Gene-edited baby; Comrade Jack Ma and Party Construction; Xi's nephew interned in DC; Taiwan elections

Lots going on so today’s newsletter is a bit long:

  • A Chinese scientist claims he has created a gene-edited baby. The reactions in and out of China have been almost uniformly negative;

  • Taiwan’s “mid-term” elections were disappointing for the ruling DPP Party but it is not clear what impact the results will have on Taiwan-Mainland China relations and US-China relations;

  • Xi chaired the November Politburo meeting. There was no announcement of the 4th Plenum, so it is clearly not happening in November and may very well not happen in December. The 3rd Plenum earlier this year was a big one, more so for the massive bureaucratic reorganization than for term limits removal, perhaps Xi never had any intention of holding two Plenums this year?;

  • The G-20 meets 11.30-12.1, Xi Jinping is bracketing his trip to the G-20 with visits to Spain, Argentina, Panama and Portugal from 11.27 to 12.5.

Mike Forsythe and Ed Wong of The New York Times wrote a very disturbing story about Americans who are unable to leave China until their fugitive husband/father turns himself in - China’s Tactic to Catch a Fugitive Official: Hold His Two American Children

When Victor and Cynthia Liu landed with their mother on a tropical Chinese island in June to visit an ailing grandfather, they thought they would soon be on a plane back to their East Coast lives — he to start his sophomore year at Georgetown University, and she to work at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company in New York.

Instead, within days, police officers detained their mother, Sandra Han, who, like her children, is an American citizen. They moved her to a secret site, commonly known as a black jail. The children discovered at the airport that they could not leave China, even though the police had said they were not being investigated or charged with a crime, the children told American officials and family associates.

By holding the family hostage, they said, the police are trying to force the siblings’ father to return to China to face criminal charges. The father, Liu Changming, a former executive at a state-owned bank, is accused of being a central player in a $1.4 billion fraud case.

I admit to having little sympathy for Liu’s wife, as it sounds like she worked with her husband to make the arrangements to set up a new life in the US and she appears to have knowingly benefited financially from his misdeeds. But the kids are a different story…

This awful story contains another bombshell, buried towards the end:

On his trip to China this month, the Georgetown president, John J. DeGioia, met with senior officials. With him was Evan S. Medeiros, a professor who had helped negotiate releases of American hostages in North Korea as senior Asia director in President Barack Obama’s National Security Council.

The university has a little-known connection to China’s leadership. A nephew of Mr. Xi, China’s president, is a recent graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. While at Georgetown, he also interned at the Brookings Institution.

Mike Forsythe confirmed on Twitter that Xi’s nephew interned for Cheng Li.

Given the heightened concerns about CCP influence in the US, the revelation that Xi’s nephew was interning at one of the DC’s top think tanks for a leading scholar of PRC politics who recently wrote a book about Xi (Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership) raises questions about disclosure and transparency and will likely put Brookings in an uncomfortable light.

Today is Cyber Monday in the US and is a great excuse gift a subscription to Sinocism. Anyone interested in China will love it as a gift that keeps giving all year.

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Thanks for reading.

The Essential Eight

1. A gene-edited Chinese baby

First gene-edited babies claimed in China - AP:

A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies — twin girls born this month whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life.

If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics.

A U.S. scientist said he took part in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes...

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. He said his goal was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have — an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus...

The U.S. scientist who worked with him on this project after He returned to China was physics and bioengineering professor Michael Deem, who was his adviser at Rice in Houston. Deem also holds what he called “a small stake” in — and is on the scientific advisory boards of — He’s two companies.

Baby Gene-Editing Breakthrough Claim Slammed - Caixin:

He is affiliated with Shenzhen’s Southern University of Science and Technology of China (SUSTC) and also heads six companies in China, mostly in the genetics sector.

The university distanced itself from He in a statement Monday that said the researcher had been on unpaid leave since February, and that the school was unaware of the experiment. The academic board of SUSTC’s biology department has deemed that the project “seriously violated academic ethics and norms.”..

There is no independent confirmation of the experiment’s success, and it has not been published in any academic journal. China’s state-run People’s Daily published an online article about it on Monday but later removed the story.

Statement from the University - 关于贺建奎副教授对人体胚胎进行基因编辑研究的情况声明 

Chinese scientists condemn ‘crazy’ and ‘unethical’ gene-editing experiment | South China Morning Post:

More than 120 Chinese scientists signed a letter condemning the claim by He Jiankui, a biologist with the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen.

“The project completely ignored the principles of biomedical ethics, conducting experiments on humans without proving it’s safe,” said Qiu Zilong, a neuroscience researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai who wrote the letter.

“We can only describe such behaviour as crazy.”

