CCP Propaganda Organs Do Davos; Next Steps In The Financial Regulatory Crackdown; Provincial GDP Targets Lowered; PRC Elite Politics After The 19th Party Congress

It is remarkable how Beijing is using Davos as a propaganda platform to further advance its alternate vision for global governance and enhance the domestic prestige of the “leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core”.

The January 15 People's Daily "manifesto" on "seizing the historic opportunity" clearly fits from a timing perspective into this battle of ideas that should be coming into clearer focus for everyone at Davos. 

Going back even further, the November 2014 The Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs may deserve another look as a marker in a shift in the PRC's foreign policy. That meeting made clear Xi and the CCP were going to be more aggressive even before the rise of Trump and "America First" but in their view the 2016 US Presidential election clearly gave the PRC even more opportunity to advance its global governance agenda. 

Martin Wolf's latest Financial Times column Davos 2018: The liberal international order is sick is depressing:

As Freedom in the World 2018, published by Freedom House, a US state-funded non-profit organisation, states, “Democracy is in crisis”. For the 12th consecutive year, countries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains. States that a decade ago seemed promising success stories — such as Turkey and Hungary — are sliding into authoritarian rule…

So why has this happened? The answer consists of changes in the world and in the domestic condition of countries, especially that of the high-income democracies. Among global changes, the most important are the declining relevance of the west as a security community after the end of the cold war, together with its diminishing economic weight, especially in relation to China.

The "liberal international order" is far from collpase, but no country can go it alone against Xi's resurgent China. 


The Essential Eight

1. CCP Propaganda Organs Do Davos 

Backgrounder: President Xi's calls for a shared future - Xinhua:

The 2018 WEF theme revives the memory of a Chinese head of state's first participation when President Xi Jinping attended it last year and put forward the concept of "a community of shared future for mankind." 

China Focus: One year on, Xi's shared future vision wins wider support - Xinhua:

China's vision of building a community with a shared future for humanity is based on the principle of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, which is different from the zero-sum game that used to dominate international relations.

"China's dramatically increased role in global governance is very positive and one of the most noteworthy aspects of Xi Jinping's foreign policy," said David Shambaugh, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Barely one month after Xi's Davos speech, a community with a shared future for humanity was incorporated into a UN resolution.

"Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World" -- the theme of this year's WEF annual meeting being held in Davos, resonates with Xi's vision of building a community with a shared future for humanity.

Here is the second in a series of People's Daily pieces on the "significant meaning" of Community with Shared Future for Mankind as put forward by Xi Jinping--习近平提出“人类命运共同体”重大意义之二:中国方案推动全世界--国际--人民网

The 1.25 People’s Daily has a very piece about the global importance of Xi’s thoughts on reshaping global governance--让思想之光引领世界前行之路--时政--人民网:

在乱云飞渡的世界中,中国以构建人类命运共同体为目标,更显坚定和从容。在呼唤领导力的世界中,中国以实际行动推动各国构建人类命运共同体,更显胸怀和担当。

人类命运共同体,浓缩着新时代中国领导人对世界的深邃思考,体现了中国这个大国、中国共产党这个大党的天下情怀和风范,蕴藏着人类从何处来、向何处去的历史密码。

Modi's Davos speech: India joins China in criticizing US protectionism - CGTN:

"President Xi Jinping's keynote speech with the theme of "jointly shoulder responsibility of our times and promote global growth" at the World Economic Forum in Davos a year ago still remains fresh in our memories. He made a Chinese voice on promoting economic globalization towards a more open, inclusive, mutually beneficial, balanced and win-win direction. He advocated developing an open world economy and created a profound international influence," China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

She added that Modi's speech “reflected the contemporary trend of economic globalization conforming to the interests of all countries, especially developing countries. China hopes to work with every country, including India, to actively adapt to and guide globalization, making it a force that promotes world economic growth and improves people's well-being."

China Piles Up Free Trade Deals as Trump Abandons Them - Bloomberg:

From deals with blocs including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to bilaterals with tiny countries like Maldives, China’s FTAs already cover 21 countries. That compares with the 20 countries covered by U.S. agreements. More than a dozen additional pacts are being negotiated or studied, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Ross Says China, Not U.S., Is the Real Trade Protectionist - Bloomberg:

Ross found himself defending the Trump administration’s America First mantra in a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday with a group of strong champions of globalization. “The Chinese for quite a little while have been superb at free-trade rhetoric and even more superb at highly protectionist behavior,” Ross said. “Every time the U.S. does anything to deal with a problem, we are called protectionist.”

