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Xi inspects Guangdong; Lula to China; Draft AI rules; Macron; Sandstorms; Substack Notes open to all
Summary of the Essential Eight:
Xi on Guangdong inspection tour - Xi combined his trip to Guangdong to woo Macron with an inspection tour of the province. So far the propaganda organs have just issued a brief report on his visit, most likely we will get the full propaganda rollout Wednesday.
Economic data - Consumer inflation is still low, producer prices fell again, so there are hopes for the possibility of more fiscal and/or monetary stimulus. Credit data for March came in above expectations.
More on Macron - Macron’s comments on his flight home to France, discussed in the Monday newsletter, are still reverberating. Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, arrives in Beijing Thursday. While there is little prospect of the CAI returning from the dead, disunity in the EU is something that Xi and his diplomats can work with.
Cyberspace Administration drafts rules for AI - The CAC has issued a proposed set of rules for AI in China. As expected, PRC AI is expected to have high political consciousness and the “content generated by generative artificial intelligence shall embody the socialist core values, and shall not contain any content that subverts state power, overturns the socialist system, incites secession, undermines national unity, promotes terrorism and extremism, promotes ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination, violence, obscene pornographic information, false information, or may disturb economic and social order.” Overall the proposal does not seem unreasonable in the context of both the PRC Internet regulatory environment and the uncertainties that the AI breakthroughs are creating, and in fact are likely quite supportive to the development of the PRC AI industry. How though PRC AI imbued with socialist core values may operate outside the PRC is an unknown.
US secret document leak a propaganda bonanza - The latest document leak should be a propaganda bonanza for the PRC, especially after the US campaign to talk up the PRC's global balloon surveillance operations in the wake of the recent balloon incident. The leak will also be used to further the argument the US is a hypocritical hegemon that claims to be defending the “rules-based” order. The PRC might also be wondering just how the US seems to know so much about the Russian government's internal discussions, and whether or not the US has similar access in the PRC.
Debt deal imminent? - The Spring meetings for the IMF and the World Bank are in DC this week, and there may hope for a breakthrough in finding a deal with the PRC to allow for debt-restructuring for developing countries.
Lula to China - Brazil President Lula was originally scheduled to travel to the PRC three weeks ago, but postponed his trip due to illness. He is now arriving Wednesday. We should expect there will be discussion of the Ukraine War, and perhaps support from Lula for the PRC’s proposal for resolving it.
Sandstorms in Beijing and northern China - There is a nasty sandstorm blowing through a large swathe of the PRC, sandstorms have historically been a problem but seemed to have been reduced in frequency in recent years, though they seem to back with a vengeance this year.
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The Sharp China podcast will be back this week after our two week hiatus. My cohost Andrew is still out on paternity leave so this week’s episode will feature Ben Thompson as guest co-host. If you suggestions for what we should discuss please either email us at [email protected] or, if you are on Substack Notes, reply to my Note earlier today:
Yes, Substack has opened its Notes service, the one that has been driving Elon Musk crazy, to everyone, so all of you now have access. It has some similarities to Twitter so should be easy to get started on.
You can find me here in Notes, or click on this embedded Note:
You can also write notes of your own. I hope this becomes a space where every reader of Sinocism can share thoughts, ideas, and interesting quotes from the things we are reading.
If you encounter any issues, you can always refer to the Notes FAQ for assistance.
I am very excited about this new service and will be reallocating much of my time from Twitter to Notes. We still have our private Sinocism spaces in the weekly discussion thread and in chat, and I hope we can get a good community of people interested in China into Notes.
Thanks for reading.
The Essential Eight
1. Xi on Guangdong inspection tour
He first went to the city of Zhanjiang, where he visited a mariculture base, an area of mangrove forests, a port, and a water resource allocation project.
Xi learned about efforts in developing marine aquaculture, strengthening the protection of mangrove forests, boosting transportation infrastructure connectivity, advancing the collaborative development of Guangdong with its neighboring island province of Hainan, and optimizing water resource allocation
Brief CCTV video of Xi's inspection tour - 习近平在广东考察调研--新闻报道-中国共产党新闻网
2. Economic data
The consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.7% year-on-year, the slowest pace since September 2021 and weaker than the 1.0% gain in February, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Tuesday. The result fell short of the 1.0% rise tipped in a Reuters poll...
The producer price index (PPI) fell 2.5% year-on-year, the fastest pace since June 2020 and compared with a 1.4% drop in February. The PPI has fallen for six straight months.
An influential government-linked economist has also called for stronger monetary policy action. In an interview published by the Shanghai Securities News on Tuesday, former central bank adviser Li Yang said the PBOC can provide more support to fiscal policy given that government debt accounts for a relatively small proportion of the central bank’s overall assets.
Dong Lijuan, a statistician with the NBS, attributed the mild inflation largely to the ample supply in the consumer market as the social production and living order continued to recover in March.
Data showed that food prices played a major role in dragging down the overall price level and went down 1.4 percent month on month. Specifically, the prices of vegetables and pork, a staple meat, went down by 7.2 percent and 4.2 percent month on month, respectively...
About two thirds of China’s regions have announced spending plans for major projects such as transport infrastructure, energy generation and industrial parks this year, adding up to more than 12.2 trillion yuan ($1.8 trillion), according to a Bloomberg analysis of government statements and state-media reports. That’s an increase of 17% compared to last year.
Aggregate financing, a broad measure of credit, reached 5.4 trillion yuan ($784 billion) last month, the People’s Bank of China said Tuesday, higher than the median estimate among economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Financial institutions offered 3.9 trillion yuan worth of new loans, also higher than expected...