Global Times upset by the gene-editing--社评:基因编辑婴儿事件,国家应全面调查_评论_环球网 

CRISPR inventor Feng Zhang calls for moratorium on gene-edited babies - MIT Technology Review

China Will Always Be Bad at Bioethics – Foreign Policy - Yangyang Cheng:

While the Chinese Communist Party has a branch office at every school and every hospital, the presence of ethics boards is optional. According to a presentation at the World Health Organization by one of China’s leading medical ethicists, Hu Qingli, only about half of Chinese provinces had set up ethics committees by the early 2010s; the same went for individual hospitals. Even when ethics boards exist, conflicts of interest are rife. While the Ministry of Health’s ethics guidelines state that ethical reviews are “based upon the principles of ethics accepted by the international community,” they lack enforcement mechanisms and provide few instructions for investigators. As a result, the ethics review process is often reduced to a formality, “a rubber stamp” in Hu’s words. The lax ethical environment has led many to consider China the “Wild East” in biomedical research.

2. November Politburo meeting

CPC meeting reviews work rules of rural organizations, disciplinary inspection agencies - Xinhua:

The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Monday held a meeting and reviewed two documents on regulation of the work of the Party's rural primary-level organizations, and the work rules for the Party's disciplinary inspection agencies...

The meeting stressed that the revision of the regulation regarding rural primary-level organizations' work is important in upholding and strengthening the overall Party leadership over rural work.

Party organizations in villages must exercise overall leadership over diverse organizations and all kinds of work in their villages and see to major issues of their villages, according to the meeting.

The meeting required stronger rural Party branches and selecting competent chiefs for them.

The problem of lax and weak governance at rural Party branches must be addressed, the meeting said, calling for the recruitment of more competent young people in rural areas into the Party...

The CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and National Supervisory Commission (NSC) should take the lead in enhancing the Party's political building, and closely follow the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core in terms of thinking, political orientation and actions, the meeting stressed.

The CCDI and NSC are also required to have the courage to "show their sword and fight" on major issues of principle, and be open to both internal oversight and public supervision.

中共中央政治局召开会议 习近平主持

新华社北京11月26日电 中共中央政治局11月26日召开会议,审议《中国共产党农村基层组织工作条例》和《中国共产党纪律检查机关监督执纪工作规则》。中共中央总书记习近平主持会议。

3. The Party wants more and better Party branches

CPC issues trial regulation on Party-branch work - Xinhua:

According to a statement from the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, this was the first basic and major regulation on the work of Party branches in the Party's history and basic guideline of the building of Party branches in the new era.

According to the CPC Constitution, Party branches are the basic organizations of the Party; they are responsible for directly guiding, managing, and overseeing Party members and for organizing, communicating with, uniting, and serving the people.

"The regulation has clarified the function and position of Party branches, standardized the setup, listed the basic work and key tasks of Party branches in different areas, improved the working mechanism and other rules of the Party branches," the statement said.

The statement said the regulation not only pays attention on the creation of Party branches in traditional areas, but also expands Party building in new fields.

The document-《中国共产党支部工作条例(试行)》 

People's Daily page 1 comment on the trial regulations - 建设坚强战斗堡垒的制度保证 

Xi stresses strict criteria, fairness in appointing officials - Xinhua:

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, stressed the importance of applying strict criteria and fairness in the appointment of officials.

Presiding over a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on Monday, Xi underlined fostering a contingent of high-calibre officials who are loyal to the Party, have moral integrity, and demonstrate a keen sense of responsibility.

Comment: The study session looked at the officials and governance in Chinese history. Bu Xianqun of CASS was the lecturer.

习近平在中共中央政治局第十次集体学习时强调: 严把标准公正用人拓宽视野激励干部, 造就忠诚干净担当的高素质干部队伍 

4. Comrade Jack Ma

It’s Official: China’s E-Commerce King is a Communist - WSJ $$

Jack Ma, the creator of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BABA 0.62% , was identified as a Communist Party member Monday by party-run People’s Daily in an honor roll of people who contributed to modernizing China’s economy.

The news took many by surprise, including the author of a well-known book on Mr. Ma and Alibaba, even though a 2015 reference can be found on the website of a business group in Alibaba’s home province of Zhejiang.

“There has been speculation before, but never anything public,” said business consultant Duncan Clark, author of “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built.” “He had never discussed this before. There had been a sense that keeping this ambiguous was best in terms of his international profile and ambitions.”

Add this to another disclosure issue for Alibaba $baba given that the Ma would have to put the interests of the Party over shareholders when told to. Here is the notice, on page 13 of the 11.26 People's Daily--关于改革开放杰出贡献拟表彰对象的公示: 


Tencent's Pony Ma made the cut, is listed as having no affiliation with any political party - 马化腾,男,汉族,无党派人士,1971年10月出生,广东汕头人,腾讯科技(深圳)有限公司董事会主席、首席执行官。

Baidu's Robin Li made the cut, is also listed as having no affiliation with any political party - 李彦宏,男,汉族,无党派人士,1968年11月出生,山西阳泉人,百度在线网络技术(北京)有限公司董事长、首席执行官。

Overall a very interesting list - China’s top 100: local cadres beat tech titans to dominate Communist Party reform honours list | South China Morning Post

It includes many big names – from tech entrepreneurs and scientists to private businesspeople, economists and athletes – whose achievements mirrored some of the milestones of the country’s 40 years of development...

