China plans economic zone in space

Access Archive


Dear Access member,

Our word of the day is Cislunar Economic Zone (地月空间经济区 dì yuè kōngjiān jīngjì qū). 

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


1. China plans special economic zone in space

Caixin reports that Bāo Wèimín 包为民, a senior official at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, “said Wednesday at a forum in Beijing that the country plans to set up the economic zone in cislunar space — the area lying inside the moon’s orbit — within the next few decades.” His remarks appeared in a front-page report (in Chinese) in the Party newspaper associated with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

$10 trillion is the potential size of the economy of the Cislunar Economic Zone (地月空间经济区 dì yuè kōngjiān jīngjì qū), according to the report. 

2050 is the target date to be operational, but Bao said the basic technologies would be mastered by 2030, with 2040 as the target date to build a system of regular space flights and infrastructure. 

The main takeaway is that space will be commercialized. The space forum where the economic zone was discussed was “focused on the theme of ‘embracing the new era of aerospace and developing a new aerospace economy.’” Other buzzwords mentioned were
smart aerospace and commercial aerospace (智能航天 zhìnéng hángtiān, 商业航天 shāngyè hángtiān). 

Want to know more about China’s space program? We just published a guide to the Middle Kingdom’s ambitious plans for the final frontier: China’s space program is taking off

2. U.S. opens national security investigation into TikTok 

Reuters reports:

The U.S. government has launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app Musical.ly, according to three people familiar with the matter.

While the $1 billion acquisition was completed two years ago, U.S. lawmakers have been calling in recent weeks for a national security probe into TikTok, concerned the Chinese company may be censoring politically sensitive content, and raising questions about how it stores personal data…

About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24, the company said this year…

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals by foreign acquirers for potential national security risks, has started to review the Musical.ly deal, the sources said.

3. State tobacco monopoly warns against vape sales

The state China Tobacco Monopoly and commercial regulator State Administration for Market Regulation have issued a notice urging websites and vendors of vaping gear and e-cigarettes to desist from selling online, according to Chinese media reports. The New York Times explains (porous paywall):

The move could shut off one of the biggest markets for an industry that is facing scrutiny around the world. China has more than 7.4 million e-cigarette consumers, and it is the largest maker of e-cigarette products, according a study by Tsinghua University’s Public Health and Technology Supervision Research Group.

It also comes just two weeks before one the world’s busiest online shopping days, Singles Day, a holiday invented by the Chinese e-commerce website Alibaba…

To some, the notice, was as clear as a room filled with smoke. The vaguely worded statement, which was published on Friday on the websites of the State Administration of Markets and the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, left open questions about whether it qualified as a ban and whether it would be enforced.

“There is no law and regulation in China that forbids the online sale of e-cigarette yet,” said Ou Junbiao, head of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Committee of China. Mr. Ou said he thought that the regulator was worried about losing the tax revenue stream it gets from selling cigarettes.


Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • A Party plenary ended with a vague message on Hong Kong, vowing that Beijing would “build and improve a legal system and enforcement mechanism to defend national security in the special administrative regions.” Other than that, the important but opaque approximately annual meeting of the Central Committee focused on heightened risks abroad and at home, and a reaffirmation that the “Communist Party leads everything” in Chinese society. Beijing also this week released a “guide to the moral construction of citizens,” which emphasizes patriotism, traditional virtue, and above all, loyalty to President Xi Jinping. 

  • Beijing hyped blockchain technology, with the National People’s Congress passing a new law on cryptography a few days after Xi Jinping gave a speech urging “greater urgency in the development of blockchain technology.” The People’s Bank of China now looks likely to become the first central bank to launch its own digital currency. 

  • 5G telecom technology was launched to consumers, two months ahead of schedule. Big city areas are already covered by the next-generation networks, and by the end of the year, China will have over 10 times as many cell towers capable of beaming 5G signals than the U.S.

  • Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong (黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēng) was disqualified from running in the November 24 district council elections in Hong Kong. The reason stated for the rejection — that his advocacy of “self-determination” is incompatible with the Basic Law and Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over Hong Kong — is not applied consistently, as other candidates also advocating the same principles have been given the green light to run. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, anti-mainlander sentiment continues to rise, and the economy has officially sunk into a recession. 

  • Sòng Xīnníng 宋新宁, director of the Confucius Institute at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, was expelled for spying and now cannot enter Europe’s Schengen Area for eight years. 

  • Sea level rise threatens tens of millions in China’s coastal cities, a new study with more accurate measures of land elevation claimed. Besides mass relocations of people, there are defensive measures like levies that will have to be built to deal with this problem in the long term as climate change worsens. 

  • Groups of countries gave dueling statements on Xinjiang at a UN human rights committee. Britain read a statement on behalf of 23 countries that cited “credible reports” of mass arbitrary detentions and targeted persecution of Uyghurs, and Belarus read a statement on behalf of 54 countries that commended “China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.” Afterward, the Chinese foreign ministry mildly rebuked the U.S., but used harsher language for Australia for remarks by that country’s foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, that China must be held to account for human rights abuses, specifically in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, Serikjan Bilash, a Kazakh activist who has publicized thousands of accounts of detentions in Xinjiang, was banned by his government from political activism for seven years. 

  • Plans to sign a “Phase One” trade agreement were thrown into question after Chile canceled the APEC summit where it was supposed to take place. But despite some Trump administration officials selling it as a “fabulous deal,” it is reported to be a nothingburger, with Beijing making some vague IPR commitments, a promise to buy agricultural goods that would have been purchased anyway if Trump had not launched a tariff war, and both countries pledging a suspension of new tariffs and to not manipulate their currencies. Chinese officials have also made clear, according to Bloomberg, that they “won’t budge on the thorniest issues” and “remain concerned about President Donald Trump’s impulsive nature.” 

