Pig of a deal?; Worrying developments with the Wuhan coronavirus; Belt and Road Initiative in 2019

The phase one trade deal speculation is over, but the criticism is just beginning.

On Monday Taoran Notes, written by someone I hear travels with Liu He during his trade talks with the US, published for the first time in over two months. The post, a defense of the deal clearly targeting domestic criticism, used the phrase 里外不是人 to say that there would be complaints regardless of what is in the deal. 里外不是人 comes from the longer 猪八戒照镜子,里外不是人, or Zhu Bajie looks in the mirror, neither he or his reflection are human.

From the texts of the deal (English, 中文) the US looks to have scored some wins at the margin, and some of the language, such as the fact (thanks to an eagle-eyed subscriber) that there are 105 times of “China shall”, 60 times of “the Parties shall”, 5 times of “the United States shall”, and 27 times of “the United States affirms”, could clearly be construed in China as bowing to US pressure. In response we are seeing a very concerted PRC media effort to control the narrative and insist that the deal is balanced and fair and that China did not compromise any core interests.

Zhu Bajie of course is the character from Journey to the West, also known in some translations as “Pigsy” or “Pig”.

I do not think the author of Taoran Notes meant to call this deal a pig, but overall it does look a bit like a pig of a deal.

Taoran Notes wrote about the deal again today. I have translated some of the interesting parts as I think it is worth reading to get even a sliver of insight into what Liu He himself may be thinking-如何看待中美签署第一阶段经贸协议?:

First, it is a deal that some on both sides are unhappy with, but it is also one that most can accept 首先,这是份两边都有人不太满意,但又大致能接受的协议…

the basic contents of the phase one agreement are as follows 签署后的第一阶段协议基本内容大致是如下几条

We will deepen two-way cooperation in trade, relax market access and open up the financial sector in both directions, commit to strengthen intellectual property protection, establish bilateral assessment and dispute settlement arrangements, and move from raising tariffs to lowering them. 深化贸易领域双向合作、放宽市场准入扩大金融领域双向开放、双方承诺加大知识产权保护力度、建立双边评估和争端解决安排、实现加征关税由升到降的转变。

On the Chinese side, some people believe that the US side has not made a lot of concessions in tariffs and that China has made too many commitments to the US side in purchasing goods. Some people even believe that, given the repeated performance of the US side in the past two years, it is hard to say whether the US side will repeat the same tricks and there is no need to sign the agreement. 中方这边,有人认为美方关税退让幅度不大,对美方商品采购的承诺太多,甚至有观点认为,以美方在过去两年中的反复表现,很难讲会不会故伎重演,实在没必要签署。

The US side is also not satisfied. Some people think the China-US economic and trade agreement is too weak 美方那边,也不太满意,有人认为中美经贸协议太过软弱。…

In fact, from Taoran's point of view, this may be the current state of relative advantage for both sides. As we analyzed in the eleventh round of consultations in May '19 -- 其实在陶然笔记看来,这或许是当下对双方都相对有利的状态。正如我们在19年5月第十一轮磋商的时候曾经分析过的那样——

"Negotiations between the two countries, if they come up with an outcome that neither side is satisfied with but which is generally acceptable, that will be successful and that will be implemented more smoothly. "If it is an agreement that is particularly satisfactory to one side, regardless of the interests and demands of the other side, then even if it is signed, it may not be implemented, and the consequences are endless." “两国磋商,如果谈出一个两边都不是很满意但又大致能够接受的结果,那就是成功的,执行起来也会顺利一些。如果只是单方面特别满意的协议,而无视另一方的利益和诉求,那么即便是签署了也未必能够落地,而且后患无穷。”

The author refutes the idea pushed by some (especially Trump though he does not say so directly) that the US achieved a victory, then goes on to say that China basically agreed to what was agreed to in the November 2017 Xi-Trump summit in Beijing.

He concludes with what he says are the key questions that stick with him after two years of the trade war:

Why would the US start a trade war? Was it possible for China to avoid this conflict? 为什么美方会挑起贸易战?中国有没有可能避免这场冲突?

Facing this trade war, how did China do? How is our development and how is our confidence and stamina on the face of it? 应对这场贸易战,中国做得怎么样?我们发展的成色如何,应对的底气何在?

On the road to National Rejuvenation, external pressures are ceaselessly emerging. What kind of mentality and actions should the Chinese people take to deal with them? How do we develop the mentality of big country citizens? 在走向复兴的路上,外部压力层出不穷,国人该以什么样的心态和行动来审视面对?大国公民的心态如何养成?

Under the new historical conditions, what kind of relationship should China and the United States seek, and how do we achieve a smooth transition from the current state to the new state? 新的历史条件下,中美该寻找什么样的相处之道,又该如何实现从目前状态向新状态的平稳转换?

Will there be "decoupling" between China and the US? 中美之间会不会“脱钩”?

He says some of these questions already have answers, but does not elaborate.