Reporter’s Notebook: China Embraces Globalism with Chinese Characteristics - Caixin Global:

Such calls for globalism by China would have been unthinkable only 10 or 15 years ago, when Chinese firms were just beginning to explore the global marketplace and $1 million was considered a big purchase abroad. Back then, U.S. and other Western firms were much more bullish on China, buying stakes in a wide range of companies in hopes of better access to the Chinese market.

But something happened along the way: Many Western companies became disillusioned after their investments went nowhere, and after they were told their opinions didn’t matter. Chinese companies have seen things differently, basking in a global marketplace that was certainly challenging but also offered benefits and a whole new playing field. On my second day in Davos, a sort of giddiness among Chinese company executives was clearly on display, even while a quieter Western skepticism weighed on the relationship.


2. Next Steps In The Financial Regulatory Crackdown 

Caixin has given us a helpful primer. 

China’s Financial Crackdown: What You Need to Know - Caixin Global What’s next?

This year, regulators have signaled they will pay more attention to corporate governance and financial conglomerates, companies that built themselves into large diverse financial institutions through complex ownership structures and fraudulent capital injections.

Last year, the heads of two financial groups — Tomorrow Holding Co. and Anbang Insurance Group Co. — were detained for investigation. The complex structure of the two companies allowed them to “capture” the financial watchdogs charged with regulating them, secretly gain control over other companies and shuffle money between them, and promote their own interests.

In his People’s Daily interview (see the 1.17.18 Sinocism), Guo criticized some shareholders who used banks as “ATM machines” and “recklessly conducted unfair connected transactions to line their own pockets.” Guo said some financial conglomerates had become “a severe obstacle to the country’s financial reforms and a threat to the security of the banking system,” warning that “stern treatment is needed.”

The Beijing News story has an interesting story about  Xiao Jianhua’s Tomorrow Group and its start in Baotou. I wonder if we are near some sort of announcement about his fate? “明天系”肖建华的包头往事 

Financial Institutions Skirt Entrusted Loan Restrictions - Caixin Global:

On Jan. 5, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) stipulated that banks cannot facilitate entrusted loans that are used to invest in bonds, equities or asset management products. Banks are also barred from providing guarantees or being involved in decisions about how the loans are used. In mid-January, Caixin learned from separate sources that the China Securities Regulatory Commission ordered a ban on investing collective asset management plans into entrusted loans. But financial asset exchanges have allowed a way around of these restrictions.

Economic Information reports that the CBRC has told commercial banks and trust firms they can not provide trust entrusted funding to real estate firms, local government financing platforms, the stock market or industries with overcapacity- 融资渠道受限 房企资金链再度承压-新华网:

《经济参考报》记者获悉,2018年整顿信托业是银监会的工作重点。近日,银监会下发通知,商业银行和信托公司开展银信类业务,不得将信托资金违规投向房地产、地方政府融资平台、股票市场、产能过剩等限制或禁止领域。

Beijing plans to boost scrutiny of Chinese offshore private equity funds - Reuters:

China plans to tighten oversight of private equity funds set up outside the country by domestic companies, including the disclosure of investors’ identities, to mitigate financial risk and keep tabs on a new wave of offshore fund-raising, four people familiar with the matter said.


3. Provincial GDP Targets Lowered As Fake Data Crackdown Intensifies

Chinese provinces lower growth targets after Xi Jinping says don’t just chase higher figures | South China Morning Post:

Chinese provinces – including those that have admitted cooking their books in recent months – have rushed to lower their GDP targets for this year after China’s President Xi Jinping stressed that local governments should be aiming for sustainable economic growth rather than just chasing higher figures.

Among the 19 provinces and municipalities that have released their growth targets for 2018 as of Thursday, 12 have lowered their goals, with figures for the other six unchanged. Only Shanxi, the coal-rich northern province, has set a higher growth target for this year.

Tianjin in northern China set its GDP target at five per cent in 2018, a stark contrast to last year’s eight per cent.

China Focus: Beijing aims for high-quality growth - Xinhua:

The annual government work report, delivered by Chen Jining at the opening meeting of the annual session of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, set the GDP growth target at around 6.5 percent.

