BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
JD.com eyes smaller cities
JD.com doubles down on smaller-cities expansion to bolster 2020 growth / Caixin
JD.com has reiterated its strategy to expand into China’s smaller cities, which have become emerging drivers of growth for the country’s online retailers.
Speaking at an annual company conference Sunday, Xú Léi 徐雷, the CEO of JD’s retail arm, said in the next three years the company will ramp up its expansion into so-called lower-tier cities where consumption potential is not yet fully realized.
Beijing media company invests big in animation
Beijing media company enlight announce one billion yuan investment in animation / Caixin
Beijing Enlight Media, the studio behind last year’s big animated hit Nezha, said it will invest about 1 billion yuan ($145 million) over the next five years to adapt comic content into animated productions.
Company president Wang Changtian said the investment will aim to produce ten productions. The announcement was made on Tuesday at a media event to launch a comic art platform mobile app called “Yi Ben Man Hua.”
The total value of listed Chinese internet firms hit a record 11.6 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) in last year’s fourth quarter, up 18.3 percent from the previous quarter, according to a report by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT).
Online titans Alibaba and Tencent combined accounted for more than 60 percent of the value of those firms, with market caps of nearly 4 trillion yuan and 3.21 trillion yuan, respectively. Meituan Dianping came in at a distant third with 530 billion yuan, the report said.
Op-ed: Why the World Bank should continue lending to China
Opinion: Why is the World Bank still lending to China? / Caixin (paywall)
Yukon Huang writes:
The World Bank’s proposal in early December to continue lending to China triggered concern within Washington’s political circles that such activities should cease. Last year, as the U.S. Treasury undersecretary, David Malpass also questioned why the World Bank was still lending to China, though his views have evolved since he was appointed the World Bank’s president. Even President Donald Trump has commented on this issue. Many within the international financial community also share this view.
Conventional wisdom suggests that China, as the world’s second-largest economy with $3 trillion in foreign reserves, no longer needs to borrow from the World Bank, particularly when the question is embellished with a politically charged notion that U.S taxpayers should not be subsidizing loans to China. But the reality is actually the reverse. Borrowing from the World Bank not only makes economic sense for China but it also benefits the World Bank.
Oil prices fall
Oil prices slip on concerns U.S.-China trade deal may not boost demand / Reuters
Oil prices on Wednesday fell about 1 percent to their lowest in over a month, after a U.S. report showed big increases in gasoline and distillates inventories and as crude production rose to a new record…
Earlier in the day, prices were trading slightly lower on concerns the U.S.-China Phase 1 trade deal may not provide much of a demand boost and after an OPEC report pointing to higher supply from countries outside of the producer group.
The United States will maintain tariffs on Chinese goods until the completion of a second phase of a U.S.-China trade agreement, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday, a day before the two sides are to sign an interim deal.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Brucellosis outbreak in Gansu Province
独家|兰州居民布病阳性破百人 一孕妇感染后被建议流产 / Caixin
David Paulk 波大卫 on Twitter: “Caixin reporting that NW China’s brucellosis outbreak is spreading: Over 300 people have now tested positive for the bacteria, including a pregnant woman. Doctors have recommended that the pregnancy be terminated.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Tsai calls for China to rethink Taiwan stance
China must rethink stance on ‘independent’ Taiwan, says Tsai Ing-wen / AFP via Hong Kong Free Press
China must rethink its hardline stance towards Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen [蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén] said on Wednesday, as she warned the island was already independent and that any invasion would be “very costly” for Beijing…
But in her first interview since Saturday’s re-election, Tsai told the BBC there was no need to formally announce independence because the island already runs itself.
“We don’t have a need to declare ourselves an independent state,” she said in the interview, which aired on Wednesday.
“We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan.”
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has called on China to “face reality” and “review” its current policy toward the de facto nation that Beijing claims is part of its territory.
Tsai, who won re-election in a landslide victory on Saturday, told reporters: “We hope China can thoroughly understand the opinion and will expressed by Taiwanese people in this election and review their current policies.”
Uyghur migrant escapee caught in Thailand
Last Uyghur escapee recaptured / Bangkok Post
The last of the seven Uyghur illegal migrants who broke out of an immigration detention cell in this northeastern border province [Mukdahan in northeast Thailand] on Jan 10 was recaptured on Monday night, police said.
Mutalib, 33, who appeared exhausted, was caught about 11pm in front of a cement grinding plant while he was walking along the Mukdahan town’s ring road, ending the three-day manhunt.
He was only about 6 kilometres from the Mukdahan immigration police cell he fled from at the second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
China seeks collateral as Zambia faces possibility of default
Zambia’s spiraling debt offers glimpse into the future of Chinese loan financing in Africa / CNBC
Zambia is already restructuring, renegotiating or refinancing its extensive Chinese project finance debt, and Chinese companies are playing hardball, according to new research.
Southern Africa’s third-largest economy is under pressure from an impending breakdown of its power supply and its inability to pay for electricity imports, and is staring down the barrel of further defaults on construction project financing and bond payments…
On top of seeking control over Zambian mining assets as debt collateral, China also retains a highly contentious stake in Zambia’s national broadcaster, ZNBC…and now controls 60 percent of a joint digital venture with ZNBC, called TopStar.
Xi, the historical materialist
Xi’s article on historical materialism, Marxism of modern China to be published / Xinhua
An article by President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 on upholding historical materialism and continuously developing Marxism of modern China will be published Thursday in this year’s second issue of the Qiushi Journal.
The article is the transcript of a speech by Xi…at a group study session of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau in December 2013.