Thanks for reading, and I hope we can find the answers.


The Essential Eight

1. US-China trade deal

U.S., China Sign Deal Easing Trade Tensions - WSJ $$

The agreement is structured as one between equals, but Beijing is making nearly all the changes in policy and purchases. The pact focuses heavily on U.S. complaints that the Chinese government and companies coerce U.S. ones into handing over their technology to their rivals, and Mr. Trump’s focus on trying to close the vast trade deficit with China...

“There is a strong element of Yogi Berra’s quip about déjà vu all over again,” said James Green, a former U.S. trade negotiator in Beijing under Mr. Trump. “The dispute resolution section will have the same problem we’ve always faced—U.S. companies are reluctant to become poster children for market access problems or discriminatory treatment.”

China says trade deal good for all, media discourages nitpicking - Reuters

Official media and government statements were upbeat with the People's Daily saying that boosting agricultural imports will "enrich the common people's dining tables."

An article in the same publication which bore the pen name "Zhong Sheng", usually used to express its views on foreign policy, said the pact was in line with China's reforms, opening up and the push for high-quality growth...

An editorial in the Global Times, a tabloid run by the People's Daily, stated that debating "about who had lost or gained is shallow."

"We urge individuals and forces to exercise some restraint in their nitpicking of the agreement and bad-mouthing future trade negotiations," it said.

China Vice-Premier Liu He rejects Trump’s suggestion of immediate phase two talks, calling idea ‘unwise’ | South China Morning Post

If China and the US hurry ahead with phase two talks after only just signing a phase one deal, the two countries would be acting like “a bear losing itself in a corn field”, said Liu, referring to a Chinese proverb.

“We might get nothing if we rush to a second job before the first one is properly done. I don’t think it is a wise choice to impatiently launch new stages of talks,” the vice-premier told Chinese media in Washington after signing the partial trade agreement with Trump, Caixin magazine reported.

刘鹤与特朗普共同签署协议文本并致辞--国际--人民网

Xinhua 1 minute video on signing ceremony, stirring music, makes Liu He look very statesmanlike, gives Kissinger a cameo, concludes with text saying the phae one deal is “good for China, good for America, good for the world”

China-U.S. phase-one trade deal has economic, political importance, says Chinese vice premier - Xinhua

It has contributed "positive energy" to the stability and development of the world economy, the vice premier said.

Liu He answers questions about the deal - 坚持平等和相互尊重原则 解决双方关切 实现互利共赢——刘鹤就中美签署第一阶段经贸协议答记者问-新华网

Zhong Sheng on the trade deal "A step in the direction of solving the problem" - 人民日报钟声:朝着解决问题的方向前进了一步--观点--人民网

"Objectively speaking, the China-US economic and trade agreement in the first stage reflects the concerns of both sides and is a win-win agreement based on equality and mutual respect. The fact that the agreement has been reached shows that mutual benefit and win-win results are the mainstream of china-us economic and trade cooperation. The two sides will always respect each other's national dignity, sovereignty and core interests."

Schumer blasts Trump's China deal as too 'weak' - POLITICO Trade

Waiting on tariff cuts: USTR issued a Federal Register notice that makes good on Trump’s promise to reduce tariffs on about $120 billion worth of Chinese consumer goods to 7.5 percent, from 15 percent currently. The tariff cut will be effective Feb. 14. A 25 percent duty will remain in place on an additional $250 billion worth of goods.

The China trade deal | American Enterprise Institute - AEI - Derek Scissors

The US-China trade agreement signed yesterday is weak on first look, strong on a second look, and weak on a third look. I’m not another indecisive economist — the enforcement elements in the text of the agreement are questionable.

Tariffs Become New Normal as Trump Moves to Next China Demands - Bloomberg

“The Chinese said no to most of the elements that would be in a phase two agreement in the face of pretty massive and sustained tariff pressure,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The Chinese are not going to change their economic model to appease the United States. That’s one very clear takeaway from this whole exercise and the U.S. and the world are going to have to learn to live with that.”

US, China must assume reciprocal obligations in financial services opening - Global Times

The financial services part of the phase one trade deal, featuring obligations from both sides that are basically reciprocal, has once again testified to China's efforts to liberalize its financial sector, the People's Bank of China (PBC), the country's central bank, said on Thursday.

China-US cooperation in the financial arena outweighs the two countries' rivalry, the PBC said in a statement posted on its website, noting that the financial services part that both sides agreed on is propitious for improving the competitiveness and resilience of China's financial system.

What the Phase One Trade Deal Means for Financial Services - Caixin

China pledged back in November 2017 to open its financial services markets further to foreign companies and accelerated its original timetable last year, and the phase one agreement pledges to further speed up access and relax requirements for some firms that want to enter or expand their operations in the country.

China’s deal to buy more US goods is ‘distortion of the market’, Europeans complain | South China Morning Post

Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, said the purchasing commitment was “managed trade – meaning the US tells China what it should buy from America”, and it would lead firms from Europe to “wonder where our place is”.

