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Here’s an NPR radio series that many of you might relate to, all about what it's like to live with a foot in China, another in the U.S. The people interviewed include a range of people somehow stuck in the middle between the world’s two feuding superpowers.
Readers based in New York City can learn about “the art of East Asian greens” at an event on June 12 put on by Local Roots NYC, recently featured in a SupChina “Immigration Series” video.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
1. The rare earth card
As per the Simpsons, nothing happened on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4 this year. But nearby on Yuetan Street, an important meeting was held at the headquarters of the powerful government department known as the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
The aim of the meeting was — according to Xinhua’s Chinese report — how to promote “the high-quality development of the rare earth industry in China.” But nationalistic rag Global Times better captures the real goal: China to make full use of rare-earth card in containing U.S.
In response, the U.S. Commerce Department vowed “unprecedented action to ensure that the United States will not be cut off from these vital materials.”
- “Rare earth elements are used in a wide range of consumer products, from iPhones to electric car motors, as well as military jet engines, satellites and lasers,” explains Reuters.
- “China supplied 80 percent of the rare earths imported by the U.S. from 2014 to 2017,” and has “at least 85 percent of the world’s capacity to process rare earth ores into material manufacturers can use.”
- “It would take years to build enough processing plants to match China’s processing capacity of 220,000 tonnes — which is five times the combined capacity of the rest of the world,” according to Reuters.
- Is a rare earth cutoff a serious threat? Perhaps not. Rare earth elements are not actually rare, just troublesome to process, so some argue that any disruption to their supply would just be a blip. See for example:
- Pro-mining American groups are delighted: Time to capitalize on rare earth abundance in the United States argue a couple of conservative Washington think tankers.
- Australian miners are also happy: The managing director of Arafura Resources sees opportunities for his company, which mines rare earths — see this interview on YouTube.
- Further reporting: Rare earths battle looms as U.S. aims to counter China export threat / Bloomberg (porous paywall); US moves to reduce reliance on Chinese rare earths exports after Beijing threatens to cut supplies / SCMP
We have reached a stage of mutual hostility between the U.S. and China in which it’s difficult to say what exactly the rare earth threat is retaliation for. Huawei? Tariffs? Trump tweets? Mike Pompeo’s remarks? All these, and a thousand other irritants, are part of the same toxic stew.
Other trade war news
China’s economy as the trade war deepens
2. Is the Arabic-speaking world finally learning about Xinjiang?
A YouTuber named Joe HaTTab put out a 15-minute video in Arabic titled “Where did China's Muslims disappear?” on May 27, and it already has over 750,000 views. He followed up on May 31 with an English-subtitled travel vlog in Kashgar called “Prayer is forbidden in this city !!,” and it has more than 420,000 views.
The scholar Rian Thum noted how the first video went viral and commented on the relative paucity of Arabic-language coverage on Xinjiang: “My sense is that Saudi and Pakistan govs are censoring reporting. Al Jazeera (Qatar) in Arabic has a lot, incl. a report on Saudi silence. Turkey has a bunch. Jordan not so much, depends on the paper.”
Other Xinjiang-related stories
Kazakh-Chinese Xinjiang whistle-blower gets refuge in Sweden
Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh from China, became one of the most outspoken witnesses of the Xinjiang camps after she fled to Kazakhstan and testified in court about her experience in what she called a secret “prison in the mountains.” She was initially denied asylum by Kazakhstan and has been in legal limbo for many months, her future uncertain. More than a year later, AP reports that Sauytbay “was issued an alien’s passport by Sweden” and “has left for Sweden, where she expects to get political asylum.”
Nazi concentration camp comparisons
Donald Clarke, a law professor at George Washington University, commented on the appropriateness of the Nazi comparison with ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and argued that the reaction of the West is “a story of intense reluctance to act by the world’s governments.” He wrote:
The implicit argument seems to be that one must not compare any government to the Nazis until the mass killings have actually begun, but that approach turns “Never Again” into a meaningless slogan. If the admonition means anything, it means that we have to identify situations with the potential to turn into humanitarian disasters before they get there. It is hard to argue that the world’s governments have erred on the side of oversensitivity on this issue, finding too many false positives instead of too many false negatives.