But the biggest contingent – nearly one-quarter – was a group of obscure, low-ranking party cadres who spent decades working in either the countryside or state-owned industries.

Global Times 11.21 - Technology companies strengthen CPC committee role in management, development

And the Party wants to move into deeper into tech firms - Authorities in South China's Guangdong Province, a major hub of technology companies and entrepreneurs, are strengthening internal Party construction work, a major way to improve corporate management, an expert said.

Party members should be trained and cultivated to hold the key posts of enterprises, according to a Party-building meeting, held by the Organization Department and cyber affairs office of Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in Shenzhen, Guangdong on Tuesday, reported Wednesday.

More Chinese technology companies have set up CPC branches lately, reflecting the importance of improving political positioning in the internet sector, Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

5. Financial opening accelerating?

Insurer Allianz Gets Green Light for Wholly Owned China Operation - Caixin:

German insurer Allianz Group will be allowed to start China’s first wholly foreign-owned insurance holding company in Shanghai next year, suggesting regulators could deliver more quickly than expected on their promise to open up the country’s financial services sector...

China pledged a year ago to raise the cap on foreign ownership of insurance companies to 51% over three years from the current 50% and to remove the cap entirely within five years, as part of an initiative to open up the nation’s domestically dominated financial services sector. But the decision to allow Allianz to go solo in China now suggests regulators are moving more quickly than expected.

Comment: Liu He is visiting Germany, so nice timing to approve a German insurance deal.

6. US-China trade

Time for a Trump-Xi showdown - POLITICO:

Senior administration officials told POLITICO that they believe the Chinese are eager to engage on trade, but they acknowledged that Xi has long-term interests he’s set on and Trump can be unpredictable when he meets with world leaders. They also don’t expect Trump to back down on insisting that China addresses long-standing complaints such as theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfer.

The 2020 factor: Some analysts note that Trump has shown a tendency in meetings with other leaders to back off threats of tough action in exchange for a commitment to negotiate.

But on trade, which Trump has pushed to the forefront of his administration, the president is under pressure to keep tariffs in place despite the economic pain until he can achieve some sort of tangible result. Otherwise, he risks facing criticism from Democrats during the 2020 presidential campaign that he caved to Beijing

China's Export Boom to the U.S. to End in January, Nomura Says - Bloomberg:

In September, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of imports from China and pledged to raise the duty to 25 percent at the beginning of next year, sparking a rush to ship goods to U.S. customers ahead of the increase.

That will probably boost Chinese export growth in this quarter by 1.8 percentage points and overall economic growth by 0.2 percentage points in nominal terms, the Nomura economists, led by Lu Ting, said in a report published Thursday. They estimated that export growth in the first quarter of 2019 will probably be 5.6 percentage points lower than in the fourth quarter -- and economic growth 0.7 percentage points lower -- as a result

US-China backchannels are not working like they used to--U.S.-China Trade Fight Risks Fragmenting Global Market, Says Beijing’s Ambassador to the U.S. - WSJ $$:

WSJ: Some people China would rely on as sort of back channel, intermediaries, don’t have the clout that they once did. What’s your take on this?

Ambassador Cui: I think, first of all, this is not a problem for China. This is a problem for America itself. What will serve the best interests of the United States if we don’t listen to these experienced people?

We have to talk to people in the administration in order to arrive at a solution of the problem. But at the same time, I think advice and assistance from people like [Former Treasury] Secretary [Hank] Paulson and others is extremely helpful. I think that both sides should make best use of their experience. We should listen to their advice seriously. And I, myself, I’m talking to people like Secretary Paulson, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Mr. Steve Schwarzman and the [U.S.] Chamber of Commerce here in Washington very often. I want to listen to their advice, their assessment of the situation and their views about the effective ways of solving the problem.

The US, China and Wall Street’s new man in the middle | Financial Times $$:

a new generation of China whisperers is emerging as Mr Kissinger, 95, grows frail and US President Donald Trump jettisons the principles that formed the bedrock of Sino-American relations through eight successive US administrations — namely the conviction that the two countries’ common interests outweighed their differences, and that their periodic disputes could always be managed peacefully.

...the most prominent — and controversial — of the potential next-generation Kissingers is Blackstone co-founder Stephen Schwarzman, who has longstanding commercial interests in China and a close personal relationship with Mr Trump.

“All of those folks to one degree or another have been trying to run backchannels, in particular through [Treasury secretary Stephen] Mnuchin, there’s no two ways about it,” says one person close to the US-China trade talks. “They have also been counselling the Chinese all the way along. If the president announces a deal, they will be patting themselves on the back.”..

Comment: The article says Schwarzman spent a week in September working on the US-China issues, "with the knowledge and support of Trump and Mnuchin", but that a visit to DC by Wang Shouwen he had helped arrange blew up because Trump announced new tariffs just days before Wang was supposed to arrive. Does Beijing still think Schwarzman can deliver, given that:

The incident was the third time in just over a year that Mr Schwarzman had failed to deliver a promised meeting for his friends in Beijing with his friend in the White House, according to four people familiar with his other efforts.