China faced “less choice or possibilities of sourcing, say, soybeans from Brazil, or gas from Australia and Qatar, or coal from India, or aeroplanes from Europe, and this is distortion of the market”, Wuttke told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

US-China trade war deal: Liu He reassures Beijing’s other partners they will not lose out | South China Morning Post

“We stuck to two important conditions during negotiations [with the US]. The first was that it won’t hurt any third party, and the second was that it sticks to the principles of the World Trade Organisation,” he was quoted as saying by Chinese business magazine Caixin.

Hogan: EU to review U.S.-China deal for any WTO challenge - POLITICO

Hogan said he agreed the pact seemed to contain "managed trade" provisions that would favor sales of Boeing aircraft to China at the expense of European aircraft giant Airbus.


2. Worrying developments with the Wuhan coronavirus

武汉新型冠状病毒感染肺炎新增死亡病例1例_网易新闻

Wuhan announces a A 69 year old man has died from the coronavirus, the second reported death so far.

Japan Confirms First Case of New Chinese Coronavirus - The New York Times

Japan’s Health Ministry said that a Chinese man in his 30s tested positive for the mysterious pneumonia-like coronavirus. The man, a resident of Kanagawa Prefecture, just south of Tokyo, returned to Japan on Jan. 6 after traveling to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. The man, who came down with a fever on Jan. 3, was hospitalized on Friday but was discharged five days later because he had recovered, according to the Health Ministry.

The World Health Organization said it was highly likely that the virus had spread from a seafood market in Wuhan that also sells live birds and other animals. But Japan’s Health Ministry said the patient had not visited any seafood markets in China, adding that “it is possible that the patient had close contact with an unknown patient with lung inflammation while in China.”


3. More power for Liu He and the Financial Stability and Development Committee (FSDC)

Local Governments Face Tighter Oversight in Bid to Contain Financial Risks - Caixin

The general office of the Financial Stability and Development Committee (FSDC), a cabinet-level body established in 2017 to oversee the various agencies overseeing the financial sector, will set up mechanisms in provincial-level branches of the central bank, according to a statement posted on the PBOC’s website on Tuesday. Coordination among local financial regulators will take place through these mechanisms, which will be chaired by the heads of central bank branches, although they will be answerable to the FSDC’s general office, the statement said.

The status of some provincial-level central bank branches will also be raised in order to strengthen their authority in the administrative pecking order. Currently, the chiefs of around 20 PBOC provincial-level branches have a status equal to that of a deputy head of a department in a provincial government. Caixin has learned that they will be promoted to the same level as a department head. Under the current hierarchy, it would not be easy for the head of a central bank branch to give orders to other officials with a higher status, including those in the regional offices of the banking and insurance regulator, a regional PBOC official who declined to be identified told Caixin.

The establishment of regional FSDC coordination mechanisms is a key step in the implementation of a policy laid out in the 2017 National Financial Work Conference to strengthen central and local financial collaboration...

Caixin has learned that the main task of the coordination mechanisms will be to restrain local financial regulators and hold them responsible for wrongdoing.

Comment: Yesterday I joked that Liu looks Premier-like. He certainly seems to have more influence with Xi than Li Keqiang does. Liu I believe turns 68 next Saturday, January 25, so he is three years older than Li.


4. Belt and Road Initiative in 2019

China Renews Its ‘Belt and Road’ Push for Global Sway - The New York Times

Chinese companies signed Belt and Road contracts worth nearly $128 billion in the first 11 months of last year, according to China’s Commerce Ministry, a 41 percent increase over the same period in 2018. The contracts are mostly for construction and equipment by big Chinese companies using Chinese skilled labor and loans from Chinese banks, although the projects often create jobs for local laborers as well.

The rush of new Belt and Road contracts follows a public pullback by Chinese officials in 2018 after projects in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and elsewhere were criticized by local officials and others as bloated and costly. China argues that since then, it has fine-tuned practices to trim waste.

And this article by Nadege Rolland a year ago - Reports of Belt and Road’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated - Foreign Affairs

It would be premature, however, to write off BRI. The project remains the core of China’s foreign policy strategy. Since the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress in October 2017, BRI has been enshrined in the party’s charter, and its corollary, the “community of shared future for mankind,” has been included in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China since March 2018. Beijing is due to host its second Belt and Road Forum, an international planning and brainstorming event for heads of state, in April 2019...

Belt and Road reflects Beijing’s vision of its role as a great power atop a China-centric regional order—one free of the liberal rules, norms, and values that Beijing rejects as relics of an unfair and obsolete order led by the West...

Western observers should not overinterpret signs of pushback to the Belt and Road Initiative as harbingers of its failure, nor should they underestimate the capacity of the Chinese Communist Party to adapt and learn.