“If the trend in credit growth extends into April and May, it would translate into significant support for the economy’s recovery through investment financing,” said Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.
3. More on Macron
An EU diplomat told China Watcher he’s surprised “how far Macron was willing to go in China’s direction in his comments” and “how void the Franco-Chinese joint declaration seemed to be of concrete European interests.” “Macron does not represent Europe — only France,” said the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to publicly criticize an EU ally. ”There is no EU consensus on a strategic autonomy that turns away from the transatlantic partnership.”..
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will be the next to travel to China, between Thursday and Saturday. “He will have to correct some [Chinese] illusions about where the EU stands” as a result of Macron’s message, according to Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the Chinese delegation at the European Parliament. “He should explicitly insist that EU opposes any unilateral change in the Taiwan strait.”
Another senior EU official fretted that Borrell might be hauled over the coals in Beijing – much as he was in Moscow two years ago by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, when he was roundly criticised for appearing to be soft in the face of a tough grilling.
“We will all be watching through our fingers,” this official said. Antoine Bondaz, an analyst of Sino-French ties for La Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, a French think tank, called the timing of Macron’s remarks “catastrophic”.
Washington has a strong desire to control Europe, which is why Macron's emphasis on European strategic autonomy is seen as a form of "betrayal." To put it plainly, on many occasions, the US is viewing Europe as a henchman. When it needs Europe to take action against Russia, Europe has to stand on the line of fire; when it needs Europe to cooperate in suppressing and containing China, Europe must follow its lead. When this boundless desire for control becomes natural, it often unintentionally manifests itself in the words and deeds of American political elites
Macron’s comments “not only disregard the vital place of Taiwan in the global economy, but undermines decades-long commitment of the international community to maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait,” the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) said Monday in a statement.
“It should be emphasized that the president’s words are severely out of step with the feeling across Europe’s legislatures and beyond,” read the statement, which was signed by lawmakers including 15 MPs from national legislatures in the EU — including one from Macron’s own party in France, as well as three MEPs and 13 U.K. parliamentarians.
4. Cyberspace Administration drafts rules for AI
Hours after tech giant Alibaba followed its peers SenseTime and Baidu with the launch of a ChatGPT-like bot, China’s powerful internet regulator released draft measures likely to slow Alibaba’s rollout, citing chatbots’ potential for “social mobilisation”.
The Cyberspace Administration of China proposals said providers would have to submit their products for security reviews before their public release and it would set up a database to register them. The regulator also said platforms must verify users’ identities, allowing usage to be tracked.
“Content generated by generative artificial intelligence should embody core socialist values and must not contain any content that subverts state power, advocates the overthrow of the socialist system, incites splitting the country or undermines national unity,” the CAC rules state.
The draft CAC AI regulations
Article 4 The provision of generative artificial intelligence products or services shall comply with the requirements of laws and regulations, respect social morality, public order and good customs, and meet the following requirements:
(1) The content generated by generative artificial intelligence shall embody the socialist core values, and shall not contain any content that subverts state power, overturns the socialist system, incites secession, undermines national unity, promotes terrorism and extremism, promotes ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination, violence, obscene pornographic information, false information, or may disturb economic and social order.
(2) in the process of algorithm design, training data selection, model generation and optimization, and service provision, measures are taken to prevent discrimination such as race, nationality, belief, country, region, gender, age and occupation.
(3) respect for intellectual property rights and business ethics, and shall not use the advantages of algorithms, data and platforms to implement unfair competition.
(4) the content generated by using generative artificial intelligence should be true and accurate, and measures should be taken to prevent the generation of false information.
(5) respect the legitimate interests of others, to prevent harm to the physical and mental health of others, damage to the right of portrait, reputation and personal privacy, and infringement of intellectual property rights. Illegal acquisition, disclosure and use of personal information, privacy and business secrets are prohibited.
Based on the document's description, the Cyberspace Administration shows an encouraging and supportive attitude towards the healthy development of the industry. The Cyberspace Administration stated that the purpose of formulating these measures is to promote the healthy development and standardized application of generative artificial intelligence. The document explicitly states that "the country supports the independent innovation, promotion, and international cooperation of fundamental technologies such as AI algorithms and frameworks, encouraging the priority adoption of secure and trustworthy software, tools, computing, and data resources."
By having to embody socialist values and stay in line with strict Cyberspace rules, chatbot services will have to stay aligned with China’s traditional media and publishers. Some Weibo commenters discuss how ChatGPT also has bias and alleged anti-China sentiments. “We’ll have to add the ‘Party spirit’ to our AI,” one person replies.
Kevin Xu, who writes the excellent Interconnected newsletter, has written a brief summary of the draft AI rules on Notes. You can click on the image below to read his entire Note:
With Chinese and English language capabilities, the model will first be deployed on DingTalk, Alibaba's digital collaboration workplace, and voice assistant Tmall Genie.
The tech giant didn't give a live demonstration of the new bot at its annual Cloud Summit in Beijing on Tuesday, like competitor Baidu when it unveiled its own ChatGPT-rival, Ernie Bot. But in a demonstration video, Alibaba said Tongyi Qianwen can draft emails, solve math problems or write code. It will also be able to interpret images and convert text to images, the company said.
Kunlun Tech's shares soared after the Chinese mobile games and social entertainment platform operator sent invitations to users for them to test its ChatGPT-like artificial intelligence language model Tiangong 3.5.