Meanwhile the US-China tech war is heating up and it is hard to envision any deal at the g-20 that changes the trajectory of this--Washington Asks Allies to Drop Huawei - WSJ $$:

American officials have briefed their government counterparts and telecom executives in friendly countries where Huawei equipment is already in wide use, including Germany, Italy and Japan, about what they see as cybersecurity risks, these people said. The U.S. is also considering increasing financial aid for telecommunications development in countries that shun Chinese-made equipment, some of these people say.

One U.S. concern centers on the use of Chinese telecom equipment in countries that host American military bases, according to people familiar with the matter, such as Germany, Italy and Japan. The Defense Department has its own satellites and telecom network for especially sensitive communications, but most traffic at many military installations travels through commercial networks.

The Chipmaker Caught in U.S. Assault on China's Tech Ambitions - Bloomberg

Less than a month ago, Jinhua was full-speed ahead on an enormous undertaking financed by the local government that blanketed its corner of the city with bristling power plants, hulking workers’ dormitories and modern research labs. It was within months of a deadline to kick off full-scale production of some 60,000 wafers a month, a key step to giving China a competitive producer of memory chips used in smartphones.

Then the U.S. Justice Department accused it of stealing American technology, and Commerce slammed the door on purchases of the chipmaking gear it needed to hit that milestone. Expansion work halted as its American and even European suppliers skipped town. Now, uncertainty shrouds a company President Xi Jinping’s touted as one of three future domestic champions of chipmaking.

“No one here knows for sure what’s next, not even the local government officials,” one engineer told Bloomberg News on condition of anonymity. “Only Xi Jinping and Donald Trump can save us now. We only hope the government sees us as important as ZTE.”

7. Taiwan elections

Assessing The Impact of the 11/24 Elections in Three Questions – Taiwan Sentinel:

The Democratic Progressive Party suffered a major setback in Saturday’s ‘nine-in-one’ elections, losing seven of the 13 cities and counties it had held since 2014 and now only controlling six. As the results became known, President Tsai Ing-wen, who doubles as DPP chairperson, stepped down as head of her party, as is the custom following poor showings in elections. The outcome of the election has also led to much speculation about the party’s future candidate in the 2020 presidential elections, and how Beijing is likely to interpret the results. Taiwan Sentinel chief editor J. Michael Cole provides answers to three key questions surrounding Saturday’s elections...

Already, the elected KMT heads of Kaohsiung and Taichung have announced that they will form “cross-Strait working groups” and recognize the so-called “1992 consensus” once they enter office. It’s always been part of Beijing’s strategy to bypass the central government in Taipei by establishing direct links at the municipal level. Countering this will be a major challenge for the central administration, as we can expect Beijing and its counterparts in Taiwan will try to rapidly demonstrate the benefits of rapprochement ahead of the January 2020 general election. That being said, we must remember that when the KMT was firmly in power and was seen to have gotten too close to China, it, too, suffered severe defeats in elections, both in 2014 and 2016. That’s the beauty of democracy; it swings like a pendulum, but in that process it also imposes checks and balances. It gives Taiwan a resilience that non-democratic states do not enjoy. If the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party become hubristic after this weekend, they risk overreaching and could easily prompt another round of countervailing action à la Sunflower Movement. By no means did this election signify that the Taiwanese have become more pro-Beijing.

From rank outsider to mayor of Kaohsiung: meet the man who wooed Taiwan’s electorate | South China Morning Post:

After breaking two decades of control by Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), all eyes are now on the new mayor of Kaohsiung Han Kuo-yu.

The 61-year-old, whose parents came from central China’s Henan province, won a crushing victory for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT)..

In his final campaign rally in Kaohsiung on Friday, a day before voters went to the polls, close to 200,000 supporters filled the park. And when he promised to “make Kaohsiung great” again, the crowd roared.

“In the past 20 to 30 years, Kaohsiung people have led a difficult life in this city drowned by political ideology, full of pathos and grievances, especially at times of elections,” he told the rally.

“If I was elected mayor, I would return the city to its former glory, when people were rich and young men were able to find a decent job,” he said.

Progressive Taiwanese Civil Society Sees Defeat By Way Of National Referendum - New Bloom

NPP Defies Expectations With Sixteen City Council Seats, SDP Takes One Seat - New Bloom

Mainland notes Taiwan elections reflect public will - China Daily:

"We have noticed the results of the elections," said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, adding that the results reflected the strong will of the public in Taiwan to share the benefits of peaceful development across the Taiwan Straits, and their desire to improve the island's economy and people's well-being...

The fundamental reason for the electoral defeat of the Democratic Progressive Party is that it did nothing to improve economic development on the island, said Zhang Wensheng, deputy head of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, Fujian Province.

He said that another reason is that the Tsai administration's "pro-independence" secessionism has forced cross-Straits ties into a deadlock, causing Taiwan to fall behind the mainland market in many industries, including tourism and agricultural exports.