3. NetEase Kaola vs. Chinese journalist
China has a long-standing problem of counterfeit goods, which have plagued all sorts of ecommerce platforms. One of the businesses that’s affected is NetEase Kaola (网易考拉 wǎngyì kǎolā), a cross-border retail site that has been called out multiple times on social media for downplaying the issue and actively seeking ways to evade legal responsibilities.
But after getting away with negligence for so long, it seems NetEase Kaola will finally have to defend itself in court. Part-time WeChat blogger 儿不说 (er bu shuō), who works as a journalist and has revealed his last name to be Mǎ 马, is taking NetEase Kaola to court in the hopes of holding it accountable for selling fake items.
Click through to SupChina for more details.
A MESSAGE FROM BALD PANDA CORPS
Bald Panda Corps is re-imagining Sino-American people-to-people relations by accelerating and mentoring startups that have both Chinese and U.S. citizens within their teams, and helping make these partnerships happen. Instead of escalating trade wars, Bald Panda Corps seeks to create an alternative narrative where both sides work together and build things: startup diplomacy at its finest! The nascent program is looking for experienced individuals to join the founding team, as well as students for summer internships in New York; interested individuals can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
featured on supchina
A memorial to Uyghur civil rights and the legacy of Tiananmen
In 1989, the Uyghur student activist Örkesh, better known in English-language media as Wu'er Kaixi, was one of the leaders of China's nascent — and short-lived — pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. Twenty years later, after mass protests (and riots) in Xinjiang were forcefully put down, Uyghurs who showed any sign of civil disobedience would be categorized in one of three ways: as separatists, extremists, or terrorists. The space for Uyghurs to petition for civil rights — for another Wu'er Kaixi to step up — had disappeared.
Q&A: Ingrid Yin on China’s healthcare industry and new medical technologies
Ingrid Yin is the co-founder and portfolio manager of MayTech Global Investments, a New York–based firm that specializes in managing global growth portfolios. At the 2018 SupChina Women’s Conference, she was chosen as the U.S. recipient of the Female Rising Stars Award. In this interview, Yin talks about how she started the company and what she makes of the growing investment opportunities in China’s healthcare sector.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
- Auto stimulus — cities to issue more license plates
Chinese cities to issue 60% more license plates to spur demand / Nikkei Asian Review
Guangzhou and Shenzhen “will issue 180,000 more vehicle registration plates between this month and December 2020 than previously expected, representing a roughly 60 percent increase.” Other cities are expected to follow.
Chinese auto group asks government to unleash stimulus to spur car sales / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“The state-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers asked authorities to relax limits on license plates issued in some cities and lower levies paid by vehicle buyers in rural areas, according to Xu Haidong, an assistant secretary general at the group.”
- Not all good news for carmarkers
China’s auto dealers need to sell $72 billion worth of cars this month / Caixin (paywall)
“China’s auto dealerships still have millions of cars to sell this month if they want to clear inventories before a tough new emissions standard for new vehicles takes effect in July.”
- Ford fined for anti-monopoly law violation
China fines Ford joint venture $23 million for violating anti-monopoly law / Caixin (paywall)
“China on Wednesday said it is fining Ford’s joint venture 162.8 million yuan ($23.56 million) for violating the country’s anti-monopoly law.”
Ford is fined in China as trade fight with U.S. rages / NYT (porous paywall)
- Electricity: Three Gorges in Brazil
China Three Gorges mulling deal for EDP's Brazil assets, sources say / Bloomberg via Caixin (paywall)
“State-owned Three Gorges is considering merging its own Brazilian assets with EDP’s operations in the South American country, where they are run through publicly traded EDP-Energias do Brasil SA.”
- Mobile phones: Samsung losing hope in Chinese market?
