Chinese regulators go after vaping, and smoking on TV

Access Archive


Dear Access member,

Today is li dong (立冬 lì dōng), the first day of winter, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, and that’s our word of the day. 

Have a great weekend! 

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


Scene from the 2018 film Project Gutenberg (無雙 wú shuāng), which contains many smoking scenes (in Chinese). 

1. Regulators go after vaping, and smoking on TV

Yesterday, eight government departments, including the National Health Commission, the Publicity (née Propaganda) Department, the National Tobacco Bureau, and China’s film and TV regulator, released a notice (in Chinese) concerning tobacco and e-cigarette use among minors. 

The document calls for:

  • Strictly investigating and punishing for illegal sales of tobacco products to minors.

  • Eliminating all cigarette advertising from mass media and public places. 

  • Strengthening censorship of films and TV programs:

    • Smoking scenes that are irrelevant to the plot “should be strictly limited.” 

    • Scenes involving smoking in a public space should be reduced or eliminated, and minors may not be depicted smoking.

    • Films and TV shows with excessive smoking scenes should not be considered for awards or prizes.  

  • “Standardizing the management of electronic cigarette hazards,” which seems to mean greatly restricting their marketing and sale: 

In recent years, the usage rate of electronic cigarettes in China has shown a clear upward trend among the youth. The composition of e-cigarette liquid and the second-hand smoke produced by it are not safe. There is no conclusive evidence that e-cigarette can help to effectively quit smoking. 

All localities should take the initiative to strengthen education on the hazards of electronic cigarettes. Do not promote e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, and advocate that young people to stay away from e-cigarettes.

One thing to note: The National Tobacco Bureau, also known as the National Tobacco Monopoly and China Tobacco, is both the regulator and supplier of all the cigarettes on sale in China, and an important tax generator for the Chinese government. However, it does not currently control the manufacture or sale of vaping products — China Tobacco has a vested interest in keeping Chinese smokers on traditional cigarettes. 

See also on SupChina:China’s cigarette smoking epidemic by Pei Hao, which looks at how massive tax revenues and cultural normalization stand in the way of China’s tobacco control initiatives.

2. Trump likes tariffs — can a deal be signed?

The New York Times reports (porous paywall): 

President Trump on Friday ruled out rolling back all the tariffs he has imposed on China and indicated that he has not yet decided which levies, if any, he might eliminate as part of an initial trade agreement.

The comments came amid conflicting signals this week from the White House and China over the fate of Mr. Trump’s tariffs. The United States has already imposed levies on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods and another round is scheduled for December. China has been pushing to have some portion of tariffs rolled back as part of a “Phase 1” trade agreement and on Thursday, government officials confirmed that the Trump administration would eliminate some tariffs if a deal was reached.

CNBC has this

An agreement between the United States and China to roll back existing tariffs as part of a “phase one” trade deal faces fierce internal opposition in the White House and from outside advisers, multiple sources familiar with the talks said.

The idea of a tariff rollback was not part of the original October “handshake” deal between Chinese Vice Premier Liú Hè 刘鹤 and U.S. President Donald Trump, the sources said.

This is how Trump’s in-house China-basher and trade adviser Peter Navarro described the situation in an interview this morning with NPR:

NAVARRO: I can confirm that there is no agreement to remove any of the existing tariffs as a condition of signing a phase-one deal. That did come right out of the ministry of propaganda, as it were, in China – was widely misreported in the press.

NPR: Let’s talk about that. If there’s no deal to roll back tariffs, why is China saying there is? You reference propaganda. What do you think is going on here?

NAVARRO: Well, somebody joked to me yesterday that the real negotiations with China don’t really start until you have a handshake deal — is what we had in October. Basically, they’re trying to renegotiate or retrade the October deal, and I don’t fault them for it. That’s kind of what they do. But the reality is that what is on the table is there’s the tariffs coming in December – December 15. We would be willing, I think — again, it’s up to the president – to postpone those tariffs.

