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SupChina Access
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Monday, September 9, 2019

Hello, readers!

Panda hugger or panda slugger? Our 2020 U.S. presidential election China tracker has been updated, and will help you keep track of the Democratic candidates and their evolving attitudes toward Beijing. The next Democratic primary debate is this Thursday, September 12, and China is guaranteed to be mentioned at least a few times.

If you are in New York, these two events may interest you:

To give us feedback on this newsletter or other SupChina content, just hit “reply.” Thank you for reading.

—The Editors

1. Placebo trade war talks to be administered in Washington in October
Photo credit: SupChina illustration

After the latest tariff escalation on September 1, we are now in a brief moment of calm in the U.S.-China techno-trade war.

Last week, the two governments agreed to meet in Washington, D.C., in early October, for the 13th (!) round of trade talks since large-scale import taxes were implemented on July 6, 2018.

Markets — the fools! — jumped immediately in response to the renewed negotiations, but you should not believe the hype. A more reliable way to view these talks comes via Beijing-based American lawyer and former four-term chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China James M. Zimmerman, on Twitter:

Beijing is done with Trump’s tactics. The October meeting is to get peacefully past the PRC’s 70th anniversary. They’ll stall to 2020 when Trump becomes desperate for an election year deal, any deal. Meanwhile, the economy suffers.

In other words, these talks will function as a placebo to keep the markets, and Trump, calm for the time being. No real cure to the chronic diseases of U.S.-China economic relations will be invented next month that hasn’t already been repeatedly derided as “WEAK” by Trump, or rejected by Beijing as an insult to its sovereignty.

More to read on the realities of the trade war:

Early-bird tickets on sale for three weeks only

NEXT China is an annual conference in New York that explores the future of all things China, and why it matters for everyone here in the U.S.

Our industry-focused breakout sessions will provide you with new ideas for how to leverage China to benefit your company and your personal career development. And our afternoon panel discussions and keynote addresses will help you understand the tectonic shifts taking place in the global geopolitical system.

Click here for more information on the conference and to buy tickets, or contact for group ticket purchase and sponsorship opportunities.

2. Betting big on Chinese biotech
Photo credit: SupChina illustration. Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强 officially leads economic policy in China, and has emphasized biopharma as one of the country’s ten target industries for Made in China 2025.


Shān Wěijiàn 单伟建 is the CEO of PAG, a Hong Kong–based private equity firm. He was previously a managing director of JP Morgan, a professor at the Wharton business school, and during the Cultural Revolution, a farm laborer in Inner Mongolia. He has written a memoir titled Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America.

This star private equity investor just bet big on Chinese biotech: PAG has paid $540 million for a controlling stake in Hisun BioRay Biopharmaceutical, the biotech division of state-owned Hisun Pharma, reports the Financial Times (paywall).


Hisun Pharma is best known for co-developing an Ebola remedy, “the experimental MIL-77 drug combination used to successfully treat Anna Cross, a British Army reserve nurse who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2015.”

Per the FT, “Hisun BioRay specializes in making biosimilar drugs, which involves manufacturing much more complex molecules than for many other drugs. It has already commercialized one drug to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It also has plans to launch two others.”

Chinese biotech is an industry to watch, and Hisun Pharma is at the leading edge of China’s emerging power in pharma and biotech.

3. Too little, too late from Carrie Lam
Photo credit: SupChina illustration


Only hours after we sent our last Weekly Briefing, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) finally withdrew the controversial extradition bill that sparked mass protests in the city nearly three months ago.

Unfortunately for Lam, the protesters months ago coalesced around five key demands, four of which remain unanswered:

  1. To withdraw the extradition bill
  2. To stop labeling protesters as “rioters”
  3. To drop charges against protesters
  4. To conduct an independent inquiry into police behavior
  5. To implement free elections for a chief executive

According to the South China Morning Post, after the bill withdrawal, “LIHKG, a Reddit-like site which has been the de facto virtual command centre of the protest movement, was flooded with messages [in Chinese] saying: ‘Five key demands, not one less’ [五大訴求,缺一不可 wǔ dà sùqiú, quē yī bùkě].”

Nobody expects the government to actually address all key demands. But even the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, a core demand that brought millions to the streets three months ago, was panned by activists like Joshua Wong (黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēng) as “too little and too late.”


SupChina Access members got an exclusive opportunity to talk with one of the most perceptive observers of protests in Hong Kong over the last two decades, lawyer and author Antony Dapiran, in a Slack Q&A last week. He suggested that we all look out for three dates that could be flashpoints in the sure-to-be-ongoing protests:

  • September 28 — anniversary of the start of the Umbrella Movement
  • October 1 — National Day
  • November 24 — district council election

If the elections “result in pan-dem candidates making big gains, that may be enough for the people to feel that their efforts on the street have converted into some kind of tangible outcome in the formal political system.” But a “new normal” of ongoing protests and unrest is just as likely an outcome, and in Dapiran’s view is “the most likely one.”

4. Black Cat Detective and 1980s nostalgia
Photo credit: Screenshot from beloved 1980s cartoon Black Cat Detective.

There was not much to watch on Chinese TV before its commercialization in the 1990s, but there were a few shows that electrified the nation. One of these was Black Cat Detective (黑猫警长 hēi māo jǐngzhǎng), a cartoon remembered with a great deal of nostalgia by many Chinese people who grew up in the 1980s.

On September 4, Dài Tiěláng 戴铁郎 — the man who created Black Cat Detective — died at the age of 89. Sixth Tone reports:

The Shanghai Animation Film Studio — where Dai worked as a designer, director, and screenwriter for more than 30 productions — said in a tribute post [in Chinese] on microblogging platform Weibo that his works were “full of imagination” and had helped create “beautiful childhood memories for generations upon generations” of fans. Dai is best-known for directing the “Black Cat Detective” cartoon series, which aired from 1984 to 1987.

Born in Singapore in 1930 to parents from Guangdong, Dai moved to China in 1940 and graduated from the prestigious Beijing Film Academy in 1953. He then worked with both the Shanghai Film Studio and the Shanghai Animation Film Studio.

You can find whole seasons of Black Cat Detective on YouTube.

5. The fight of a Chinese single mother
Photo credit: SupChina illustration

The life of a single mother can be challenging anywhere in the world, but the hurdles are especially high for single Chinese mothers. Obstacles include:

  • Denial of access to assisted reproductive technology such as IVF and egg freezing.
  • Extraordinary difficulty in obtaining a residency permit, also known as a hùkǒu (户口), for their children.
  • Inability to claim maternity benefits because current law stipulates that applicants need to present family-planning certificates — but unmarried mothers sometimes cannot obtain these papers.

One mother in Shanghai, Zhāng Méng 张萌, is now challenging the law on maternity benefits, and has filed a lawsuit against the Shanghai Social Insurance Management Center. In the first legal case of its kind in China, Zhang is seeking around 50,000 yuan ($7,000) as salary compensation for five months of maternity leave.

The upshot: After Zhang lost three previous lawsuits over two years, her case has now reached the Shanghai Supreme People’s Court.

Click through to SupChina to read more about Zhang’s case.

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