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SupChina: China Affairs by Jeremy Goldkorn


China’s security picture, from North Korea to the South China Sea


TOP STORIES

GIF by Lucas Niewenhuis. View pronunciation video from Jia.

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Dear reader,

If you’re not an Access member or went off the grid over the last few days, the main China news came out of Vietnam, where protesters took to the streets to oppose draft legislation creating special economic zones, which critics say will leave Vietnam vulnerable to exploitation from Chinese companies.

Today, we have five stories at the top for you, with the first being about Chinese and other reactions to the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore.

It’s not a real Chinese curse, but we certainly are living in interesting times.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. China gets what it has been ‘striving for all along’

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours, you know that U.S. President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore yesterday. They agreed that their two countries should carry on talking, and signed a joint statement promising to be nice to each other.

Xinhua News Agency buried the Kim-Trump summit story in obscure parts of its website. All mainland news organizations did the same. “Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the meeting was of great significance, and something China long called for” is the gist of China’s official commentary on the summit (see Xinhua English and Chinese stories).The result of the summit is exactly what China wanted, what it has been “looking forward to and striving for all along,” said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson today. “The China-proposed ‘suspension for suspension’ initiative has been materialized and now the situation is also moving forward in the direction of the ‘dual-track’ approach.”Chinese social media was strictly censored, although the China Daily’s Weibo account went rogue, live-tweeting about hunger pangs (in Chinese) from the sidelines of the Trump-Kim summit. What little commentary was left undeleted on Chinese social media was generally positive and hopeful about the summit — What’s on Weibo has a good roundup.The biggest winner of the Trump-Kim summit is China,” says the Washington Post, as Trump promised to halt joint military exercises with South Korea and reduce troop counts on the Korean Peninsula, both of which are on Beijing’s wishlist. Bloomberg has a similar take: China gets everything it wanted from Trump's meeting with Kim.“Despite the many warts in President Trump’s unconventional diplomacy toward North Korea, we have to give him credit,” argues Victor Cha(paywall), former National Security Council director for Asia, saying that the summit “represents the start of a diplomatic process that takes us away from the brink of war,” and that “for the first time since 1953, the door has been opened to peace on the Korean Peninsula.” Cha was recently considered in the running to be Trump’s ambassador to Seoul, and although he is no pinko, he was rejected by the Trump team in January, apparently for not being hawkish enough.Pro-Trump American media was generally happy with the summit: The top story on the website of Fox News is currently North Korea summit: Trump stuns region with call to end military drills. The article notes that “a recent Fox News poll found 66 percent of Americans approve of his decision to meet Kim.”“'They have great beaches!' Trump included image of Miami when he showed Kim video about North Korea's future — as he said dictator could develop condos or hotels if he keeps nuke promises and sanctions come off” is the lead paragraph of a story in Britain’s trash tabloid Daily Mail, and the top story linked by popular Trump-supporting American website Drudge Report today.Trump “praised China’s President Xi Jinping for helping secure an agreement toward North Korea’s denuclearization, and said the deal would be good for Beijing,” reportsReuters.

—Jeremy Goldkorn

2. U.S. beefs up official presence in Taiwan

On the morning of June 12, when Donald Trump went to Singapore to broker a deal with North Korea that very much furthers Beijing’s interests in northeast Asia, some American officials did the opposite in Taiwan.

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which serves as the U.S.’s de facto embassy (formal relations were broken off in 1979, at China’s insistence), dedicated a newly renovated complex in Taipei worth $250 million, the New York Times reports (paywall).A “who’s who of Taiwan politics”attended the opening ceremony, Taipei-based reporter Chris Horton said on Twitter. Taipei Times gives the highlights: President Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文, former president Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu 吳釗燮, and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je 柯文哲 all attended the ceremony.But “no top official” — i.e., cabinet-level — from the U.S. came, the Times reports. The American guest list was topped by Marie Royce, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, the Times says.Taiwan hopes to host a top U.S. official soon, the South China Morning Post reports. One Taiwanese lawmaker suggested that “we can anticipate” someone like National Security Adviser John Bolton to visit soon, while another admitted that the American decision to focus this time on the concurrent Singapore summit was understandable.The Taiwan factor in U.S.-China relations, especially given that trade tensions are expected to ramp up with tariffs planned to hit just days from now, will continue to loom large, as it has throughout 2018 so far.Royce and other officials at the AIT ceremony made clear that the U.S. will stand firm in its commitment to Taiwan, regardless of pressure from Beijing. Read more from Taiwan’s Central News Agency on comments from Royce, U.S. senators, the AIT head, the co-chair of the U.S. Congressional Taiwan Caucus, and the U.S. Department of State.