The CPC has adhered to educating and arming the entire Party with Marxist philosophy since its founding, the article stresses, adding that only by upholding historical materialism can the Party continuously raise its understanding of the laws that underlie socialism with Chinese characteristics to a new level.
Video: The Kazakh Muslims detained in Xinjiang
The Kazakh Muslims detained in China’s camps / BBC
“Since 2017, thousands of Kazakh Muslims have been detained in China’s infamous re-education camps. Survivors who have returned to Kazakhstan, say during months of incarceration they were tortured, beaten and received unknown injections.”
Liu He given increased power
China’s top trade war negotiator handed more control at home as Beijing expands reach of finance committee / SCMP
- The Financial Stability and Development Committee, under Vice-Premier Liú Hè 刘鹤 will be upgraded into a de facto governing body with local branches.
- China was rocked by three bank failures last year, while the phase one trade deal with the US is set to include chapters about opening up China’s financial services market.
Human Rights Watch calls out China on surveillance, censorship, and Xinjiang
China’s government poses a ‘global threat to human rights,’ report finds / CNN
The Chinese government increasingly poses a “global threat to human rights,” according to NGO Human Rights Watch.
In its annual report reviewing human rights standards in nearly 100 countries, the NGO warned that the Chinese government is carrying out an intensive attack on the global system for enforcing human rights.
The report’s release comes after HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said he was denied entry to Hong Kong — with no reason given by immigration authorities. Roth had planned to launch the report in the city, which has been rocked by anti-government protests for over seven months.
HRW echoed longstanding concerns about China’s use of an “Orwellian high-tech surveillance state” and sophisticated internet censorship system to catch and stamp out public criticism. The report also pointed to the detainment and intense surveillance of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims in the far western province of Xinjiang.
Chinese students in U.S. fear monitoring by China
Chinese students say free speech in U.S. chilled by China / Voice of America
Although Beijing is thousands of miles away, some Chinese students and China-studies professors in the U.S. say they fear the Communist Party is reaching into their classrooms.
Interviewed at a half-dozen U.S. universities, students from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) reported self-censoring in class on topics deemed sensitive by the Communist Party — such as the massive protests in Hong Kong and the status of Taiwan…
Chinese students said they were concerned about being watched by fellow Chinese students. One student said he feared it would negatively impact his family back in China, his future, and his visa.
Professors who research Chinese politics and history said they suspect they are monitored by PRC intelligence officials. One instructor said Chinese who attend his class who appear older than a typical student are asked to leave if they decline to produce student identification.
Trade war: European trade commissioner visits Washington
Europe looks to follow China’s lead taming Trump on trade / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
President Donald Trump’s relationship with European leaders has often been testy and the same applies to his aides. Then again, transatlantic relations have been rescued from the brink a number of times thanks to the personalities involved.
Which is why new European trade commissioner Phil Hogan’s visit to Washington this week is more important than most. Even if the big show while Hogan makes his first tour in his new post will be Wednesday’s signing of a long-awaited “phase one” deal between the U.S. and China.
U.K. appears to keep its preliminary decision on Huawei 5G
UK rebuffs US presentation on Huawei security risks / Guardian
Britain believes the information dramatically presented by a delegation from Donald Trump’s administration about the risks of using Huawei technology in 5G networks contains nothing its intelligence agencies had not foreseen…
The UK is due to make a final decision on Huawei shortly, following a preliminary decision taken last spring under Theresa May, who concluded that using Huawei in some “non-core” parts of the 5G network would be acceptable.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Video: Family creates song encouraging son to find love
Chinese mother’s song to urge son to find love takes internet by storm / SCMP
Lyrics include “You’re the fattest flower on the prairie, and you’re still single” and “Although you didn’t grow up to be good looking, you’re not too bad.”
Iconic first female tractor driver in China dies
China’s first female tractor driver dies / BBC
A woman who became China’s first female tractor driver, and eventually a national icon, has died at the age of 90.
In 1948, Liang Jun became the only female in China to take up the job, when she enrolled in a training class for tractor drivers.
More than a decade later, an image of her proudly driving a tractor was featured on China’s one-yuan banknote.
Literary guide to the Year of the Rat
Rat in a china shop / The World of Chinese
A guide to the more innocuous Chinese literary rat references in the lead-up to the Year of the Rat:
January 25 will mark the start of the Year of the Rat, but, though animated stars Mickey and Jerry enjoy great popularity among Chinese audiences, the animal still has a generally negative reputation in Chinese culture. Chengyu including the character “rat” (鼠 shǔ) are usually derogatory, and ancient poems, like the famous “Large rats,” found in Shijing (The Classics of Poetry, said to have been compiled by Confucius during the sixth century BCE), used the rodent as a metaphor for the greedy, exploitative classes.
Woman’s death sparks outrage
She was known in China by her weight: 47 pounds. Her death sparked outrage / NYT (porous paywall)
To save money for her brother’s medical bills, the woman in a Chinese village often ate only rice and chili peppers or plain steamed buns. Years later, malnutrition wasted her body and worsened a heart problem — and she turned to the internet for help.
The woman, Wú Huāyàn 吴花燕, was a 24-year-old college student, but she weighed less than 50 pounds and stood at a mere 4 feet and 5 inches, according to state news reports. She became an instant symbol of the harsh effects of poverty and hunger, and set off an outpouring of $140,000 in donations — a significant amount in rural China.
Then, on Monday, Ms. Wu died in a hospital — and public sympathy quickly turned to grief and outrage.
- Sixth Tone’s David Paulk provides further commentary on Twitter.