Hong Kong PRC; Peace-loving PLAN; BRI Forum; Death literature

Thank you so much for all the nice messages you have sent me. I am touched, and overwhelmed by the amount, so apologies in advance if I do not reply to each one individually.

I expect things to be back to normal by next Tuesday or Wednesday, and in the meantime I may send a couple of these shorter notes. I like to work, better than just sitting around and being sad.

I have extended everyone’s billing cycle by one week to effectively give a credit for the disruption. What that means is that if your monthly or annual renewal date is April 25 for example that will now shift to May 2 and follow that new schedule so long as you are a subscriber.

Thanks for reading, and your support.


1. Dark days for freedom in Hong Kong, PRC

Hong Kong Umbrella Movement Leaders Are Sentenced to Prison - The New York Times

Three student protest leaders, Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law, were given prison sentences of six to eight months in 2017. Hong Kong’s highest court overturned those sentences last year, but also upheld tougher sentencing for future offenses.

Hong Kong’s leading Umbrella Movement activists handed jail sentences | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP

Eight pro-democracy activists who led Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement protests were sentenced on Wednesday after being convicted of public nuisance charges two weeks ago.

Legal scholar Benny Tai and retired sociology professor Chan Kin-man were each handed 16-month jail terms for one charge and an 8-month jail term for the other. Both will go to jail for 16 months as their sentences will be served at the same time starting from Wednesday.

Hong Kong publishers fear intensified censorship as city’s biggest book distributor SUP announces move to mainland China | South China Morning Post

The proposed relocation of SUP Publishing Logistics has been most alarming for Hong Kong’s independent publishers, with the city’s biggest source of local literature – Spicy Fish Cultural Production – saying it would consider terminating a partnership with SUP that was lasted over a decade.

SUP Logistics was founded in 2004 by Sino United Publishing (SUP), a state-owned publishing group controlled by Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong. SUP is the largest publishing group in Hong Kong, and SUP Logistics operates the largest distribution network..

publishers in Hong Kong are worried that the two rounds of customs checks could lead to additional censorship and self-censorship. 

Hard to argue with Hong-based writer and lawyer (and Sinocism subscriber) Antony Dapiran:


2. Economy

Central Bank Offers Cash Injection After Dismissing Talk of Reserve Cut - Caixin

The cash injection reinforced analysts’ view that the central bank is now backing away from further loosening monetary policy after the recent release of key economic indicators showed the economy stabilized in the first quarter.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) provided 267.4 billion yuan ($39.8 billion) to some large and midsize banks through its targeted medium-term lending facility (TMLF) on Wednesday to reward them for enhancing credit support for small and private companies in the first three months of this year, the central bank said in a statement ..

The TMLF operation came after the central bank on Tuesday night dismissed rumors that it was going to lower the amount of cash that banks must keep in reserve by 1 percentage point for some rural financial institutions, dampening hopes for further monetary policy easing. Through a newspaper it runs, the PBOC clarified that it has no plan for a new targeted reserve requirement ratio (RRR) cut as yet.

【重磅】央行:“25日起定向降准”传言不实_监管动态_中国金融新闻网 - PBoC shoots down rumors of RRR cut

Local Governments Report Upbeat Economic Data - Caixin

Of 23 provincial-level regions that posted regional gross domestic product (GDP) growth data for the first quarter by Wednesday, 18 met or beat annual targets, including the municipalities of Tianjin and Chongqing.

However, the provinces of Hainan, Qinghai and Shaanxi, as well as the Inner Mongolia and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous regions, failed to do so.

While the numbers signal stabilizing conditions broadly in line with national figures, questions have previously been raised over the veracity of local government economic data. Recent years have brought a spate of admissions of inflated fiscal revenue, industrial output and GDP figures as economic growth has slowed.

Yicai Global - China Cuts USD40 Billion Worth of Taxes in 6 Months With Low-Income Workers in Mind

Each taxpayer enjoyed an income levy cut of CNY224 (USD33.30) each month, based on the pre-reform number of 200 million taxpayers in the country, data released by the State Administration of Taxation show.

