Editor’s note for Friday, November 5, 2021

A note for Access newsletter readers from Jeremy Goldkorn. Today: Jack Ma might soon sell the South China Morning Post to a Chinese state-owned company; foreign journalists and foreign residents in Hong Kong are frustrated with declining freedoms; considering the future of "COVID zero" and India-China relations.

editor's note for Access newsletter

Dear reader,

Jack Ma is going to sell the South China Morning Post to a Chinese state-owned company, I have been predicting for many months. That might happen soon, according to a Bloomberg story published today. Or perhaps not: Senior Alibaba and Post executives including Joe Tsai (蔡崇信 Cài Chóngxìn) denied the story.

Meanwhile, foreign journalists in Hong Kong are frustrated, it seems: An anonymous survey conducted by the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) found that 46% of respondents were considering or had plans to leave Hong Kong because of the decline in press freedom, while 56% admitted to self-censoring or avoiding sensitive topics to at least some degree.

As if to confirm their worst fears, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s office in the city warned the FCC against “meddling in Hong Kong affairs.”

It’s not just the journalists: Pandemic restrictions are taking their toll on other foreign residents of Hong Kong, with one survey (conducted in May!) suggesting that 40% of expatriates are considering leaving to get away from the COVID-zero approach.

Could Chinese citizens soon also begin to tire of life being under constant threat of lockdown? Maybe, judging by recent conversations I’ve had with residents of various Chinese cities — including our SupChina editors in Beijing and Shanghai. There’s also this, from Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu’s China correspondent, who is set to return to Beijing soon:

We should note part of the reason why people are very supportive of [China’s restrictive pandemic] measures is they are fed on a daily diet of how messed up the rest of the world is. My friends were shocked to hear from me how normal things in India now are, while they imagine our ICUs are still full and people are in panic, and were quite flabbergasted to do a WeChat video call with me the other day and see a playground in Chennai full of kids and (masked) parents all looking quite relaxed…

It will be interesting to see how long China continues with this — I’d bet at least until the 20th Party Congress in October 2022 — and how long people will continue to be broadly supportive of this approach. From my unscientific sample surveys, i.e., convos with friends, patience wears thin real fast when it’s you making the sacrifice needed that Zero COVID requires. When it’s others who have been bearing that sacrifice for the past year — like the hundreds of thousands of Chinese abroad who have been banned by their own country from going back and have not seen ill parents, or in some cases, even their kids, for two years, the Chinese media of course NEVER talks about them — it’s all well and good. Until that sacrifice is asked of you.

Click through to the link above for more, and for Ananth’s look at the new land border law passed by Beijing on October 23, and “why it’s very significant as far as India is concerned, not just with immediate ramifications for the border, but for the wider relationship.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief