US-China talks end; Shaanxi Corruption focus; CCDI plenum; 4th Plenum rumors

The US-China talks have concluded and the US delegation is on the way back to DC. The Statement on the United States Trade Delegation’s Meetings in Beijing | United States Trade Representative is sparse:

On January 7-9, an official delegation from the United States led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish held meetings in Beijing with Chinese officials to discuss ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity, and balance in trade relations between our two countries. The officials also discussed the need for any agreement to provide for complete implementation subject to ongoing verification and effective enforcement. The meetings were held as part of the agreement reached by President Donald J. Trump and President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires to engage in 90 days of negotiations with a view to achieving needed structural changes in China with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft of trade secrets for commercial purposes, services, and agriculture. The talks also focused on China’s pledge to purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the United States. The United States officials conveyed President Trump’s commitment to addressing our persistent trade deficit and to resolving structural issues in order to improve trade between our countries.

The delegation will now report back to receive guidance on the next steps.

Key next steps to watch for include a schedule for followup discussions, and especially a visit by Liu He to DC, which given the PRC political calendar looks like it could fit the week of January 22 at the earliest. And of course whatever President Trump tweets. 

The PRC political calendar comment references the growing speculation that a 4th Plenum (or some other central meeting) may be held in the next 10 days or so. I discussed the speculation in yesterday's newsletter and Bloomberg is the first major foreign media outlet to suggest it is coming.

Kim Jong Un has left Beijing. His four day visit included 40 hours of the round trip train ride. There has been little propaganda reporting so far, but expect that to change once he returns to the DPRK. I for one am looking forward to footage of his birthday meal with Xi. 

The third plenary session of the 19th CCDI of the CPC convenes January 11 to 13 and there are two very interesting Shaanxi corruption cases in propaganda focus this week, cases that occurred in the province once run by senior leaders. Could the plenary session also be a good time to take down another tiger? 

Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think in the comments. 

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The Essential Eight

1. US-China trade

Trump Wants Deal as US China Trade Talks Extended - Bloomberg:

President Donald Trump is increasingly eager to strike a deal with China soon in an effort to perk up financial markets that have slumped on concerns over the trade war, according to people familiar with internal White House deliberations.

Day 3 of China talks conclude - Politico Trade:

The big overhanging question is whether Trump is so interested in a deal that he’ll settle for a relatively weak set of outcomes without addressing concerns about government subsidies, intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer, one industry aide said.

One observer briefed on the negotiations called the process a “farce,” saying it was unlikely that China would agree to structural changes within the 90-day period. “There is a faction in the U.S. government that wants to speed this up,” the source said. Others told Morning Trade they were “modestly optimistic” about an outcome that would meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s most basic demands.

US-China trade war talks end on a positive note, as American delegate says they went ‘just fine’ | South China Morning Post:

“It’s been a good one for us,” Ted McKinney, US undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, said at the end of the vice-ministerial level talks.

The discussions had been “just fine”, he said, without elaborating.

2. Shaanxi Corruption

CCTV has produced a documentary on the Shaanxi Qinling illegal villas scandal...It took 6 directives from starting in 2014 and the direct oversight of the deputy secretary of the CCDI Xu Lingyi to get them razed. This is the 4 minute condensed version - 4分钟速览丨一抓到底正风纪——秦岭违建整治始末 

And this is the full 44 minute CCTV documentary on the Shaanxi villa mess. -【独家视频】秦岭违建别墅整治始末 一抓到底正风纪_新闻_央视网:



Background from the SCMP in November - Chinese officials face disciplinary action after ignoring six direct orders from Xi Jinping | South China Morning Post

Zhao Leji was Shaanxi Party Secretary 2007-2012, 18th Party Congress Politburo member Li Jianguo was Shaanxi PS 1997-2007, Li Zhanshu was Shaanxi Deputy PS a bit earlier, 1998-2003.

People's Daily official "blog" Xiake Dao discusses the Shaanxi villa mess documentary, says the current provincial leader, several former provincial leaders, several Xian mayors and county chiefs appeared in the documentary, but "there is one person who did not appear on screen, and that is the "principal Shaanxi provincial leader at the time"---is this directed at Zhao Zhengyong 赵正永, former governor of Shaanxi, or someone who is even more senior?微博正文 - 侠客岛:  


Guan Jiqing, former mayor of Xian, appears in the documentary about the Shaanxi villa mess, he has been demoted to deputy provincial department level non leadership position, but allowed to remain in the Party while under observation  - 西安原市长上官吉庆留党察看两年,降为副厅级非领导职务_打虎记_澎湃新闻-The Paper :


And there is an even crazier Shaanxi-related corruption case blowing up - China’s Highest Court Investigated Over Lost Ruling That Favored Private Company - Caixin:

The Communist Party committee in charge of China’s prosecutors, courts, and police will form a special team to probe a high-profile scandal involving documents that went missing from the Supreme People’s Court, it announced late Tuesday...

A video of one of the judges involved in the case, Wang Linqing, went viral after a prominent former television host, Cui Yongyuan, brought attention to the case on social media. In the video, Wang claims that documents related to the mining project disappeared from his office in late 2016 and that security camera footage recorded around time the documents vanished had also gone missing...

In more videos released online since news of the missing papers surfaced, Judge Wang alleges that an official from the Supreme Court’s discipline inspection committee attempted to interfere in another case to do with mining in Shaanxi.

Comment: This case looks directly tied to former vice president of the Supreme Court Xi Xiaoming, now serving a life sentence for corruption...Shaanxi looks to have been a mess

Chinese leaders take ‘unprecedented’ steps to clean up mystery of vanished supreme court documents | South China Morning Post:

The new task force is made up of all state and party law enforcement bodies except for the Supreme People’s Court itself.

The announcement also included a telephone number to encourage whistle-blowers and tip-offs that could help the investigation.

Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of Peking University’s Clean Government Centre, believed the involvement of police and prosecutors would broaden the investigation.

“The new panel will have greater authority and is able to investigate matters related to senior officials including top judges,” said Zhuang.

Comment: I am still trying to find the answer to this question I asked in the 12.17 newsletter. Zhao Leji has since reappeared at several meetings:

Rumors and a Question: The Party held a gala Friday night (习近平等出席观看庆祝改革开放40周年文艺晚会《我们的四十年》) to celebrate the anniversary. Of course the Politburo Standing Committee attended, except Zhao Leji. Zhao did appear in the reports of the Politburo study sessions earlier that day. It seems quite strange that he would not be there, and his absence has spurred another round of rumors, from he is busy with preparations for another big tiger takedown to problems for him. I do not know, but his absence at such an important event seems noteworthy. 

3. 4th Plenum speculation

My entry from yesterday's newsletter on this:

网连中国:西藏政协会1月9日召开 2019省级两会将拉开序幕 - 人民网  January dates for provincial-level people's conference and people's consultative conferences are being rescheduled to seemingly open up a block of time around the third week of January, leading to speculation in various quarters, including here, that there may be a big central meeting, possibly even the 4th Plenum. Something does seem to be up but hearing nothing specific. If the 4th Plenum is held this month it is worth noting the change in the Plenum calendar in this 19th Party Congress term. Usually they are held later in the year, though the 19th 3rd Plenum was held at the end of February 2018. Two Plenums in one calendar year would be a bit anomalous, and rumors and whispers aside, including some I fell for, it is always possible the 4th Plenum was never actually scheduled for late 2018. We just don't know and so far I can not find anyone who actually knows and is talking...

Rare China Schedule Changes Suggest Major Policy Meeting Is Near - Bloomberg:

Nearly half of China’s 31 regions that normally hold annual legislative and advisory meetings have suddenly rescheduled them this month, to create a window from January 19 to 22. That’s the usual length of time required for a full meeting of the party’s Central Committee, which involves more than 200 officials from the government, military and state-owned enterprises...

“The Central Committee is divided,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University who has written books about Chinese politics. “Xi needs more time to prepare and to convince most central committee members about the way to go and the decisions to be made.”

Comment: Where is the evidence for a central committee split? I am not seeing it at this point.

4. A pessimistic economist

Xiang Songzuo - A Great Shift Unseen Over the Last Forty Years « China Change Translation:

On Dec. 16, Prof. Xiang Songzuo (向松祚) of Renmin University School of Finance and former chief economist of China Agriculture Bank, gave a 25-minute speech during a CEO class at Renmin Business School that was apparently applauded by the audience but immediately censored over the Chinese internet. Singling out 2018 as the year when China comes to a large shift unprecedented over the past 40 years, the speech can be seen as a landscape survey of Chinese economy, and obliquely, also of politics. Just as Tsinghua law professor Xu Zhangrun’s (许章润) broadside “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes”, which was superbly translated and widely talked about among China watchers, Prof. Xiang’s speech is another rare burst of Chinese intellectuals’ discontent with the direction the country is taking under Xi Jinping

5. Kim in Beijing

Kim Jong-un leaves Beijing after visit to traditional Chinese medicine factory | South China Morning Post:

The visit to the Beijing Tong Ren Tang plant at Yizhuang – a state-level economic and technological development zone in the southeast of the capital – came a day after Kim celebrated his 35th birthday with a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The visit to China was his fourth since taking over as North Korean leader in 2011

In Visiting China, Kim Jong Un Makes Good on New Year’s Speech - Lawfare - Jung Pak:

Kim’s trip to Beijing and his performance on January 1 showcased a confident North Korean leader prepared to continue engaging in diplomacy, but on his own terms and in ways that will shake the alliance between Washington and Seoul and further weaken Beijing’s resolve on sanctions implementation...