8. Could CGTN lose UK broadcast license?

'My ordeal haunts me': UK regulator must ban Chinese state TV, says man who appeared in 'forced confession' | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP:

Peter Humphrey was forced to confess on CCTV for crimes he had been not convicted of in 2013 and 2014. He filed a complaint with the Office of Communications (Ofcom) in an attempt to revoke the UK licence and credentials of CCTV and its international arm CGTN. If the complaint is upheld, China’s state broadcaster will be effectively kicked out of the UK.

Question: Was it broadcast on CGTN in the US?

CCTV need be tasked with following existing rules for broadcasting - RSDL Monitor:

The complaint, exhaustive in nature, highlights how some twenty aspects of the Broadcasting code has been violated in broadcasting these “confessions”, and the complaint comes as CCTV/CGTN is about to open a major production center in London. The new center is the centerpiece in the European dimension in Xi Jinping’s signature “going out” policy, and is one of several developments, working in tandem, in expanding Chinese party/state influence in Europe. Should the complaint place CCTV/CGTN under review, it will have no choice but to cease broadcasting such “confessions”, or risk losing a the ability to expand its European operations for possibly years to come. Local media in Chiswick Park, the upscale area of London where the new CGTN center is to open, have reported that CIC – China Investment Corporation – paid 780 million pound for purchasing the Chiswick office Park complex.

China urges UK to ‘support’ foreign media amid CCTV ‘forced confession’ complaint - HKFP: 

“I hope Britain can support and facilitate the reporting work of international media in the UK,” said Chinese foreign ministry official spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing in Beijing Monday.

“I think news organisations are a bridge and bond to promoting mutual understanding and friendly exchanges between the people of each country,” he added.

Business, Economy, Finance And Trade

Hong Kong's Hottest IPOs Bring Worst Returns to Investors - Bloomberg Ping An Healthcare and Technology Co., in which retail investors placed orders for 654 times the shares initially available, has tumbled 37 percent since it started trading in May. Biotechnology firm Ascletis Pharma Inc., whose retail book was covered 10 times, is down 44 percent from its IPO price, and Meituan Dianping, a food-delivery giant that attracted billionaire investors including Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing, has dropped 24 percent.

Who is Paying for the Trade War with China? | Publication | Econpol Europe We calibrate a simple economic model and find that a 25 percentage point increase in tariffs raises US consumer prices on all affected Chinese products by only 4.5% on average, while the producer price of Chinese firms declines by 20.5%. The US government has strategically levied import duties on goods with high import elasticities, which transfers a great share of the tariff burden on to Chinese exporters. Chinese firms pay approximately 75% of the tariff burden and the tariffs decrease Chinese exports of affected goods to the United States by around 37%. This implies that the bilateral trade deficit between the US and China drops by 17%. The additional tariffs generate revenues of around USD 22.5 billion, which could subsequently be redistributed in the US. Although the tariffs introduce a distortion to US consumption decisions, the economic costs are shifted to Chinese exporting firms and the US government is able to extract a net welfare gain of USD 18.4 billion.

Fall 2018 — The China Dashboard Fall 2018 — Asia Society Policy Institute and Rhodium Group As of this Fall 2018 Dashboard edition, reform is not moving forward in 8 of the 10 areas we track. This continues the pattern previously observed. We see modest forward movement only in two areas: Cross-Border Investment liberalization and promotion of Innovation.

New Rules on Share Buybacks Raise Manipulation Concerns - Caixin The draft rules, which are open for public comment until Friday, will broaden the ways that companies can deal with repurchased shares. But the draft rules have also sparked concerns that such a short lockup period will make it easier for company insiders to manipulate stock prices.

Iran Says China Will Take Over Total’s Stake in World’s Largest Natural Gas Field - Caixin China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) will take French company Total SA’s place in developing what is thought to be the world’s largest gas deposit, according to Iranian state media, as the state-owned energy giant is apparently undeterred by the return of U.S. sanctions on the country.

Rags to Riches Entrepreneurs Head for Inglorious Fall - Caixin  “Most private firms in trouble these days are those who invested indiscriminately and expanded in a disorderly way,” an executive with a private fund manager, who declined to be identified, told Caixin. “These companies leveraged up, especially between 2013 and 2016, and plugged into the capital markets. They pledged shares or got financing in other ways, speculated in stocks or got involved in mergers and acquisition until the money was all gone.”

China supports necessary reforms of WTO: Ministry of Commerce - People's Daily Online The multilateral trading system is now challenged by unilateralism and trade protectionism, said Wang Shouwen, Vice Minister of Commerce. He said the WTO is threatened by three factors: the dispute settlement regime is at risk of paralysis due to obstruction from certain members to fill the vacancy of its Appellate Body members; certain members raising tariffs by abusing the security exception clause; and some members taking unilateral approaches in disregard of the WTO's multilateral rules

Yuan-ruble payment system ‘can counter US hegemony’ - Global Times China and Russia agreed to boost the use of the yuan and the ruble in bilateral and global trade during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to China earlier this month. The two countries have already begun to draft a pact. Medvedev said that China and Russian should have set up such a payment system "10 years ago" and that US sanctions pushed the two countries to pursue the plan, according to RT. Russia is facing tough sanctions from the US and its allies, while China is engaged in a bitter trade war with the US. "This is indeed a very necessary move because there is always a risk in relying entirely on the dollar," said Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. "Given the dollar's hegemony, the US could inflict harm on any country it wants at any time, even US companies."