The Payment and Clearing Association of China, a self-regulatory organization overseen by the central bank, cautioned that “these intelligent tools have manifested risks including cross-border data leaks,” it said in a Monday statement.
When using these artificial intelligence (AI) tools, people in the payment industry should not upload confidential state or financial industry information, or core code of the country’s payment and clearing infrastructure and systems, the association said.
5. US secret document leak a propaganda bonanza
Xinhua on the latest US secret documents scandal - "The "leaked documents" prove that the United States is the "black hand" of incessant hegemony" - “泄密文件”印证美国是斩不断的霸权“黑手”-新华网
Analysts pointed out that the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis stems from the US-led NATO's continuous eastward expansion and squeezing of Russia's strategic space. After the escalation of the conflict, the United States continued to fuel the fire and provide weapons to Ukraine in an attempt to use the war to consume and drag down Russia, thus safeguarding its hegemony. The leaked documents show that the degree of American involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is much deeper than people expected...
Analysts pointed out that from the "Prism Gate" to the "Leak Gate", the United States ignored the sovereignty of other countries and engaged in indiscriminate monitoring and monitoring around the world, even the leaders of its allies were not spared, even if they were exposed. On the other hand, the United States accuses other countries of engaging in Internet surveillance and suppressing high-tech enterprises in other countries by the so-called "national security" issue. An important purpose is to maintain its monitoring ability on the global network. This fully reflects the hegemonic mentality of the United States and the "double standard" faction.
Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the incident will further add to dissatisfaction with the US among its allies, and most importantly, exacerbate the lack of strategic mutual trust between them.
"While knowing that their security interests are highly tied to that of the US, allies are coming to realize that the relationship with Washington is more of a domination and subordination. To satisfy its own selfish needs, the US is threatening the security of its allies through spying on their intelligence by any means necessary," Yang noted.
Calling the leak "another PRISM incident," Chinese military expert Song Zhongping noted that for one thing, it exposes a huge loophole in America's national security, and for another, it deals a significant blow to US intelligence authorities, which would become a major shortcoming that affects the cooperation with its allies.
"The distrust and disunity spurred by the incident is a heavy blow to the US' strategy of maintaining global hegemony. US hegemony will only decline day by day without the strategic support of its allies," Song told the Global Times.
What the US confronts is neither China nor Russia, but the trend of a multipolar world, and the call for an improved international order, Xu Liang, an associate professor at the School of International Relations of Beijing International Studies University, told the Global Times.
All countries want independent development but the US attempts to maintain the hegemonic order - this has become the contradiction of the era. The so-called rules-based order is an order that skirted around political colonization after the end of the World War II, but inherited economic and ideological colonization in new forms. The order is not offering fair development opportunities for developing countries. It is unjust and unsustainable
6. Debt deal imminent?
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other officials are growing adamant that what they view as China’s hardline approach to lending is squeezing countries and threatening to deepen poverty in Africa and elsewhere.
Yet the conflict also highlights a new potential fault line in the global economic order: China is pursuing a parallel system of development finance that challenges the Western model of providing assistance and negotiating debt relief with borrowers, which has been dominant since the end of World War II...
A senior Chinese central bank official said last month that China is reluctant to participate in sovereign debt restructuring unless the World Bank and other regional development banks also agree to write down their own loans. The World Bank dismisses that demand, arguing that development bank financing already comes with low interest rates and does not add significantly to a country’s debt burden...
China’s lending is decentralized among various institutions reluctant to take losses on their loans. And while state-owned institutions like the China Development Bank are viewed by many as official government lenders, Beijing considers them corporate entities on par with the private sector and not subject to the same restructuring terms
Beijing has been pushing for multilateral lenders such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to join it in taking losses in any debt-restructuring deals, these people said. They said the new plan, if agreed, could see China drop this demand in return for big multilateral lenders and regional partners such as the Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank making more explicit commitments to provide fresh low-cost financing, including grants, to countries whose debt is being restructured.
It could help break an impasse that has held up an agreement by China and other government creditors to restructure the debts of Zambia and serve as a model for multibillion-dollar debt-relief deals for other developing countries in financial distress, the people said. Negotiations could then move on to the details of Zambia’s debt restructuring, such as extending repayment deadlines and lowering interest rates. China continues to oppose taking losses on the face value of its loans, people close to Beijing’s decision making said...
The U.S. and European governments have opposed Beijing’s demand that multilateral lenders also write down their loans, arguing that doing so would be tantamount to a bailout for China.
Mr. Hichilema said that while its talks with government creditors have made progress, there is disagreement on a demand by China that Zambia’s multilateral creditors, including the World Bank and the IMF, also write down their loans...
U.S. and European governments have opposed losses for the World Bank and others, arguing that doing so would amount to a bailout for Chinese creditors. Multilateral lenders have been shielded from write-downs in most debt restructurings, since their loans already come with much lower interest rates and they are expected to keep funding countries in times of crises
Indonesia is seeking to renegotiate the interest rate of a new Chinese loan to cover the US$1.2 billion cost overrun of the under-fire Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project, the flagship programme of the Belt and Road Initiative in the nation.
Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of maritime and investment affairs, said on Monday that Jakarta intended to again persuade the China Development Bank (CDB) to lower the interest rate for a US$560 million loan to 2 per cent. The bank had agreed to reduce the initial rate of 4 per cent to 3.4 per cent during Luhut’s trip to Beijing last week.