The GDP growth target is lower than the average annual increase of 7.1 percent -- an absolute figure of 2.8 trillion yuan (438 billion U.S. dollars) -- the capital has achieved in the past five years, Chen said.

Editorial: Officials Who Cook the Books Must Be Held Responsible - Caixin Global:

Besides inadequate punishment, the reason why many local officials went all-out to create economic figures also lies in the country’s pressure of performance assessment, which had been leaning heavily toward a place’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth. The vicious cycle of “false data leads to promotion, and officials create false data” must be ended.

The toothless punishment of data fabrication in recent years may be a result of the existing laws being too general and lacking detailed definition of the subjects and the wrongdoings. Fortunately, the situation has been improving. The Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, led by President Xi Jinping, in June passed a guideline for punishing people responsible for data fabrication. The guideline clarifies the existing rules. It is urgent for authorities to follow the rules.


4. Assessing PRC Elite Politics After The 19th Party Congress

Comment: There is quite the debate within the foreign PRC elite politics watching community as to whether Xi is a norm-respecter or a norm-breaker. If you have a view please let me know.

Joe Fewsmith--The 19th Party Congress: Ringing in Xi Jinping’s New Age | Hoover Institution:

The 19th Party Congress and the First Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee that immediately followed the congress endorsed sweeping changes in China’s leadership, including the makeup of the Politburo and its standing committee. The theme of the congress was “never forget the original mission,” a theme emphasized when the new Politburo Standing Committee traveled to Shanghai to the site of the 1921 First Party Congress and repeated oaths of loyalty to the party. The congress made clear that the party is in charge of China and Xi Jinping is in charge of the party. Xi Jinping’s name and “thought” were written into the party’s constitution, and Xi Jinping made clear that his “new age” was to be demarcated from Deng Xiaoping’s “new period.” A new, more centralized leadership emerged from the congress, presiding over what it clearly intends to be a more disciplined party.

Alice Miller - The 19th Central Committee Politburo | Hoover Institution:

The 19th CCP Congress and the new Central Committee it elected followed longstanding norms in appointing a new party Politburo.  The major exception was the failure to appoint candidates to the Politburo Standing Committee who would succeed to the posts of party general secretary and PRC premier n 2022.

After the 19th: What Happened, What Didn’t, and What Now? - MacroPolo - Evan A. Feigenbaum and Damien Ma:

The Chinese Communist Party has incubated both “hard” and “soft” norms, and then institutionalized these in personnel selection, especially at the apex of the system with the seven members of the PBSC. Viewed from this perspective, the new PBSC reflects an evolution of these norms but by no means abandoned them. Thus Xi is neither as omnipotent as some have presumed nor a wholesale “wrecker” of longstanding Party norms as some have tried to argue. Rather, Xi bent certain Party norms, especially its soft norms, while opting for continuity and stability with its harder norms.

This means that any post mortem reflection on the 19th needs to look not just at whether this or that personnel call proved to be right or wrong—and at what we got right and wrong—but also whether existing norms held or were abandoned.


5. Mass-Produced Macaques Through Cloning?

Comment: If this helps cure Alzheimer's or dementia that would be wonderful.

Yes, They’ve Cloned Monkeys in China. That Doesn’t Mean You’re Next. - The New York Times:

The long-tailed macaques, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, were made from fetal cells grown in a petri dish. The clones are identical twins and carry the DNA of the monkey fetus that originally provided the cells, according to a study published in the journal Cell. They were born at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai.

Dolly the sheep was produced from udder cells that had been frozen for six years. Until that feat, many researchers had thought that type of cloning was impossible

China Focus: Macaque cloning breakthrough offers hope against human illnesses - Xinhua:

"We plan to produce more cloned monkeys designed for gene-related brain diseases, such as the Alzheimer' s, Parkinson's disease and autism. It will give us an international edge in the research of primate brains," Poo added.

The clone babies are currently bottle-fed and are growing normally compared to monkeys their age. The lab is following strict international guidelines for animal research set by the US National Institutes of Health.

"We are very aware that future research using non-human primates anywhere in the world depends on scientists following very strict ethical standards. That' s why cloned monkey models are valuable, but production also needs monitoring," said Poo. "Any abusive use could cause trouble."