Politics, Law And Ideology

CPC holds symposium to commemorate 120th anniversary of Liu Shaoqi's birth - Xinhua Praising Liu's loyalty to the Party, Xi urged the CPC members to follow his example in keeping to the Communist faith and ideals and devoting their lives to Communism. Xi also called on them to always stand up for truth and face up to their mistakes and fix them. Only by doing so could the Party be built into a Marxist ruling party that earns people's sincere support, has the courage to reform itself, and withstands all challenges, Xi said. "Following the example of Liu, we should put the Party's principles, its cause, and the people's interests first," Xi said. // 中共中央举行纪念刘少奇同志诞辰120周年座谈会 习近平发表重要讲话  The Party also held a symposium for the 110th anniversary, presided over by Hu Jintao. 胡锦涛在纪念刘少奇同志诞辰110周年座谈会上的讲话(全文)

Over 510,000 community-level workstations against pornography, illegal publication established - Xinhua China has established over 510,000 community-level workstations against pornographic and illegal publications, China's anti-pornography office said. The establishment now plays an increasingly important role in resisting harmful thinking and culture, defending cultural interests for juveniles, and cleaning up the sociocultural environment, according to the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications

What caught Xi's eye at the reform and opening-up exhibition? - ECNS The first was an old photo of Deng Xiaoping in 1984, depicting the former leader writing inscriptions for special economic zones in Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Xiamen. "'Develop the special economic zone in a faster and better way.' This inscription was written in 1984 for Xiamen," Xi said while looking at the picture. Xi recalled his work experience in Xiamen more than 30 years ago. One year after the inscription, "I went to work in Xiamen in 1985 and realized there was no time to lose," Xi said. "Xiamen must catch up, as other special economic zones had developed fast."

自信的中国永远在这儿--观点--人民网 "Zhong Xuanli" in another People's Daily commentary designed to shore up confidence  

Research – Peter Lorentzen - “Personal Ties, Meritocracy, and China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign,” with Xi Lu. We examine the targeting and motivations of the first phase of China’s anti-corruption campaign under Xi Jinping (2012-2015). Combining data on officials’ personal networks revealed during the campaign with biographical and economic data, we find evidence that the campaign indeed targeted corruption. In addition, individuals, networks, and geographic regions that departed sharply from meritocratic governance practices appear to have been a primary target, with higher rates of indictment. This is consistent with the party’s own claim that the crackdown was designed to reduce corruption and strengthen party-led meritocracy. However, individuals with personal ties to Xi Jinping appear to be exempt from investigation while, individuals with ties to the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee had no special protection. Taken together, these findings indicate that the crackdown served both its stated goal of strengthening the party and the unstated goal of consolidating Xi’s power.

Chinese spokespersons discuss press innovation in new era - Xinhua The 2018 China Spokespersons Forum, sponsored by the State Council Information Office (SCIO) and organized by the National Institute of Strategic Communication at Peking University, was attended by more than 100 spokespersons, scholars and representatives of news organizations. The theme of the forum was the development and innovation of news releasing system with Chinese characteristics in the new era. Xu Lin, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the SCIO, called on the press sector to better respond to public opinion, advance reform, tell stories about China and take the lead in spreading mainstream values.  2018中国新闻发言人论坛举行 聚焦新时代新闻发布制度发展与创新

The US$144 million in dirty cash that no money launderer in China would touch | South China Morning Post Li Huanan, the 59-year-old deputy Communist Party chief of Shenzhen, had offered up to half of his haul – or more than US$70 million – to any underground banker willing to take up the challenge, according to a source with direct knowledge of the case. “Li tried to ask through a middleman to see if money launderers could help move his 1 billion yuan [US$144 million] in cash overseas, offering lucrative rewards,” the source said. But none dared to accept the offer, and the cash remained stacked in one of Li’s properties in Shenzhen until it was seized by officers from the party’s anti-corruption watchdog on October 9.

Foreign and Military Affairs

Attack on Chinese consulate due to Pak-Beijing trade deals, says Imran Khan | Business Standard News “The failed attack against the Chinese Consulate was clearly a reaction to the unprecedented trade agreements that resulted from our trip to China,” Khan said on Twitter. “The attack was intended to scare Chinese investors -- these terrorists will not succeed.”

Why are separatist militants violently targeting Chinese in Pakistan? | South China Morning Post  At least four people were killed when three gunman belonging to the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) tried to enter the consulate at about 9.30am local time. No consulate staff were harmed in the attack, and all three militants were shot dead by police...While the BLA and other militant groups do pose a security threat, they are not seen to have the wherewithal to defeat the Pakistani military or run over the province. Nevertheless, they remain a serious impediment to the development of the China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the crown jewel of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan. The CPEC is supposed to run through Balochistan to end in the deep seaport of Gawadar, providing the shortest land and sea route between China and the Persian Gulf.