7. Lula to China
It is expected Lula's visit will push the bilateral relations to a new level, with great possibility for the two sides to sign a slew of cooperation documents on trade and investment, finance, infrastructure and also on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, Sun Yanfeng, a research fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Around 20 bilateral agreements are anticipated to be signed during Lula's visit. One of them is for the construction of CBERS-6, the sixth in a line of satellites that have been built by Brazil and China together,according to the Brazilian government.
Agricultural cooperation is expected to be another focus during Lula's trip...
Lula has expressed hope to broker the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and his view to de-escalate the conflict instead of fanning flames is akin to China's stance, Wang Youming said. The international community is interested in what kind of approach the two major developing countries in the East and West hemispheres may come up with to facilitate global governance and mediate geopolitical conflicts, Wang said.
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, "an old friend of the Chinese people," starts his state visit to China on Wednesday. This is Lula's fifth visit to China, his first visit to a country outside the Americas since he took office as the president in January and his fastest trip to China as the Brazilian president. The Brazilian side has high expectations for Lula's visit, saying that it would be a state visit of "economic, trade and political importance." There are also widespread expectations that China-Brazil relations will enter a new phase of "close political and economic relations." Under the strategic leadership of the two heads of state, China and Brazil, side by side, will show the world a model of South-South cooperation in depth..
Ahead of his visit, Lula reiterated that he would discuss the possibility of ending the Ukraine crisis through dialogue with China. In fact, neither China nor Brazil is a party to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. However, both countries have similar views on urging peace talks, which shows that although the West is still fanning the flames, the voice of the international community's peace forces is growing louder.
Today’s excerpts are from a lengthy piece by seven researchers from the Institute of Latin American Studies, which is part of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). I focus here on their analysis of why Lula’s Brazil matters to China and what they recommend Beijing do in order to strengthen its ties with Brasilia.
Three week ago we had a good subscriber chat about how his visit may go, before it was postponed. It is still relevant:
From the newsletter three weeks ago:
“Someone has to start talking about peace. Because the United States and Europe are not talking about peace. The whole world is directly and indirectly involved in the Ukraine conflict,” he pointed out, while stating that Russia “is not just any country”.
Lula praised Xi’s official visit to Moscow this week and called it a good first.
“It is already a great news that China has gone there (Russia), good news…And I´m convinced that Brazil can contribute to putting an end to the Ukraine conflict”, Lula remarked.
Great power competition is increasingly playing out in Latin America, even as Brazil’s new president seeks a return to regional unity.
I see three major global transformations shaping the future of Brazil-China relations. The first is the shift of the economic center of gravity from the West to Asia, and China’s growing relevance to Brazil. But if the boom in Brazil-China bilateral flows has led to a favorable trade balance for Brazil, it has also generated an asymmetric trade structure. This asymmetry now invites us to think about strategies to diversify and add value to Brazilian exports to China.
The second transformation is the digital-technological revolution and the inauguration of a more competitive, sustainable, and innovative productive paradigm, which I believe has China at its epicenter. This paradigm is born amid structural changes in global value chains that will determine countries’ competitiveness and access to markets, as well as the future of work. China can be a partner in Brazil’s transition to the industry 4.0 and digital agriculture, ensuring both processes happen in a timely, competitive, and sustainable way.
The third transformation is the global energy transition and the impact of China’s decarbonization on global energy markets. China is among the world’s largest importers of crude oil. Brazil is among the top suppliers of crude oil to China and heavily relies on the country for its exports.
I hope the air clear before Lula arrives in Beijing, that kind of pollution could dangerous to someone who just pneumonia.
8. Sandstorms in Beijing and northern China
As of Tuesday morning, the dust storm had hit 15 provincial-level regions, which are home to 409 million residents, according to a report from The Beijing News, a newspaper run by the publicity department of the municipal party committee.
Sandstorms are not uncommon in northern China during spring. But this latest storm brings the number of dust-related weather events to eight this year, more than the usual number for the same period in past years, according to a report on a weather forecast website run by the CMA.
Wang Weiyue, a weather analyst for the forecast website, said this wave of dust originated in southern Mongolia, which borders China, and was made worse by sand from Inner Mongolia, affecting most of the areas north of the Yangtze River.
The storm has reached the level of a sandstorm, the second this year but weaker than the first one, according to the National Meteorological Center. The peak PM10 level in multiple regions in northern China has exceeded 2,000 micrograms per cubic meter, experts at the NMC said.
Fine dust particles from the Gobi Desert have been increasing in South Korea and could reach “very unhealthy” levels in Seoul as soon as Tuesday afternoon, according to AirKorea, which is managed by the nation’s environment ministry. The sandstorms are forecast to reach Japan on Wednesday, affecting visibility in the central region that includes Tokyo, according to a forecast from the Japan Meteorological Agency.
A Chinese government official at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment recently said the number of sandstorms was now four times higher than in the 1960s, a consequence of rising temperatures and lower precipitation in the deserts of north China and neighbouring Mongolia.
Business, Economy and Trade
China commerce minister, Intel CEO discuss semiconductor industry chain -commerce ministry | Reuters China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met with Intel’s CEO Patrick Paul Gelsinger on Tuesday in Beijing, and exchanged views on maintaining the security and stability of the global semiconductor industry chain, the Chinese commerce ministry said
Vice premier invites more multinationals to tap into Chinese market-Xinhua Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng on Monday invited more multinational companies to tap into the Chinese market, expand their investment and grow along with China's economic development. He made the remarks while addressing the opening ceremony of the third China International Consumer Products Expo and the Global Consumption Forum via video.
