Editor’s note for Thursday, August 20, 2020

A note from the editor of today's SupChina Access newsletter.

My thoughts today:

In response to reader feedback, and also for our own sanity, we generally try to avoid obsessively focusing on every escalation in U.S.-China tensions. This week so far, I have enjoyed writing about the meaning of new numbers on domestic railway activity and shipments to Europe, China’s progress in vaccine testing and what to expect for “vaccine diplomacy,” and the historic floods across the Yangtze River Delta.

  • You can write to me at lucas@supchina.com, reply to this email to get in Jeremy’s inbox, or reach the whole editorial team at editors@supchina.com, if you want to give more feedback on our content focus.

Even then, we couldn’t totally look beyond U.S.-China news, as the U.S. Commerce Department issued on Monday its most expansive restrictions on Huawei yet — a move that is widely perceived as an existential threat to the company.

Today, we are back to U.S.-China news and views:

  • “Double alienation” refers to the title of the moving personal essay by Xiaoqian Zhu about her perspective on America after living in Louisiana and Ohio, which you should definitely check out.
  • Today’s top story (U.S. and China to discuss trade, TikTok ‘in the coming days’)is on the new expectation of U.S.-China trade talks, two days after Trump said they were “cancelled.” It’s an open question as to whether the talks will lead to Trump declaring a win, or if the trading relationship will become yet another casualty of spiraling U.S.-China relations.

At the same time as the trade talks (which would be unpredictable even if Trump wasn’t campaigning for reelection), the forced sale of TikTok is set to create all the political drama that Trump craves, as we are nearly halfway through the 45-day process for ByteDance to relinquish all ownership of its U.S.-based operations. Oracle has joined the bidding to buy the company, and there is one good reason to think it has a serious shot to “outcompete” Microsoft, per the New York Times: “Unlike many of their Silicon Valley peers, Oracle’s executives are political allies of the president.”

Speaking of political allies of the president: Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and proponent of the idea that China is an “existential and ideological threat to the United States,” was “arrested on a yacht Thursday off the eastern coast of Connecticut” for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Given Bannon’s prominent anti-China profile, it’s no surprise that news of his arrest is trending on Weibo, with over 150 million views (link in Chinese).

This particular scheme was unrelated to Guō Wénguì 郭文贵, the eccentric tweeting exiled Chinese billionaire who has allied himself with Bannon in calling for the overthrow of the Chinese Communist Party. But there are connections between Guo and Bannon worth watching:

Our word of the day is “in the coming days” (将于近日 jiāng yú jìnrì), the timeframe for a review of the U.S.-China phase one trade deal, according to the Chinese Commerce Ministry (see story 1).

—Lucas Niewenhuis, Newsletter Editor (Jeremy is off until Monday)