Some 91.6 million people do not need to pay income tax any longer, Cai Zili, director of a revenue planning and account bureau under the SAT, said at a press briefing yesterday. On Oct. 1, China raised the related threshold from CNY3,500 to CNY5,000 (USD520 up) to decrease low-income groups' financial burdens.


3. Peace-loving PLAN

Xi Focus: Xi proposes building maritime community with shared future - Xinhua

"The peace-loving Chinese people long for peace and will unswervingly stay on the path of peaceful development," Xi said.

China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature and champions new thinking on common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security, he noted.

"Holding high the banner of win-win cooperation, the Chinese military is committed to creating a security environment featuring equality, mutual trust, fairness and justice, joint participation and shared benefits," he said.

China’s maritime ambitions are becoming more evident - Chaguan

Chinese scholars have pored over the theories of Alfred Thayer Mahan, an American navy captain and 19th-century writer on “sea power” as a source of global strength resting on three pillars: commerce, naval firepower and access to far-flung bases. Mahan was a prescient man. On April 19th Chinese state television reported on China’s first naval base abroad, which opened in Djibouti last year. The report included a revealing on-camera prediction from the base’s political commissar: that support for far-flung missions would increasingly depend on such facilities.

China’s navy expands marine corps into own unit ‘to defend maritime interests’ | South China Morning Post

The move was confirmed in a report on recent milestones of the People’s Liberation Army Navy to mark its 70th anniversary on Tuesday.

“The marine corps has been expanded and upgraded to a unit of its own,” the report on CCTV said.

But unlike the US Marine Corps, which operates in parallel to the army, navy and air force, the Chinese unit will remain part of the navy.

“The amphibious combat force has made progress and it is now taking a more comprehensive approach to development,” the report last week said. “This transformation has optimised the navy structure and the distribution of its functions.”

China Challenge: Xi's army is replacing the U.S. as Asia's mightiest - Reuters

n a series of stories, Reuters is exploring how the rapid and disruptive advance of Chinese hard power on Xi Jinping’s watch has ended the era of unquestioned U.S. supremacy in Asia. In just over two decades, China has built a force of conventional missiles that rival or outperform those in the U.S. armory. China’s shipyards have spawned the world’s biggest navy, which now rules the waves in East Asia. Beijing can now launch nuclear-armed missiles from an operational fleet of ballistic missile submarines, giving it a powerful second-strike capability. And the PLA is fortifying posts across vast expanses of the South China Sea, while stepping up preparations to recover Taiwan, by force if necessary.

For the first time since Portuguese traders reached the Chinese coast five centuries ago, China has the military power to dominate the seas off its coast. Conflict between China and the United States in these waters would be destructive and bloody, particularly a clash over Taiwan, according to serving and retired senior American officers. And despite decades of unrivaled power since the end of the Cold War, there would be no guarantee America would prevail.

庆祝人民海军成立70周年海上阅兵活动举行_图片频道_新华网 - slideshow of the naval parade. rainy and foggy, hard to see much


4. Belt and Road Forum

China’s Belt and Road Is Getting a Reboot to Clean Up Its Image - Bloomberg

Beijing is taking a range of steps to exert more control over the program, officials and participants said, including a more muted publicity drive, clearer rules for state-owned-enterprises, restricting use of the BRI brand, and building overseas auditing and anti-corruption mechanisms. It’s also stepping up efforts to get developed nations to join in to spread the risk of building projects in poorer nations and to counter allegations that BRI is just an attempt to build China’s political influence...

"The Chinese government had a great sense of frustration as the latest criticisms not only come from developed but also developing countries," said Zhu Feng, dean of the Institute of International Relations at Nanjing University, "The international pressure is working to compel China to move forward."

Belt and Road debt trap accusations hound China as it hosts forum | Financial Times $$

Top guests include President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, the first G7 country to endorse Chinese president Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy.