China strong supporter of multilateral trading system, says WTO director-general - People's Daily Online China has been a strong supporter of the multilateral trading system, and as a critical economy for the world, China's role in the free and open trading system is very important, said World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua...The director-general called on WTO members to strengthen the multilateral trading system. "It is not a time to decouple into different trading blocs and we should avoid protectionist measures," she said.
UN/BALANCED Episode 4: China's Two Sessions, Who Should Run Economic Policy, and the "Negative Convexity" of China's Local Debts Pettis: I think medium term, China’s got a huge problem, but short term, I’m relatively optimistic. I think growth will be closer to 6% than to 5%, but I always warn people that I’m speaking to that there’s a lot of uncertainty around that as of yet, because we’re counting on a very big reversal of last year’s consumption contraction. But it’s too early in the year to really say what happened. The first two months are characterized by Chinese New Year, which has a big distortionary impact on spending. 2023 was the first Chinese New Year that we’ve had without Covid restrictions in three years. So that may have changed people’s behavior in ways that are hard to predict or hard to understand.
Can China’s Long-Term Growth Rate Exceed 2–3 Percent? - Carnegie - Michael Pettis Beijing’s economic policymakers largely accept that China must rebalance its economy so that growth is driven more by domestic consumption and less by investment. But once China begins to take seriously the need to rebalance its economy, China’s annual GDP growth is unlikely to exceed 2–3 percent for many years, unless there is a substantial increase in the growth rate of consumption.
楼市“小阳春”的另一面 In some cities, the increase in home sales in some cities has coincided with a drop in prices, as developers and home sellers offer discounts to attract homebuyers, Li Yujia, a housing researcher, wrote in a column in the Securities Times. In Guangzhou, for example, as many as 28.1% of second homes listed in the market saw prices go down in March. In January and February, that proportion was 23% and 5% respectively. Other factors have also pushed up home sales recently, including an uptick in marriages after the reopening, growing demand to upgrade homes and government measures to bolster home sales.
China Puts Banquet Food Waste in the Spotlight - SixthTone In a draft notice released Monday, the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s state planner, said it would strengthen its supervision of banquets in hotels, especially those priced at 1,500 yuan ($218) or above per table, excluding drinks. Misbehaviors ranging from unclear price labeling of dishes to food waste will be targeted during an inspection campaign, according to the notice, which is available for public comment until April 24.
Yicai - Chinese Brokerages Gain as Country's Margin Loan Provider Lowers Refinancing Costs Shares in many Chinese securities firms advanced today after the country’s main financial institution that provide loans to brokerages for margin financing and securities lending said it is lowering the margin ratio by up to 15 percentage points so as to help them with their refinancing business.
Caixin - China Utility Powers Up South American Presence With Peruvian Purchase China Southern Power Grid Co. Ltd. has agreed to pay around $2.9 billion to acquire two Peruvian assets from Italy’s biggest utility Enel SpA, as the Chinese state-owned major deepens its footprint in South America amid a global business expansion.
China Auto Parts Makers Join Apple in Offshore Factory Push - Bloomberg Carmakers from Europe and elsewhere are making direct overtures to manufacturers of everything from cooling components to brake systems and charging parts, pressing them establish plants in places like Vietnam and Indonesia so they can still benefit from their expertise and long-held relationships but avoid the risks China poses right now, according to a number of suppliers interviewed by Bloomberg News.
Chinese airlines swamped with cabin crew applicants as travel rebounds | Reuters Hainan Airlines, which plans to hire more than 1,000 flight attendants this year, has already received more than 20,000 applications, it told Reuters. Its job fair held in Jinan in February attracted 900 candidates and the company hired just 60 people, meaning a selection rate of around 6%. China Southern, which plans to hire 3,000 cabin crew this year, said it already had more than seven times as many applicants by the end of December.
China’s banking regulators are caught between Beijing and its regions | Financial Times “Financial risk resolution is still the weakest point of the regulatory system,” says one senior Chinese banking regulator who is in the front line of this mission. “Central regulators and local governments tend to accuse each other for not doing enough in defusing financial risks, and the blame game always extends to who pays for the cost when risks go burst.” Conflicts between local and central bodies are likely to worsen after the regulatory revamp, as central authorities will inevitably push their regional counterparts to absorb all financial costs.
Caixin - Five Things to Know About Early Mortgage Repayments in China One economist has estimated that last year some 4.7 trillion yuan ($700 billion) worth of mortgages — 12% of China’s outstanding total — were paid off early. This threatens to leave lenders nursing big losses as expected interest income disappears, and has prompted regulators to take notice, as some homeowners have been taking out new cheap loans intended for consumption purposes or for starting new businesses in order to refinance their old mortgages — a practice banned in China.
Boeing says 11 Chinese airlines have resumed operating 737 MAX | Reuters Based on these airlines, the number of 737 MAX returning to commerical service reached 43, accounting for approximately 45% of the Chinese 737 MAX fleet, the company also said in a social media post on its official WeChat account
US House committee chair 'concerned' by Tesla deals in China | Reuters Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the House of Representatives' select committee on China's Communist Party, said he would like to know how Tesla's CEO Elon Musk balances U.S. government support for Tesla and its operations in China.
