Editor’s note for Monday, September 14, 2020

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

My thoughts today:

A five-nation trip to Europe by Chinese Foreign Minister in late August that was meant to improve deteriorating ties was widely perceived as a failure. But Beijing seems to be having better luck this week with a video call summit today:

A “landmark agreement” is how the EU described a new deal to mutually respect regional food names. The agreement means that, for example, brands not from Greece will no longer be able to label feta style cheese as “feta,” while only bean paste from Pixian, Sichuan can use the name Pixian.

Reuters says that while the deal is modest, it is “a trade coup for Europe as U.S., Australian or New Zealand producers will no longer be able to use the protected names on their exports to China, although there is a transition period for certain cheeses.

On the other hand, “Trade, human rights and climate: Disagreements dominate EU-China summit” is how CNBC described today’s events.

Meanwhile, Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 is schmoozing non-EU-members Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

In other news, data scraping by a Chinese company called Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Technology, for the “stated purpose of providing intelligence to Chinese military, government and commercial clients,” has come to light after a database from Zhenhua “was left unsecured on the internet and retrieved by an Australian cybersecurity consultancy,” the Washington Post reports. The database appears to have information on over 2 million people, but all of it appears to have been scraped from publicly accessible sites, mostly social media.

The news of who was tracked made waves in Australian, Indian, and British media as well, but it should surprise no one that Chinese intelligence agencies have an interest in this kind of information. For more on what the news could mean, and why the database has in some cases been overhyped, see a collection of Twitter threads by the scholar Sheena Greitens.

Our word of the day is old friend of the Chinese people (中国人民的老朋友 zhōngguó rénmín de lǎo péngyǒu). See today’s second story for details.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief