Important correction, plus: Zuck concedes defeat

Access Archive


Dear Access member,

An important correction:

Multiple sources have confirmed that the allegation we published last week that a pair of Americans detained in China may have been engaged in missionary work has no basis in fact. We have this from three first-hand sources who knew the pair, and from several reliable sources who confirm that the Mormons and their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not proselytize officially, nor allow their members to do unofficial missionary work in the P.R.C.

My sincere apologies for the error. With so many people being detained in China in murky circumstances right now, it is critical that we get every detail right when we summarize, quote, or report on cases. The pair are now on bail but no further information has emerged since Friday.  

Our word of the day is mea culpa (我的错 wǒ de cuò). 

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Perhaps the PM2.5 wasn’t worth it? Mark Zuckerberg — in the more hopeful days of 2016 — jogs through the smog of Tiananmen Square on one of his many schmooze-cruises to China. Photo source: Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook post

1. Mark Zuckerberg finally concedes defeat in China

On Thursday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech at Georgetown University. There’s an interesting section on China, a country where the company’s only real business is selling advertisements aimed at foreign markets, despite years of sycophantic efforts to please Beijing

China is building its own internet focused on very different values, and is now exporting their vision of the internet to other countries. Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free expression values. There’s no guarantee these values will win out. A decade ago, almost all of the major internet platforms were American. Today, six of the top ten are Chinese.

We’re beginning to see this in social media. While our services, like WhatsApp, are used by protesters and activists everywhere due to strong encryption and privacy protections, on TikTok, the Chinese app growing quickly around the world, mentions of these protests are censored, even in the US.

Is that the internet we want?

It’s one of the reasons we don’t operate Facebook, Instagram or our other services in China. I wanted our services in China because I believe in connecting the whole world and I thought we might help create a more open society. I worked hard to make this happen. But we could never come to agreement on what it would take for us to operate there, and they never let us in. And now we have more freedom to speak out and stand up for the values we believe in and fight for free expression around the world.

2. Another tense week of U.S.-China relations begins 

Every aspect of the U.S.-China relationship is under pressure right now. Here are some of today’s stress points:

“NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will face ‘retribution sooner or later’ for saying that Beijing wanted him to fire the general manager of the Houston Rockets, state broadcaster CCTV said in a commentary published late Friday [in Chinese],” reports CNBC:

The government-controlled broadcaster said Silver “crossed the bottom line” by continuing to defend Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey. “To cater to the taste of certain American politicians,” CCTV claims, Silver “fabricated lies out of thin air” and portrayed China as unforgiving.

“The U.S. ambassador to China is pushing back against Beijing’s criticism of a new State Department requirement that Chinese diplomats must report certain meetings they have in the U.S.,” reports NPR.

Speaking in Beijing, U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad, a former governor of Iowa, told NPR that the reporting requirements were “modest” compared to how China demands all foreign diplomats ask for the Chinese government’s permission before traveling or meeting with local officials and universities in an official capacity.

See also: U.S. diplomat David Stilwell says Washington must shed its myths about China to check Beijing’s growing influence in the SCMP. 

“China is seeking $2.4 billion in retaliatory sanctions against the United States for non-compliance with a WTO ruling in a tariffs case dating to the Obama era,” reports Reuters.

“After pleading guilty to conspiring to export military- and space-grade technology to China without a license in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 39-year-old Chinese national Tao Li was sentenced to 40 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice notice released last Friday. 

3. Schmoozing foreign firms 

Beijing has turned up the intensity of its financial opening charm offensive, and some of the promised reforms appear to have been realized.  

“At least on paper, the Chinese government is trying to show how serious it is about improving the local business environment for foreign companies,” says CNBC:

Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, told reporters Friday that based on a preliminary look at the country’s new foreign investment law, “It is surprisingly accommodating to all concerns … we have.”

Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 “hailed” the role of foreign companies at the Qingdao Multinationals Summit over the weekend, according to the China Daily: “Global entrepreneurs are welcome to invest in China and strive for win-win outcomes to create a better future for both sides.” 

Meanwhile in Beijing, Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强 met “heads from multinational corporations, including BMW, Emerson, Sanofi and other enterprises” and said that “China is providing a constantly improving environment for manufacturers from around the world,” per the State Council’s website.  

“Beijing is letting Hyundai Group, the South Korean carmaker, gain full ownership of one of its mainland operations — a rare move by China to cede its stake in a joint venture with a foreign company,” the South China Morning Post reports

4. Fire and blue dye in Hong Kong

Hong Kong saw another weekend of violence, and once again no political movement towards a resolution of the ongoing crisis. 

“Hong Kong protesters went on a rampage on Sunday hurling petrol bombs and setting ablaze multiple stores along Kowloon’s main thoroughfare, as police fired tear gas and water cannons which sprayed the entrance of the city’s biggest mosque with blue dye, fuelling tensions in the area,” according to the South China Morning Post. There was more unrest on Monday night, per the SCMP

Police fired blue dye from a water cannon at a mosque during Sunday’s demonstrations. A police spokesperson now says “its deployment was intended to protect the mosque,” reports the Hong Kong Free Press. However, “eyewitnesses said that there were no protesters nearby at the time of the incident.” Chief Executive Carrie Lam has visited the mosque and apologized (link to Youtube). 

—Jeremy Goldkorn


Disney and China’s biggest online publisher, Tencent’s China Literature, have teamed up to develop a new Chinese Star Wars online novel and release 40 older e-books in Chinese for the first time.

In an attempt to cultivate grass-roots enthusiasm for a franchise that has not yet managed to find a strong foothold in the world’s second-largest film market, Disney will make the 40 Star Wars novels available in Chinese for the first time on Tencent’s digital reading platform, at no cost for the first week.

—Some American hardware providers attend state-backed event along with Chinese entrepreneurs Jack Ma [Mǎ Yún 马云] and Robin Li [李彦宏 Lǐ Yànhóng.]

—Honeywell, Qualcomm, Intel, and Cisco Systems, as well as software and cloud services provider Microsoft attend event also known as the Wuzhen Summit.

  • Hikvision after the entity list
    Hikvision foresees overseas customer losses amid U.S. blacklisting / Bloomberg via Caixin
    “Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology warned it may lose customers in overseas markets because of its U.S. blacklisting, underscoring the extent to which curbs on the sale of American technology may hurt the world’s largest video surveillance business.”


Pressured by its growing middle class, the Chinese government has set itself an ambitious target: first-world health outcomes at a fraction of the cost that other countries, especially the U.S., pays.

To get there, China has doubled the amount it’s pouring into public hospitals in the last five years to $38 billion. It wants to see a healthcare industry valued at $2.3 trillion by 2030, more than twice its size now.

The cost control part will be much harder. Beijing wants the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world to bend the knee, lowering their prices drastically in order to get access to its vast patient pool. In new drugs, pharmaceuticals from Pfizer to Roche have agreed to cuts of as much as 70 percent. 


Rights activists on Monday called for the release of Shanghai activist Chén Jiànfāng 陈建芳, who has been held incommunicado for more than six months on subversion charges, saying she is at high risk of torture.

Chen was detained on March 20 alongside her husband [Xǔ Jiànjūn 许建军], and the couple ‘disappeared’ for several months. Chen was formally arrested on suspicion of “subversion of state power” on May 22, while her husband was released on bail on April 3.


I was obsessed with 贾平娃 Jiǎ Píngwá long before I received the commission to work with Nicky Harman on translating the Chinese author’s late-period novel Qinqiang. I had first come across his most famous early work Ruined City shortly after turning twenty, when a book could still change my life.


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