Here is my comment in the January 30, 2019 newsletter that included her piece:

This article by the Central Literature Research Center 中共中央文献研究室 in the 12.20 People's Daily (right before Christmas so did not get much attention outside of China) recounts the timeline of how Xi put forward the Belt and Road and explains why the initiative matters.- 打造国际合作新平台 增添共同发展新动力--观点--人民网

总之,习近平同志关于“一带一路”建设的重要论述,高屋建瓴、统揽全局,思想深刻、内涵丰富,为推进“一带一路”建设提供了根本遵循。过去几年共建“一带一路”完成了总体布局,绘就了一幅“大写意”,今后要聚焦重点、精雕细琢,共同绘制好精谨细腻的“工笔画”。

Google translate: In short, Comrade Xi Jinping’s important exposition on the construction of the “Belt and Road” has built a high-rise and unified overall situation, with profound ideas and rich connotations, and provided fundamental follow-up for promoting the construction of the “Belt and Road”. In the past few years, the “One Belt and One Road” has been built to complete the overall layout, and a “big freehand brushwork” has been drawn. In the future, we will focus on the key points and carefully crafted the “fine brushwork”.

And as I wrote last April in Policy signals for the economy; Propaganda work; Studying May 4th; BRI; PLAN anniversary:

The Friday People's Daily Long had a long page one commentary from “国纪平” on the Belt & Road Initiative and the upcoming BRI Forum. Among other things this one reiterates the message we started seeing at the the end of 2018 that "the past few years, the “One Belt and One Road” has been built to complete the overall layout, and a “big freehand brushwork” has been drawn. In the future, we will focus on the key points and carefully crafted the “fine brushwork”." 人民日报:共建一带一路 开创美好未来---人民网 - 国纪平

Reports of the demise of the BRI are premature…

BRI benefits SOEs-81家央企在“一带一路”沿线承担超3400个项目_行业分析_中国金融新闻网

SASAC says 81 PRC central state enterprises have been involved in 3400 projects in Belt and Road countries

But not so much foreign firms - European Chamber report identifies profound lack of European involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the scheme’s dampening effects on global competition

The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (European Chamber) today released The Road Less Travelled: European Involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Based on a member survey and extensive interviews, the report highlights the peripheral role currently played by European business in the BRI, as well as the competition-blunting effects that the Beijing-led scheme is having on business worldwide…

All but a scant few have played niche roles, like providing certain technology or experience in the recipient country, which, given the scale of the BRI, saw most respondents refer to their level of involvement as “crumbs from the table”.

The report


5. How much leverage does China have with Germany?

In Huawei Battle, China Threatens Germany ‘Where it Hurts’: Automakers - The New York Times

‘‘If we ban Huawei, the German car industry will be pushed out of the Chinese market — and this in a situation where the American president is also threatening to punish German carmakers,’’ said Sigmar Gabriel, a former German foreign minister and vice chancellor.

‘‘Just because we have an American president who doesn’t like alliances, we give all that up?’’ he said. ‘‘Why would we? Especially since he does exactly what the Chinese do and threatens the German car industry.’’..

“The truth is that, if the American security guarantee was what it used to be, we wouldn’t be having this debate,” said Mr. von Notz, the lawmaker. “But it isn’t. And now we need to find a way to defend our freedom and rule of law in this digital world.”

Angela Merkel warns EU: ‘Brexit is a wake-up call’ | Financial Times $$

Berlin has no intention of emulating the US policy of “decoupling” — cutting its diplomatic, commercial and financial ties with China. Instead, Ms Merkel has staunchly defended Berlin’s close relationship with Beijing. She says she would “advise against regarding China as a threat simply because it is economically successful”.

“As was the case in Germany, [China’s] rise is largely based on hard work, creativity and technical skills,” she says. Of course there is a need to “ensure that trade relations are fair”. China’s economic strength and geopolitical ambitions mean it is a rival to the US and Europe. But the question is: “Do we in Germany and Europe want to dismantle all interconnected global supply chains . . . because of this economic competition?” She adds: “In my opinion, complete isolation from China cannot be the answer.”

Tencent to boost billions in investment in Germany - Handelsblatt

Tencent reveals a plan to boost billions in investment in Europe – and to pour more than 10 billion dollars annually in the continent with above 30 percent flowing to Germany...

China’s tech giant Tencent reveals a plan to boost billions in investment in Germany and Europe, manifesting particular interest in small autonomous driving companies, high-end manufacturers and industrial designers in Germany.

Germany investigates 3 people suspected of spying for China | DW | 15.01.2020

The suspects under investigation reportedly include a former EU diplomat and two lobbyists. It's the first case in recent years to bring concrete allegations of spying by China against Germany and the European Union.

Question: How are Germany's "no spying" deal discussions with China progressing?


6. New CFR report on creating a US “grand strategy” towards China

Comment: Expect several of these this year kinds of reports as we head into the November Presidential election. I have not yet read this in its entirety but it will have influence givens its author and its publication by the Council on Foreign Relations.