—Lucas Niewenhuis

3. China plans to open third-gen nuclear reactor in November

We recently noted a Greenpeace reportthat suggested Chinese economic growth, unless radical measures are taken, is going to wreck the planet’s climate. Here’s the latest news about climate doomsday and the fight against it:

An AP1000 nuclear reactor will begin operations in November in Zhejiang Province, according to the China National Nuclear Power Corp, Reuters reports. The “third generation” reactor model is built to have “higher capacity, enhanced safety features and greater fuel efficiency,” and would be the first of its kind operating in the world.China’s goal for nuclear is to reach a capacity of “58 gigawatts by the end of 2020 and have another 30 GW under construction.”Another item on China’s energy agenda is solar roadsThe New York Times reports (paywall) on Shandong Pavenergy, a company testing special plastic-coated panels intended to double as a highway surface.Solar roads promise localized energy production, decreased land use, and improved road safety, but Pavenergy faces many potential roadblocks. The panels’ practical efficacy and cost-effectiveness won’t be known until trials are complete.At the same time, however, the Chinese government has cut subsidies for solar panels, we noted last week. An official in the National Energy Administration insisted to Caixin (paywall) that the move is not aimed at “limiting solar development,” but rather to prevent market bubbles from overcapacity.Beijing also is hopeful that natural gas can alleviate the country’s smog issues. Bloomberg reports, “Regulators are aiming to announce a decision before winter to combine oil and gas pipeline assets owned by its three state energy giants, worth as much as 500 billion yuan ($78 billion), under a new national operator.” While the plan could take over a year to implement, it would give natural gas a considerable boost in the Chinese market.In other news, CATL, a Shenzhen company known as “the world’s biggest maker of electric-vehicle batteries,” is enjoying massive success on the energy storage front, according to Bloomberg (paywall). The firm’s stock soared the maximum rate of 10 percent, pushing a third shareholder’s net worth above $1 billion.

—Lucy Best

4. Film and TV censorship about to get even worse — memo

This memo (in Chinese) — allegedly from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and shared by WeChat blogger Xiaode Zhang 晓得张 — encourages film and TV producers to showcase “people’s happiness,” and feature important upcoming events, such as the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the PRC in 2019, and the Chinese People's Liberation Army’s 100th anniversary in 2021.Other rules:

Producers are advised to focus on lives of average people and avoid broad issues of social order and the national situation.Types of content that subject to extra scrutiny include history, the military, and revolution.Don’t glorify the Republic of China, the Beiyang government, and its warlords.Coming-of-age stories should avoid romance, crime, and violence.Crime stories need to get approved by the Ministry of Public Security and may not contain too many details about the crime.Celebrities with drug or sex scandals in their past should not be featured.Homosexuality is respected, but gay-themed content or gay characters are not allowed.Don’t promote weapons or wars. Don’t depict Western countries as imaginary enemies.The memo also encourages self-censorship: “To avoid the risk of being censored, ask friends to review your work first.”

Film and TV censorship have been so strict in recent years that the new rules may not make a noticeable difference. Recent incidents:

In March, the Beijing International Film Festival pulled gay romance Call Me By Your Name from its program.In the same month, the media authorities released an urgent noticeto ban “defaming, distorting, and parodying” classic TV shows and films.British kids cartoon character Peppa Pig was recently in trouble, apparently because of its association with gangster culture.See also this piece on recent developments at the organization known as SAPPRFT.

5. Video games banned from live-streaming, Tencent’s new game is spared

Video platforms are now banned from streaming more than 20 electronic games, according to a social media post (in Chinese) from 3DMGame. The post includes a notice that appears to come from video company Bilibili and lists the newly banned games.

The order apparently came from the Ministry of Culture, which asked live-streaming platforms to “tighten control over content, ban games that contain bloody, violent, and pornographic elements, [and] improve self-censorship and self-discipline” in order to “create a good environment of online culture.”Missing from the list is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), an online multiplayer video game operated in China by Tencent.PUBG is similar to H1Z1, which is newly banned (click through to SupChina to see a screenshot of the whole list). When Tencent acquired exclusive Chinese operating rights of PUBG last year, the hit game was at risk of being banned due to “improper content.” But after Tencent announced(in Chinese) its cooperation with some state media organizations, including the People’s Daily, to “promote positive values” through the game, its regulatory troubles seem to have gone away.

