Tesla in China; Taiwan elections; US-China trade deal; Politically correct textbooks

A Global Times report saying China, US shouldn’t rush phase one deal sparked some speculation that the phase one deal signing may not happen January 15. I am hearing nothing that leads me to believe Liu He's January 13 arrival in DC or the January 15 signing are in jeopardy.

Elon Musk was in Shanghai for the launch of the Tesla Model 3 in the country, and he has quickly become the poster child for how things can get done fast in China. Global Times made those points very clear in Tesla’s efficiency underlines China’s appeal for foreign firms

There is no other country in the world where Tesla can move forward so efficiently. In India, it may take a year to lay the foundation for a factory. In Germany, one year may not be enough for negotiations with unions...

In short, Tesla's Gigafactory 3 is a showcase of not only the speed and efficiency of China's manufacturing strength, but also the government's support for emerging industries. With market and efficiency advantages, China still holds great appeal for foreign investment.

It remains to be seen how well the Tesla cars will sell in a fiercely competitive and saturated auto market, but for now Musk clearly has reasons to dance:

We are in the annual year-end especially happy propaganda phase, with reports on how great Xi and the Party were in 2019, and how the stage is set for better economic and financial markets performance in 2020. As noted yesterday we are about two weeks away from China shutting down for the Lunar New Year Holiday until early February, and so for the next couple of weeks we should expect even more positive energy than usual coming out of the Party propaganda organs.

The January 11 Taiwan elections and the Wuhan virus may pose some positive energy challenges for the Party though.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to occasionally forward the newsletter colleagues and friends. Word of mouth is always the best marketing.


The Essential Eight

1. Taiwan election

Fighting Fake News and Disinformation in Taiwan: An Interview with Puma Shen | New Bloom Magazine

New Bloom interviewed Puma Shen (沈伯洋), assistant professor at the National Taipei University’s Graduate School of Criminology and the director of the DoubleThink Labs, on issues regarding fake news and disinformation in Taiwan before the election and efforts to combat this...

Sometimes you’ll be able to track down companies that are from China. But sometimes they’re just ethnically Han Chinese. They’re not from China. They started these content farms to make money. This is to make money from China’s United Front funding. If you can obtain this funding, you can make money this way.

If it’s those who have direct links to the CCP, not those who are taking money from outside, they seem to be present in Hong Kong or in China. These are more directly operated. In Malaysia, many seem to be just focused on making money.

Awash in Disinformation Before Vote, Taiwan Points Finger at China - The New York Times

Taiwan’s National Security Bureau in May issued a downbeat assessment of Chinese-backed disinformation on the island, urging a “‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of society’ response.”

“False information is the last step in an information war,” the bureau’s report said. “If you find false information, that means you have already been thoroughly infiltrated.”

Taiwanese society has woken up to the threat. The government has strengthened laws against spreading harmful rumors. Companies including Facebook, Google and the messaging service Line have agreed to police their platforms more stringently. Government departments and civil society groups now race to debunk hoaxes as quickly as they appear.

Taiwan Passes Anti-Infiltration Act Ahead of Election Amid Opposition Protests – The Diplomat

The law, backed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and passed on Tuesday in a party-line vote boycotted by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), heightens penalties for Chinese-backed efforts to lobby Taiwanese politicians or participate in election campaigns.

台灣事實查核中心 | Taiwan FactCheck Center

An update of our work around #Taiwan2020 - Twitter

During elections, we work closely with political parties from across the political spectrum to train them on using Twitter to best engage with their constituents. In preparation for the #TaiwanElection, we onboarded and held trainings for both the Democratic Progressive Party and the Kuomintang.

Taiwan saw record high tourist arrivals in 2019 | Taiwan News

A record high of 11.84 million individuals visited Taiwan in 2019, representing 7 percent growth compared to the 11.07 million seen the previous year.

Chinese accounted for the lion’s share of the total arrivals at 2.71 million, edging up 0.5 percent since 2018. Among the 9.14 million non-Chinese visitors, arrivals from Japan and South Korea increased by 10 percent and 20 percent, respectively, while visitors from New Southbound Policy countries were up 6 percent, according to statistics released by the Tourism Bureau.