U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China: Twenty-Two U.S. Policy Prescriptions - Robert Blackwill - Council on Foreign Relations

“China wants to replace the United States as the strongest and most influential power in Asia and beyond,” warns Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy Robert D. Blackwill. “Washington should launch an all-out effort to limit the dangers that Beijing’s economic, diplomatic, technological, and military expansion pose to U.S. interests in Asia and globally,” he writes.

To more effectively compete with China, Blackwill offers proposals starting with modernizing U.S. domestic infrastructure, improving education, and harnessing next-generation technologies. On the foreign policy front, Blackwill recommends spending fewer resources on the Middle East, deepening ties with allies in Asia and Europe, shifting military assets to Asia, and seeking a more constructive relationship with Russia.


7. Air quality improving in China’s richest cities

China's 2019 winter pollution gains offset by worsening in other regions: study - Reuters

China’s Premier Li Keqiang launched a “war on pollution” in 2014, but its main focus has been on clearing the skies in the heavily industrialized and politically sensitive Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and Yangtze river delta regions where smog levels are much higher than the national standard.

The two regions were on track to meet their target of cutting average concentrations of hazardous airborne particles, known as PM2.5, by 4% and 2% respectively over the six months to March 2020, the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said.

However, China’s average PM2.5 was unchanged in the final quarter of 2019 after double-digit increases in provinces like Heilongjiang, Jiangxi and Guangdong, according to analysis of government data by the Helsinki-based research group.

The full report - Air Pollution in China 2019 - Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air


8. How to become a civil servant

Long Ling - What really happened in Yancheng? | Diary · LRB 13 January 2020

Everyone applying for a job in the civil service sits the same written test. It has two sections: a two-hour ‘administrative occupational ability test’ followed by a three-hour writing and exposition exam. Each accounts for half the total score...

You might be tempted by A, C or D, particularly if you think this is a question about biology. But the correct answer is B, because the question tests an understanding of the world according to Marxist philosophy...

An essential part of the civil service exam syllabus is Mao’s three steps of materialist dialectics: find the problem, analyse the problem, solve the problem. The first step is to point out the nature of the problem and the contradiction it reveals. The second step is to analyse the contradiction and find out who, or what, is responsible. The third step involves proposing policy recommendations.


Business, Economy and Trade

China’s Credit Growth Holds Up in December, PBOC Adjusts Gauge - Bloomberg The stock of outstanding aggregate financing expanded by 10.7% in the 12 months to December, the same pace as in November, the People’s Bank of China said Thursday.

Yicai Global - China's Social Financing Jumped 14% to USD3.7 Trillion in 2019 China's total social financing, a broad gauge of credit and liquidity in the economy, climbed about 14 percent to CNY25.6 trillion (USD3.7 trillion) last year. That was CNY3.08 trillion more than in 2018.

Guangdong bets on infrastructure amid slowing growth and US-China trade war | South China Morning Post Officials at the conference said Guangdong, an export powerhouse, had set a relatively low growth target of 6 per cent for 2020. Last year, the province, one of the richest in the country, registered a modest 6.3 per cent growth, down half a percentage point from 2018.

State Grid warns that China GDP at risk of slipping to 4% | Financial Times $$ State Grid, China’s largest utility company, is bracing itself for the rate of economic growth to fall to as low as 4 per cent over the next five years in the world’s second-largest economy, according to people familiar with its internal forecasts.

Yicai Global - China's Central SOEs Beat 2019's Profit Growth Target Amid Mergers China's central enterprises, the 96 giant companies that are directly owned by the government, logged profit growth of 10.8 percent last year, exceeding a targeted 7 percent to 9 percent, amid mergers of state-owned steelmakers, shipbuilders and port operators. Total net profit at the companies run by the State Council, or cabinet, was CNY1.3 trillion (USD188.7 billion), the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said yesterday. Revenue gained 5.6 percent to CNY30.8 trillion, with the average operating profit margin at 6.1 percent.

Premier vows steps on taxes, expenditure - China Daily Li's remarks came as he presided over a State Council meeting that solicited suggestions from economists and business leaders on the annual Government Work Report to be delivered in March. The premier said China could be faced with an even more complicated and challenging domestic and international environment this year, and more targeted policies and measures must be adopted to cope with the challenges.

Tired of High Iron Ore Prices, China’s Baowu Steel Sets Sights Overseas - Caixin China’s largest steel company, state-owned China Baowu Steel Group Corp. Ltd., announced plans to expand its overseas footprint to boost its share of global iron ore mining operations, with Chairman Chen Derong revealing they had selected an oversees target.