Ahead of the event, Beijing barred hikers from villages near the Great Wall while workers carefully placed flowerpots along the approaches to the forum’s $1bn lakeside venue. This year, however, China’s guests are looking for more than pomp and circumstance. Even among countries that have endorsed BRI with secret agreements, concerns are growing that its grandiose projects are unsustainable for host countries.

To counter the complaints, Beijing has added side events on financing and trade. It also plans progress reports on projects that are already under way, said Wang Yi, foreign minister, while denying the projects had brought “debt crises”.

Belt and road reflects reality that China is now a world power, Spanish foreign minister says | South China Morning Post

Borrell, 72, a seasoned Spanish politician and former president of the European Parliament, will attend the Belt and Road Forum that begins in Beijing on Thursday.

He said that while it was too soon to assess the impact of the New Silk Road, the EU shared the US view that China was already a world power, and that European cooperation in the scheme would be based on the premise that certain principles were respected.

Xi congratulates Belt and Road News Network First Council Meeting - Xinhua

"We are glad to see that media has played positive and constructive roles in the process of building the Belt and Road partnership network after the initiative was proposed, " Xi said, adding the Belt and Road News Network provides convenient communication and cooperation platform for media of each country.

Xi sends congratulatory message to Belt and Road think tank - CGTN

Xi said the think tank will provide a platform for dialogue and consultation, and he hopes scholars could take the opportunity to carry out more research and promote high-quality development under the BRI framework.


5. US-China

Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding the Administration’s Trade Talks with China | The White House

At President Donald J. Trump’s direction, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing for continued negotiations on the trade relationship between the United States and China. The talks will begin on April 30, 2019. Vice Premier Liu He will lead the talks for China. The Vice Premier will then lead a Chinese delegation to Washington for additional discussions starting on May 8, 2019.

The subjects of next week’s discussions will cover trade issues including intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, purchases, and enforcement.

PacNet #26 - Robert Sutter – Washington's "Whole-of-government" Pushback Against Chinese Challenges—Implications and Outlook | Pacific Forum

Close collaboration between the administration and both Democrats and Republicans in the Congress broke the mold of past practice where the Congress usually served as a brake and obstacle impeding administration initiatives in dealing with China. Despite acute partisanship in Washington, opposing China now represented one of the few areas where both sides of the congressional aisle and the Trump administration agree...

Also among drivers, Richard Madsen and other specialists have identified four groups of Americans as ever more focused negatively on China's practices. They are Americans who judge they lost their jobs because of Chinese competition and received little support from US elites who benefited from interchange with China; some manufacturers forced out of business with similar assessments of China and US elites; Americans suspicious of foreign influence and immigration, viewing China as the largest problem; and evangelical Christians sensitive to China’s harsh suppression of religious freedom. When combined with Politico's judgment a month ago that the major conservative organization CPAC will be giving top priority to targeting China's practices going forward and the reestablishment of the Committee on Present Danger (now focused on China), the sum seems to represent a major shift in the US approach to China that will last a long time – well beyond Trump's first term. Meanwhile, one can add here Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford’s speech in March entitled “Re-learning a competitive mindset in great power competition”; in Ford's judgment “the center of gravity in the US policy community – alarmed by aspects of what modern China is unfortunately becoming – has crossed its intellectual Rubicon and, irrespective of which political party holds sway in Washington, will never again return to the fallacies and competitive unpreparedness of our uncritically rise-embracing past."...

American public opinion thus far has not been persuaded of the wisdom of the current hard US approach and may have little patience with elected officials stressing vigilance that they, the voters, would rather not pay for.

On balance, I agree with Christopher Ford that there will be no return to the past practice of engagement. What lies ahead remains to be determined.

Opinion - David Shambaugh | When China and the US wage a visa war against each other’s scholars, nobody wins | South China Morning Post

By denying or withholding visas from some of America’s leading China experts, the Chinese side has alienated precisely those who spend their lives working on informing the American public and policymakers, and who have impact on each.
China has thus turned potential allies into adversaries. Now, the US government is doing the same thing to China’s leading America hands. This only has negative consequences on each side...