Comment: So much for Beijing's attempts to use tourism as a weapon to punish Taiwan


2. Wuhan virus

China mystery illness: travellers checked as officials fear lunar new year could spread bug | The Guardian

Health officials are worried about the upcoming Spring Festival in late January, when China celebrates lunar new year and millions of people will be travelling across the country to go home. Authorities have warned citizens to be on the lookout for symptoms like fever, difficulty breathing or body ache...

Wuhan officials said there was no “clear” evidence of human-to-human transmission. Investigators also ruled out Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) and bird flu. Symptoms of the mysterious virus include fevers, problems breathing and invasive lesions to both lungs, shown in radiographs...

Authorities also appear to worried about panic spreading, with censors on Weibo blocking the hashtag #WuhanSARS

Pneumonia of Unknown Cause in China - Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions - Travel Health Notices | Travelers' Health | CDC

Key Points:

There is a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The cause is not yet known, nor is the mode of transmission.

The cluster is centered at the Wuhan South China Seafood City (also called the South China Seafood Wholesale Market and the Hua Nan Seafood Market). The market has been closed since January 1, 2020, for cleaning and disinfection.

Travelers to Wuhan, China, should avoid living or dead animals, animal markets, and contact with sick people

Chinese rail network predicts 440 million journeys over Lunar New Year period | South China Morning Post

China State Railway Group expects people to make 11 million train trips each day during the five-week Spring Festival


3. US-China

China Won’t Raise Grain Import Quotas For U.S., Official Says - Caixin

China will not increase its annual global import quotas for certain grains due to a phase one trade deal with the U.S., a senior Chinese agriculture official told Caixin on Saturday.

China’s promise to expand imports of American agriculture products as part of the phase one China-U.S. trade deal has sparked speculation that the nation may adjust or cancel its global quota for corn in order to meet a target for imports from the U.S. Han Jun, a member of the Sino-U.S. trade negotiation team and vice minister of agriculture and rural affairs, denied those suspicions at a conference in Beijing, saying: “They are quotas for the whole world. We will not change them just for one country.”

What Han said - 中农办副主任韩俊:中美第一阶段谈判成果不涉及增加粮食进口配额_政经频道_财新网

“这是全球配额。我们不会为了一个国家调整。”韩俊表示。他是在参加清华“三农”论坛2020期间、接受财新记者采访时披露上述信息的。

Question: So other countries' exports will decline as China shifts to buying more for the US to satisfy the trade deal targets?

China won't hike grain import quotas for U.S. trade deal: Caixin - Reuters

“Although there’s certainly types of high-quality wheat that China would look to import, maxing out the tariff rate quota would also weigh on domestic producers,” said Darin Friedrichs, senior Asia analyst at INTL FCStone, in a note late on Monday.

“China will be facing a tough balancing act of trying to satisfy the U.S. demands for large agriculture purchases, while also not hurting the rural population.”

China, US shouldn’t rush phase one deal - Global Times

From discrepancies in official statements on both sides, it is apparent that there are still some final details to be worked out. For example, US officials have unilaterally disclosed information, such as the amount of China's purchases of US products, and the date and location for the signing ceremony.

Chinese officials have not publicly confirmed any of this information.

U.S. Trade Gap Shrinks to Smallest Since 2016 on Export Gain - Bloomberg

The merchandise trade deficit with China shrank to a seasonally adjusted $25.6 billion, the smallest since 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Exports to the Asian nation rose by $1.4 billion, the most since February, while imports declined for a sixth straight month, reflecting the toll of more than a year of tariffs.

American Consumers, Not China, Are Paying for Trump’s Tariffs - The New York Times

“U.S. tariffs continue to be almost entirely borne by U.S. firms and consumers,” Mary Amiti, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, wrote in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. The other authors of the paper were David E. Weinstein of Columbia University and Stephen J. Redding of Princeton.

Question: So other countries' exports will decline as China shifts to buying more for the US?

‎Interesting new podcast series from Macro Polo- Heartland Mainland: The Iowa China Podcast: Freshman Orientation on Apple Podcasts


4. Tesla in China

Elon Musk says Tesla will design future car in China for global market - CNBC

The electric car company founder said Tesla would open a design and engineering center in the world’s second-largest economy. He did not specify any timelines.