As the Trump administration considers the next steps on talks with North Korea and the potential second Trump-Kim summit early this year, it should be mindful about Kim’s perception of his own strength as he enters his eighth year as North Korea’s leader. He clearly remains determined to erode the U.S.-South Korea alliance and exploit potential fissures in U.S.-China cooperation on the North Korea nuclear issue.

DPRK top leader visits China at critical juncture - China Daily:

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the DPRK

6. Xinjiang

China allowing 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs to leave Xinjiang region - AP:

China is allowing more than 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs to abandon their Chinese citizenship and leave the country, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said, in a sign that Beijing may be starting to feel a mounting backlash against its sweeping crackdown on Muslims in the far west region of Xinjiang...

The Foreign Ministry press office, in an email response, confirmed Kazakh media reports in December that China has agreed to let 2,000-plus ethnic Kazakhs leave. It did not say who could leave or why. They will be allowed to apply for Kazakh citizenship or permanent residency after their arrival in Kazakhstan, the email said.

Comment: And they no doubt have lots of stories to tell, if the Kazakh does not block foreign reporters from speaking with them. 

Where Did the One Million Figure for Detentions in Xinjiang’s Camps Come From? | ChinaFile:

Two key studies independently arrived around the one million mark, by using limited data samples to estimate what percentage of the ethnic minority Muslim population is detained. Both studies arrive at a detention rate of 10 percent —at least in some areas of Xinjiang—suggesting that just over one million of the region’s 11 million ethnic Uighur population could be in the camps.

The first estimate, from Adrian Zenz, a social scientist at the European School of Culture & Theology, is based on an accounting of the detention camp populations totalling some 892,000 individuals in 68 Xinjiang counties as of the Spring of 2018. These numbers are from a document leaked by Chinese public security authorities to Istiqlal, a Uighur exile media organization based in Turkey..

The second estimate comes from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). Between mid-2017 and mid-2018, CHRD interviewed eight ethnic Uighurs located in eight different villages in southern Xinjiang. Each person gave their own estimate of the number of people detained in their village, which CHRD used to surmise a detention rate for each village. These village detention rates ranged from 8 to 20 percent, averaging out to 12.8 percent across all eight villages. Just as Zenz did, CHRD “conservatively” rounded down to reach a 10 percent estimated detention rate.

Representatives Sherman and Yoho Introduce Legislation to Stand Up for Human Rights in Xinjiang, China | Congressman Brad Sherman:

Currently, in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, as many as one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities are being detained in so-called “political re-education” camps. Meanwhile, Uighurs living outside of China are being harassed and silenced – including here in the United States.

The bipartisan legislation will prevent advanced technologies from being exported to China to facilitate human rights violations in Xinjiang, ensure the federal government does not procure from companies that help Beijing unjustly detain Turkic Muslims, and create new mechanisms for reporting Chinese government surveillance in the United States.

Xinjiang offers classes to Muslim clerics to guide them to resist extremism, foster national unity - Global Times:

Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region recently held training classes for Muslim clerics, which aims to guide them to resist extremism and contribute to regional stability and prosperity.

The class was held in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, on January 1, according to a statement released on the website of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Tuesday.

Muslim clerics are required to have comprehensive understanding of Xinjiang's stability and development, and the statement said the religion department should strengthen their politics, law and religious education.

The training sessions require the Muslim clerics to study traditional Chinese traditional, the history of the country and the Party, especially the modern history of the country and of Xinjiang. They also need to learn Putonghua.

7. PRC anthem law for Hong Kong

Hong Kong international schools to be forced to sing China anthem | Financial Times $$:

The children of bankers and diplomats attending Hong Kong’s international schools will be forced to sing the Chinese national anthem — with teenagers facing criminal charges if they insult it.

Under draft legislation introduced on Wednesday, compulsory classes on China’s anthem will become a legal requirement for international schools in the former UK colony.

The classes will cover “the history and the spirit” behind “The March of the Volunteers” as well as the “etiquette for playing and singing the national anthem”.

Enforced Patriotism Tests Hong Kong Opposition - VOA:

The Hong Kong legislature is expected to soon debate a bill that calls for stiff punishments for anyone who fails to stand or “display any behavior that is disrespectful” to the Chinese national anthem. But the legislation isn’t bringing out the patriot in everyone.

“It’s a total subversion of our legal concept since it violates the right to keep silent,” said Hong Kong lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dik, pointing to the passage on a photocopied sheet that he highlighted in green. “Not only can’t you deliberately insult the national anthem, even if you do nothing, it’s an offense. It’s the new political logic of active patriotism.”

