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Washington gives Chinese diplomats a taste of their own medicine


Dear Access member,

Our word of the day is a Chinese saying that means more or less the same as “a taste of your own medicine” (以其人之道,還治其人之身 yǐ qí rén zhī dào, huán zhì qí rén zhī shēn).

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


Cuī Tiānkǎi 崔天凯, China’s ambassador to the U.S., is not happy

1. ‘Washington gives Chinese diplomats a taste of their own medicine’

The New York Times reports (porous paywall): 

The United States has begun requiring Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department before any meetings they plan to have with local or state officials and with educational and research institutions, the State Department said Wednesday.

The move was a reaction to the Chinese government’s rules for American diplomats in China, a senior State Department official said. American diplomats are generally required to obtain the permission of Chinese officials in Beijing before they can travel to official meetings in the provinces or to visit institutions, the official said.

The new State Department requirement was still less onerous than that imposed by China. Chinese diplomats are not required to seek permission for the meetings; they need only to notify the State Department in advance.

One aim of the new restrictions was to get China to relent on its limits on the actions of American diplomats, the official said, adding that the United States had complained to the Chinese government about the regulations, to no avail.

An editorial in the Washington Post by Josh Rogin titled “Washington gives Chinese diplomats a taste of their own medicine” summarizes the mood in the American capital:

For years, the Chinese government has become accustomed to doing things in our country that it doesn’t let us do in its. But those days may now be coming to an end.

2. Horrifying new eyewitness testimony from Xinjiang

Israeli newspaper Haaretz has published what scholar Adrian Zenz calls a “deeply disturbing new witness account”: A million people are jailed at China’s gulags. I managed to escape. Here’s what really goes on inside. A summary from Zenz: 

Torture, rape. Raping a girl in front of detainees to evaluate whether they have been “transformed” (show no emotions when seeing such horror). Honestly, this leaves me utterly distraught on a new level.  

Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times reports (porous paywall): 

Imagine that you are a university president, heading to Europe to launch a major new research partnership. Upon arriving at the airport, you are arrested. You are then tried in secret and sentenced to death.

This is exactly what happened to Tashpolat Tiyip, former president of China’s Xinjiang University, prominent geographer and scholar, and a Uyghur — an ethnic minority in China. He was heading to Leibniz University in Germany in March 2017 to sign an agreement to create a new Joint Center for Underground Coal Fire Research when he was detained, along with two others from the delegation, at the airport in Beijing.

3. China bans shipment of black clothes to Hong Kong

Here is the latest from the City of Protest: 

“China has banned the bulk shipment to Hong Kong of black clothing and other gear used by protesters, staff at Chinese courier firms said,” reports Reuters. “Customer services staff at some of China’s major couriers, including STO Express, ZTO Express and YTO Express, told Reuters that the curbs were put in place around August.”

State media is promoting videos of Singapore’s prime minister criticizing Hong Kong protesters. In the South China Morning Post’s words: “A video of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong [李顯龍 Lǐ Xiǎnlóng] saying his country would be ‘finished’ if it were hit by Hong Kong-style protests has gone viral in mainland China, prompting social media users to praise the Lion City’s strong governance.” It’s not clear if the video went “viral” or has simply been heavily pushed by state media. Here is one version of the clip — a compilation of comments by Lee at different occasions — from CGTN on YouTube

“I spent the past few months following the evolution of a group of Hong Kong protesters — frontliners, moderates, high schoolers — as they fight for democracy against the world’s most powerful authoritarian state,” tweets Sue-Lin Wong. Her feature story based on this reporting is in the Financial Times (paywall).  

The protests are taking an economic and psychological toll on migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

“A soon-to-be-released murder suspect, originally at the center of Hong Kong’s political crisis sparked by the government’s now-withdrawn extradition bill, has decided to turn himself in to Taiwan authorities,” according to the South China Morning Post

Pro-Beijing intimidation in the U.K.? The Guardian reports

Supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests say they are being intimidated and harassed by pro-Beijing Chinese students and others at their events around the U.K., forcing police to step in to separate them from counter-demonstrations…

Hong Kong activists — who complain they are being filmed and photographed — link the counter-demonstrations to UK-based Chinese student organizations supported by the Chinese government.