Australia and China’s barley deal over tariffs is an 11th-hour off-ramp after years of trade tensions | The Guardian The move, announced on Tuesday, offers China an off-ramp to quietly dismount from its 80% tariffs on Australian barley that were due to be scrutinised by a public ruling by a World Trade Organization dispute panel within weeks...Australia has suspended the WTO dispute process in return for China agreeing to “undertake an expedited review” of the barley tariffs over the next three to four months. If China’s promised review ends with the decision Australia wants – to axe the tariffs – then the WTO process ends without a ruling
Charts of Week - Key data points to understand China 23Q1 BigOne's tracked offline catering revenue surged by 50% YoY in the week ending April 2nd and has now surpassed pre-COVID-19 levels.
Politics and Law
INTERVIEW: 'If I don't speak up on their behalf, I'll always be in pain' — Radio Free Asia A Nov. 24 fire in an apartment block in Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, sparked protests across China, with many people expressing condolences for the victims of the fatal lockdown blaze and others hitting back at ruling Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy. Huang Yicheng was among them, turning up at a spontaneous protest at Shanghai's Urumqi Road, only to be detained and mistreated by cops, who hung him upside down at one point, as he described in an earlier interview with Radio Free Asia given under the pseudonym Mr.Chen.
Chinese feminist moves to United States, calls for international action — Radio Free Asia Zheng Churan was detained alongside fellow activists Li Tingting, Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting and Wang Man on March 6, 2015, two days ahead of International Women’s Day, as they planned a campaign against sexual harassment on public transportation, on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.”..“It was a pretty big victory for me that I was able to get out of there in reasonably good health,” Zheng told an April 8 Georgetown University lecture titled “Unleashing the Power of Feminist Activism in China,” in her first public appearance since arriving in the United States a month ago.
Foreign and Defense Affairs
Chinese FM to attend fourth foreign ministers' meeting among neighboring countries of Afghanistan, visit Uzbekistan - Xinhua At the invitation of the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Bakhtiyor Saidov, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang will attend the fourth foreign ministers' meeting among the neighboring countries of Afghanistan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan and visit Uzbekistan from April 12 to 13, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced Tuesday.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on April 11, 2023 RIA Novosti: According to media reports, the US administration is trying to restart high-level talks with China, including rescheduling the visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing, which was called off after the incident with the Chinese balloon. But Beijing has frozen high-level diplomatic contacts with Washington. Do you have any comments on this? Wang Wenbin: The responsibility for the current difficulties in China-US relations does not lie with China. The US needs to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and harming China’s interests, and stop undermining the political foundation for our bilateral relations while stressing the need to put “guardrails” on the relationship. The US needs to work with China to bring the bilateral relations back onto the right track of sound and steady growth.
US signals to fix China ties but ‘credible sincerity’ needed; Washington to be ‘lone wolf’ in ‘new cold war’ against China - Global Times "Based on arrogance and racism, Washington's elites refuse to see China's development as an opportunity for cooperation, but perceive it as a 'threat' to the US," Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Macron Tries to Balance US, China as Backlash Builds Before Netherlands Visit - Bloomberg his visit risks being overshadowed by the fallout from last week’s visit to Beijing, where he sought to build bridges with President Xi Jinping and mark his independence from Washington. Macron will deliver a speech on economic sovereignty at the Nexus Institute in The Hague on Tuesday afternoon in which he will appeal to European leaders not to be naive about how far they can rely on the US, according to a French official.
US, Philippines hold largest war drills near disputed waters | AP News In western Palawan province, which faces the South China Sea, the exercises will involve retaking an island captured by enemy forces, Logico said. Philippine military officials said the maneuvers were aimed at bolstering the country’s coastal defense and disaster-response capabilities and were not aimed at any country.
US-Philippines largest-ever military drills meet fierce protests and criticism - Global Times The two countries will stage an amphibious landing on the western island of Palawan facing the South China Sea. It will also be the first time Philippine and US navy frigates fire their weapons toward the South China Sea from waters off Zambales province, north of Manila. Protesters were seen burning a US flag as they expressed opposition to the military event outside the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Quezon City on Tuesday
Joint Statement of the U.S.-Philippines 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue - United States Department of State Finalize plans for the resumption of combined maritime activities, including the conduct of joint sails by the U.S. and Philippine navies, in the South China Sea. Both sides also discussed plans to conduct multilateral maritime activities with other like-minded partners in the South China Sea later this year; Expand information-sharing on the principal challenges confronting the U.S.-Philippine alliance, including through the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness initiative and the conclusion of a bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) before the end of the year, with the goal of enabling real-time information-sharing and technology cooperation across domains;
All preparations made to welcome return of giant panda Ya Ya from US - Global Times Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin gave updates on the progress of Ya Ya's return to China during a press briefing on Tuesday, saying that China has made full preparations for the welcome of Ya Ya to her homeland in terms of quarantine facilities, feeding facilities and plans, medical care and food supplies. Once an export permit for the giant panda is issued, Ya Ya will be safely transported back to China as quickly as possible
Japan urged to stop following cliché of smears, provoking camp confrontation after diplomatic report calls China 'biggest strategic challenge' - Global Times Wang [Wenbin]'s comment came after the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday presented its annual Diplomatic Bluebook to a Cabinet meeting. According to the Japanese media outlet NHK, the 2023 diplomatic report calls China-Japan ties "an important bilateral relationship." But citing China's external attitudes and military moves, it also describes the country as posing the "biggest strategic challenge" in terms of "reinforcing the international order based on the rule of law," NHK claimed. The report notes that Japan should cooperate with allies and like-minded nations when dealing with China
‘The hand of China reaches here’: how Beijing pushes Uyghurs to spy on each other overseas | Financial Times Yasin Üztürk, an ethnic Uyghur who runs a barber shop in Istanbul, never expected to become the target of a Chinese intelligence operation. Fearful for the safety of his parents back home in China, he avoided political protests and speaking out about rights abuses in Xinjiang. Then he spotted one of his customers surreptitiously photographing him from the street. When he forced the man, another Uyghur, to show him his phone, he discovered photographs of his shop and voice messages from what seemed to be a security official in China demanding more information on Üztürk. These included ominous instructions to “finish the job”.