Jackie Chan's evolution fits with the accelerating trend towards HOng Kong becoming just another PRC city - The Painful Price of Becoming Jackie Chan | The New Republic:

These aspects of the Chan legend are all present in his new memoir, Never Grow Up, as the threads of an unlikely rags-to-riches story. The child of a cook and a maid—a “servant’s kid,” as he was derisively called—he rose from virtually nothing to become the most famous Chinese entertainer on earth. In the book’s introduction, his world-straddling triumph is represented by the lifetime achievement Oscar that he received in 2016, the only time it has ever been bestowed on a Chinese filmmaker. (The book’s jacket features him holding the golden statue with his eyes closed, as if he is saying a prayer to it.) And like all rags-to-riches stories—whether it’s Daddy Warbucks rescuing little orphan Annie, or an Indian slumdog becoming a millionaire—Chan’s is ultimately a tale about the place where he was born and raised and first made his mark: Hong Kong, which over the course of his lifetime went from being the last significant outpost of the British Empire to an ambiguous outlier of an ascendant China.

Never Grow Up, in mostly inadvertent ways, thus offers another way of telling Jackie Chan’s story. It’s about colonialism, capitalism, and the myths we construct to justify living under both.

8. Murder in Peking

A woman's murder in Peking and a literary feud - BBC News:

On a cold January evening in 1937, the 19-year-old adopted daughter of a former British diplomat in China left her friends, got on her bike and rode to her death. Her murder sent shockwaves through Beijing - then known as Peking - but arguments about the gruesome, unsolved crime echo to this day.

There was every reason for the killing of Pamela Werner to simply fade into history until a book introduced the case to a modern audience in 2011. But Paul French's best-seller Midnight in Peking also dug up old ghosts and animosities which ran much deeper than the writer could have envisaged.

A retired British policeman, Graeme Sheppard, has now written a rival book challenging French's version of events.

The result: a literary stand-off revolving around family pride, bizarre events now lost in the past and a grisly murder still unsolved.

Comment: I read French's book. I have not read Sheppard's. I wrote this brief review of French's book in 2012, noted that there is a mire recent murder in Beijing of a foreign woman that remains unsolved:

While I was reading “Midnight In Peking” I vaguely remembered reading about the 2006 murder of a beautiful young Italian woman in Beijing.

Paola Sandri, a 28 year old graduate student on a short-term teaching assignment in Beijing, was brutally killed just south of Chaoyang Park, near the gate of the Beijing Art Academy (北京画院; Map), in the early morning hours of July 25. There were rumors of darker forces involved in the crime, and at least one Chinese Internet post claims Chinese men driving a Mercedes may have been involved.

The Beijing police have not solved the case and it appears that her parents have been unable to pursue justice, unlike Pamela Werner’s father.

Business, Economy, Finance And Trade

China gives more tax breaks to small firms - Xinhua China has decided to roll out a new batch of inclusive tax-cutting measures for small and micro businesses, with the goal of saving them a total of 200 billion yuan (about 30 billion U.S. dollars) each year. The policies will include substantial drops in business income tax rates and a considerable increase in the tax threshold, according to a statement released after a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday. More companies will be covered by the favorable policies. The development of small and micro companies is key to a sound economy and stable employment, according to the meeting. Small firms with taxable revenues of less than 1 million yuan will see the tax rate fall to 5 percent, and those with revenues above 1 million yuan but lower than 3 billion yuan will have a rate of 10 percent.

PBOC to Start New Medium-Term Lending Tool in January, Yi Says - Bloomberg The targeted Medium Term Lending Facility, which lends cash for up to three years, was announced in December and will encourage banks to lend to small and private companies which are facing credit shortages due to a government debt crackdown. China is trying to balance funneling more cash to the real economy without hampering its campaign to clean up excess debt and financial risk.

降准后房贷利率稳中有降:首套从基准利率10%降至5%_银行_金融频道首页_财经网 - CAIJING Beijing Evening News says Beijing banks starting to lower mortgage rates  //  新年伊始,多地传来房贷利率放松的好消息,北京也不例外。记者了解到,北京地区越来越多的银行将首套房贷款利率从基准利率上浮10%下调到上浮5%,审批和放款速度也有所加快,二套房贷款利率仍维持基准利率上浮20%。市场人士预测,在降准利好的影响下,今年房贷利率将呈现稳中有降的局面。

2 million toilets built, renovated in Henan - Xinhua More than 3,200 public toilets have been built in urban areas and 5,300 in rural areas, while 1,700 toilets were built for tourists, covering up to 500 tourists sites in the province. More than 2 million household toilets in rural areas were also renovated, local authorities said. More than 300 million yuan (43.9 million U.S. dollars) was allocated from the provincial government on the construction and renovation of the toilets.  //  who says all stimulus is crap?

