Week in review for January 17, 2020

Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • Phase one of the U.S.-China trade deal was signed in a ceremony attended by Chinese Vice-Premier Liú Hè 刘鹤 and President Trump at the White House on Wednesday. Liu spent most of the ceremony standing awkwardly behind Trump as the president turned the event into a self-congratulatory awards show.
  • Commentators were quick to remark on the deal, with one influential Chinese commentator observing that while the deal is “an agreement that nobody on either side is entirely satisfied with,” it “may be the best outcome for the moment.”
  • Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) was reelected as Taiwan’s president with an overwhelming majority in what is widely considered to be a big win for Taiwanese identity. Tsai beat her primary challenger, Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韩国瑜 Hán Guóyú), by 2.7 million votes (57.1 to 38.6 percent).
  • Elon Musk danced for joy at the launch of Tesla’s first made-in-China vehicle. Tesla’s preferential treatment reflects the Chinese government’s hopes that Tesla can kick-start its electric vehicle industry.
  • Beijing’s problems in the Czech Republic may run beyond Prague and its disagreement over the status of Taiwan, and have more significant effects on China’s image in Central and Eastern Europe more broadly. The Czech president snubbed an invitation to attend a summit in Beijing in April, citing China’s failure to deliver promised investments.
  • Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 is hoping to kick-start stalled Belt and Road Initiative projects and mediate in the Rohingya crisis during his two-day visit to Myanmar this week to mark the 70th anniversary of relations between the nations. He has a lot of leverage.
  • A group of students at the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) called on school authorities to fire a professor who has been disciplined for sexual misconduct.  
  • The former chairman of one of China’s most troubled banks confessed on state TV to taking millions of yuan in cash bribes, which he kept in metal cabinets in an unoccupied Beijing apartment he nicknamed “the supermarket,” where investigators found more than 200 million yuan ($29 million).
  • The China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), held annually since 2003, has been shut down indefinitely. The organizers said that in today’s China, it has become “impossible to locally organize a film festival with a purely independent spirit.”