It does not sound like a deal is even close.  

3. Beijing to Canada: We just need the meat 

The Globe and Mail reports:

The Chinese government says Ottawa-Beijing relations will only improve when Canada releases Huawei executive Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟, rejecting the notion that a lifting of a ban on meat imports is a sign of a thaw in Sino-Canadian ties.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Gěng Shuǎng 耿爽 made the statement in response to a question at a media briefing in Beijing earlier this week.

China had banned Canadian pork and beef shipments in late June, with Chinese authorities at the time citing falsified export certificates as the reason for this measure. Canadian farmers and the agrifood industry saw their sales to China severely damaged in the wake of Canada’s arrest of Ms. Meng, Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer, at the Vancouver International Airport in December, 2018. This included not only an end to shipments of pork and beef, but also a drastic reduction in the amount of canola seed and soybean purchased by Chinese buyers…

China experts, including former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques, said Beijing’s decision to reopen markets had more to do with a desperate need for pork after African swine flu devastated Chinese herds.

Mr. Geng, however, cast the ban removal as a response to Canada fixing “safety loopholes” in its meat export system.

Geng did not apparently comment on the fate of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians arrested and accused of espionage shortly after Meng’s arrest, “in what was widely seen as retaliation.” 

4. Xi Jinping is traveling again 

Xinhua News Agency says: “Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng’s 习近平 upcoming visit to Greece and Brazil is expected to intensify China’s relations with the two countries and enhance BRICS cooperation.” 

Greece

  • A state visit at the invitation of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos from November 10 to 12. 

  • Talking points: A friendship between two ancient civilizations; Belt and Road (Xinhua mentions the Piraeus Port project as “a flagship project for the Belt and Road cooperation”).

Brazil 

  • 11th BRICS summit in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, from November 13 to 14, where Xi will meet Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro. (BRICS is the acronym for an emerging-market bloc that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.)

  • Talking points: “Xi will hold talks with Bolsonaro, sign cooperation documents in various fields, and hold bilateral meetings with leaders of other participating countries.”

See this Chinese-language article (with infographics) from Xinhua for more official talking points about Xi’s upcoming trip. 

5. Another report of organ harvesting 

There have been many allegations and reports over the years that China harvests organs from prisoners for use in transplants. The banned religious group Falun Gong in particular has alleged that many of its members have been victims of such a program. The Chinese government has always denied such allegations. 

The Sydney Morning Herald has a new report that reviews some of the evidence but does not offer any new proof. This paragraph, however, struck me: 

Matas’ research suggests that roughly 28 percent of organ recipients in China today are foreigners, the bulk of whom go through brokers, which are legal in China. For the anxious patient, brokers offer not only convenience but peace of mind. Some, such as Lovehandy Healthcare Service in Tianjin, sell a door-to-door service, picking up patients at the airport and dropping them back after surgery. 

Indeed, Lovehandy Healthcare Service has a website, where you can apply for lung, heart, and kidney transplants.

6. The threat of traditional Chinese medicine to endangered wildlife 

Sixth Tone reports

Europe’s leading medical experts are urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to reconsider including a section on traditional Chinese medicine in the latest revision to its authoritative disease manual, arguing that doing so risks legitimizing unproven therapies.

In a joint statement Thursday, the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) said that traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, “covers a wide range of practices often viewed with scepticism by those in the medical and scientific communities.”

“Concepts of body and disease used in TCM have not been substantiated by conventional scientific investigation,” the authors wrote. “This lack of a science base often makes TCM mechanisms and claims neither verifiable nor falsifiable by scientific experimentation. In Europe it is difficult to reconcile TCM with mainstream medicine and its frameworks for regulation.”

In May, the WHO presented the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases — a global standard for diagnosing and treating diseases, as well as identifying emerging public health trends — at the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva. The addition of the supplementary chapter on traditional Chinese medicine sparked some backlash from the biomedical community at the time.