In Depth: How Fake SOEs Conned Investors out of $575 Million These privately owned companies, and others like them, have posed as SOEs by including Chinese characters in their names often linked to government-owned companies, such as “Zhong,” “Guo” or “Hua,” which can all mean “China.” Due to the notion that SOEs will always be bailed out by the government, pretending to be one helps companies win public trust and thereby raise funds more easily

Cash-Strapped Tesla Rival in Talks With Automaker for $150 Million Lifeline - Caixin GAC said it is considering buying a stake in Nio through a subsidiary, with a combination of owned capital and external fundraising, but the potential investment will not exceed $150 million

China's Ten-Year Struggle against U.S. Financial Power - The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) This commentary examines China’s concern over U.S. financial power, efforts to blunt it, and focus on building Chinese financial power. It also considers emerging questions about the implications of digital currency for the existing monetary order.

Huawei, Sinopec Were China’s Top Patent-Seekers in 2019 - SixthTone Over 1.4 million patent applications were filed in China last year, the National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), the country’s patent office, said Tuesday during its first press conference of 2020. Of these applications, 453,000 were approved, a year-on-year increase of 4.8%. Huawei — which, along with over 100 of its affiliates and subsidiaries, was blacklisted by the U.S. government in May and August — was granted 4,510 patents last year, more than any other Chinese company. Sinopec and Oppo ranked second and third with 2,883 and 2,614 new patents, respectively.

China’s middle class frets the ‘good times’ are over amid sliding house prices, stagnant wages | South China Morning Post First-tier cities – including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai – have witnessed a notable drop in home and rental prices, with data pointing to a slowdown as a growing number of developers slash prices. Compared with the highest point in April 2017, Beijing’s average residential property prices in November fell by about 18.5 per cent, according to a report conducted by the National Academy of Economic Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Didi Rival Is Said to Seek Up to $300 Million in Pre-IPO Round - Bloomberg Chinese ride-hailing startup Dida Chuxing is seeking to raise as much as $300 million and is considering an initial public offering, escalating competition with larger rival Didi Chuxing, according to people familiar with the matter.// Dida, Didi..Doodoo?

Ant Financial turns to banks to revive IPO plans | Financial Times $$ Hangzhou-based Ant is considering a dual listing for its shares in Hong Kong and mainland China, one of the people familiar with the situation said. A spokesperson for Ant Financial said: “We don’t have a plan nor a timetable for an IPO.” Both Credit Suisse and CICC declined to comment.

Politics and Law

CPC leadership holds meeting to deliberate reports - Xinhua  The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee held a meeting on Thursday to deliberate three reports. Among the reports was a comprehensive report that was prepared after the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee heard and discussed the work reports from leading Party members groups of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the State Council, the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the Supreme People's Court, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, as well as from the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee. A comprehensive report on the fourth round of disciplinary inspections launched by the 19th CPC Central Committee and a report on the key work of the central leading group on disciplinary inspection in 2019 were also deliberated. // Monthly Politburo comes early since Xi is going to Myanmar tomorrow and then it is basically the New Year holiday?

CCTV Evening News on the Politburo meeting - 习近平主持召开中共中央政治局会议

生动的教材 巨大的激励--中央党校(国家行政学院)学员谈《习近平在厦门》《习近平在宁德》两本书的学习体会 学习时报采访组 Study Times report on Central Party school students' takeaways from the two recently published books "Xi Jinping in Xiamen" and "Xi Jinping in Ningde". One of them refers to Xi as "People's Leader 人民领袖"// "The deepest impression and the strongest feeling after reading this book is that comrade Xi Jinping's profound feelings and lofty realm of 'I will lose myself and live up to the people' permeated between the lines, appeared in great matters and ran through his political career." Li Dexin, a trainee from the training department, said that comrade Xi Jinping has always taken "self-inflicted suffering and working for the common people" as his first belief, which is touching, and most directly and profoundly illustrates the consistent character style and strong sense of responsibility of the party's core and people's leader. There are many examples and details in the book that strike at the heart of the people, which are precious spiritual wealth. They give people profound education and great encouragement, and set a shining example and model for the behavior of every party member, especially the young cadres. “读后最深刻的印象和最强烈的感受就是,习近平同志‘我将无我,不负人民’的深厚情怀与崇高境界渗透在字里行间、见诸于巨事小节,贯穿于从政历程。”培训部学员李德新说,习近平同志始终把“自找苦吃、为老百姓做事”作为第一信念,令人感动,也最直接最深刻地诠释了党的核心和人民领袖一以贯之的品格风范和强烈担当。书中有很多事例和细节直击人心,是珍贵的精神财富,给人以深刻教育和巨大激励,给每个党员干部特别是年轻干部树立了光辉榜样和行为标杆。

Chinese man arrested after making $1.6 million from selling VPN services | ZDNet According to a report from Litchi News, Chinese police from the city of Taizhou have arrested a 29-year-old man that they claim has made a fortune by selling VPN services. The suspect, identified only by the pseudonym of Gao, operated a VPN service to bypass the country's Great Firewall since mid-2016.