Tesla also confirmed that it would start work on a production program for its Model Y crossover vehicle in its Shanghai Gigafactory, the only production factory outside of the U.S. Production for its Model 3 — a sedan that was announced before the Model Y back in 2016 — only started in October in the Shanghai factory.

China has over 200 million private cars - Xinhua

The number of new energy vehicles reached 3.81 million last year, said the ministry, adding that the increase in the number of new energy vehicles had exceeded 1 million for two consecutive years.

As nearly 29.43 million people received driving licenses nationwide last year, the total number of drivers reached 435 million

Tesla's Suppliers Have Rallied Too Far on China Factory - Bloomberg

China has been production heaven for Musk. Tesla’s capital expenditure for the Shanghai factory declined 65% on a unit production capacity basis compared with its U.S. manufacturing hub in Fremont, California, according to analysts at China International Capital Corp. The Shanghai plant was built in less than a year and can already produce more than 3,000 cars per week

Tesla turns up heat on rival carmakers in China | Financial Times $$

big bets on China’s electric car market look increasingly risky as the worst sales slump for the auto market in decades raises question marks over the reliance of carmakers on Beijing for profits.

As well as the overall slump, sales of new energy cars or NEVs, battery, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell electric vehicles, have fallen for five straight months since July — a trend analysts expect to continue with further subsidy cuts expected in 2020.

Meanwhile, these guys just need 850 million USD for their EV - Yicai Global - Faraday Future Shows Off Flagship FF91 at CES; Car May Be Available at Year-End

Featuring a 130-kilowatt hour battery park made by South Korea's LG, the FF91 boasts a range of 596 kilometers, one of the longest for any electric vehicle. But mass production of Faraday Future's first car has yet to start. Despite being in the pipeline for several years, the company still needs to raise around USD850 million to finance delivery


5. New paper recommends UK China policy changes

Rising to the China challenge: The need for an enhanced all-government China strategy group - Alexi Drew, John Gerson, Charles Parton and Benedict Wilkinson- King’s College London

“China” today means the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There was a time after the death of Mao when party and state were separating, but under Xi Jinping the CCP has asserted its complete dominance over the government, military, media and academia, and its preponderant influence over the economy, business, religion and society. Secondly, China is almost unique in touching virtually every aspect of British life. Only the US is as universally relevant, but with the US we share values, many interests, a long-standing security alliance and several national characteristics – and so the relationship is well worn, comfortable and open.

China’s new prominence requires the UK to achieve a stable, cooperative, rethought and re-engineered relationship with Beijing. That can only be built on the basis of a proper understanding of each other’s needs and respect for them - both where our interests coincide and where they conflict. The Skripal atrocity sparked a rethinking and reorganisation of government’s approach to Russia. China is more complicated, as the threat is more subtle and the opportunity much greater.

With the Chinese we need to stake out our boundaries: good fences make good neighbours. Amongst ourselves, we need to awaken from widespread naivete and purge any venality that has exploited it. We should also look for an explanation for the difference between the extraordinary number of US prosecutions following discovery of very many instances of Chinese espionage and theft of proprietary information, and the complete absence of such cases in this country. It is not credible to suppose that this is evidence that the Chinese are innocent of such behaviour here, and that we are therefore suffering no damage as a result. Meanwhile, the fact that Jesus College Cambridge has felt it necessary to announce that applicants for the post of Professor of Chinese studies “will be free to research and scrutinise any area of Chinese politics and development they choose” shows how far self-censorship and an erosion of our sovereign freedom of thought and expression has already reached.


6. Standing committee gets year end work reports

CPC leadership hears work reports - Xinhua

The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Tuesday held a meeting to hear a series of work reports.

The reports were 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....

The leading Party members groups unwaveringly upheld the centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, performed their duties and contributed to promoting sustained and sound economic and social development and social stability in the past year, said the statement.

Acknowledging the performance of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, the meeting said the secretariat has made great efforts to implement the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee.

The leading Party members groups were asked to put the leadership by the Party in practice in all fields and aspects of their work.