World Bank Lowers Its Forecast for China’s 2019 Growth - Caixin China’s projected growth in 2019 was lowered by 0.1 percentage points to 6.2% in the development institution’s semi-annual report, published Tuesday, as headwinds are increasing amid continued trade tensions with the U.S. The report expects China’s economy to have grown by a “robust” 6.5% in 2018, helped by strong consumer spending, although this would also be the weakest pace in nearly three decades. // The January 2019 Global Economic Prospects report

Singapore Power Couple, Bush Brother, Ex-Thai Leader Linked to Chinese Port Operator - Caixin Two of SICT’s new directors are Ying Shiying, a SingHaiyi Group Ltd. company director, and Celine Tang, the company’s CEO, who along with her husband, Gordon Tang, hold a majority stake in SingHaiyi ...Neil Bush, brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush and a son of the late former President George H.W. Bush, is the nonexecutive chairman of both SingHaiyi and American Pacific International Capital Inc....In 2016, investigative news site The Intercept reported that Celine Tang and her husband had used their wealth to forge ties with several U.S. politicians. The report noted that former U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke was working with SingHaiyi. APIC made a seven-figure donation to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s failed campaign to secure the Republican presidential nomination that year.

Small WeChat Vendors Lose Their Jobs Due to China’s New E-commerce Law - Pandaily As we step into the year of 2019, various regulations and laws in China will come into effect starting from Jan. 1st. For many Chinese residents, these new changes are already starting to make a significant impact on their daily lives. The WeChat e-commerce sellers are starting to change their ways of day-to-day operation. It is now a taboo for them to talk about words such as price, products, or even accept WeChat payments. According to the e-commerce law, individuals who are selling products on WeChat and streaming platforms, or starting their own Taobao e-commerce stores are all deemed as e-commerce merchants, and could face fines up to 2 million yuan. By law these individuals are now required to register as formal businesses, and are thus subject to paying corporate taxes.

Chinese middle class buying up American residential real estate - CNBC Several lenders in the San Francisco area now specifically cater to Chinese buyers. The median price of a home sold to a Chinese buyer dropped from just under $530,000 in 2017 to $439,000 in 2018, according to the Realtors. And while California is still the favorite among Chinese buyers, they are now moving into markets in Texas, Georgia and Florida. Laura Barnett sells real estate in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and sees healthy Chinese demand there. She said while most foreign buyers there still use cash, she is also seeing the shift to mortgages.

China's Car Sales Just Fell for First Time in Over 20 Years - Bloomberg Sales in the world’s biggest market fell 6 percent to 22.7 million units last year, the China Passenger Car Association said Wednesday. The trade war and a slump in Chinese stocks have put off buyers in an industry where warning lights are already flashing worldwide.  //  Comment: Or are we close to peak auto in at least the major cites?

Chinese local authorities highlight manufacturing for 2019 economic work - Global Times The moves are in line with the Central Economic Work Conference held in Beijing in December, which stressed that the priority for this year will be the high-quality development of the nation's manufacturing sector. The moves are also further evidence that China will never give up its efforts to upgrade manufacturing, as this is a core interest for China and will not be compromised in any negotiations, analysts said. Zhao Gang, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development, part of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said that developing the high-technology manufacturing industry in different areas is quite significant, and this effort should be combined with local advantages and characteristics, according to a report from domestic news site on Tuesday.

How's China's Opening to the Financial Sector Going?: QuickTake - Bloomberg Many companies are taking a wait-and-see approach. The trade war continues to stoke fears that market access may be revoked. Previous joint ventures involving minority stakes that didn’t work out are still fresh in many memories

Alipay's worldwide users exceed 1 bln - Xinhua According to Alibaba's latest quarterly financial report, Alipay's Chinese users have surpassed 700 million and 70 percent of Chinese users have used three or more financial services provided by Ant Financial.

Chinese premier meets Tesla CEO - Xinhua Musk said China's development speed and efficiency are impressive, and it is hard to imagine that the process of opening a car factory could be done in such a short period of time. Tesla will strive to build the Shanghai factory into one of the most advanced factories in the world, and will localize the products according to the needs of the Chinese market to better achieve mutual benefit and win-win results, according to Musk.

Politics, Law And Ideology

“百名红通”56人归案 幕后故事首度揭秘</br>专题片《红色通缉》10日至14日在央视播出——中纪委视频页面——中央纪委国家监委网站 joint CCTV and CCDI production "Red Notice" on the global hunt for fugitive officials airs January 10-14

Man formerly detained in China recalls appalling experience | The Star A Canadian government source, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, confirmed Cigana was detained in China last fall. Cigana said his arrest came a few days after he made what he describes as “racially charged” comments on an online chat group made up of mostly expatriates. He admits he also made a “very insensitive” remark about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, in which Japanese troops killed many thousands of Chinese people. He says he regrets both and he never thought his comments would reach an audience outside the 88-member group on the WeChat platform. He said screen shots of the conversation were shared widely on social media in China — and reached tens of millions of people.

Foreign and Military Affairs

Dan Banik - Coordinating Chinese Aid in a Globalized World - Carnegie-Tsinghua Center - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace The China International Development Cooperation Agency could help China coordinate its aid portfolio more efficiently. But it is more difficult to say whether the new agency will make Chinese aid disbursement and procurement decisionmaking more transparent.