The recently escalating and reciprocal visa war between the US and China is a new stage in the systematically deteriorating relationship.

China Exploits Fleet of U.S. Satellites to Strengthen Police and Military Power - WSJ $$

U.S. law effectively prohibits American companies from exporting satellites to China, where domestic technology lags well behind America’s. But the U.S. doesn’t regulate how a satellite’s bandwidth is used once the device is in space. That has allowed China to essentially rent the capacity of U.S.-built satellites it wouldn’t be allowed to buy, a Wall Street Journal investigation found..

A Hong Kong company called Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. has long been a bridge between mainland China and U.S. satellite makers. AsiaSat is jointly controlled by Citic Group—a conglomerate owned by China’s central government—and Carlyle, which together own about 75% of the firm...

At a 2011 industry conference, a Citic manager listed the Ministry of State Security, China’s main spy agency, and the military as among a long list of end users of its satellite capacity for emergency responses, according to a copy of the presentation reviewed by the Journal...

Meanwhile, AsiaSat decided to drop U.S. government-funded outlets Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. They have been a thorn in the side for Beijing, beaming coverage of politically sensitive topics. AsiaSat in recent months told the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which manages the outlets’ contract, that it wouldn’t extend satellite services beyond June.

U.S. Oil Is Flowing Freely to China Again After Slowing to Trickle - Bloomberg

A supertanker laden with U.S. oil is floating off China’s eastern coast, awaiting discharge at one of the Asian nation’s busiest ports. The vessel will soon be joined by more ships that will make the two-month voyage from America as long-simmering trade tensions between Washington and Beijing begin to ease.

China complains to U.S. over end to Iran oil sanction waivers - Reuters

China is Iran’s largest crude oil customer, with total imports last year of 29.27 million tonnes, or about 585,400 barrels a day, roughly 6 percent of China’s total oil imports, according to customs data.

‘We’re literally falling apart’: Asian-American conservatives feeling the sting of Cindy Yang affair, founder of Republican group says | South China Morning Post

Though Li claimed he had never knowingly been approached by Chinese government operatives seeking either to exert influence within the ethnic Chinese community in the US or collect information from its members, he said he believed the threat was real and deserved attention.

“I believe there is a ‘present danger’ from [the] Beijing regime to this country,” he said, in a nod to a new committee backed by Steve Bannon that aims to “educate and tell American citizens and policymakers about the existential threats presented from the People’s Republic of China”

Former GE Engineer and Chinese Businessman Charged with Economic Espionage and Theft of GE’s Trade Secrets | OPA | Department of Justice

An indictment unsealed today charges Xiaoqing Zheng, 56, of Niskayuna, New York, and Zhaoxi Zhang, 47, of Liaoning Province, China, with economic espionage and conspiring to steal General Electric’s (GE’s) trade secrets surrounding turbine technologies, knowing and intending that those stolen trade secrets would be used to benefit the People’s Republic of China. ..

The indictment also alleges that Zheng and Zhang conspired to commit economic espionage, as the thefts of GE’s trade secrets surrounding various turbine technologies were done knowing and intending that the thefts would benefit the People’s Republic of China and one or more foreign instrumentalities, including LTAT, NTAT, Shenyang Aerospace University, Shenyang Aeroengine Research Institute, and Huaihai Institute of Technology.

US-China diplomacy: 40 years of what’s worked and what hasn’t

On April 22, the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings welcomed James Green, the host of “U.S.-China Dialogue Podcast.” Green moderated a conversation with three highly esteemed experts who have shaped U.S.-China relations through their extensive careers in government—Amy Celico, David Shear, and Dennis Wilder—two of whom have been guests of the podcast. The group weighed the insights and oversights gathered through four decades of interacting with the Chinese government. Questions from the audience followed the discussion.