揭秘克隆猴:从“多利”羊到“中中”猴,这一步为何跨越21年?-新华网


6. Peking University Opens Institute To Study "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era"

Comment: Can Schwarzman Scholars and Yenching Academy students take classes there?

Top Chinese University Opens Institute to Study 'Xi Jinping Thought' - RFA:

Beijing University (Beida), also known as Peking University (PKU), announced the opening of the new department to study "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" after Xi's brand of political theory was enshrined in the party constitution at the 19th party congress last October.

Operating under the aegis of the Beida Marxism Institute and led by ideologue Yu Hongjun, it will "integrate the disciplinary resources of various faculties and departments [to] focus on major theoretical and practical issues facing contemporary China," according to a statement on Beida's official website.

It will "explain the rich connotations, essence and scientific system of Xi Jinping's socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era," it said.

It is also charged with "promoting the Sinicization, popularization and modernization of Marxism," the statement said.

"Beida was the birthplace of the earliest spread of Marxism in our country," assistant education minister Zheng Weizhi was quoted as telling the inauguration event.


7. American Princelings' Messy China Business Ties

Family company once run by Jared Kushner drops effort to raise Chinese cash - AP:

The family real estate company once run by Jared Kushner is no longer seeking $150 million from Chinese investors for a New Jersey building project after months of criticism that the company was playing up its White House ties to raise the money.

A person familiar with the fundraising effort said this week that the company has stopped trying to raise money from wealthy Chinese to help pay for One Journal Square, a planned 66-story residential, retail and office complex in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan.

Comment: Is the Kushner firm no longer seeking any Chinese investment, or just Chinese investment through EB-5 visa sales? Would they turn down money from an institutional Chinese investor, especially if it had Beijing's blessing? And would it be appropriate for Charles Kushner or his other children to meet with PRC officials?

Chinese mom pays price for husband’s probe of Ivanka Trump - AP:

Ivanka Trump has sought to bring an aura of female empowerment to her lifestyle brand and spoken out for women’s rights from her post at the White House. But her legacy has been less than empowering for at least one woman in China.

In May, Deng’s husband, Hua Haifeng, and two of his colleagues were accused of illegally using secret recording devices and thrown in jail while investigating factories that made shoes for Ivanka Trump’s brand. The group they were working for, a New York non-profit called China Labor Watch, obtained evidence of forced overtime and pay as low as $1 an hour, as well as a video of a manager berating a worker for apparently arranging shoes in the wrong order.


8. The Rise Of Meituan

Tencent Backed Super-App Emerges to Rival Its Own WeChat - Bloomberg:

Leading the drive is Wang Xing, a hard-charging 38-year-old who founded the $30 billion behemoth. The inveterate entrepreneur is taking Meituan beyond its base of restaurant reviews and digital coupons into the alien territory of digital payments and even ride-hailing. Meituan already helps more than 4 million merchants hawk everything from food delivery to apartment rentals and travel packages to a user base about the size of the U.S. population.

For now, the giant startup’s careful to emphasize it’s not trying to undermine Tencent, merely testing the waters and harnessing its user base. To that end, it’s opening its platform to third-parties and plotting an expansion into at least 10 new verticals, said Chen Shaohui, a senior vice president overseeing strategy.

Didi's New Subsidies Augur Second Price War - Caixin Global:

Online services firm Meituan-Dianping, which runs popular takeout and restaurant rating apps, launched its ride-hailing service in Nanjing last February. The service is poised to expand into another seven cities including Beijing and Shanghai this year.

Meituan plans to offer massive subsidies to users and take only an 8% commission from drivers using its platform, as compared with Didi’s 20%. A source close to Didi told Caixin that Meituan’s subsidy program in Nanjing has landed the company a “relatively stable user base.”


Business, Economy, Finance And Trade

China’s yuan nears 25-month high against the US dollar on optimism over country’s economic outlook | South China Morning Post The People’s Bank of China set the daily yuan reference rate at 6.3953 against the dollar on Wednesday, the highest level since December 2015. The currency’s reference rate is used as a mid point, allowing trades of up to 2 per cent on either side for the day.