Man who killed Beijing doctor sentenced to death | China Daily via The Star Online Sun Wenbin, who fatally stabbed a doctor at a hospital in Beijing last month was sentenced to death by the Beijing No 3 Intermediate People's Court on Thursday (Jan 16). Yang Wen was working in the emergency department at Civil Aviation General Hospital in Chaoyang district on Dec 24 when Sun stabbed her in the neck with a knife

Foreign and Defense Affairs

UK will keep Huawei out of ‘critical national infrastructure’, culture secretary Nicky Morgan says | Bloomberg “I just want to make it very clear, Huawei will not be involved in our critical national infrastructure,” Morgan told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday. “The security, the safety of that infrastructure is absolutely paramount when the government is going to be making that decision.”

Full text of Xi's signed article on Myanmese newspapers - People's Daily Online "Writing a New Chapter in Our Millennia-Old Pauk-Phaw Friendship" was published Thursday on three Myanmese newspapers ahead of his state visit to this Southeast Asian country.

China’s Xi to tie up Belt and Road deals in 'historic' Myanmar visit - Reuters Chinese vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui told reporters in Beijing on Friday the purpose of the visit was to strengthen relations, deepen Belt and Road co-operation and “materialize” the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a plan for a y-shaped corridor of projects connecting China with the Indian Ocean.

China increases military recruitment frequency, aims to keep high vigilance - Global Times China will increase the frequency of its military recruitment and retirement to twice a year, up from once, starting 2020, to maintain a smooth flow of troops, the military's high vigilance and to better train new recruits...Ren Guoqiang, a spokesperson at the Ministry of National Defense, said on Thursday that while the total number of annual recruits will remain stable compared with previous years, the increased frequency will allow a smooth flow of troops and maintain the military's high vigilance.

Samoa Observer | Police Academy's $32 million budget confirmed A new state-of-the-art Samoa Police Academy project will come at a cost of $32.8 million, to be funded by a grant from China, it can be revealed.

Modern Russian and Chinese Integrated Air Defence Systems: The Nature of the Threat, Growth Trajectory and Western Options | RUSI This Occasional Paper provides an assessment of technological and strategic trends in Russian and Chinese integrated air defence systems.

Why are Chinese fishermen finding so many 'submarine spies'? - BBC News Firstly, this wasn't two or three fishermen receiving awards. It was 11 - one woman, the rest men - who found seven devices in total. Secondly, this wasn't the first time fishermen from Jiangsu had found "spy drones". In 2018, some 18 were rewarded for finding nine devices. There was also a ceremony a year earlier.

Avoid raising Kashmir dispute at United Nations, India asks China | AP The government issued a statement on Thursday, a day after China requested a review by the UN Security Council of the UN observer mission in Kashmir. “China should reflect on a global consensus on Kashmir and avoid raising it at the United Nations,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi.

In Japan, University of Tokyo fires AI professor over ‘will not hire Chinese’ tweet | South China Morning Post Shohei Ohsawa, an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher, “grossly damaged the honour and reputation” of the state-run university, it said in a Wednesday statement. The 32-year-old, who runs blockchain and AI development company Daisy Co, tweeted between November and December that his firm “will not hire Chinese”.

Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Call with PRC Vice Foreign Minister Le - United States Department of State Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun spoke yesterday with People’s Republic of China (PRC) Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng. The two discussed the signing of the U.S.-China Phase One Trade agreement earlier in the day and the need for both sides to work toward effective implementation. Deputy Secretary Biegun reiterated the U.S. commitment to negotiations with the DPRK on all pillars of the Singapore Joint Statement and urged the PRC to fully implement UN Security Council sanctions.

‎Heartland Mainland: The Iowa China Podcast: The China Caucuses on Apple Podcasts In this episode, you'll hear from the Iowan who welcomed Xi Jinping in 1985, people in Muscatine, Iowa transformed by that trip, and presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang.

A New Figure in the Ukraine Scandal Worked for a Mysterious Chinese Trump Donor – Mother Jones as [Robert] Hyde endeavored to leverage his political contributions into access and influence without great success, there was one real connection Hyde did make—and it was with a mysterious Chinese immigrant named Cheng Gao who donated almost a quarter of a million dollars to Trump and the GOP and who also sought a place in Trumpworld.

Behind the News: Inside China Global Television Network | Lowy Institute Despite extensive investment and active support from the highest levels of government, including President Xi Jinping, CGTN has had limited success in improving China’s international soft power standing.  For many Western observers, it is CGTN’s association with the Chinese party-state which limits its ability to shape and influence the global discourse.[1] However, it is CGTN’s internal organisational structure and culture which really inhibits its effectiveness as a soft power tool. China Global Television Network and other party-state media with similar structures and cultures will not be able to achieve President Xi’s goals without a radical, and extremely unlikely, overhaul.