Frontline - Trump's Trade War - May 7 :

The inside story of President Trump's gamble to confront China over trade. Reporting from the US and China, NPR and FRONTLINE investigate what led the world's two largest economies to the brink, and the billions at stake. 

Comment: They filmed interviews of me and Evan Medeiros at my house in DC, curious to see if I survived the cutting room floor


6. Brits go wobbly on Huawei

Theresa May approves Huawei for UK 5G in snub to US | Financial Times

The controversial decision, taken on Tuesday at the National Security Council, comes as Philip Hammond, chancellor, prepares to travel to China to promote Britain’s participation in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The decision to give Huawei limited access to the development of Britain’s 5G network, first reported in the Daily Telegraph, was taken despite the concerns of some ministers, including Gavin Williamson, defence secretary, over the impact on the UK’s relationship with Washington...

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, tweeted that allowing Huawei to build some of the UK’s 5G infrastructure would “cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to #FiveEyes co-operation”. He added: “There’s a reason others have said no”.

Huawei row: UK to let Chinese firm help build 5G network - BBC News

According to the Daily Telegraph, Huawei would be allowed to help build the "non-core" infrastructure of the 5G network.

This would mean Huawei would not supply equipment for what is known as the "core" parts - where tasks such as checking device IDs and deciding how to route voice calls and data take place.


7. Surveillance exports

Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State - The New York Times

Ecuador’s system, which was installed beginning in 2011, is a basic version of a program of computerized controls that Beijing has spent billions to build out over a decade of technological progress. According to Ecuador’s government, these cameras feed footage to the police for manual review.

But a New York Times investigation found that the footage also goes to the country’s feared domestic intelligence agency...

Ecuador shows how technology built for China’s political system is now being applied — and sometimes abused — by other governments. Today, 18 countries — including Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates and Germany — are using Chinese-made intelligent monitoring systems, and 36 have received training in topics like “public opinion guidance,” which is typically a euphemism for censorship, according to an October report from Freedom House, a pro-democracy research group.

Can you also buy a turnkey Internet filtering system?


8. Death literature

The first item is sponsored in part by Sinocism. I worked as a translator at the Chinese Literature Press in Beijing from late 1991 to early 1993 and wish more Chinese writing would be translated into English. It is more important than ever that we can hear and read Chinese voices.

Searching for Bodies – China Channel

I originally came here to look for Immortal Xia. She was famous in Jincheng for “dressing the dead.” On the phone, when I asked Old Man Liang about his colleague, he told me, “I think I’ve seen her before; you should come over.” He said that she was the only woman for 100 miles in any direction who “dressed the dead.”

Lu Bo, a reporter from Eastern Outlook, had interviewed Immortal Xia 30 years ago. He told me that when there was a mining accident, Immortal Xia would dress in a strange robe like a witch or a sorcerer. People called her “Queen Mother Guanyin.” After her husband died in a mining accident 16 years ago, she started bathing and making up the dead miners for a living. Immortal Xia told Lu Bo a lot of stories; for example, the miners loved to bathe in scalding water, because if their pores didn’t open up they couldn’t wash off the coal dust. You could tell the old hands from the new recruits because they were willing to climb into that scalding water.

Graveside poetry: Xiao Hong, Dai Wangshu, and the dead among us | Poetry | SupChina

Drawing from her experiences of war, poverty, and illness, writer Xiao Hong/Hsiao Hung 萧红 (1911-1942; given name Zhang Naiying 张乃莹) produced acclaimed novels such as Tales of Hulan River and The Dyer’s Daughter. Less attention has been given to the dozens of starkly confessional, unornamented poems she wrote, which have long been overshadowed by her prose.

In 1937, Xiao paid a visit to late mentor and literary giant Lu Xun’s grave in Shanghai. She recorded the visit in verse, “Visiting a Grave,” blurring the lines between death and life. She greets Lu Xun as if he were still alive, making a point to deny that she’s acknowledging his ghost. She denies, too, that she’s crying for the man himself — instead, she’s crying “for righteousness.”