See also: China’s global push for traditional medicine must come with conditions for threatened wildlife from the Environmental Investigation Agency.

On a related topic, China Dialogo has a piece on Maca: the dubious aphrodisiac Chinese biopirates took from Peru.

7. Childhood memories from a Hebei stunt drinker and his global fans

Liú Shìchāo 刘世超, the farmer from rural Hebei who has gone viral on Twitter for his stunt drinking, is doing more for Chinese soft power than the billions the Party wastes on CGTN and the China Daily. 

Using translation software, he tweeted

I grew up in a rural village. when I was a child, I did farm work like irrigation, sewing seeds, ploughing (using cattle), harvest (by reaphook) with my parents and brother. It was hard, but I was happy. I played with my little friends, many many interesting things. I miss them.

My foreign friends, tell me something about your childhood. Do you miss that time and your childhood friends? I miss them. I miss those simple happiness. Good night.

Read the comments and enjoy the increasingly rare feeling that humans can actually just get along when they choose to. 


Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • A U.S.-China “phase one” trade deal may be in the works, even if it does not address the most difficult issues, according to reporting this week. China’s commerce ministry stated on November 6, “If the phase-one deal is signed, China and the U.S. should remove the same proportion of tariffs simultaneously based on the content of the deal,” though the U.S. did not confirm this. Earlier in the week, President Donald Trump said that the agreement would be signed somewhere in the U.S., and China was reportedly pressing hard to get tariffs removed in any trade deal. Multiple outlets have confirmed that details of the deal are still being worked out, and the signing, if it happens, may not be until December. However, a joint U.S.-China drug bust that sentenced one fentanyl trafficker to death is a positive sign for relations. 

  • Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 expressed “high trust” in Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é), as >protests continued in the city. In another significant development this week, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho (何君堯 Hé Jūnyáo) was stabbed while canvassing for votes on November 6. 

  • French President Emmanuel Macron visited China, bringing a delegation that included EU officials, and coming away with deals worth $15 billion. Xi Jinping schmoozed with Macron and other foreign dignitaries in Shanghai, where he also preached openness at the second China International Import Expo. 

  • New Zealand and India took opposite stances on trade with China, as the former country agreed on an upgrade to its bilateral free trade deal, and the latter pulled out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). 

  • The Beijing Bookworm is closing, it says, due to the city’s “ongoing cleanup of ‘illegal structures’” and an inability to “secure an extension of our lease.” For more than a decade, the destination — an English-language bookstore, library, café, and host of the capital’s only real international literary festival — has been a public hub of intellectual life, fostering dialogue and bridging cultures. Beijing will be poorer for The Bookworm’s absence. 

  • Alipay has opened its payment platform to foreigners, allowing special accounts to be filled with up to 2,000 yuan ($285) using international debit or credit cards. 

  • TikTok is under U.S. national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), it was reported recently. Former staffers of the app, made by Beijing-based Bytedance, told the Washington Post that they were told to censor political content according to Chinese standards. 

  • There is “alarming evidence” of Beijing’s interference at U.K. universities, the foreign affairs select committee of the British parliament said. Meanwhile, McMaster University in Canada refused to recertify the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) because of allegations that it coordinated harassment around an event featuring a Uyghur activist. 

  • Pakistan secured more funding from China for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), including for upgrades for the Main Line 1 (or ML-1 or the Karachi-Peshawar Railway Line). A border fence will also be built where Pakistan meets Afghanistan and Iran, though it is unclear whether China will pay for that. 

  • The pharma behemoth AstraZeneca is raising $1 billion for a new fund in China to invest in Chinese healthcare startups. 

  • Global spirits producer Pernod Ricard is building a whiskey distillery in Sichuan. The $150 million project aims to build an Asian whiskey brand starting in a few years. 

  • Huawei wants to be the expert on AI for the EU. The embattled telecom company will spend 100 million euros ($111 million) over five years to play a larger role in shaping AI regulations in Europe. 