Maldives says China is building projects at inflated prices | Reuters Maldives’ new finance minister said on Monday that China is executing infrastructure projects at vastly higher prices than originally proposed but the island nation cannot get out of its commitments now.

Kenya charges three Chinese railway workers with bribery | Reuters The men are senior employees with China Roads and Bridges Corporation, the company that constructed and runs the railway opened last year between the capital and the port of Mombasa.

China is paying foreign journalists, including from India, to report from Beijing For 10 months every year, starting 2016, China’s foreign ministry has hosted around 100 foreign journalists from leading media houses in Asia and Africa. They have been given the red-carpet treatment: apartments in one of Beijing’s plush residences...a 5,000 Yuan monthly stipend for some (Rs 50,000) and free tours twice-every-month to different Chinese provinces. They are also given language classes and at the end of the programme, they are given degrees in international relations from a Chinese university. Perhaps above all, they are given what other foreign correspondents in China are usually denied — access to Chinese government officials and ministries. This initiative coincides with two major Chinese government objectives: the launch of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, and Xi’s call in 2016 to “tell China’s story better” to the world.

央视揭秘网络间谍窃密圈套_凤凰资讯 CCTV reveals details of several alleged foreign cyber attacks for espionage purposes

Beijing plans an AI Atlantis for the South China Sea – without a human in sight | South China Morning Post China is planning to build a deep sea base for unmanned submarine science and defence operations in the South China Sea, a centre that might become the first artificial intelligence colony on Earth, officials and scientists involved in the plan said.

China and the New Strategic Nuclear Arms Race | Center for Strategic and International Studies This study is a major expansion and revision of a previous Burke Chair study that examines the changes taking place in Chinese nuclear delivery needs and their impact on China's stockpiles of nuclear weapons and weapons designs. It drew on a wide range of official open-source reporting, as well as a range of outside sources, including the Federation of American Scientists, Arms Control Association, IISS, SIPRI and analysts like Hans M. Kristensen and Robert Norris to examine these developments.

China reaching deeper and deeper into Nepal | Asia Times n June this year, China and Nepal signed several agreements, including one to extend the same railroad an additional 270 kilometers from Xigaze to Kathmandu. Construction is expected to start after a survey is conducted and the line completed by 2024. There are also talks about extending the envisioned railroad further south to the Indian border. Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha in southern Nepal, has been mentioned as a symbolic final station for the proposed track...Beijing’s long-term plan under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) appears to be to link up with India’s railroads to reach Bangladesh and its ports on the Bay of Bengal. That may be a non-starter given India’s concerns about China’s grand designs for the region, but is nonetheless on Beijing’s drawing board

Shining a Spotlight: Revealing China’s Maritime Militia to Deter its Use | The National Interest - Andrew S. Erickson At the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue press conference on November 9, Defense Secretary James Mattis made a great contribution by using his top-level authority to shine a spotlight on China’s third sea force , the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) : “We… discussed the importance of all military, law enforcement, and civilian vessels and aircraft—including those in the PLA Navy, the Chinese Coast Guard, and the PRC Maritime Militia—to operate in a safe and professional manner in accordance with international law as we seek peaceful resolution of all disputes in the South China Sea .” 

China launches work on third aircraft carrier - Xinhua In an article published on its WeChat account, Xinhua said that as the nation’s second, and the first domestically designed, carrier has undergone sea trials, a “new-generation carrier” is being constructed at the shipyard as per schedule. The article, which was intended to mark the sixth anniversary of the first takeoff and landing by a Chinese fighter on the country’s first carrier CNS Liaoning, does not elaborate on the program of the “new-generation carrier”, which is believed to be the country’s third carrier. But the article is the first official confirmation.

How Australia’s Mandarin speakers get their news - The Conversation my co-investigator (Haiqing Yu) and I conducted an online survey of 522 Mandarin-speaking people living in Australia, as part of the Chinese-Language Digital/Social Media in Australia: Rethinking Soft Power project..The results showed that while Mandarin speakers in Australia access a variety of online outlets, newer Chinese-language news websites are a primary source of information – particularly when accessed via WeChat //  Comment: And foreign governments like Australia have no ability to regulate or influence content that flows through Wechat, or even use Wechat to distribute their own information without risk of censorship by Tencent

Fake news and hate speech thrive on regional language social media | Hindustan Times Helo, which also operates in 14 languages, is backed by the Chinese internet conglomerate ByteDance. The group, which also owns news aggregator Toutiao and short-video social platform Tik Tok, is heading towards a total valuation of around $75 billion, according to Bloomberg. HT surveyed political content on the two platforms in three languages: Hindi, Kannada and Bengali. Posts in Hindi and Kannada were littered with misinformation. In Bengali, too, the conversation on current affairs was polarised, but there were no clear examples of fake news or hate speech.

Japanese govt to deploy 22 new destroyers with minesweeping capabilities - The Japan News  In light of the intensifying activities of the Chinese Navy in the East China Sea, including around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, the government aims to improve warning and surveillance capabilities. The plan will be stipulated in the National Defense Program Guidelines to be revised in December.