China Central Bank Governor's Retirement Seen in Absence From Top Advisory Body - Bloomberg Zhou, who has served as vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference since 2013, isn’t being re-selected as a member of its 13th national committee, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The absence signals Zhou -- who turns 70 on Monday -- is likely to retire from the central bank before March, when the conference, a gathering of more than 2,000 people who advise on policy making, usually holds its annual meeting.// Comment: Guo Shuqing's People's Daily interview last week (see the 1.17.18 Sinocism) may indicate he is the front runner

Trump's Not Done on Trade as Goldman Says Aluminum's Up Next - Bloomberg The Trump administration will probably impose a trade tariff on aluminum, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which warned that while the exact form any new levy takes is hard to predict, it may increase U.S. prices of the metal used in everything from cars to cans. “We think a trade tariff on aluminum is more likely than not to be imposed,” analysts including Jeffrey Currie said in a report. “The situation is fluid and there is still great uncertainty associated with the tariff rate, the targeted countries, and potential retaliations from America’s trading partners.”

Chinese steel mills win domestic iron ore pricing in some 2018 contracts - Reuters The move marks a major step in the evolution of iron ore pricing after the industry abandoned decades-old closed door talks between miners and steelmakers in 2010 in favor of a daily price index.

Chinese contractors grab lion’s share of Silk Road projects - FT $$ China’s pledge to the world is that it will create a “community with a shared future for mankind”. But that sharing is no more than an afterthought as it rolls out an ambitious programme to build transport infrastructure across Eurasia, a study shows. Of the contractors working on China-funded transport infrastructure projects in 34 Asian and European countries, 89 per cent were Chinese, leaving 11 per cent from elsewhere, according to the study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank.

China's Sinovel Convicted in U.S. of Stealing Trade Secrets - Bloomberg Sinovel Wind Group Co. was found guilty of orchestrating the theft in a rare criminal trade-secrets trial that’s raised doubts over China’s commitment to fighting infringement of intellectual property and corporate espionage.

Kroger’s answer to Amazon Go? Alibaba | New York Post Senior Kroger executives met with senior Alibaba officials last month in China, according to multiple sources. The precise topics discussed at the meeting could not be learned, but one report said the two companies have already teamed up on a deal spanning online and off-line sales.

Mnuchin Considers Visiting Beijing to Discuss Trade and Sanctions - Bloomberg "We talked about what we’re doing together in regard to North Korea and the sanctions that we have worked on together at the UN," Mnuchin told reporters. "I discussed a possible trip of mine to China later this year to review with them the sanctions as well as various different opportunities over there. We also talked very candidly about the trade issue."

China to be top issuer of local government bonds - China Daily "In 2018, local governments are predicted to issue more new bonds than last year, with a larger proportion, or up to 50 percent, being the special bond, which may lead to a rise of the debt ceiling to more than 20 trillion yuan," said Qiao Baoyun, head of the Academy of Public Finance and Public Policy at the Central University of Finance and Economics.

HNA Share Pledges Are Behind Frozen Bank Accounts - Bloomberg A creditor of an HNA Group Co. unit found that the company put up some shares as collateral for multiple loans, resulting in a temporary freeze of related bank accounts, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Ningbo Commerce Bank lent 450 million yuan ($71 million) to HNA Technology Group Co., backed by 70 million shares of Shanghai-listed unit Tianjin Tianhai Investment Co., said two of the people, who asked not to be named discussing a private matter. After determining that those shares were pledged to another creditor, Ningbo Commerce sought to freeze related bank accounts, the people said. A representative for Ningbo Commerce declined to comment.

 

Politics, Law And Ideology

Beijing denies former senior military officer Fan Changlong under investigation - Reuters China’s defence ministry on Thursday denied that former senior military officer Fan Changlong was being investigated on suspicion of corruption, pointing to a recent article in the military’s official newspaper in which his name was mentioned.

China: New Controls on Tibetan Monastery | Human Rights Watch The Chinese authorities have imposed new administrative controls on the Tibetan Buddhist monastic center of Larung Gar that infringe upon freedom of religion, Human Rights Watch said today. According to an official document obtained by Human Rights Watch, some 200 Communist Party cadres and lay officials are taking over all management, finances, security, admissions, and even the choice of textbooks at the center, following demolitions and expulsions in 2017.

从“打”黑除恶到“扫”黑除恶,一字之变有何深意?-新华网 对黑恶势力坚决“亮剑”,果断出击。中共中央、国务院近日发出《关于开展扫黑除恶专项斗争的通知》。其中不难发现,已经开展了10多年的“打黑除恶”专项斗争,现在变成了“扫黑除恶”专项斗争。虽然只是一字之变,但涉黑涉恶问题出现了新情况新动向,专项斗争的内涵发生了重大变化。

When big tech meets big government: How China is leaning on its tech titans to digitize public services “[The government and WeChat] are working together to build a smooth experience in public services, which can lessen the burden on the government’s offline job,” said Gu Haijun, director of WeChat Open Platform, at the messaging juggernaut’s annual event in January.