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

A spate of bank runs has highlighted the growing challenges facing China’s financial sector, with local lenders particularly vulnerable due to the slowing economy and a crackdown on shadow banking.

Authorities in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning have detained nine people for “rumor-mongering” and called for calm after local people lined up to withdraw money from the Yingkou Coastal Bank, the second such run on the bank in nine days.

Wáng Sīcōng 王思聪, the son of China’s former “richest man” Wang Jianlin, has been named by a Beijing court as personally liable in a financial dispute involving about 151 million yuan ($21.6 million) in debts…

The Weibo account of People’s Court Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the Supreme People’s Court, clarified  [in Chinese] that the son was not on a defaulter list and did not face travel or spending restrictions.

Three Chinese banks are suing the brother of Asia’s richest man in a London court for failing to pay back $680 million in defaulted loans.

The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China agreed to loan $925.2 million to Anil Ambani’s firm Reliance Communications Ltd. in 2012 on condition that he provide a personal guarantee, ICBC’s lawyer Bankim Thanki told the court. Some repayments were made by the wireless carrier but in February 2017, it defaulted on its payment obligations.

Motorola Solutions Inc told a judge in Chicago that a former employee worked as a double agent to help Chinese rival Hytera Communications Corp play catch-up on digital-radio technology for walkie-talkies. 

It took decades for Motorola to develop next-generation devices for two-way communication and Hytera “came along and just took it all,” attorney Adam Alper said on Thursday at the start of a trial over the US company’s claim of trade-secret theft.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

A Chinese maker of rabies vaccine that was fined 9.1 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) in a quality scandal that set off a crackdown on the industry said Friday it has been declared bankrupt.

Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences Ltd., which lost its production licenses last year, said in a statement that a court issued the ruling after concluding the company was insolvent and couldn’t pay its debts.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Hong Kong’s public mourned a university student who died on Friday after falling from a car park amid chaotic confrontations between police and protesters, sparking a fresh round of outrage.

Chow Tsz-lok [周梓樂 Zhōu Zǐlè], 22, a second-year computer science undergraduate at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, died from a cardiac arrest at Queen Elizabeth Hospital at around 8am on Friday.

The news caused shock and grief across the city — but also triggered protests and violence.

In a tense stand-off Friday night, an officer fired a live round into the air in Yau Ma Tei, a police source confirmed.

The Hong Kong-born actor was set to visit Hanoi on November 10 to support Operation Smile, a charity that gives free surgery to children with facial disfigurements.

But the plans were scrapped after thousands of angry Facebook users flooded the charity’s official page when his visit was announced last week.

Some of their comments claimed Chan had spoken in support of China’s so-called nine-dash line — its historical justification for its territorial claims in the resource-rich sea. However, Chan has not explicitly expressed public support for the controversial maritime assertion.

  • No Chinese among refrigerated truck victims
    All 39 UK truck victims are Vietnamese / VnExpress (Vietnam)
    Initial reports from British police said the victims were Chinese, but the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security now confirms, “All 39 people found dead in a refrigerated truck in the U.K. last month are Vietnamese.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • The 1980s — when a fashion show was a political statement
    The stories of China’s first top models / Chinarrative
    A translation of an article published by the nonfiction platform Core Story [in Chinese]. It is “a fascinating look back at the emergence of China’s first fashion models as the country opened up to the outside…[which] captures the glamour, pain and sometimes tragedy of these ambitious young men and women as they tried to find their way in a rapidly changing China.”

  • A Chinese mobile phone salesman in Ghana
    Selling cellphones in Africa / CCTV on YouTube
    A short documentary that follows a young Chinese salesman for Tecno brand phones. In Chinese with English subtitles.

  • Racist social media rant → deportation
    Foreign worker Mark Kolars must leave China after racist comments cost him his job / SCMP
    “A foreign worker who was fired from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing for posting racist remarks on social media has been ordered to leave China.”


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