Why the Swedish King is cancelling his China trip over Gui Minhai – InBeijing Yesterday it was reported in Swedish media that our King with short notice cancelled his upcoming China trip, that was supposed to take place between November 25 and December 1. According to national Swedish television (SVT), the decision was made due to ”complicated ongoing negotiations” over Gui Minhai, the Swedish publisher who have been imprisoned in China for over 1,100 days without a trial.

Hong Kong, Macao

China's Fujian Province Backs News Website Targeting Hong Kong, Macau - RFA The ruling Chinese Communist Party in the southeastern province of Fujian has set up a new website offering local "news" to residents of Hong Kong and Macau, RFA has learned. Southeast Net, which is run by the Fujian Hong Kong and Macao Media Center of the provincial propaganda department, has been recruiting Hong Kong and Macao-based journalists to staff its Hong Kong news site since May. The site, which already has a branch in Australia, has been recruiting reporters, video producers, and editors and "social media specialists" in the two former colonial cities in recent months, according to an online recruitment advertisement seen by RFA.

Tech And Media

How Cheap Labor Drives China’s A.I. Ambitions - The New York Times In China, long the world’s factory floor, a new generation of low-wage workers is assembling the foundations of the future. Start-ups in smaller, cheaper cities have sprung up to apply labels to China’s huge trove of images and surveillance footage. If China is the Saudi Arabia of data, as one expert says, these businesses are the refineries, turning raw data into the fuel that can power China’s A.I. ambitions. // Huxiu also wrote about this business in October 那些给人工智能打工的人 

Alibaba restructures to focus on cloud computing and new retail · TechNode Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s Chief Executive Officer, said in an internal letter that its cloud-computing arm Alibaba Cloud business group will be upgraded to Alibaba Cloud Intelligence business group. Alibaba Group CTO Zhang Jianfeng is appointed as head of the unit, reporting directly to Daniel Zhang.

Senior legislators discuss legislative work to foster, regulate AI development - Xinhua Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, presided over and addressed the study session of the NPC Standing Committee Chairpersons' Council. The legislators said a speech delivered by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, set the direction and made plans for technological innovation and AI development in the new era, raising specific demands for the people's congresses and their standing committees to promote the healthy development of China's new-generation AI.

Society, Art, Sports, Culture And History

Chinese Master's 1,000-Year-Old Scroll May Fetch $60 Million - Bloomberg The scroll is one of only two known to exist by the 11th century Song dynasty master Su Shi, who continues to inspire Chinese artists.  //  Comment: bet it goes for a lot more than $60m

I watched D&G’s China show fall apart from the inside | Dazed 

A Retro Fashion Statement in 1,000-Year-Old Gowns, With Nationalist Fringe - The New York Times These hundreds of retro-style dressers, gathered on a university campus in Beijing this past weekend, are devotees of the “Hanfu” movement. They are dedicated to reviving the clothes they believe China’s Han ethnic majority wore before their country succumbed to centuries of foreign domination — and to taking pride in the past they evoke.

Energy, Environment, Science And Health

China Blood Boom Triggers Buying Binge by Top Global Producers - Bloomberg China’s surging demand for blood products is drawing the world’s largest suppliers, including Barcelona-based Grifols SA, which is in talks for a possible $5 billion transaction that would be its second acquisition in the country this year. 

Hiding facts of chemical leak 'terrible' - China Daily  The incident actually involved a leak of 69.1 metric tons of petrochemicals, not the 6.97 tons reported earlier by Fujian Donggang Petrochemical Industry, Wang Yongli, mayor of Quanzhou, said at a news conference on Sunday. He added that the company's attempt to hide the actual volume of the leak and falsify evidence was "terrible".

Fujian Chemical Spill Was 10 Times Larger Than Initially Reported - Caixin 

As Flu Season Begins, China Grapples With Vaccine Shortage - Sixth Tone Vaccine supplies have dwindled as multiple manufacturers have descended into turmoil in recent months. According to the official website of China’s National Institutes for Food and Drug Control, three out of the country’s six largest vaccine manufacturers in 2017 have yet to receive official approval for this year’s flu shots.

Food And Travel

Engine Trouble: Chinese Airline Mishaps Put Spotlight on Pilots - WSJ The foreign captains—which China recruits from countries it considers to have good aviation standards— described unsafe practices they had seen, including Chinese crew members plastering sheets of newspaper over the cockpit windows after takeoff. “Suddenly there was zero visibility. They said they didn’t want the sunlight on their skin,” one captain who recently left China said.

A Big New Airport Shows China’s Strengths (and Weaknesses) - The New York Times By 2025, the airport will be able to serve 72 million passengers a year. That, along with the existing Beijing Capital International Airport’s annual capacity of 96 million passengers, would make Beijing one of the world’s busiest city airport systems, rivaling for top spot the 170 million carried by London’s six airports, based on 2017 figures. Ultimately, Daxing is expected to handle 100 million passengers a year.