Links for December 17, 2019

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Daimler has been exploring several options to strengthen its control of Beijing Benz Automotive Co, its Chinese joint venture with BAIC Group, including a plan to raise its stake to 75 percent from the current 49 percent, two of the people familiar with the matter said.

Daimler faces some opposition within BAIC as the Chinese partner wants to maintain control of the highly profitable business…

The new head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) applauded the phase one trade deal between China and the U.S. as a “very positive step” for both countries and the world economy, and called for continuous discussions on broader policy topics. 

China is breaking records for crude oil imports and isn’t likely to stop soon as new refineries ramp up and hopes grow that the easing of trade tensions with the U.S. will bolster the economy.

Even as economic expansion has slowed, the pace of growth still requires ever more oil. China imported an unprecedented 11.18 million barrels a day in November, which surpassed the U.S. high-water mark of 10.77 million set in June 2005.

Beijing has given the green light to road tests for self-driving cars carrying passengers, two years after the city became the first in China to allow autonomous vehicle companies to trial driverless cars in designated areas.

China-registered companies operating in the autonomous driving sector can now apply to test passenger transportation on Beijing roads that are not open to the public.  

Around 65 percent of 9,841 actors and celebrities in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan hadn’t been on television lately, while the high-profile roles are generally shared among less than one percent of the profession, [according to a Chinese media report]. Around 95 percent have had more than a year without being offered work, it said.

The article blamed the quality of the “market environment,” citing a drastic fall in the number of TV dramas approved by the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

“By the third quarter of 2019, the number of television series being recorded had fallen by more than one third, compared with [the same period in] 2016,” it said. And in the first half of 2019, there was a fall of 22.5 in the number of movies approved by SARFT compared with the same period last year.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

  • Desertification
    Island in the sand / Sixth Tone
    “In China’s arid Northwest, a county is locked in a battle for survival against encroaching deserts. Victory is still far from certain.”
  • African swine fever
    China responds slowly, and a pig disease becomes a lethal epidemic / NYT (porous paywall)
    “The bungled effort to contain African swine fever could result in higher Chinese food costs for years and shows the limits of Beijing’s top-down approach to problems.”

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations called on China on Monday to end human rights violations against the Uyghur minority, in a departure from their previous muted stance.

The call by Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) came almost two months after the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia met with leaders of the two powerful groups and urged them to speak out about the mass incarceration of Uyghur Muslims at internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The European Union’s new foreign policy chief wasted no time in raising a human rights discussion about Hong Kong and Xinjiang with his Chinese counterpart, to Beijing’s dismay.

Josep Borrell said human rights was “a universal issue” and confirmed he had brought up Hong Kong, which has been embroiled in six months of anti-government protests, and Xinjiang, where an estimated 1 million Uygurs are detained, at the meeting in Madrid on Sunday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 hit back, calling on Europe not to interfere in China’s domestic affairs.

The United Nations Security Council will meet at China’s request on Tuesday to discuss the situation in the disputed Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir, diplomats said.

The council will meet behind closed doors for the first time since a similar gathering in August, which was also called by Pakistan ally China, after India removed the decades-old autonomy the area enjoyed under the Indian constitution.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, revealed he is in talks with China to join its Belt and Road Initiative, as he looks for funding to rebuild Syria and Beijing looks to extend its influence in the region.

Assad said he has proposed a number of projects to Beijing in the hope of securing investment for reconstruction in the war-torn country.

“There are mutual interests: it is beneficial to China, Syria and all the countries on this Road,” told Chinese Phoenix TV station.

Vietnam said it hoped China would show restraint in the South China Sea next year after a Chinese oil survey vessel and its escorts spent months within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, which Hanoi regarded as a blatant violation of its sovereignty.

Vietnam, the region’s most forceful challenger of China’s extensive maritime claims to the busy waterway, will take on the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2020.

China’s permanent mission to the United Nations also urged the UN’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) not to consider Malaysia’s submission seeking to establish the outer limits of its legal continental margin beyond the 200 nautical mile limit.

“China has internal waters, territorial sea and a contiguous zone based on its Nanhai Zhudao [the South China Sea islands]; China has an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. China has historic rights in the South China Sea,” the Chinese mission said in a diplomatic note to United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres last week.

It said the submission by Malaysia, which was made on Thursday, had “seriously infringed on China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea.”

“The Chinese government seriously requests that the commission not consider the submission by Malaysia,” the diplomatic note said.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • Wuhan University expels slacking foreign students 
    China university expels 92 foreign students / The Star (Malaysia)
    This year, Wuhan University has expelled 181 overseas students for poor academic performance, low class attendance, and failure to pay tuition. In 2017 and 2018, 184 and 181 foreign students were expelled, respectively. The university currently has more than 2,000 international students.