Member list of 13th CPPCC National Committee released - Xinhua Consisting of 2,158 names, the list was approved at the 24th session of the Standing Committee of the 12th CPPCC National Committee, which concluded Wednesday. A total of 859 are from the Communist Party of China (CPC), accounting for 39.8 percent of listed members. All the 56 ethnic groups of China are represented in the nation's top advisory body. The average age of members is 55.9, and 1,971 of them hold college degrees or above, with 105 academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.//The full list in Chinese 

 

Foreign and Military Affairs

U.S. Plans to Send First Aircraft Carrier to Vietnam Since War’s End - The New York Times The proposed visit to the port of Danang comes amid heightened tensions over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, including to islands claimed by Vietnam. The Defense Ministry of Vietnam announced the port call while the American defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, was in Hanoi.

China says has been invited again to U.S.-hosted naval drills - Reuters The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC, is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise, held every two years in Hawaii in June and July, and China has attended previously

Chinese navy preparing for island dispute: expert - Global Times The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is strengthening its combat capability by conducting drills in the South China Sea in an effort to deal with potential disputes and national reunification in the future, a military expert said on Wednesday, adding that other countries should familiarize themselves with the situation. Website navy.81.cn, affiliated to PLA Daily, reported six landing ships taking part in an exercise in the South China Sea on Monday.

Online Sales of Illegal Opioids from China Surge in U.S. - The New York Times Nearly $800 million worth of fentanyl pills were illegally sold to online customers in the United States over two years by Chinese distributors who took advantage of internet anonymity and an explosive growth in e-commerce, according to a Senate report (PDF) released on Wednesday.

US blacklists NKorea business interests in China, Russia - ABC News Among those blacklisted were 10 representatives in China and Russia of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, which is already designated by the United States and the United Nations and is said to support the North's defense industry. The Treasury Department said the company's procurements also probably support North Korea's chemical weapons program. Half of the individuals are located in the Chinese cities of Dandong, Ji'an, Linjiang and Tumen near the China-North Korea border. Others are based in Russia and Abkhazia, a breakaway province of Georgia. They include, Kim Ho Kyu, said to be a Ryonbong representative and North Korean vice consul in Nakhodka, Russia. //The full list on the US Treasury site

China barely exports any oil products to North Korea in December: customs - Reuters The country sold 5 tonnes of jet fuel to North Korea, but did not send any other oil products, marking the third straight month of no diesel, gasoline or fuel oil shipments, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

Does Debt Pay? China and the Politics of Investment in Sri Lanka | The Diplomat China’s debt-financing has therefore yielded at least two strategic benefits: the Hambantota port itself, and more broadly the willingness of an otherwise skeptical government to maintain and even build upon positive bilateral relations. However, two major countervailing factors make it unlikely that these outcomes will translate into substantial gains on the security front. First, domestic sentiment in Sri Lanka has been increasingly hostile to Chinese finance...Second, Sri Lanka’s neighbor to the north, India—a rising major power and regional competitor to China—plays an outsized role in Colombo’s security calculations. New Delhi has long sought to keep external powers out of South Asia, and although this stance is currently changing, Beijing is not on the guest list.

For China-Born Detainees, a Foreign Passport Provides Few Protections - WSJ “They simply consider Chinese foreign nationals ‘Chinese,’” said Patrick Poon, a researcher with Amnesty International. “The foreign passports don’t seem to make a huge difference.”...Mr. Gui’s case sends a message to other ethnic-Chinese foreign nationals that legal provisions such as protection from your country’s diplomats can’t be taken as a given, some rights activists said.

Vatican demands Chinese underground church bishops step down: report - Global Times The cautious attitude was shared by Francesco Sisci, a senior researcher at the Center of European Studies at the Renmin University of China and a Vatican affairs expert, who said that it is hard to say that there is a breakthrough on the normalization of China-Vatican ties though he thinks there is progress in the talks. "The Vatican respects and will respect the necessities of the Chinese government. Also, the Vatican wishes that Chinese local governments will be more attentive to the Chinese Catholics and their appeals. It doesn't have a political target, not targeting Taiwan or any other region," Sisci said.