中共中央政治局常务委员会召开会议 听取全国人大常委会、国务院、全国政协、最高人民法院、最高人民检察院党组工作汇报 听取中央书记处工作报告 中共中央总书记习近平主持会议_CCTV

Tuesday CCTV Evening News on the meeting

The meeting pointed out that to uphold the party's leadership, we must first firmly uphold the authority of the CPC central committee and its centralized and unified leadership. Over the past few years, in the face of severe and complex domestic and international situations, risks and challenges, we have been able to move forward with determination. This is, in essence, because the party central committee has the authority to uphold the party's leadership.

会议指出,坚持党的领导,首先要坚定维护党中央权威和集中统一领导。这些年,面对严峻复杂的国内外形势,面对各种风险挑战,我们都能够笃定前行,从根本上讲就是牢牢把住了党的领导这一条,就是因为党中央有权威


7. Policy moves in online payments sector

Exclusive: Tencent Gives Ground to UnionPay as Central Bank Pushes for Mobile Payment Integration - Caixin

The agreement challenges the duopoly of two of China’s tech titans, Tencent and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., by giving UnionPay a larger foothold in a market with more than 1 billion users. It would also get China’s central bank a step closer to a goal that it sees as necessary to developing the country’s fintech sector.

Tencent, which runs the ubiquitous messaging app WeChat, has agreed to work with UnionPay to integrate the QR code systems in their mobile payment platforms, Caixin has learned. The change would, for example, allow a merchant to accept payment from one customer using WeChat Pay and another using UnionPay’s QuickPass by presenting both with the same scannable code. Currently, merchants in most places have to offer different codes for each payment service...

QuickPass is the third-largest mobile payment provider in China, but even with its roughly 240 million users, it’s still far behind the two dominant players.

Systems integration is key to the central bank’s plans to develop China’s fintech industry. In late August, the People’s Bank of China published a three-year plan for the industry stating that its goal of “one code for all” should be a reality by the end of 2021.

Exclusive: PBOC Backtracks on ‘No Interest’ Policy for Third-Party Payment Providers - Caixin

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has decided to pay interest on trillions of yuan of customers’ money that payment companies are required to deposit into accounts managed by the central bank, Caixin has learned, backtracking on a ‘no interest’ policy it imposed in 2017 when firms were first ordered to move the funds out of interest-bearing accounts with commercial banks.

The rate only amounts to an annual 0.35%, but it’s some compensation for payment providers who lost a lucrative stream of income in 2019 after they completed the transition to shift money they held temporarily for customers – mostly prepayments for goods and services – into accounts at the PBOC that didn’t pay any interest...

although the PBOC move was widely expected, the interest rate of 0.35% was about half of what the industry was hoping for.


8. Politically correct textbooks

China Bans Imported Textbooks for Primary, Middle Schools SixthTone

The Ministry of Education said all primary and middle schools, which together make up the country’s nine-year compulsory education period, cannot use teaching materials from overseas. The laundry list of varied instructions on the management of teaching materials spans nearly all levels of education.

During a press conference Tuesday, a ministry spokesperson said the new guidelines were introduced to “adhere to the correct political direction and value orientation.” In September 2018, the ministry had launched a one-month “comprehensive” inspection of teaching materials to keep schools from using foreign or self-published textbooks.

According to the new rules, universities, vocational schools, international high schools, and international programs at domestic high schools are still allowed to use imported teaching materials, as domestic teaching materials “aren’t sufficient to meet teaching demands.” However, such institutions will be encouraged to choose versions that have been translated and distributed by Chinese publishers...

The regulations stipulate that authors and editors of teaching materials must “hold a firm political stance” in line with that of the Communist Party of China. The authors of articles selected for inclusion in textbooks should also have “positive historical evaluations and a good social image.”

The regulations, issued December 19 but only released today - 教育部关于印发《中小学教材管理办法》《职业院校教材管理办法》和《普通高等学校教材管理办法》的通知 - 中华人民共和国教育部政府门户网站

The press conference writeup - 教育部:推进教材规范管理,义务教育学校不得选用境外教材_教育家_澎湃新闻-The Paper

Overseas textbooks banned in Chinese primary and junior high schools: MOE - Global Times

A mathematics teacher surnamed Tang, from a Shanghai-based junior high school which offers an integrated international curriculum, told the Global Times that international schools would be affected more by the regulation as some only recruit foreign teachers and use overseas textbooks for certain subjects.