4. Two detained Americans released on bail 

As we noted yesterday, China detained two Americans who worked at China Horizons, an English-language teaching and study-abroad company. One of the Americans is apparently a Mormon, and may have been engaged in missionary work. 

They have both been released on bail, according to China’s foreign ministry. 

5. The invisible Trump trade deal 

The Washington Post reports:

President Trump claimed that he struck a “phase one” trade deal with China on Friday and that the Chinese agreed to massive purchases of U.S. farm products. But nearly a week has passed, and China has not confirmed that critical piece of the agreement.

According to the White House, a key part of Trump’s initial deal is China’s commitment to buy $40 billion to $50 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products. But nothing was written on paper, and China’s Commerce Ministry would not confirm that figure Thursday, saying instead purchases would be made according to Chinese market needs.

6. Publisher warning about Peter Navarro’s imaginary friend

Is this peak 2019? The South China Morning Post reports on the American president’s in-house China-basher: 

A key source quoted frequently by US President Donald Trump’s top trade adviser and anti-China author Peter Navarro has been outed as a fake and reprints of his book Death by China will contain a publisher’s warning that it contains a fictional character…

All reprints of Navarro’s supposedly non-fiction Death by China will “alert” readers that the Harvard-educated economist Ron Vara quoted within its pages is faked, according to Pearson, which owns the book’s publisher, Prentice Hall.

7. NBA stands by Daryl Morey despite implosion of China business

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is sticking to his guns. ESPN reports

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that the league is already dealing with “fairly dramatic” financial consequences from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s support of Hong Kong’s anti-government protesters.

“The losses have already been substantial,” Silver said… “Our games are not back on the air in China as we speak, and we’ll see what happens next.I don’t know where we go from here. The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic”…

The league’s follow-up comments stressed that the league supported Morey’s right to speak on an issue.

“We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn


Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 used a colorful expression to threaten Hong Kong protesters: 粉身碎骨 fěnshēn suìgǔ — literally, “split apart the body and break the bones into fragments,” or “grind you up and crush your bones.” The expression comes from a Ming dynasty poem

  • The protests show no sign of slowing down in Hong Kong. On October 16, one of the leading organizers of peaceful marches, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit (岑子杰 Cén Zijié), convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, was bludgeoned by four assailants in the street, even as Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) was forced to suspend her annual address to the Legislative Council after being heckled. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, to the fury of Beijing.

  • Even a limited U.S.-China trade deal remains invisible, as no terms have been put into writing, and Beijing is reportedly insisting on further tariff delays or rollbacks before letting agricultural purchases go forward. American media has come to a realistic, pessimistic outlook on Trump’s trade bluster much faster this time than in previous iterations of the trade war hype cycle. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley has turned against China, according to reporting by Shelly Banjo, Hong Kong correspondent for Bloomberg. However, Citigroup is reportedly planning to set up a wholly owned brokerage in China, in another sign that China’s opening of its financial sector is real. 

  • Xi Jinping visited India and Nepal. In India, Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi avoided discussing sensitive political topics like Kashmir or their own disputed borders, and instead released upbeat statements about improving economic links. In Nepal, Xi became the first Chinese president in 22 years to visit, and inked a deal for a rail link with Tibet. However, the Himalayan nation did not agree with China on an extradition treaty, defense, and border road construction, amid worries they would infringe on Nepal sovereignty. 

  • In the first court ruling punishing sexual harassment on public transport, Shanghai sentenced a man to six months in jail for groping an adult woman and an underage girl on a subway train. In related news, the head of a TV station at Central South University (CSU) in Hunan Province is under investigation for alleged sexual assault.

  • Tencent resumed streaming of NBA games, but the sports and esports worlds continued to be rocked by Hong Kong–related controversies. Tencent canceled the streaming of ESPN’s Woj in the House show, after the host was found to have “liked” the tweet by Daryl Morey that started the whole controversy. Meanwhile, Blizzard doubled down on its policy to punish political speech from professional gamers. In other news, a Wall Street Journal analysis found that the anti-Morey tweet storm appeared to be a Chinese state-coordinated campaign. 