Chinese navy’s new ‘compact’ radar will allow it to keep watch over an area the size of India | South China Morning Post The improved system will enable the Chinese navy to spot incoming threats from enemy ships, aircraft and missiles much earlier than the existing technology allows, according to scientists who chaired China’s Over-the-Horizon (OTH) radar programme. The programme emerged into the public spotlight on Tuesday when its lead scientist, Liu Yongtan, a professor with the department of electric and information engineering at Harbin Institute of Technology, received China’s top science award from President Xi Jinping at a national ceremony.

China blocks entry to Canadian woman who wanted to visit her father, a jailed political dissident - The Globe and Mail Chinese authorities blocked a Canadian woman from entering the country to visit her imprisoned dissident father on Wednesday, keeping her under close surveillance in the Hangzhou airport until she was booked on a flight to South Korea. Ti-Anna Wang landed in China after she was granted a visa that she had spent nearly a decade waiting to secure. She wanted to see Wang Bingzhang, her aging father, who studied in Montreal in the late 1970s as a medical student before becoming an activist. An organizer of political opposition groups, he was kidnapped in Vietnam in 2002 and smuggled to China, where he was sentenced to life in prison on espionage and terrorism charges.

A New Cold War Has Begun – Foreign Policy - Robert Kaplan Preventing a hot war means intensified diplomacy not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon—American generals talking and visiting with Chinese generals in order to create a network of relationships that are the equivalent of the old Cold War hotline. This diplomacy must avoid the temptation of reducing the American-Chinese relationship to one contentious theme, be it trade or the South China Sea. It can mean playing hard on trade but always keeping the public rhetoric cool and reasoned. Passion becomes the real enemy in this competition, because in the megaphone world of global social media, passion stirs the impulse to assert status, which has often been a principal source of wars. And it means most of all stealing a concept from the American diplomat George Kennan’s playbook on containment: Be vigilant, but be always willing to compromise on individual issues and in crises. Wait them out. Because, in a very different way than the old Soviet system, the Chinese system—the more authoritarian it gets—is over time more prone to crack up than America’s.  //  This a remarkably confident conclusion-“Because, in a very different way than the old Soviet system, the Chinese system—the more authoritarian it gets—is over time more prone to crack up than America’s.” I wish I could share Kaplan’s certainty. I would advise the world to put more energy into preparing for the CCP succeeding than it collapsing

Rethinking U.S. Primacy in East Asia | The National Interest - Paul Heer The United States can and should continue to exercise leadership in East Asia, but will need to share it with China. Washington should seek to deescalate the current trend in the regional competition with Beijing—which is now heading toward a destabilizing and futile game of “king of the hill”—and instead pursue opportunities to engage Beijing toward establishing a long-term, stable balance of power in the region. This is a tall order that will challenge the diplomatic and security management skills and finesse of both sides, and will almost certainly remain a work in progress for many years. But it will always be preferable to an arms race or a cold war in East Asia.-Paul Heer served as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2007 to 2015.

Chinese military to open online enlisting service - Xinhua Candidates who want to enlist in the Chinese armed forces will be able to submit application documents through a website from Thursday, the Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday. The website,, will also allow users to register their enlisting records and search for relevant policies, said a statement from the ministry's conscription office.

Asia's largest dredging vessel returns after completing sea trial - Xinhua The 140-meter-long, 27.8-meter-wide vessel, named Tian Kun Hao, can dig as deep as 35 meters under the sea floor and dredge 6,000 cubic meters per hour, according to its investor, Tianjin Dredging Co., a subsidiary of China Communication Construction Co. It set sail off the coast of the city of Qidong in east China's Jiangsu Province in October for a mud-dredging trial, during which it dredged a maximum of 7,501 cubic meters per hour, delivered the excavated mud some 15 km away, and realized unmanned automatic dredging.

PLA trains super soldiers with futuristic weapons - People's Daily Online Equipped with futuristic individual combat weapons like grenade-launching assault rifles, corner shot pistols and knife guns, the PLA special forces are aiming to build "super" soldiers capable of "1 vs 10" and to meet the requirements of the digitalization of modern warfare. The wide variety of advanced firearms is used in an internal competitive training by the Xuefeng Special Operation Brigade under the PLA 76th Group Army, reported on Monday.

Beijing’s Curious Silence on the Syria Withdrawal - WSJ $$ The likelihood of a U.S. withdrawal from Syria or Afghanistan is a double whammy for China. It means increased instability in places where Beijing has not only economic interests but security concerns, given Afghanistan’s proximity to western China and Syrian jihadists’ connections with terrorist groups in China. To secure these areas, Beijing will either have to divert resources from its naval plans or establish partnerships with states like Russia or Iran, which won’t offer their services for free.