—Jiayun Feng

VIDEO OF THE DAY

Viral on Weibo: A massive fish found in Henan Province

Famous fish guru Li Damao found this 165-pound black carp in Henan Province. It was later released.

TODAY ON SUPCHINA

Meet rural China’s viral online celebrities

Short videos — such as the homemade skits on Kuaishou 快手, one of China’s largest video platforms, branded as “Kwai” in international markets — have become a craze in China. Urban Chinese users from first- and second-tier cities, upon discovering the app, became obsessed with these “inland” videos, which they jokingly characterize as “earthy,” or tuwei(土味).

TechBuzz China: Tencent vs. Toutiao

Earlier this month, Tencent sued Bytedance, better known as Toutiao, for 1 yuan and Toutiao fought back by suing Tencent for 90 million yuan. What sparked the feud between the David and Goliath of the Chinese tech world?

Subscribe to TechBuzz China on Apple PodcastsOvercast, or Stitcher, or click here for the RSS feed.

TODAY’S NEWS ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB:

BUSINESS AND TECH:

Xiaomi’s quest for global domination
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is going after Europe / CNN
“Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is making an aggressive play for European markets like France, Italy and Spain. The expansion comes ahead of the company's highly anticipated IPO.”China on Wall Street
Wall Street will struggle to manage China money / Bloomberg (paywall)
“As fund managers globally struggle with lower fees and the rise of passive investing, China has emerged as the industry’s next holy grail.... Of China’s 113 fund managers, 45 fall into that category.”More juice for Made in China 2025
China to launch $47 billion fund for investment in strategic, emerging industries: State planner / Reuters
“China’s state planner said on Tuesday it would jointly launch with China Construction Bank 300 billion yuan ($46.88 billion) worth of funds for investment in strategic and emerging industries.”American video game platform coming to China
Valve to launch Steam in China / TechNode
“Chinese game company Perfect World has partnered with Valve to launch a localized version of Steam... the partnership aims to provide Chinese gamers and developers with a new channel to access games and other entertainment products on Steam’s distribution platform.”Stock market listings at home
China's Meituan is said to plan $6 billion IPO filing this month / Bloomberg (paywall)
“China’s restaurant review and delivery giant Meituan Dianping plans to file for an initial public offering of about $6 billion in Hong Kong as soon as this month, according to people familiar with the matter, the city’s second multibillion-dollar public listing by a tech startup this year.”ZTE
ZTE shares to resume trading in Hong Kong after US$1.4 bln settlement with Washington / SCMP
“ZTE Corp said trading of its shares would resume on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday, ending a two-month suspension, after the Chinese telecommunications giant agreed to pay up to $1.4 billion in penalties to the U.S. government and drastically overhaul its management.”Bonds in China
China's bond-market mystery: Why aren't there more defaults? / WSJ (paywall)
“Beijing’s determination to tame China’s soaring debt levels has won plaudits from bullish observers who believe the government is finally tackling its key economic problem.”WeWork Labs opens in Shanghai next month
WeWork joins China’s mass entrepreneurship craze with WeWork Labs / TechNode
“As a part of their deeper dive into the country, the office-sharing giant is introducing its startup-focused program WeWork Labs to China to help the growth and global expansion of Chinese up-and-comers.”