Business, Economy and Trade

Local Governments Miss 2019 Revenue Targets - Caixin Shanghai municipality, East China’s Shandong province and the northeastern province of Liaoning all missed their revenue targets in 2019, the governments announced this week. They collected 0.8%, 0.6% and 1.4% more revenue than the previous year respectively, despite setting targets for growth of 5%, 5% and 6.5% at the beginning of the year...The Liaoning government said (link in Chinese) that if not for tax and fee cuts, it would have booked a revenue increase of 11.9%. In 2019, Liaoning’s tax and fee cuts amounted to nearly 70 billion yuan ($10 billion), equivalent to around one-third of its 2018 tax revenue of 197.6 billion yuan (link in Chinese).

China to strengthen tax and fee cut efforts in 2020 - Xinhua More efforts will be made to further optimize the tax business environment, improve tax administration efficiency, and deepen international tax cooperation, the authority said on its website after the national tax work conference held on Monday. In 2019, China introduced unprecedented tax cuts and fee reductions. Newly added tax and fee cuts exceeded 2 trillion yuan (about 287 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for more than 2 percent of GDP and contributing about 0.8 percentage points of GDP growth.

Beijing's move to direct household savings into equities funds will ensure a bull run in stocks this year, analysts predict - South China Morning Post The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), the financial watchdog, published a guideline saying it would promote the conversion of household savings into long-term capital market fund. It did not say how it would do this. Even steering a small portion of China's 70 trillion yuan (US$10 trillion) of household savings into the funds would translate into a huge windfall for the stock market, analysts said.

China to help small and medium firms get funding: financial stability committee - Reuters Authorities would increase banks’ capital so they can lend more money to enterprises, according to a statement summarising the meeting posted on the Chinese government website.

Yuan Climbs to Five-Month High on Optimism Over Economy, Trade - Bloomberg Improving confidence helped stoke a 0.5% rally in the yuan Tuesday, pushing it to its strongest level since early August. The currency punched past the key 6.95-per-dollar level, and traded on the strong side of its 200-day moving average for the first time since May.

China’s Tax Cuts Lifted Growth Almost 1 Percentage Point in 2019 - Bloomberg China’s economic growth was boosted by about 0.8 percentage point last year, following tax cuts of more than 2 trillion yuan ($288 billion), the government claimed. The tax cut was worth more than 2% of gross domestic product, according to a statement from the tax authority on Monday.

Impossible Dumplings and Beyond Buns: Will China Buy Fake Meat? - The New York Times In China, the main body that regulates the food industry, the State Administration for Market Regulation, has classified Beyond Meat’s offerings as bean products and Impossible Foods’ faux meat as a soy product, said Ryan Xue, who runs a local trade group that advocates for protein alternatives.

China’s Foreign Exchange Reserves Rose on Weaker Dollar - Bloomberg The value of China’s foreign-currency holdings edged up in December due to valuation effects and a possible easing of capital outflows due to a a stronger yuan.

人民银行贸易金融区块链平台业务量已逾900亿元-新闻-上海证券报·中国证券网 Shanghai Securities News reports that the PBoC trade finance blockchain service has already processed 90B RMB worth of business

Yicai Global - Bridgewater's China Arm Boosts Capital to Expand Its Presence The Shanghai-based unit of Bridgewater Associates raised its registered capital to CNY310 million (USD44.6 million) from CNY210 million in December, the second time since its was formed in March 2016, according to business information provider Tianyancha.

Chinese vice premier stresses full preparation for 7th census - Xinhua Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng has called for solid preparations for the seventh national population census. Han, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remarks Monday while giving a speech to a meeting of the leading group for the seventh national population census.

China releases regulation on guaranteeing wages for migrant workers - Xinhua Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has signed a State Council decree to publish a regulation on guaranteeing payments of wages to rural migrant workers, which will go into effect on May 1.

Politics and Law

Commentary: CPC faithful to its founding mission - Xinhua Fearless to launch a revolution against itself, the CPC carried out a massive institutional reform involving a wide range of entities of the Party and state. The reform is revolutionary in breaking vested interests and in ensuring development. The rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is not at the expense of other nations. The CPC advocates building a community with a shared future for humanity. It is eager to join world efforts to cope with uncertainties and destabilizing factors including protectionism and unilateralism.