Samsung scales back its last China smartphone plant / FT (paywall)
“The move at Samsung’s plant in Huizhou city, Guangdong Province, comes as the South Korean company struggles to compete against Chinese rivals offering cheaper but competitive smartphones. Samsung has only about one percent market share in China, down from about 20 percent in 2013, according to Strategy Analytics.”
- Chinese solar-panel market slowdown
The world’s biggest solar-panel maker is seeing a slowdown in China / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“Jinko Solar Holding Co., the world’s biggest solar panel maker, sees China’s photovoltaic power additions slumping this year and a greater share of its revenue coming from overseas amid uncertainties over Beijing’s new policies.”
- Artificial intelligence investment
China’s iFlytek raising up to $350m to invest in AI / FT (paywall)
“Chinese artificial intelligence company iFlytek is seeking to raise a $300350 million fund to invest in AI start-ups to bolster its domestic ecosystem in the face of fears the U.S. intends to impose a digital ‘iron curtain’ between itself and China.”
- Land price control
China curbs property developers' funding to cool land prices / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“The curbs have affected companies including Sunac China Holdings Ltd. and Gemdale Corp., said people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named. In some cases, developers’ underwriters were asked by regulators not to tap unused quotas for selling yuan bonds or asset-backed securities, according to the people.”
- SWIFT expansion
China approves SWIFT subsidiary as demand for yuan rises / Nikkei Asian Review
“SWIFT already has two offices in China, but the locally incorporated outfit — the first of its kind — will facilitate yuan and other foreign currency transactions. Raes said it will provide a ‘better customer experience’ as invoices and transactions will use the Chinese language.”
- New lithium deposits discovery
Around 5 million tonnes of lithium deposits found in southwest China / Reuters
“An estimated 5 million tonnes of lithium deposits have been found in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, scientists said, potentially curbing the nation’s reliance on imports of the material, used in electric vehicle batteries.”
- South Korean fashion products
Forget K-pop and US missiles, Korea is back in fashion with China thanks to live-stream shopping / SCMP
“After Beijing boycotted South Korea for installing the US missile system THAAD, fashion retailers in one of Seoul’s biggest wholesale hubs suffered. But China’s hugely popular live-stream shopping hosts, or zhi bo, have started to turn the tide for the South’s struggling fashion trade.”
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
- Crop pests
After swine fever, China’s farmers battle corn-devouring pest / Sixth Tone
“Voracious fall armyworms are destroying crops across the southern regions. As summer arrives, they’re threatening the country’s corn-growing heartland.”
Matthew Walsh on Twitter: "The fall armyworm is a nasty little fella. The adult moths can travel 100 km — one hundred kilometers! — per night, and their larvae eat corn leaves and cobs (and other crops too), rendering them unusable."
China primes pesticides for armyworm emergency / SCMP
“Armyworms have been reported in 18 of China’s provinces, regions and municipalities since it was first detected in southwestern Yunnan Province in January, a statement on the ministry’s website said.”
Read more on SupChina Access: Armyworms invade, as China’s farms reel from swine fever.
Also, see a Reuters report: Control of armyworm crucial for China's grain output targets: ministry.
- First human trials of norovirus vaccine
China approves first human trials of 4-way norovirus vaccine / Sixth Tone
- Snow leopard spotted after 30 years
Rare snow leopard spotted in northwest China / That’s Magazine
“The Anxi Nature Reserve in North China’s Gansu Province recently announced that a snow leopard has been spotted on the arid reserve. This is an exciting development, as snow leopards have not been sighted there since the establishment of the reserve in 1987, more than 30 years ago.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- Xi Jinping in Moscow
Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia accents ties in face of tensions with U.S. / NYT (porous paywall)
“President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 of China arrived in Moscow on Wednesday at the start of a high-profile three-day state visit that will include some panda diplomacy and underscore the strengthening Beijing-Moscow axis at a time when relations for both with Washington continue to fray.”