Latest Twitter disinformation campaign targets two Chinese activists, dissidenta-Axios NewsGuard has detected 18 coordinated and "seemingly inauthentic" Chinese-language Twitter accounts that are sharing disparaging messages advocating against the work Chinese human rights activist Wang Qingpeng and political dissident Wang Jingyu have done to hold Beijing accountable, according to a note sent to NewsGuard clients last week
On the Sentencing of Human Rights Defenders Xu and Ding - United States Department of State We urge the PRC to immediately and unconditionally release these two unjustly detained human rights defenders and to cease any harassment of their family members. We similarly call upon the PRC to release others who were unjustly detained or imprisoned, to reinstate the lawyers who were unjustly disbarred, and to allow all individuals to exercise their fundamental freedoms. The United States will always stand with the brave individuals in the PRC and around the world who defend human rights.
Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and Nepalese Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal Hold the 15th Round of Diplomatic Consultation On April 7, 2023, Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and Nepalese Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal held the 15th round of diplomatic consultation in Beijing. Sun Weidong said that China and Nepal are good neighbors, good partners and good friends with millennia-old friendship. China always puts its relations with Nepal at an important place in its neighborhood diplomacy, adheres to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and pursues the policy of good-neighborliness and friendship featuring amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. China firmly supports Nepal in safeguarding sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, in maintaining solidarity and stability and achieving prosperity and development, and in playing a positive role in international and regional affairs. China stands ready to provide Nepal with as much help as it can in its economic and social development
Massive Chinese build-up near Doklam rings alarm bells in Indian military - India Today Latest images accessed exclusively by INDIA TODAY show lodging for thousands of PLA troops and communication towers in Bhutan’s Amo Chu, close to the Doklam plateau
China urged to speed up self-reliance in military tech as Western sanctions render old model ‘unsustainable’ | South China Morning Post “The pace of major global changes unprecedented in the past century is accelerating … and some Western countries continue to increase their efforts to suppress and contain the development of our country’s hi-tech industries”…Zhao Xun, a researcher at the academy’s Institute of Systems Engineering, wrote in an article for a state-backed magazine. “The old path of following and imitating others for the development of our military’s weapons and equipment has become unsustainable,” he warned, calling for independent innovation and development to urgently achieve self-reliance in the fast-changing global scenario. // The article by Zhao Xun 赵勋 - 学习时报 - 加紧推进武器装备现代化
U.S. biolabs in Ukraine must be investigated - CGTN CGTN amplifying Russian propaganda via Washington Bureau Chief for the Larouchian Executive Intelligence Review who is also a non-resident fellow of Chongyang Institute
Top Beijing official overseeing Hong Kong affairs set for 6-day visit to city, first since plan for restructuring of office revealed | South China Morning Post The local government announced on Tuesday that Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) of the State Council, would attend official events to mark the city’s National Security Education Day. Sources said Xia planned a series of meetings with Hong Kong officials, pro-establishment politicians and mainland Chinese officials based in the city during his visit from April 13 to 18.
Ice hockey team's anthem blunder has affected 'all Hong Kong athletes,' chair of sport's body says - Hong Kong Free Press HKFP “Up until the moment after the anthem is played, only then can [the athletes] feel that a burden has been lifted off of them,” Mike Kan, the chairperson of the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association, said.
Carriers and precision attacks: The takeaways from China's latest Taiwan drills | Reuters Chieh Chung, a military researcher at the Taipei-based National Policy Foundation think tank, said in the event of a attack, Taiwan would likely withdraw its military assets from the west to bases in the east, shielded by the island's high mountains and equipped with underground tunnels. But an unfettered, more coordinated attack from the east would mean "the whole situation will turn very unfavourable," he said...The aim of the drills was to show that they could encircle Taiwan in a blockade and deter foreign powers from intervening, Zhao said.
Chinese military response after Taiwan-US talks shorter this time but seen to clear crucial blockade tests | South China Morning Post For the first time, PLA J-15 fighter jets were also detected entering Taiwan’s air defence zone from the east – considered a defence weak point compared to its heavily fortified western frontier closer to the mainland, but also long seen as relatively safe from any cross-strait attack due to the natural defence barrier provided by a central mountain range. The J-15 are shipborne fighter jets, which suggests that they took off from the PLA Navy aircraft carrier Shandong positioned nearby for the drills.
China's military drills practice attacking Taiwan from Pacific coast - The Washington Post the three days of military exercises around Taiwan that concluded on Monday marked a change: They focused on dominating the air and sea in the western Pacific by simulating a carrier-based strike from the far side of the island, rather than the usual approach from the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from China.
U.S. defense industry plans first Taiwan trip in four years - Nikkei Asia Around 25 U.S. defense contractors plan to send representatives to Taiwan in early May to discuss joint production of drones and ammunition, US Taiwan Business Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers told Nikkei, as Washington explores various options to help bolster the island's defenses. The delegation will be led by Steven Rudder, the retired commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific. This would be the first large group of envoys focused specifically on the defense industry to visit Taiwan from the U.S. since 2019.
