Wanda shrinks, again – China’s latest top news

Jeremy Goldkorn’s selection of the top stories from China on August 1, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

Schadenfreude: the decline of the empire of Wanda

The New York Times has a piece (paywall) on previously high-flying real estate group Wanda. Money quote:

Most of Wanda’s empire is being dismantled, as the company faces pressure to pay off its debt.

Many observers may feel touch of schadenfreude — gloating over the misfortune of others. The feeling is strong because Wanda founder Wang Jianlin 王健林, once China’s richest man, has been very boastful, talking about dominating the global movie business, while his son displays the worst of nouveau riche tendencies, such as buying Apple Watches for his dog.

As SupChina has been documenting over the past few weeks, the Wanda real estate empire has run into many problems in Wang’s quest to diversify out of the business of cookie cutter real estate projects based on cheap property granted by the government.

As Wang’s empire withers, he is seeking New York PR juice. Hill and Knowlton, a global public relations agency owned by conglomerate WPP,  has taken on Wanda as a client.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship works: In 2015, a headhunter contacted me about a role as Wanda’s head of international PR. At the time, no reputable international PR person that I knew would take the job, because of the military-style time-card clock-ins required by the company, and the impossibility of making Wanda seem cuddly.  

Chinese government to Trump: Stop tweeting!

The Chinese government feels the same as most people across the globe: they would prefer that Donald Trump stops tweeting.

Xinhua News Agency has published an opinion piece (in Chinese) titled Trump fumes and looks for excuses (特朗普撒怨气找错了对象 tèlǎngpǔ sà yuànqì zhǎo cuòle duìxiàng). The op-ed says that while “Trump has a lot personality, and likes to tweet, hysterics cannot become a guiding policy to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula.”

The New York Times has a summary (paywall) of the Chinese government take on Trump’s tweets and North Korea, as does the South China Morning Post.

Today in censorship

  • Bloomberg says that new rules made public (in Chinese) on Tuesday said that “all Party cadres face punishment if they visit ‘illegal websites’ or disclose Party and state secrets online.”
  • After Apple stopped sales of multiple virtual private network apps (see VPN clampdown getting real), Amazon has also “told local customers to cease using any software that would allow Chinese to circumvent the country’s extensive system of internet blocks,” according to (paywall) the New York Times.

Russian president Vladimir Putin formally signed a law on July 29 to prohibit VPNs and other internet proxy services that enable Russians to skirt government censorship. Though there is no evidence to pinpoint where Putin got his inspiration, Chinese media coverage about the Russian law has served as an outlet for internet users to express their frustration about the country’s Great Firewall.

On social media platform Weibo, the most upvoted comment acutely pointed out that Russia’s cyber wall differs from the China’s:

  • “Russians have access to Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube without using VPNs. Don’t try to confuse the public!” the comment reads (in Chinese).
  • However, some people praise the government’s censorship efforts. “I don’t understand why people are furious about the crackdown. Don’t you guys feel upset while browsing those blocked websites? All they are doing is to defame us,” one person wrote.