率先垂范 春风化雨——习近平总书记和中央政治局其他同志调研指导“不忘初心、牢记使命”主题教育纪实-新华网 Very long Xinhua piece documenting how " General Secretary Xi Jinping and other members of the political bureau of the communist party of China (CPC) central committee conducted research and guidance on the theme of "staying true to our founding mission"

Chinese state media praises Xi Jinping’s ‘thrifty’ style and highlights effort to live like common people | South China Morning Post The report by state news agency Xinhua published on Monday depicted him as a man who would spent his birthday working and personally intervened to ensure that meals in honour were not too extravagant, with just the traditional “four dishes and soup” being served. The report was also intended to reinforce the message to officials that staying down to earth was “no trivial matter” but was key to fulfilling the party’s “original mission” in what one analyst described as a Mao Zedong-style effort to show he was on the side of the people.

领袖和人民共情——品读习近平2020年新年贺词-新华网 Empathy between the leader and the people -- reading Xi Jinping's 2020 New Year message

机遇!政协开幕会上,南京市委书记一再强调这个关键词_新华报业网 新思想的伟大引领,让我们无比笃定。中共十九大确立了习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的指导地位,这是把握时代脉搏、闪耀真理光芒的伟大思想 // Starting to see “Great Thought 伟大思想” used more for in describing Xi Thought

China announces new crackdown on religious freedom | Catholic Herald The country’s state-controlled media announced the new policy on December 30, after Chinese authorities moved to further suppress Catholics in the Archdiocese of Fuzhou who are refusing to join the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. According to UCA News, the new “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups,” which consists of six sections and 41 articles, will control every aspect of religious activity within China, and will mandate that all religions and believers in China comply with regulations issued by the Chinese Communist Party, which must be acknowledged as the higher authority.

'Ink girl' who defaced Xi Jinping poster released from Chinese psychiatric facility | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP An activist who filmed herself splashing ink on a poster of Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been released from a psychiatric facility more than a year after she was admitted, according to NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). On July 4, 2018, Dong Yaoqiong live-streamed a video of herself defacing the billboard while accusing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities of “thought control.”

党员干部网上被诬陷咋办 国家网信办披露删帖程序_大陆_新闻_星岛环球网 The Cyberspace Administration discusses the process for cadres to have online posts that falsely accuse them of misdeeds deleted

以高质量党建推动国有企业高质量发展 中央组织部负责人就颁布《中国共产党国有企业基层组织工作条例(试行)》答记者问 // An Organization Department official discusses the new regulations on primary-level Party work in SOEs...the party is the leader of everything

被指外围男 中国央视前主人持芮成钢近况曝光[图]|多维新闻网|中国 Duowei on a recent Weibo post claiming that fallen CCTV anchor Rui Chenggang is doing "thought education work" in prison and is on track to be released this year, includes alleged mug shots

Foreign and Defense Affairs

Indonesia deploys fighter jets in stand-off with China - Reuters Fajar Adriyanto, the air force spokesman, said four F-16 jets had been conducting flights over the islands, though he also played down fears of any confrontation with Beijing. “They’re doing standard patrols to protect our sovereign area. It just so happened that they’re patrolling Natuna,” Adriyanto said. “We don’t have the order to start a war with China.”

Chinese coastguard ships sail as tensions with Indonesia build | South China Morning Post Two Chinese coastguard ships left Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed South China Sea and sailed in the direction of the Indonesia-controlled Natuna Regency islands on Monday, amid renewed tensions between Beijing and Jakarta.

Chinese state media seizes on US killing of Iranian commander to paint Beijing as a force for stability | South China Morning Post “The responsibility of a great power is not its own national priorities, nor is it militarisation, but to take practical actions to safeguard international fairness and justice,” said an online People’s Daily commentary. “As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China will continue to work with all parties concerned to maintain peace and security in the Middle East and the Gulf region,” said the commentary, one of several articles along similar lines run by the party mouthpiece in recent days.

Officials from Philippines, China to meet on stalled South China Sea joint oil exploration deal: senator | South China Morning Post Top foreign affairs and energy officials from Beijing and Manila will meet soon to break the impasse on the proposed joint oil exploration deal in the South China Sea, according to Senate energy committee chair Sherwin Gatchalian.

