Not just pandas! News from China 5 August 2017

News stories about China from the last week. 

Life in China

China gripped by censored essay on Beijing (BBC, 1 August)

A candid opinion piece describing the growing difficulties of living in Beijing appears to have become the target of Chinese government censorship.

The essay, entitled “Beijing has 20 million people pretending to have a life”, says industrialisation, migration and rising costs mean that many people in the city merely survive from day to day, rather than enjoying life. It spread widely on social media in China after being published last week. Author Zhang Guochen has since issued an apology, though many people are saying he was coerced into this.

Tianjin Port to Resume Transporting Hazardous Cargo Two Years After Deadly Blast (Caixin, 31 July)

Tianjin Port is set to resume transporting some kinds of hazardous cargo, including corrosives, on Tuesday, nearly two years after a devastating blast killed 165 people, Caixin has learned. The largest port in northern China experienced one of the country’s deadliest industrial accidents in decades on Aug. 12, 2015. The initial blast was caused by the self-ignition of hazardous materials in shipping containers at a warehouse, according to a report published last year by the State Council, China’s cabinet.

Young Moviegoers March to See Teen Heartthrobs Depict Chinese Military’s Early Days (Caixin, 2 August)

China’s latest burst of big-screen patriotism — the story of the early days of the People’s Liberation Army — is pulling in an unlikely base of fans: young moviegoers. The film’s star-studded cast includes teen heartthrob and pop singer Li Yifeng, boy band member Lay Zhang and teen idol Liu Haoran.

“The Founding of an Army” was commissioned by the government to mark the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Aug. 1, 1927. But some have taken issue with the young and attractive cast, saying such glamorizing dishonors the true historical figures.

RoboMaster armies go to battle in China (BBC, 4 August)

Teams of robots are being pitted against each other in the finals of the RoboMaster competition. The aim is to shine the spotlight on young engineering talent – and to entertain the crowds. Video

China & the UK

Tencent’s Global Gaming Drive Passes Through U.K. (Caixin, 4 August)

Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. has invested in two British game developers, further building its pipeline of global connections to consolidate its position as China’s leading online game operator.

In the latest of its two purchases, Tencent will make an unspecified investment in Milky Tea, the Liverpool, England-based developer said, in an announcement to coincide with the release of its latest title. Last week, Cambridge, England-based Frontier Development separately announced that it would sell 9% of itself to Tencent for 17.7 million pounds ($23.3 million) through the issue of new shares.

Britain Needs New Safeguards to Deal with Chinese Investment (RUSI)

In a commentary for RUSI, John Hemmings, the Director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, China’s foreign direct investment while necessary and welcome, ‘comes with risks, which current legal structures in Britain are ill-equipped to assess’.

Hemmings suggests there are a number of reasons to be cautious about some Chinese investment in the UK. These include: Changes inside China, such as increased Communist Party control over the state and society that blurs the distinction between state and private entrepreneurship… Given these points, is time for the UK to establish a properly resourced investment review board, which, when national security is at risk, can block investment that threatens Britain’s national interests.

Politics

China accused over ‘enforced disappearance’ of Liu Xiaobo’s widow (The Guardian, 3 August)

Chinese authorities are guilty of the Kafkaesque enforced disappearance of Liu Xia, the wife of late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, the couple’s US lawyer has claimed. Jared Genser, a Washington-based human rights attorney who has represented them since 2010, made the claim in a formal complaint submitted to the United Nations.

Almost three weeks after the Chinese dissident became the first Nobel peace prize winner to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky – who died in 1938 after years in Nazi concentration camps – his widow’s precise whereabouts are a mystery.

Chinese leaders head to the beach for secretive gathering (South China Morning Post, 4 August)

The secretive annual gathering at Beidaihe beach resort, 280km east of Beijing on the Bohai Sea, is particularly sensitive this year. This year’s gathering is taking place just months before a key party plenum, when a number of top officials will be replaced and Xi is expected to consolidate his status and power. Party elders and current leaders will be discussing, horse-trading and finalising lists of candidates for the top jobs.

Chinese chatbots shut down after anti-government posts (BBC, 3 August)

A popular Chinese messenger app has ditched two experimental chat robots, or “chatbots”, which were apparently voicing criticism of the government.

Messenger app Tencent QQ introduced chatbots Baby Q and Little Bing, a penguin and a little girl, in March. But they have now been removed after social media users shared controversial comments that they said were made by the bots. Some of the remarks appear to criticise the Communist Party. One response even referred to the party as “a corrupt and incompetent political regime”

Foreign affairs

China shows off military might as tensions flare over North Korea (The Independent)

Premier Xi Jinping presided over war training exercises which included a mock-target of Taiwan’s presidential palace.

China has put on a show of massive military might, just hours after US President Donald Trump launched a fresh tirade at Beijing for doing “nothing” to reign in North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. Chinese leader Xi Jinping presided over the war zone training at the remote Zhurihe military base in Inner Mongolia as part of the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.

Economy

China Smartphones Muscle In on Apple, Samsung (Caixin, 3 August)

Chinese brands consolidated their place as the world’s fastest-rising force in the global smartphone market, accounting for more than a quarter of sales on a rapid expansion beyond China, according to new data from global research firm IDC.

China adds to the investors’ menagerie (BBC, 2 August)

For those wondering what the recent talk of grey rhinos in China is about, the BBC has a useful guide to the country’s additions the bulls and bears often used to describe market conditions in the West.

The term refers to obvious, clearly visible economic problems which get ignored until they start smashing everything. In China right now, it specifically refers to corporate giants who are big, well-connected and powerful and yet potentially vulnerable too because of how much they’ve borrowed and bought.

History

How the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge changed China forever (CNN.com, 1 August)

We hear a lot about China’s spectacular, and sometimes terrifying glass bridges, but this CNN feature looks at an older, historically significant bridge.

Built during China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution, the double-decked bridge was considered groundbreaking when it was unveiled in 1968. But more importantly to some, it was also the first modern bridge to be designed and built by China without help from foreign architects.

The article includes a look at China’s famous bridge through propaganda posters.

And finally…

Last year, Xi Jinping urged China’s news outlets ‘to tell China stories well’ to the world. It often seems that China’s media believe that means focusing on cute panda stories. What might be called Panda PR. Here’s just one of the recent (very cute) panda stories put out by China’s English language media.

Keeper wears panda costume to interact with cubs to protect them from human attachment.

 

News items selected by Paul Gardner.

 

 

 

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