  • The U.S. Interior Department grounded all Chinese drones in its fleet, and Mike Pompeo began a series of speeches on China that began by excoriating the “truly hostile” values of the Chinese Communist Party, in the latest indications of a dim future for cooperation between Washington and Beijing. 

  • A 13-year-old boy in Dalian, Liaoning Province, has been sent to a juvenile correctional facility for a three-year term — the maximum allowed under Chinese law — after sexually assaulting and killing a 10-year-old girl last week. Many Chinese internet users would rather have seen the boy receive a death sentence

  • Canada’s new ambassador to Beijing, Dominic Barton, appears set to continue the Canadian government’s spineless response to extra-legal detentions, meaning Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor can expect to be behind bars in horrible conditions for a long, long time. 

  • The 39 people found dead in a truck in the U.K. last week are mostly Vietnamese, not Chinese, and may have been traveling on falsified Chinese passports. 

  • Staff at a hospital in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province, have been suspended for allegedly selling medical products used by Singaporean Mandopop singer-songwriter JJ Lin (林俊傑 Lín Jùnjié) during his stay at the facility.


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

“Using video footage, emotion recognition technology can rapidly identify criminal suspects by analysing their mental state . . . to prevent illegal acts including terrorism and smuggling,” said Li Xiaoyu, a policing expert and party cadre from the public security bureau in Altay city in Xinjiang. “We’ve already started using it.”

The technology is mostly deployed at customs, he added, and identifies signs of aggressiveness and nervousness as well as stress levels and a person’s potential to attack others. 

However, “scientists say the technology does not work very well.”

It started with an unverified rumor from an obscure social media account: Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank was insolvent.

Within hours of the post on Tuesday, more than 1,000 worried customers had lined up to withdraw their money. By Wednesday, a run on the bank had prompted local authorities to arrange more than 30 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) of liquidity injections. As branch staff sought to restore confidence, they displayed stacks of cash to convince depositors that there was enough to go around.

While the panic appeared to subside on Friday, the episode marked the latest test of faith in more than 2,000 rural Chinese lenders that collectively control $5 trillion of assets. 

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 

Around a quarter of the world’s pigs are expected to die from African swine fever as authorities grapple with a complex disease spreading rapidly in the globalization era, the World Organization for Animal Health’s president said Thursday.

A sharp reduction in the world’s pig population would lead to possible food shortages and high pork prices, and it might also cause shortfalls in the many products made from pigs, such as the blood-thinner heparin that’s used in people, said Dr. Mark Schipp, the organization’s president.

The disease’s spread in the past year to countries including China, which has half the world’s pigs, had inflamed a worldwide crisis, Schipp told reporters at a briefing in Sydney.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Rear Admiral Mǎ Wěimíng 马伟明, who is seen as the pioneer of China’s electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), was named as a full member, from alternate member, of the party’s Central Committee at the party plenary meeting which ended on Thursday.

See also this 2017 article from the SCMP: The top engineer with the key to China’s dream of having the world’s most powerful navy.

Almost every research topic Rear Admiral Ma Weiming has studied in recent years has resulted in actual equipment on Chinese warships, his colleague says.

A retired National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) professor who disappeared in China has been sentenced to a three-to-four year prison term on national security charges, a source close to the professor’s family told CNA Friday.

Shih Cheng-ping (施正屏 Shī Zhèngpíng), a retired associate professor from NTNU’s Graduate Institute of International Human Resource Development, has been missing in China since last August.

China has named its first special envoy to take charge of European affairs ahead of a leadership reshuffle of the European Commission later this year, and as Beijing seeks support from Europe amid its protracted trade war with Washington.

Wú Hóngbō 吴红波, a career diplomat who has held several posts in western Europe, has been appointed China’s first special envoy on European affairs.

Male Han Chinese “relatives” assigned to monitor the homes of Uyghur families in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region regularly sleep in the same beds as the wives of men detained in the region’s internment camps, according to sources who have overseen the forced stayovers. 

Using Russia-based servers and promoted by powerful groups linked to China’s ruling Communist Party, a sophisticated anonymous website is targeting Hong Kong pro-democracy figures — and there is almost no way to stop it. From high-profile activists to journalists and lawmakers, about 200 people seen as supporting Hong Kong’s protest movement have been “doxxed” — had their personal details posted online — by the site, HK Leaks, since it emerged in August.

  • More on souring Czech relations with China
    Czech-China love affair hits the rocks / Al Jazeera
    Chinese officials expressed anger when Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib “welcomed Taiwanese and Tibetan delegations and rejected Beijing’s demand that he respect the ‘One China’ policy,” and relations continue to sour:

China’s approach to centralised power has only made things worse. Noting efforts to pressure the national government, Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek stated that he had no authority to issue orders to an elected mayor.

The spat has revived public anger in the Czech Republic over perceived subservience to China; what was seen as the grovelling tone of a 2016 letter to Beijing following a visit by the Dalai Lama provoked widespread ridicule, which is enjoying a minor renaissance.

In a throwback to the Mao Zedong era, Chinese universities are deploying students as watchdogs against their teachers, part of a sweeping campaign by Mr. Xi to eliminate dissent and turn universities into party strongholds.

The use of student informers has surged under Mr. Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, with hundreds of universities now employing the practice, according to interviews with more than two dozen professors and students, as well as a review of public records.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:


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