Hong Kong and Macao

Hong Kong teachers living in fear over protest support - AFP Hong Kong's education chief Kevin Yeung has vowed harsher disciplinary action for arrested teachers -- including revoking their teaching licences -- and spoke about about what he called "a small number of black sheep in the education sector". He told lawmakers that most of the complaints about teachers' professional misconduct involved "inappropriate messages posted on social media, such as hate, malicious or abusive messages and messages that promote violence".

Hong Kong's Airbnb bookings declined after the protests started — Quartz Only half of the rentals listed on Airbnb saw bookings come through in October, according to the latest data available from AirDNA, short-term rentals analyst. More than 70% were booked in October last year. The number of listings on Airbnb have increased 9% during the one-year period. On top of the lower occupancy, hosts of entire homes lowered their rates an average of 17%, compared to the year before.

Taiwan

Taiwan’s Election Is About Taiwan - Ketagalan Media Before and after Taiwan’s 7th direct presidential election, one popular narrative emerged in the international coverage. This narrative is centered on Chineseness, the (real or perceived) historical continuities in terms of ethnicity, language, or culture. A news report in The Telegraph says that Taiwan’s elections “remind the world … that Chinese culture and democracy can co-exist”..Not only does this narrative rest on a mistaken essentialism that conflates ethnicity, language, and culture, it also fundamentally misunderstand Taiwan. Taiwan’s election is about Taiwan.

President Tsai vows to raise awareness of Anti-Infiltration Act - Taiwan Today President Tsai Ing-wen said Jan. 15 that the government is working to raise awareness of the Anti-Infiltration Act, and the legislation will not affect normal cross-strait exchanges.

Taiwan Elections: Reactions to the DPP’s Win | RUSI - Charles Parton First Hong Kong, now Taiwan. For Beijing, the elections in both territories have left the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with the problem of explaining to its people why those who are part of the ‘Chinese nation’ (zhonghua minzu, a phrase with heavy inclusive and political meaning) are in effect voting against Xi Jinping’s much-used concept of a ‘community of shared future for mankind’ – or in its more concentrated and local version, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ (OCTS).

Tech and Media

China Will Drive Mobile Spending to Record $380 Billion in 2020 - Bloomberg China should again prove the biggest driver of consumption on everything from video streaming to games operated by social media giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., propelling spending 23% higher to $380 billion this year, App Annie researchers said.

Niko’s 2020 predictions for the Asia games market – Niko With a new regulator introduced in 2018, as well as a nine-month temporary game approval freeze, China’s games market has seen a number of new regulations introduced over the past two years that have had an impact on the number of new titles released and revenue growth. A new approval process was introduced in 2019 alongside new policies to curb gaming addiction among minors. We believe that all of the reforms are complete at this point and that future regulations will focus on minor points. Chinese games companies have already seen the impact of these new policies in 2018 and 2019. Therefore, unexpected regulatory disruptions to our market model forecast are unlikely in 2020.

Chinese magazine editor under investigation for publishing son’s work | South China Morning Post The editor of a Chinese financial magazine is under investigation for publishing poems and articles written by his son over a period of 13 years, starting when the child was just 10, according to state media. The case dates back to November 2006, when Wang Songqi, the editor of The Chinese Banker, launched a “Culture & Leisure” column, Xinhua Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.

Society, Arts, Sports, Culture and History

‎China EconTalk Podcast: Out of the Gobi: Weijian Shan on the Cultural Revolution, economic reform, and U.S.-China ties In this episode, Shàn Wěijiàn 单伟建, the chairman and CEO of investment firm PAG Group, and the author of Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America, tells his personal story of exile during the Cultural Revolution and provides his view on China’s economic transformation.

‘Nowhere to Dock’ | ChinaFile A Roundup of China’s Best Visual Journalism

Energy, Environment, Science and Health

China to establish state catalog for medicines in short supply - Xinhua The catalogs will focus on essential medicines and medicines for emergency rescue, major diseases, public health and special groups, which have few supply sources and face the risk of supply shortage, according to the NHC.

Food and Travel

Midtown Duck Restaurant DaDong Closes After Bankruptcy Filing - Eater NY Flashy Chinese roast duck chain DaDong’s only New York location has filed for bankruptcy protection, closing shop after just over two years — and multiple brutal zero-star reviews — at its massive space near Bryant Park. The highly-anticipated Beijing-based chain — which has a few Michelin-starred locations in China — opened to much fanfare in December 2017

Education

China Ends Independent Admissions Program for Colleges - Sixth Tone In a notice published Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Education announced that the Independent Freshman Admission Program (IFAP) — an alternative to the country’s test-centric college admission program instituted in 2003 to recruit students who may have underperformed on the rigorous exams — will be replaced by a new pilot plan that vows to address enrollment inequality with a centralized recruitment scheme. Under the new plan, 85% of applicants’ eligibility will be based on their college entrance exam — or gaokao — scores, restricting schools from making independent decisions based on their own criteria, according to the notice - The Notice - 教育部关于在部分高校开展基础学科招生改革试点工作的意见 - 中华人民共和国教育部政府门户网站