China and Russia to close ranks in united front against American pressure / SCMP
“China and Russia have elevated their already close partnership to a new level, Chinese state media said, as Beijing and Moscow seek to offset pressure from the US.”
China's Alibaba to invest $100 million in Russian e-commerce JV / Reuters
“China’s Alibaba and Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund will each invest $100 million in a Russian joint venture, RDIF said in a statement on Wednesday. RDIF also has an option to buy a further $194 million worth of shares in the joint venture from Alibaba, it said after definitive documents for the joint venture were signed in Moscow.”
- Reflections on Tiananmen
Memories of Tiananmen Square / New Yorker (porous paywall)
Jiayang Fan writes a short piece reflecting on her experience of learning about Tiananmen: “In China, the past is never past, but it is frequently purged. The story is rewritten, the narrative reframed, the villains and the heroes recast. There is a hallucinatory quality to such a society, as if you are living a life that does not and never can fully belong to you.”
Reflecting on the Tiananmen Square 30th Anniversary / NPR
“NPR's Scott Simon asks Wuer Kaixi, who protested in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, to reflect on the upcoming 30th anniversary of the massacre there.”
‘I felt ashamed… it was a disgrace’: Tiananmen soldier at Taiwan vigil urges comrades to testify / AFP
For Pelosi, it’s personal: US House Speaker meets Tiananmen survivors, blasts China’s ‘moral injustices’ / SCMP
‘Tank Man’ statue rises in California desert park as democracy activists and Tiananmen survivors gather to mourn and remember / SCMP
Media round-up: Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Massacre vigil as covered by local newspapers / HKFP
- Beijing confirms nomination for UN Office on Drugs and Crime
Beijing confirms nomination of ex-Hong Kong police chief Andy Tsang to lead UN agency fighting drug crimes, terrorism and political corruption / SCMP
“Nomination is China’s first attempt to fill a top position at a major international body since it detained Meng Hongwei, then head of Interpol, last year.”
- China-Philippines relations
China-Philippines war over South China Sea? Duterte is fear mongering, says Hague tribunal point man Florin Hilbay / SCMP
“In an interview ahead of next month’s anniversary of the ruling, Florin ‘Pilo’ Hilbay, formerly the Philippines’ solicitor general, urged Manila to take a tougher stance in trying to enforce the decision.”
- China-EU relations
Merkel says EU antitrust rules are naive about threat of China / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel blasted the European Union’s merger rules for failing to take into account growing Chinese dominance and hampering efforts to compete on the global stage.”
- Pacific Islands and recognition of Taiwan
Solomon Islands to decide soon on whether to cut ties with Taiwan / Guardian
“The Solomon Islands, one of the few remaining countries to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, will make a decision about whether to transfer its allegiance to China within 100 days, the Guardian has learned.”
- Missile tests and rocket launches
China tests missile – but here’s why it wasn’t a next-generation JL-3 / SCMP
“A missile test by the People’s Liberation Army on Sunday did not feature the country’s next-generation long-range weapon, but instead involved a mid-range Dongfeng missile refitted with improved guidance systems, according to Beijing military sources.”
China launches rocket from Yellow Sea platform for first time / The Guardian
“China has launched a rocket from a mobile platform at sea for the first time, sending five commercial satellites and two others containing experimental technology into space. China is the third country after the US and Russia to master sea launch technology.”
- Buying loyalty from Tibetans
China offers money to Tibetans to display portraits of Xi Jinping / Radio Free Asia
“Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai Province are offering cash payments to impoverished Tibetan families to display portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping in their homes, in a move aimed at enforcing Tibetan loyalty to Beijing, Tibetan sources say.”
- China’s Foreign Ministry now on Weibo
Why did China’s Foreign Ministry make its debut on Weibo? / The Diplomat
“In late May, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) opened its first official account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. It was a clear indication that the Chinese government realizes the need to step up its public diplomacy activities to build up the country’s image through social media.”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
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This newsletter was sent at 7 p.m. from New York, NY on June 5, 2019
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