U.S. - Taiwan Working Group Meeting on International Organizations - United States Department of State On April 10, 2023, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) convened representatives of the U.S. Department of State and the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies for consultations in Washington on expanding Taiwan’s participation in the United Nations system and in other international forums. This discussion focused on near-term opportunities to support Taiwan’s expanded participation in the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA) in May and at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as well as supporting Taiwan’s meaningful participation in non-UN international, regional and multilateral organizations.
Tech and Media
China Box Office: Jackie Chan's 'Ride On' Beats 'Super Mario Bros' - Variety “Super Mario” earned $6.8 million over the Friday-Sunday weekend. It received an off-cycle release on Wednesday, allowing to benefit from Ching Ming holidaymakers, and earned $11.5 million over five days. Ticketing agency Maoyan forecasts that “Ride On” will earn a lifetime total of RMB209 million ($31.0 million) in China, and that “Super Mario” will make a total of RMB121 million ($17.6 million).
Huawei opposition to Nokia sale of joint venture threatens Finnish firm’s exit as US-China tensions weigh on deal | South China Morning Post Huawei Technologies’ threat to stop licensing technology to its joint venture with Nokia could derail the Finnish telecoms equipment maker’s plan to sell its majority stake to a Chinese chemical product company for US$300 million. Shanghai-listed New East New Materials (NENM) said in a stock filing on Sunday that it aims to acquire a 51 per cent stake in wireless technologies firm TD Tech from Nokia Solutions and Networks, a subsidiary of Nokia Group
Sogou Founder Builds New Startup to Research Large-scale Model - Pandaily On April 10, Wang Xiaochuan, the founder of Chinese search engine Sogou, announced his foray into large-scale models by co-founding an artificial intelligence company called Baichuan Intelligence with former Sogou COO Ru Liyun. The objective is to develop a Chinese version of OpenAI’s fundamental large-scale model and innovative upper-layer applications. Wang and his associates have already provided $50 million in funding to the new company.
Temu's popularity surge ignites Chinese sellers' discontent over its “aggressive” policies - PingWest As the cross-border e-commerce platform expands rapidly, one might expect Chinese sellers to be happy with increased sales. However, contrary to expectations, a surge of grievances has appeared on social media. Sellers are highlighting Temu's mismanagement, inconsistent and unfriendly policies for sellers, as well as mounting pressures.
Society, Arts, Sports, Culture and History
Family Records: The Story of China’s Largest Genealogy Collection - SixthTone It may seem curious, given the long history of genealogies in China, that so many would wind up in Shanghai — not a city known for its connection to traditional culture. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the collection of genealogies largely paused. Except for 1950 and 1951, when a small number of genealogies compiled before 1949 were printed, the genealogical record went blank for more than two decades. Genealogies were labeled “feudal” accomplices to the patriarchal system, those who compiled them ran the risk of being accused of nostalgia for the old China, and many volumes were sent to pulp mills. With thousands of years of history at stake, a Shanghai librarian named Gu Tinglong took a risk and organized a team to rescue as many genealogies as they could from being chemically pulped or thrown into landfills. Their work accounts for two-fifths of the Library’s current collection, with the rest coming from acquisitions made since the 1960s.
Followers Describe Allure of Chinese Businessman Charged With $1 Billion Fraud - WSJ Chu Xinze, a Los-Angeles-based truck driver, said he invested more than $200,000 into Mr. Guo’s ventures. He said he feels stupid and ashamed for being taken in and frustrated that Mr. Guo was able to use a pro-democracy message for illicit gain. “Yes, we need to fight for democracy,” he said. “But if we end up replacing the CCP with worse thugs, then what’s the point?”
In China, Young People Ditch Prestige Jobs for Manual Labor - The New York Times Ms. Liu is part of a phenomenon attracting growing attention in China: young people trading high-pressure, prestigious white-collar jobs for manual labor. The scale of the trend is hard to measure, but widely shared social media posts have documented a tech worker becoming a grocery store cashier; an accountant peddling street sausages; a content manager delivering takeout. On Xiaohongshu, an Instagram-like app, the hashtag “My first experience with physical labor” has more than 28 million views.
Energy, Environment, Science and Health
China issues action plan to combat endemic diseases-Xinhua Jointly issued by the national administration of disease prevention and control, the National Development and Reform Commission, and 15 other authorities, the plan laid out seven goals to be achieved by the end of 2025, which include continuously eliminating iodine deficiency, eliminating Kashin-Beck disease and Keshan disease, and continuously controlling drinking water-caused endemic fluorosis.
China Calls Homegrown mRNA Covid Vaccine a Preferred Booster Shot - Bloomberg The messenger RNA vaccine developed by CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd., which targets the omicron variant — along with another new shot created by Beijing-based drugmaker Sinocelltech Group Ltd. targeting four variants, including omicron — should be the preferred booster immunizations for adults, according to a statement issued by the National Health Commission late Monday
Jobs and Events
For a bit of background, Qiu’s long-running and critically acclaimed Inspector Chen mystery series has sold over two million copies worldwide and been adapted for BBC Radio 4. His newest novel, Love and Murder in the Time of Covid, will be published by Severn House, an imprint of Canongate Books, on July 4, 2023. Love and Murder is set during the height of the Covid pandemic in China and is both a gripping murder mystery and an indictment of the Chinese government’s zero-Covid policies. A line from The Waste Land, "Who is the third who walks always beside you?" is a thematic refrain, referring to state surveillance.