China nuclear missile development steps up a gear with test of weapon capable of hitting US mainland | South China Morning Post Two independent sources told the South China Morning Post that the Chinese navy had tested the JL-3, or Julang (or “Big Wave”) missile – which it ultimately intends to pair with its next-generation nuclear submarines. It was launched from Bohai Bay in the Yellow Sea late last month, with the warhead landing in the northwest Gobi Desert in Xinjiang.

Chinese military hints at plans for airborne laser attack weapon | South China Morning Post Notices titled “procurement plan for airborne laser attack pod” and “price inquiry on procurement plan for controlling software module of laser attack platform” were published on Saturday on weain.mil.cn, the official weapons and equipment procurement website of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Marked confidential, the notices invited bids from potential suppliers.

Nine cities sign agreement on civil air defense coordination - China Military On New Year’s Eve, nine cities in South-East China’s Pearl River Delta, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan and Huizhou, signed in Guangzhou the Framework Agreement of Pearl River Delta City Cluster on Coordinated Civil Air Defense Development. The signing officially kicked off the coordinated construction of civil air defense facilities in the Pearl River Delta(PRD) region.

US-China Congressional Pressure Tracker – Plenum.ai Interesting table

We're entering a new golden age of China journalism - Axios China's growing footprint abroad, and its tendency to use threats, corruption, and coercion to get what it wants, means that journalists in countries with more robust media freedoms now have lots of fodder for China-related stories, without leaving home...Several major news organizations, including The Economist and Reuters, have created new positions specifically for covering China in the world, and many other outlets have dedicated resources to covering the topic.

Are China’s civilian satellites being used to spy on a Japanese airbase? | South China Morning Post Three animated GIFs were posted on microblogging platform Weibo on Thursday by an account called China Aerospace – also the name of the Chinese space programme’s main contractor. The account is not officially that of the company, but features news and videos closely related to its work. The GIFs showed planes taking off from and landing at a Japanese air force base in Naha, in southern Japan’s Okinawa prefecture.

Hong Kong and Macao

宋小莊:澳門街會成為金融中心嗎? - 20191227 - 明報新聞網 H/T to a subscriber who sent me this Dec. 27 commentary in Ming Pao by Song Xiaozhuang, a professor at Shenzhen University and Director of the National Hong Kong and Macau Research Association. "It's positively dripping with anti-American invective. Song accuses the U.S. of deliberately trying to destabilize Hong Kong with the goal of undermining Beijing's authority in the city and provoking it to declare a state of emergency, which would destroy Hong Kong's status as China's international financial center. Bizarrely, he envisions massive capital flight from Hong Kong (and the mainland) to the United States should the situation in Hong Kong deteriorate further, which will benefit "dollar hegemony." Against this backdrop, Macau (if it's a financial center) could compensate for Hong Kong and mitigate financial risk"

Hong Kong police pepper spray suspected undercover cop in the face | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP The ordeal only stopped when the suspected undercover officer showed his police warrant card, according to the DB Channel run by students and alumni of the Diocesan Boys’ School.

Tech and Media

Facebook defies China headwinds with new ad sales push - Reuters 
Facebook sells more than $5 billion a year worth of ad space to Chinese businesses and government agencies looking to promote their messages abroad, analysts estimate. That makes China Facebook’s biggest country for revenue after the United States, which delivered $24.1 billion in advertising sales in 2018.

Cryptomining Giant’s Choice of New AI Head Signals Strategy Shift - Caixin Beijing-based Bitmain, the largest maker of equipment to mine digital coins, said last week that Wang Jun, the former chief of its software research department, has been promoted to be CEO of the AI department, a title that didn’t exist before.

Society, Arts, Sports, Culture and History

Relics of Chinese martyrs in Korean War on display - Xinhua A total of 372 relics of 24 Chinese soldiers who died in the 1950-53 Korean War are on display in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province...The relics of the fallen heroes will help visitors remember the pain of history and treasure the hard-won peace, said Gao Lihua, head of the cemetery.

Energy, Environment, Science and Health

Tibet to push for construction of national park cluster on plateau - Xinhua The cluster includes national parks built around Mount Qomolangma, Sanjiangyuan and Qiangtang, with the aim to better protect the unique ecosystem of the plateau and exploit natural resources in a sustainable way.