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

China-Australia relations
Australia 'flirting with danger' in debate over China, race commissioner warns / Guardian
“Australia’s race discrimination commissioner says we are ‘flirting with danger’ in the debate over Chinese influence in our democracy, warning that antagonism towards state-sponsored interference could spill over ‘into a general suspicion of Chinese-Australians.’”
Chinese investors grow wary of Australia as tensions rise / Bloomberg (paywall)
“While that’s part of a global trend after China tightened foreign investment rules and clamped down on capital outflows, the decline also reflects mounting political tensions.”China and Congo
China Inc. takes another bite of Congo's copper mining riches / Bloomberg (paywall)
“China is making another big bet on copper in the Democratic Republic of Congo, deepening its presence in a country that’s proved very difficult for Western business.”Trade war twists
Chemours ex-worker pleads guilty in China trade secrets case / Washington Post
“Prosecutors say the conspiracy involved the theft of trade secrets related to sodium cyanide, a chemical most often used to mine gold, silver, and other precious metals.”
The 10 names that matter on China policy / Politico via SCMP
“Trump’s skepticism of Asia was a key part of his campaign’s identity. These 10 people are dealing with the reality.”
Knives out for U.S. pork in tariffs war / FT (paywall)
“The U.S. pork industry is squealing after its two biggest foreign markets imposed steep tariffs in retaliation for steel and aluminium duties from the Trump administration. Mexico last week declared a 20 percent duty on imports of pork from the U.S., up from zero. China in April raised tariff rates on U.S. pork from 12 percent to 37 percent, putting the meat at a disadvantage in a global market.”
‘We'll see,' Ross says on China tariffs / Bloomberg (paywall)
“Ross also said that legislation that would restore penalties on China’s ZTE Corp. is no
a certainty as the measure still needs final approval.”
Senators move to sink Trump's ZTE deal / WSJ (paywall)
“White House sent top official to Capitol Hill to lobby against bipartisan effort to reverse pact to revive the Chinese telecommunications company.”Ideology and global leadership
China's master plan: A worldwide web of institutions / Bloomberg (paywall)
“This is the third part of a series on China's effort to supplant the U.S. as the world's pre-eminent geopolitical power.”E-cigarettes in Hong Kong
Hong Kong set to regulate e-cigarettes in same manner as traditional smoking products under new proposals / SCMP
“The sale of e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn products and herbal cigarettes to minors would be banned, packaging would require health warnings and all advertising would be prohibited.”Land disputes
Elderly woman exonerated after being jailed for petitioning over land dispute in China / SCMP
“An elderly woman in southern China was exonerated eight years after being jailed for petitioning over a land dispute, in a rare court ruling in favour of a petitioner — people often seen as a source of social instability by the ruling Communist Party.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Public transportation
One card to ride them all: Subways across China to unify payment systems / The Beijinger
“A newly available transportation card that will unify fare payments for public transportation systems in the Beijing/Tianjin/Hebei region signifies a new kind of convenience that will become available across the country by the end of the year.”Fewer phone fees starting next month
China to end domestic data roaming charges / Abacus
After years of charging data roaming fees for out-of-province use, China’s three largest telecom companies will end the practice next month.To share or not to share
Travel app’s seat-booking feature faces turbulence for TMI / Sixth Tone
“If you want to know more about the people sitting around you on your next flight, there’s an app for that — but not everyone is on board with its newest feature.”Party perks
Need a personal loan? Sure, if you’re a Communist Party member / SCMP
“A small bank in eastern China has introduced a special product for local Communist Party members — a personal loan of up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,800) as a standard offering, while ‘outstanding’ members can borrow up to 100,000 yuan (US$15,600).”Trumpworld
Ivanka Trump quotes ‘Chinese proverb,’ but China is baffled / NYT (paywall)
“It’s not the first time Ms. Trump has incorrectly described a quotation as Chinese. In 2013, for example, she posted on Twitter, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,’ attributing the phrase to Confucius. But experts said the saying was not Chinese.”Remembering Liu Xiaobo
Statue to Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo erected in Hong Kong’s Times Square despite protest from building’s owner / SCMP
“Hong Kong activists unveiled a statue of a late Chinese pro-democracy icon Liu Xiaobo outside a popular shopping centre on Tuesday, despite being asked to leave the area by the building’s owner. The group called on the management of Times Square to allow them to stay until July 13 — the first anniversary of the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu — and said they would leave the site afterwards.”Art auctions
Chinese vase found in shoebox in attic sells for US$19.1 million / SCMP
“An 18th-century Chinese vase forgotten for decades in a shoebox in a French attic sold for €16.2 million (US$19 million) at Sotheby’s in Paris on Tuesday — more than 30 times the estimate.”Movie star contracts
China movie stars and the two-contract problem / China Law Blog
“Let’s imagine for a moment that Fan did receive a separate, larger payment via a second contract. There’s no proof this occurred, but even if it did there’s nothing illegal about it, unless the recipient never reported it.”
Read on SupChina: Fan Bingbing's exposed contract ignites debate about celebrity salariesPolitical attitudes of college students
Party people: What kind of students join the CCP? / Sixth Tone
“Compared with past policies, these days, Party organizations barely look at an individual’s family. In fact, university students from working-class backgrounds are less likely to gain membership than those from other groups.”Air travel to the U.K.
First direct flight from China lands at Edinburgh Airport / BBC

PHOTO OF THE DAY

Bronze prayer wheels

A villager walks past the bronze prayer wheels hanging on a wall of the Feilai Temple (飞来寺 fēiláisì) in Deqin County, Diqing (Shangri-la) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province. The temple, covering an area of 16,145 square feet (1,500 square meters), was built in 1614 during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

View on SupChina View all photos

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