US shutdown reveals flawed democracy - Global Times Today's the US is facing daunting challenges in all spectrums, but its democracy and government are unable to provide the solution to an enlarging income gap, opposition among different classes, worsening partisan polarization. Partisanship is making it more difficult to solve nagging societal issues. The whole of society is finding it more and more difficult to reach a consensus. The government mechanism, designed more than 100 years ago, is malfunctioning...Political boxing in Washington will continue, but the audience will gradually realize the reality. The fierce contention between two parties, though peculiar, is also an inevitability of US democracy. The government shutdown has been going on for nearly three weeks and involves 800,000 government employees not being able to work normally. This is too much even for the US. Developing countries that are still exploring a development path can hardly afford it.

Beijing 'needs at least three aircraft carriers': Chinese naval expert - AFP "Our country has an 18,000-kilometre (11,000-mile) long coastline. Also, our economy is outward looking and our interests abroad are growing," said Commodore Zhang Junshe, a member of the Naval Research Institute. "All this requires us to send a military force to distant seas to protect (these interests). In these circumstances, I think we need at least three aircraft carriers. Of course, depending on economic development, we could legitimately revise this figure upwards," he said during a meeting with the Chinese and foreign press.

U.S. to blame if any South China Sea clash: Chinese researcher | Reuters “Both countries warships definitely have to come into close proximity and it’s easy for there to be a misunderstanding or an error of judgment, even a collision,” Zhang Junshe, a researcher at China’s PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told reporters. “If there is a collision, the root cause is the United States.”

Vice premier stresses better protection of veteran rights, interests - Xinhua Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan Wednesday called for a system to safeguard the rights and interests of veterans. Sun, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks during an inspection tour in Tianjin.

Why China’s Military Wants to Beat the US to a Next-Gen Cell Network - Defense One China is not alone in exploring the military potential of 5G. The U.S. military has established an initial pilot project with Samsung for a local 5G network. The U.S. Air Force is also reportedly enthusiastic about its use to improve readiness and enable new capabilities through innovations in mobile technology. 5G technologies could also improve logistics and supply chain visibility. The apparent relevance of 5G to next-generation C4ISR capabilities illustrates the potential importance of synergies among today’s emerging technologies, such as that of  of 5G and related technologies to AI deployment, which will require such rapid mobile connectivity. As the geopolitics of 5G become increasingly interesting — and China’s promotion of indigenous standards and undercutting of global rivals advances national techno-strategic objectives — future development of 5G technologies could also contribute to a future military edge

Hong Kong, Macao

China puts the squeeze on high rollers in Macau | Financial Times $$ “Concession renewals remain at the forefront of investors’ minds as we approach the expiry date without any clarity,” noted analysts at the CLSA unit of Beijing-based Citic Securities, in a relatively cautious piece of research published this month. “We cannot rule out Macau getting caught up in the crossfire of US-Sino trade tensions and the fact remains if a more punitive approach were to be levied on either the three American operators, or even all six operators, Macau would be the biggest loser.”


‘Taiwan independence’ separatists to be classified war criminals: PLA general - Global Times The very few "Taiwan-independence" separatists would be classified as war criminals that must be punished if the Chinese mainland is forced to deal with the Taiwan question by force, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) general said on Wednesday.  Lieutenant General He Lei, former vice-president of the Academy of Military Science of the PLA, made the remarks at a press conference of the State Council Information Office.

Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan to President Xi Jinping of China - HackMD Mr. Xi, force does not lead to peace. As the old saying of Sakizaya goes, Misawacu hanizaay masasu takid — those who bully others will have the same brought back to them. We urge you to bring true greatness to your country, to stop threatening the people of Taiwan with force, and to strive to bring human rights and freedom to the people of China.

Xi Jinping’s Taiwan unity call triggers backlash from indigenous communities and academics | South China Morning Post In the open letter released on Tuesday, 44 mainly US-based academics said that in the past two years Beijing “has left no stone unturned in its attempts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space, threaten it with a build-up of military power, and made it appear as if Taiwan’s only future lies in integration with an authoritarian China”.

Tech And Media

China orders short video apps to censor all content, including user comments, satire and sexual moaning | South China Morning Post The China Netcasting Services Association, one of the largest internet associations in the country, released two sets of management rules on Wednesday for the short video industry to give clearer guidance for industry players, including Tencent Holdings, Kuaishou and Beijing ByteDance Technology, on what content needs to be censored and what does not.

Weibo moves to battle fake interactions as government scrutiny persists · TechNode: The platform will show a maximum figure of “1 million+” when reposts and comments exceed that amount, the company wrote in a report. The social media platform said the effort aims to “build a virtuous ecosystem for content and connections,” and applies to all accounts except those owned by government bodies and media outlets. The system will come online at the end of January.

Robot delivery startup Udelv partners with Walmart and Baidu - The Verge Udelv, a self-driving delivery startup, announced that it was teaming up with Walmart to pilot an autonomous grocery delivery service. The Burlingame, California-based company said it was also partnering with Baidu to pilot the Chinese search giant’s latest autonomous driving open platform, Apollo 3.5.