  • Basketball superstar LeBron James has been condemned as a bootlicker by the sports press and on social media after he criticized Daryl Morey — the Houston Rockets general manager whose tweet set off the firestorm — for not being “educated on the situation at hand.”

  • Deutsche Bank hired “more than 100 relatives of the Communist Party’s ruling elite,” despite their lack of qualifications, according to a New York Times investigation. The bank has reportedly gone to great lengths to curry favor with former premier Wēn Jiābǎo 温家宝, and even offered jobs to the children of two current Politburo Standing Committee members, Wāng Yáng 汪洋 and Lì Zhànshū 栗战书 — even though Li’s daughter was “judged unqualified for the bank’s corporate communications team.” 

  • The China debate in Australia continues to heat up, as the Australian opposition Labor Party’s shadow foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong (黄英贤 Huáng Yīngxián), gave a speech arguing that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s foreign policy ideas, especially with regards to China, are “disturbingly lightweight.” Meanwhile, a Four Corners report investigated connections between Australian universities and China’s surveillance state. 

  • Grim reports of the creeping elimination of Uyghur culture continue to seep out of Xinjiang, as an AFP investigation found dozens of burial grounds had been destroyed, and scholar Timothy Grose documented the decade-long effort to transform the appearance of Uyghur women. 

  • The technology for dual-use turbine engines was hacked by a “mixture of cyber actors” in China, and “could be used for both energy generation and to enable its narrow-body twinjet airliner, the C919, to compete against western aerospace firms,” according to CrowdStrike, a highly respected cybersecurity company. 

  • Three countries have objected to a scene in a movie, Abominable, co-produced by DreamWorks Animation and Shanghai-based Pearl Studio, which shows China’s South China Sea claims via the nine-dash line in a scene. Vietnam pulled the movie entirely, Malaysia censored the scene in question, and the Philippines foreign minister called for the scene to be cut and for the film to be boycotted. 


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

  • Cryptocurrency and surveillance
    China’s cryptocurrency plan has a powerful partner: Big Brother / NYT (porous paywall)
    “Facebook’s Libra project led Beijing to accelerate its efforts. The government could soon know a lot more about how people are spending.”

  • Financial opening
    China allows access to dual-class stocks listed in Hong Kong / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “China will allow onshore investors to buy dual-class shares traded in Hong Kong for the first time, giving them access to some of the world’s hottest startups such as Xiaomi Corp and Meituan Dianping.”

  • Mad cow disease forgotten at last
    China opens doors to British beef / Gov.uk
    “For the first time in over 20 years, UK farmers and beef producers will have full access to the Chinese market, marking the end of a ban imposed by China following the BSE outbreak in 1996.” 

  • Slowing economy
    China’s economic growth slows as challenges mount / NYT (porous paywall)
    “The U.S. trade war is only part of the problem, as Beijing grapples with weakening investment and falling car sales.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 

  • Deep-sea mining
    China’s deep-sea mining, a view from the top / Chinadialogue
    The progress and future plans for deep-sea mining, according to the secretary general of the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association.

  • Is China backsliding on environmental commitments?
    China’s EIA rollback / Council on Foreign Relations
    “A decision to remove environmental impact assessment requirements for some Shanghai construction projects embodies a trend of sliding environmental standards as China’s economy slows. It also draws questions about China’s greater commitments to environmental protection.”

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

A century after his birth and nearly 15 years after his death, Zhào Zǐyáng 赵紫阳, the reformist Chinese Communist Party leader who opposed the armed suppression of student protests in 1989, was given a quiet burial in Beijing on Friday under police guard. 

The low-key, long-delayed ceremony was the latest episode showing that even in death, Mr. Zhao remains a sensitive topic in Chinese politics. 

The New START treaty, the last major arms control accord between the world’s two nuclear superpowers, is set to expire in early 2021. Like another key treaty covering intermediate-range nuclear missiles, which collapsed this year after the U.S. quit that accord, Trump administration officials say the agreement may not be worth extending if China isn’t brought into the fold.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • Cuisine
    Anything with bullfrog can prove a hit / Xinhua
    “Bullfrog, with its light taste and tender texture between chicken and fish, is a crowd-favorite delicacy in Shanghai and across China all year round.”


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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.