BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
How a Chinese tycoon saved a New England paper mill
A Maine paper mill’s unexpected savior: China / NYT (porous paywall)
The year 2019 was, by any measure, a disastrous one for the relations between America and China.
President Trump steered the United States into a trade war, bringing average tariffs on Chinese goods to 21.3 percent, up from 3.1 percent when he came into office…
But a different story was unfolding in this battered New England mill town, population 7,500. The Chinese government had cut off the import of American recycling, jeopardizing the supply lines that fed Nine Dragons’ broader business. To keep its paper plants humming, Nine Dragons needed this mill.
And the Old Town mill, cast aside by a parade of short-term investors, abandoned to the elements, needed a savior.
U.K. likely to approve Huawei 5G rollout
Johnson will defy U.S. and allow use of Huawei, says top security adviser / Guardian
Boris Johnson is likely to approve the use of Huawei technology in the UK’s new 5G network against the pleas of the U.S. government, a former national security adviser has said.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant…said that the security services had repeatedly concluded over several years that they were able to mitigate any potential threats posed by the Chinese technology.
Tech companies launch spendy New Year marketing campaigns
Chinese internet companies to give away nearly 15 billion yuan in New Year red envelopes / Caixin
The Chinese New Year has long been a battlefield for internet based companies to try and lure customers away from their rivals’ services using different promotions, including through direct cash payments.
According to Caixin’s calculations, this year, companies have pledged to give away nearly 15 billion yuan ($2.2 billion), mainly in the form of digital “hongbao”. Hongbao are traditional “red envelopes” containing money exchanged between friends and relatives. Digital versions, akin to wire transfers have developed in the era of smartphone apps.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Xi emphasizes “cooperation” with Merkel and Macron, also exchanges New Year pleasantries
U.S.-China trade deal won’t affect European firms in China, Xi Jinping tells Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron / SCMP
- But Europe must not discriminate against Chinese firms, president says, in hint at possible 5G block on tech giant Huawei.
- Xi tells Merkel he hopes nations ‘can become mutually dependent collaborators that go beyond ideologies’.
- Also see: the Chinese state media’s English and Chinese readouts of the phone conversation between Xi and Merkel, and the English and Chinese readouts of Xi’s conversation with Macron.
Mr. Xi Toll?
Facebook apologizes for vulgar translation of Chinese leader’s name / NYT (porous paywall)
Facebook apologized on Saturday after its platform translated Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, the name of the Chinese leader, from Burmese to a vulgar word in English.
When the Burmese posts were translated into English on Facebook, Mr. Xi’s name repeatedly appeared as “Mr. Shithole.”
It was not clear how long the issue lasted, but Google’s translation function did not show the same error, Reuters reported.
Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook, apologized on Saturday.
“We fixed a technical issue that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook,” Mr. Stone said. “This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Hong Kong updates
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hails President Xi Jinping’s support for city as she rejects suggestions Beijing is exploiting the anti-government protests / SCMP
- Lam knocks back suggestion the Chinese government is ‘tightening its grip’ on Hong Kong during the unrest.
- She slams West’s coverage of the protests, speculates foreign forces trying to further their own agenda.
Yellow or blue? In Hong Kong, businesses choose political sides / NYT (porous paywall)
“Shops and restaurants are now being labeled either yellow, to note support for the city’s protest movement, or blue, in support of the police. The move is having a big economic impact.”
Fears of Hong Kong’s economic demise are unfounded. Just look at the bigger picture of Asia’s sea trade / SCMP
“Hong Kong’s so-called decline says more about China’s underdeveloped economy in 1997 than it does about Hong Kong now. In fact, sea trade is gravitating towards Asia and Hong Kong’s two biggest port operators are also the world’s biggest.”
Trade war updates
In trade with China, the U.S. is missing the point / WSJ (paywall)
“For all President Trump’s boasts at Davos on Tuesday, his trade negotiations so far have revolved around the wrong thing: The quantity of stuff the U.S. sells to China and other partners.
What actually matters is their quality.”
China trade team member says no date set for phase-two talks / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The U.S. and China haven’t set a timetable for the next phase of their trade negotiations, according to an official directly involved in the talks.
The focus for now is on implementing the phase-one deal, Níng Jízhé宁吉喆 [the deputy head of China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission] said Tuesday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Does Xi’s personality cult threaten China’s rise?
How I became a China skeptic / FT (paywall)
Gideon Rachman writes:
My own take has always been that China’s rise is for real, that it will continue and that it will transform the world. I even wrote a book about it, called Easternisation.
I’m beginning to have doubts. This is not because the Chinese economy is now growing at its slowest pace for almost 30 years — although it is. Nor is it because of the rebellion in Hong Kong — although that, too, is part of it. The fundamental reason for my growing scepticism is the establishment of a personality cult around President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平.
Transgender TV star has political aspirations
Now China’s top transgender star eyes politics / Reuters
China’s best known transgender celebrity says she never aspired to be an LGBT+ activist but now Jīn Xīng 金星 has an eye on politics, saying she has the power and presence to help society.
Jin admits her journey from teenaged soldier to ballerina to one of China’s top TV hosts has been extraordinary, as has her widespread acceptance as a trans woman in conservative China.
Next stop: the political stage in one-party communist China.
“If you have the power and the guts and will and thinking to do something for society, why not? My talk show already had a political impact,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos…
She said she would represent LGBT+ rights in China, which has a vibrant LGBT+ scene…
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
A small space for gay voices
How gay art survives in Beijing, as censors tighten grip / NYT (porous paywall)
In mainland China, acceptance of same-sex couples has progressed at a glacial rate…
However, there is a quietly present gay community in Beijing. Destination, which opened 15 years ago as a nightclub and has since expanded to become a cultural center, is one of the few places where gay men can be open about their sexual orientation… And on the third floor, the art gallery, ART. Des, provides a window into the current state of gay art in Beijing.
U.S. Chinatowns debate which flag to fly
The battle over two flags in Chinatown / BBC
Drastic change is unusual in the historic district [of Manhattan Chinatown]. But a seemingly small change, made by Suyuan Association, has sparked a heated and profound debate within the community.
In August 2018, for the first time in nearly a century, the association raised the People’s Republic of China’s five-starred red flag.
It replaces another Chinese flag commonly known as the Blue Sky, White Sun and a Wholly Red Earth, the national flag of the Republic of China (ROC), which ceased to be used, except in Taiwan, when the PRC was founded in 1949…
Most newly established Chinese-American groups fly the PRC flag, and across the country the PRC flag has become more and more ubiquitous in America’s Chinatowns, as several older associations in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco changed over.
The lives of China’s chemical weapons survivors
Ghosts from the shells / Sixth Tone
A short documentary on the survivors of chemical weapon exposure, following the sale of abandoned mustard gas barrels — left over from the WWII-era Japanese occupation of the region — mistaken for scrap metal in China’s northeastern city of Qiqihar in 2003.