Didi Employees Involved in Over 60 Internal Corruption Cases Last Year - Caixin A total of 83 people were dismissed for “severe violation” of company rules, while eight were handed over to law enforcement authorities for suspected illegal behavior, Didi announced Wednesday.

Tencent Unveils a Siri-Like Digital Assistant for WeChat Users - Bloomberg Dubbed “Xiaowei,” the assistant will link to a plethora of Tencent’s own services such as QQ Music. But it also hooks up with lite-apps run by third parties such as Meituan Dianping or Didi Chuxing that provide on-demand services from food delivery to ride-hailing, WeChat executive Zhou Jie told attendees at a company conference. It’s unclear when Xiaowei will be rolled out, or how much the Chinese company intends to build up the service.

China’s Nreal raises $15M to shrink augmented headsets to size of sunglasses | TechCrunch “You wouldn’t want to wear them for more than one hour,” Xu Chi, founder and chief executive officer of Nreal told me as he put on a bright orange headgear that looked just like plastic Ray-Ban shades. Called Light and powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor, Nreal’s first-generation mixed reality glasses officially launched at Las Vegas’ tech trade show CES this week. With a lightweight play, the two-year-old Chinese startup managed to bring in some big-name investors. Aside from debuting Light, Nreal also announced this week that it has raised $15 million in total funding to date. The proceeds include a Series A from Shunwei, the venture fund that Xiaomi’s founder set up, Baidu’s video streaming unit iQiyi, investment firm China Growth Capital and others

WeChat Is Forming Uncannily Detailed Picture of Users Based on App Activity - Caixin Global If you’re a WeChat user born in the 2000s, you probably don’t sleep much and love iced beverages and desserts more than your elders. If you were born in the ‘90s, you likely get out of bed later in the morning than people of other ages, and read a lot more human interest content compared to three years ago, when you mostly liked entertainment industry gossip. And if you were born in the ‘80s, your tastes haven’t changed much — you’ve always been interested in major national affairs.

Famed Chinese Director Defamed Ex-Soldier in Memoir, Court Says | China Film Insider Beijing’s Haidian District court said Chen Kaige — known for the Academy Award-nominated movie “Farewell My Concubine” — had failed to execute the court’s instructions after it found him guilty in a defamation case, according to a judgment partly published in state-owned newspaper Legal Daily on Tuesday. The court had given Chen seven days to issue an apology to the plaintiff in three designated newspapers, including Legal Daily, saying it would disclose the verdict publicly if Chen failed to do so. It is unclear when the court issued the judgment.

Society, Art, Sports, Culture And History

China’s Secret Children Step Out of the Shadows - Bloomberg Despite the threat of hefty fines, forced abortions, and dismissal from public sector jobs, some Chinese couples chose to defy Beijing’s family planning edicts. There are no reliable estimates for how many children have been born illegally since the government began restricting births, but they likely number in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

China’s ‘female Liu Xiang’ banned four years for doping – career looks over and now married | South China Morning Post Wu Shuijiao won 100-metre hurdles at 2014 Asian Games and represented China in the Rio Olympics

Energy, Environment, Science And Health

China Eases Back on Mideast, African Oil After Buying Binge - Bloomberg Barely six weeks ago -- as crude prices plunged -- China seemed to be scooping up just about every oil cargo it could get. The December slump comes amid concerns about an economic slowdown in the country, the world’s largest oil importer. The Asian nation is in the midst of a trade war with the U.S., which could translate into lower growth in demand for crude. Other factors are also at play. China’s overall crude imports and its implied crude surplus surged to a record in November, according to government data and Bloomberg calculations. That occurred as the country’s refiners sought to use up their remaining import quotas for 2018

New law aims to protect Mount Qomolangma nature reserve - Xinhua A new legislation has been enacted at the Mount Qomolangma reserve to conserve the environment surrounding the world's highest mountain. Founded in 1988, Mount Qomolangma National Nature Reserve in Tibet Autonomous Region covers a 33,800-sq-km area that encompasses the world's most vulnerable ecosystems. The reserve is regulated by a new law starting from the latter half of the last year, said Kelsang, deputy director of the reserve administration.

Natural gas supply shortage from Turkmenistan driving up prices in China amounts to ‘hype’: NDRC - Global Times The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner, said in a statement Tuesday that reports claiming a natural gas supply shortage from Turkmenistan could drive up natural gas prices in China amounts to "hype."

Agriculture And Rural Issues

Dim Sums: Rural China Economics and Policy: China Rice Subsidy Replaces Support Price China's new rice subsidy payment is designed to replace the crop's 15-year-old price support program as it is phased out, officials say. Information about the subsidy is sparse, even though it is a major new policy designed to benefit millions of growers of one of the country's staple crops.