Wang Yi Talks about the Results of the Second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum On January 22, 2018 local time, after the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Ministers of Chile and El Salvador jointly met the press. Wang Yi expressed that the complete success of the Second Ministerial Meeting of China-CELAC Forum has achieved another transoceanic handshake between China and Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) in the new era and opened a new chapter of overall cooperation between China and LAC countries. Both China and LAC countries uphold multilateralism, safeguard the free trade system, devote themselves to the building of an open global economy and promote economic globalization to develop in an inclusive, universally beneficial, balanced and win-win direction. We look forward to working with LAC countries to jointly push China-LAC comprehensive cooperative partnership to a new high.

UK PM Theresa May to visit China from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 - CGTN It would be May's second visit to China as prime minister after she traveled to China's Hangzhou and attended the G20 Summit meeting in 2016.

Taliban Confirms Afghan Peace Meetings with Pakistan, China, Others - VOA Taliban political officials say they have submitted a report to their top leadership after concluding interactions with officials in Pakistan and representatives from other nations, including China and Qatar, on finding a solution to the Afghan war.

China denies plan to build military base in Afghanistan - Reuters Russian news agency Ferghana News, which focuses on Central Asia, has reported that China will build the base in northern Afghanistan. The report was picked up last week by U.S. magazine The Diplomat and then in Chinese state media.

China downplays unprecedented India-ASEAN summit, presence of top leaders at Republic Day - Times of India China on Wednesday reacted guardedly to India hosting top ASEAN leaders on the country's 69th Republic Day and hoped that all countries can work jointly to maintain peace, stability and the development of the region. India is holding a two-day India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in New Delhi which is expected to give boost to the cooperation in key areas of counter-terrorism, security and connectivity amidst increasing Chinese economic and military assertiveness in the region.

Mysterious Bank Deposits Fueled Suspicion of Former C.I.A. Officer - The New York Times  Mr. Lee spent 13 years at the C.I.A. It is not clear why he left before retirement, but former colleagues say he was disgruntled and unhappy that he had not been promoted faster. After the C.I.A., he worked for Japan Tobacco International as an investigator, but he was later fired. Mr. Lee then opened his own private investigations company with a former Hong Kong police officer. The company went out of business in 2014, and Mr. Lee was hired by Estée Lauder, the cosmetics giant. At the time of his arrest, he was employed by Christie’s, the global auction house, which had sent him to the United States on a work-related trip.

 

Hong Kong And Macao

How a compulsory Mandarin course caused chaos at Hong Kong Baptist University | South China Morning Post A Mandarin proficiency requirement for graduation sparked an eight-hour stand-off between staff and students last week, unleashing a chain of events from death threats to the suspension of two students

 

Taiwan

US government removes ROC flag from Web sites - Taipei Times The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday expressed its disappointment over the removal of the Republic of China (ROC) flag from several US government Web sites, saying it has conveyed its grave concerns to Washington. The ministry made the remarks hours after the Chinese-language United Daily News reported the disappearance of the ROC flag from the Web sites of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Office of the US Trade Representative that displayed the flag on their introduction pages for Taiwan.

 

Tech And Media

Didi's Inter-City Hitch buckles up for an expected 33 million trips over Spring Festival · TechNode Didi Chuxing, China’s ride-sharing giant, expects its Inter-City Hitch service to complete over 33 million passenger trips during the approaching Spring Festival—three times higher than the passenger load from the last two years combined.

Mobike Stuffs Its Baskets With Cash in New Funding Push - Caixin Global Bike-sharing leader Mobike has raised around $1 billion in its latest fundraising round, sources said, after a possible merger with its archrival Ofo fizzled out. .. Market sources have indicated that Meituan-Dianping, China’s largest group-buying and local service site, has been interested in investing in Mobike. Meituan-Dianping declined to comment on Caixin’s inquiry on whether it took part in the new fundraising. Mobike announced a previous funding round last July, in which it raised $600 million from investors led by social media giant Tencent Holdings.

