Wáng Yì 王毅, the Chinese official announced “a new platform for dialogue and cooperation” for maritime issues… The mechanism is unlikely to make any strides towards resolving the dispute, experts say, [however, it] not only reflects China’s preferred method for dealing with the dispute, but also strengthens the narrative that “Asian countries are working to resolve Asian security problems and that there’s no need for ‘outsiders’ such as the United States to get involved.”
The Philippines has a similar bilateral consultation mechanism with China, but it has not resolved any of the disputes between the two countries.
Preparing for the 70th anniversary parade
Closing my curtains for Xi Jinping and his grand parade / NYT (porous paywall)
As Beijing goes into security lockdown ahead of the October 1 military parade, Javier C. Hernández writes:
As an American journalist based in Beijing for the past four years, I am accustomed to onerous visa rules, hassles at the airport and arbitrary detentions in the countryside.
But never had the police insisted on occupying my home. I imagined a cantankerous bunch of officers spread out on the sofa, poring over books on dissident art and American politics as they smoked the night away.
China’s Hebei Province orders industries to step up smog controls / Reuters
“Major steelmaking districts in China’s Hebei province plan to slash output in the last week of September to improve air quality ahead of National Day celebrations next week.”
China’s National Day parade to showcase advances in nuclear deterrence / SCMP
“Among the 33 weapon squads, the highlights are expected to be the PLA’s strategic nuclear missiles such as the Rocket Force’s land-based DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF-17 hypersonic missile and the sea-launched JL-2, or Big Wave-2.”
工信部回应国庆期间加强VPN管控:合法使用受法律保护 / Beijing News via Sina
In response to a reporter’s question about internet user complaints of difficulties in using VPNs to browse overseas websites, a spokesperson for telecommunications regulator MIIT said that people using legal, government-approved websites are having no problems.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Transgender activism in Chengdu
Transgender choir sings for acceptance in China / AFP
In an old theatre between soaring tower blocks in China’s southwestern city of Chengdu, a choir of transgender singers are on stage belting out the empowering lyrics of Jolin Tsai’s anthem “Me”… The choir was singing at the Milk LGBT Gala in Chengdu, a city known for being more open about LGBT issues than other places in China, where attitudes are still very conservative.
Creative nonfiction in translation
Chinese teacher for deaf builds World Cup squad, part 1 / Chinarrative
“The first in a two-part series about a soccer team for the deaf in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.”
Chinese for ‘Han clothing,’ Hànfú 汉服 is based on the idea of donning costumes worn in bygone eras by China’s dominant Han ethnicity. Some of the most popular styles are from the Ming, Song and Tang dynasties.
Hanfu enthusiasts doubled to two million in 2018 from a year earlier, according to a survey by Hanfu Zixun, a popular community account on the Wechat social media platform.
See also Wikipedia’s summary and links on the controversies around Hanfu.
FEATURED ON SUPCHINA
Independence activist Su Beng dies at 100
Chinese interest in domestic hockey at all-time high
Kunlun Red Star — China’s men’s ice hockey team in the Kontinental Hockey League based in Shenzhen — has set four attendance records since the start of the season.
The five best Jay Chou songs
Taiwanese singer/songwriter Jay Chou (周杰伦 Zhōu Jiélún) released his latest single “Won’t Cry” (说好不哭) on September 16 to big fanfare. That said, “Won’t Cry” is far from Chou’s best work. If you’re among the uninitiated, please don’t use it as your entry point to the world of China’s pop king. Try these five songs instead.
Who will push back against Chinese internet censorship?
Kaiser Kuo answers the question, “Why does the U.S. allow Chinese tech companies to go public on American stock exchanges when China blocks Google and Facebook and others from operating in China?”
SINICA PODCAST NETWORK
Sinica Early Access: Christian Shepherd on Xinjiang and China’s changing ethnic policy
This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy speak with Christian Shepherd, the Beijing correspondent for the Financial Times. They discuss his debut longform piece for the FT, Fear and oppression in Xinjiang: China’s war on Uighur culture, and dive into the policy drivers behind the assimilation efforts being carried out by the central government in Xinjiang, and his experiences while reporting from the region.
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 99
This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: How a drone attack in Saudi Arabia affected China’s large oil refiners, China’s detention of a FedEx pilot, Airbus’s plan to launch on-demand helicopter services in China, and more.