News from China in the week to 23 September, including US-China trade, Scotland’s links with China, Chinese innovation, academics and students at Chinese universities encouraged to post propaganda online and a ‘Faustian pact’ in Australia?
US envoy brands China an ‘unprecedented threat’ to world trade (SCMP, 19 September)
China’s economic model represents an “unprecedented” threat to the world trading system that cannot be addressed under current global rules, President Donald Trump’s top trade negotiator said. “There is one challenge on the current scene that is substantially more difficult than those faced in the past, and that is China,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Monday in a speech in Washington.
China hits back at U.S. over trade, says unilateralism is “unprecedented challenge” (Reuters, 21 September)
China hit back on Thursday at recent criticism from the United States about its trade practices, saying some countries’ unilateralism is an unprecedented challenge to global trade. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng also said that foreign and domestic firms are treated equally in China and that foreign firms should not have concerns about investing in China.
The next wave (The Economist, 21 September)
A new generation of Chinese entrepreneurs will have a powerful impact on industries and consumers worldwide. A few years ago, Chinese innovation meant copycats and counterfeits. The driving force is now an audacious, talented and globally minded generation of entrepreneurs. Investors are placing big bets on them. Around $77bn of venture-capital (VC) investment poured into Chinese firms from 2014 to 2016, up from $12bn between 2011 and 2013. Last year China led the world in financial-technology investments and is closing on America, the global pacesetter, in other sectors.
China vs US: who is copying whom?
China is gradually shedding its reputation as the world’s technology copycat. It still spawns lookalikes, whether they be GoPro-style action cameras or Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing app that looked awfully like Uber until it added Chinese characteristics and vanquished its former rival. But some Chinese companies are also leading the way in new services and business models.
There are several reasons. Competing in a protected space — the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s search engine are blocked in China — mitigates risk and encourages experimentation. So too does a big market. But the move toward pioneering also reflects a generational change, says Derrick Xiong, chief marketing officer of drone maker Ehang.
Baidu fund heats up driverless race (BBC, 21 September)
Chinese search engine giant Baidu is to spend 10bn yuan (£1.1bn; $1.5bn) on new driverless car projects over the next three years. The move is an attempt to catch up with US rivals by enlisting outside help. The launch of Baidu’s “Apollo Fund” coincides with the release of Apollo 1.5, the latest version of its open-source autonomous vehicle software. Baidu hopes to have its cars ready for Chinese roads by 2020.
China and Britain
From Beijing to Biggar, bid to grow Scots links to China (The Scotsman, 21 September)
Businesses north of the Border have been encouraged by Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) to “take more of the initiative” when it comes to fostering co-operation with China. The comments were made by SCC director and chief executive Liz Cameron, who said business-to-business links between the two geographies have reached a “turning point” thanks to proactive private-sector leadership. She was speaking in the wake of an event in Glasgow, where SCC hosted Beijing’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming along with economy secretary Keith Brown and 200 Scottish businesses with China interests.
Top travel agent to establish call center in Edinburgh a year after its purchase of British peer Skyscanner (Caixin, 18 September)
Leading online travel agent Ctripis taking its first global flight to the Scottish city of Edinburgh. Nearly a year after making its first major overseas purchase of British flight news provider Skyscanner, Ctrip.com International Ltd. has launched its first offshore call center in the UK as it slowly steps outside its home market, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said on Monday.
China bolsters Confucius Institute culture scheme in Scotland (The Times, 20 September)
A scheme designed to promote Chinese language and culture has strengthened its presence in Scotland with plans to open specialist classrooms and a new headquarters. The Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools is to open a new base in the Ramshorn Theatre in Glasgow after a £2 million refurbishment paid for in part by an organisation affiliated with China’s communist regime.
China’s CGN bids for stake in Toshiba’s NuGeneration UK plant (Reuters, 19 September)
China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) said on Tuesday it is bidding to make an equity investment in Toshiba’s financially troubled NuGeneration (NuGen) nuclear firm in Britain.
UK chip designer Imagination bought by Chinese firm (BBC, 23 September)
UK technology firm Imagination, which designs graphics chips for smartphones, is being bought for £550m by a Chinese-backed investment firm. Imagination put itself up for sale in June after Apple, its largest customer, said it would stop using its products. The boss of Imagination, Andrew Heath, said the takeover by China-backed Canyon Bridge was a “very good outcome” and would ensure it remained in the UK.
Chinese academics, students encouraged to post propaganda online (SCMP, 21 September)
China’s top universities are encouraging academics and students to write online articles promoting socialist values, with some offering authors the same academic credits they would get for papers published in journals. According to a notice issued this month by Zhejiang University, content that is widely circulated online, that shows “core socialist values” and influences public opinion with “correct thinking and culture” now carries the same weight as an academic paper – whether it is in the form of an essay, video or animation.
‘Faustian bargain’: defence fears over Australian university’s $100m China partnership (The Guardian, 19 September)
A world-first collaboration between the University of New South Wales and the Chinese government, celebrated as a $100m innovation partnership, opens a Pandora’s box of strategic and commercial risks for Australia, according to leading analysts. These include the potential loss of sensitive technology with military capability, an unhealthy reliance on Chinese capital and vulnerability to Beijing’s influence in Australia’s stretched research and technology sector.
Life in China
China bans major Beijing construction projects in ‘war against air pollution’ (The Independent, 18 September)
China is to halt almost every major building project in Beijing in a bid to tackle the city’s air pollution crisis that is blamed for thousands of early deaths each year. Construction of road and water systems, as well as housing demolition, will be suspended across most of the capital during winter.
Or maybe not?
Beijing government pulls winter construction ban from website (Reuters, 22 September)
Beijing’s city authorities have taken down from their website a policy document put up just a few days ago that looked to help improve the city’s notorious air quality by banning construction during winter months. It is unclear if the move means the prohibition is no longer in place, with an official at the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development who gave his name as Yu saying the document had been pulled from the website due to misunderstandings over the rules in media reports. He declined to give further details.
Has China’s ‘little fresh meat’ passed its sell-by date? (SCMP, 22 September)
Could the appeal of mainland China’s boyish-looking male actors – known locally as “little fresh meat”– have passed its sell-by date? Disappointing box-office takings for this summer’s expected-blockbuster The Founding of An Army – a film starring many of these young pin-ups, which commemorated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army – suggests this may be the case.
Stories selected by Paul Gardner