“Father of WeChat” Lays Out 2018 Product Roadmap - Hans Tung TL;DR: WeChat’s focus in 2018 will be helping users navigate the offline world WeChat is making its search more powerful WeChat reached a deal with Apple, and will re-introduce its tipping feature and allow users to tip authors directly WeChat will integrate its regular version and Enterprise WeChat

China’s facial recognition start-ups gain edge over rivals - FT $$ “SenseTime and its competitors can grow so fast compared to elsewhere in the world because video surveillance is a big deal in China, the government controls the budget and there’s a huge budget for it so they can manage society,” says Justin Niu, a partner at IDG, which was one of SenseTime’s early investors.

China goes on tech-hiring binge and wages soar, closing gap with Silicon Valley - Reuters “Companies are well-funded and are in serious competition for talent,” said Thomas Liang, a former executive at Chinese search giant Baidu (BIDU.O) who is now running an AI–focused fund. He said that startups in hot sectors like AI often have to offer 50-100 percent pay raises to attract employees away from established technology firms.

Liu Zhen on Bytedance’s Global Vision and Why Toutiao Is Unique - 996 Podcast with GGV Capital GGV Capital’s Hans Tung and Zara Zhang interview Liu Zhen, the senior vice president of Bytedance (Toutiao), one of the fastest-growing Chinese tech startups that has made a lot of headlines. You may know Bytedance through its flagship product, Jinri Toutiao (今日头条), a content discovery and recommendation mobile app platform that uses artificial intelligence to recommend content to its users

China's Kuaishou in $1 billion Tencent-led funding round, eyes IPO: sources - Reuters The latest funding round values Kuaishou at about $18 billion and has attracted venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China, among other investors, the people said. It is expected to close in the coming weeks, they said.//Congrats to DCM and its lead China partner Hurst Lin. Kuaishou may be their biggest home run yet

 

Society, Art, Sports, Culture And History

Noodles for the Messiah: China’s Creative Christian Hymns - Sixth Tone Images of Guan Yu and Confucius dressed up like Santa Claus are meant to be humorous. “The Baby Jesus,” on the other hand, has deeper social and historical roots. About five years ago, I carried out fieldwork in Nanyang, another city in Henan, where I witnessed performances of a number of Chinese operas similar to “The Baby Jesus.” These experiences opened my eyes to the vibrant forms Christianity has taken at the local level. In a church in downtown Nanyang, I watched children in colorfully decorated costumes perform the Parable of the Ten Virgins from the Gospel of Matthew. In an abandoned factory on the city’s outskirts, I saw an old man act out the story of the Blind Man of Bethsaida. Elsewhere, I watched a eulogy to Jesus accompanied by Tibetan dance.

 

Energy, Environment, Science And Health

China Is Decimating Southeast Asian Wildlife | The Diplomat Many of these animals are targeted because they have the misfortune of being listed in the classic Chinese text, Ben Cao Gang Mu 《本草纲目》or  Compendium of Materia Medica. Tigers, rhinos, bears (for their bile), pangolins (three tons of pangolin scales were recently intercepted by Chinese police in the biggest bust ever), sharks, manta rays, seahorses (8 million in one haul), sea turtles — the list of at-risk species is damning. In a particularly gruesome example, macaques have been known to be cooked alive for the consumption of their brains in Hong Kong and Guangdong.  //  Comment: Another future market for PRC cloning firms?

 

Agriculture And Rural Issues

China Buys Abandoned Rural Homes to Free Up Land for Development - Caixin Global Liu Shouying, a professor of economics at Beijing’s Renmin University and a prominent researcher on land issues, said the pilot program in Lu county has helped address legal loopholes pertaining to how land is allocated for rural housing because villagers have for decades gotten accustomed to free land. Such programs could also help revive rural areas in China, which have fallen into decay in recent decades.

China sees boom in rural e-commerce in 2017 - Xinhua Online retail volume in rural areas topped 1.24 trillion yuan (194.1 billion U.S. dollars) last year, up 39.1 percent year on year, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Over 9.8 million online shops were based in villages by the end of 2017, up 20.7 percent year on year, creating over 28 million jobs.

 

Beijing

New rules to keep skies blue in Beijing - China Daily Beijing will make every effort to maintain blue skies this year and will unveil the new action plan based on the updated analysis of pollutants, the acting mayor, Chen Jining, said. "Vehicles with high exhaust emissions will be the major target. The current area that allows limited emissions will be expanded to cover the whole city in 2018," he said at the opening ceremony of the first session of the 15th Beijing Municipal People's Congress on Wednesday.