Destructive forces’ in U.S.-China relations

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Our word of the day is destructive forces in U.S.-China relations (中美关系中的破坏性力量 zhōng měi guānxì zhōng de pòhuài xìng lìliàng). 

The latest Sinica Podcast is an interview with Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, the lead reporter on an explosive leak of documents detailing the ongoing repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Illustration by Marjorie Wang for a September article on SupChina titled, Are Chinese and Western perspectives incompatible in our post-truth times?

1. ‘Destructive forces’ in U.S.-China relations

Cuī Tiānkǎi 崔天凯, Beijing’s envoy to Washington, D.C., “speaking at a dinner hosted by the US-China Business Council, said U.S.-Chinese ties were at a critical crossroads due to trade frictions, but it was possible to return to a better path,” according to Reuters

“At the same time, we must be alert that some destructive forces are taking advantage of the ongoing trade friction (through) extreme rhetoric such as ‘decoupling,’ the ‘new Cold War,’ and ‘clash of civilizations,’” Cui said.

He urged U.S. and Chinese companies keen to expand trade between the two countries to stand up against what he called efforts to “spread hostility and even create conflict between us,” as well as “fake news” about the situations in both Hong Kong and Xinjiang…

Unfortunately, as long as reports about Hong Kong and Xinjiang that the Party does not like are dismissed as “fake news” while many Americans look on in horror, terms like “new Cold War” and “clash of civilizations” are going to be used by journalists, politicians, scholars, and people who rant on social media to describe China’s relations with the West. 

There is a genuine disconnect of values here. That’s the true destructive force. 

2. Scientists come out against DNA sampling of Uyghurs and Tibetans

Sui-Lee Wee and Paul Mozur of the New York Times report (porous paywall): 

China’s efforts to study the DNA of the country’s ethnic minorities have incited a growing backlash from the global scientific community, as a number of scientists warn that Beijing could use its growing knowledge to spy on and oppress its people.

Two publishers of prestigious scientific journals, Springer Nature and Wiley, said this week that they would re-evaluate papers they previously published on Tibetans, Uighurs and other minority groups. The papers were written or co-written by scientists backed by the Chinese government, and the two publishers want to make sure the authors got consent from the people they studied.

Springer Nature, which publishes the influential journal Nature, also said that it was toughening its guidelines to make sure scientists get consent, particularly if those people are members of a vulnerable group.

The statements followed articles by The New York Times [porous paywall] that describe how the Chinese authorities are trying to harness bleeding-edge technology and science to track minority groups.

Back in Beijing, state media is still fuming about the U.S. House of Representatives passing the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. In English, a Xinhua headline says that the Act “reveals U.S. true nature of hegemony,” while in Chinese, the state news agency focuses on terrorism as the reason for the internment camps in Xinjiang, and on American interference in China’s affairs.  

The latest Sinica Podcast, as mentioned above, is an interview with Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, the lead reporter on an explosive leak of documents detailing the ongoing repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


The next five-year period in China’s economic calendar may herald better days for the global solar industry, with government policy expected to spur demand growth in the top market through 2025 after a slump the past two years.

Annual capacity additions are forecast at 50 gigawatts in 2021, and then increasing 10% every year through 2025, Trina Solar Ltd. Chairman Gao Jifan said Thursday during a group interview in Shenzhen. That is the period covered under China’s next economic blueprint — officially known as the 14th Five-Year Plan — that sets targets and lays out strategies. 

An unusual sense of tranquility has descended on China’s financial markets.

The country’s stocks and government bonds have slowed to a crawl. The Shanghai Composite Index reached lows in volatility unseen in nearly two years, while the benchmark 10-year bond yield is moving in the narrowest range since 2012. And despite some drama for the yuan this week, implied volatility remains near the lowest since August.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi on Tuesday launched an online lending service in India, in an effort to diversify its businesses in the populous country where it is currently the lead handset supplier, Reuters reported.

The service, called Mi Credit, connects smartphone owners with lending platforms, enabling quick loans of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,393) to each user after reviewing his or her credit status.

When “Silly Piggy” appeared in China’s popular WeChat social media app, the sticker became an instant hit, with people sending it more than 30 million times in its first month to express their feelings in text messages.

Stickers like the mischievous cartoon pig and other quirky creatures are all the rage in China, giving the artists behind them a way to make money and win fans – as long as they stay within the bounds of censorship.

—Industry publication reports that 200 contractors at Jixi News Media Group have not received any wages for months.

—Some may have to take their grievances to the local government, employee says.

— After a TV interview, British PM posed with anchors holding what appeared to be P20 Pro in shimmering Twilight color scheme.

— Johnson had said at Nato summit Britain could follow international security allies by restricting Chinese telecoms firm’s products from 5G networks.

Huawei Technologies Co. filed a fresh legal challenge against the U.S., seeking to block a Federal Communications Commission decision last month that further restricts the Chinese telecom giant’s ability to operate in the U.S.

Huawei said the FCC order, blocking rural U.S. wireless carriers from using an $8.5 billion-a-year subsidy fund to buy equipment from Huawei, violates its due-process rights and unfairly labels the company as a national security threat.

Beijing wants lots of electric vehicles, but no longer wants to pay for them. Car makers risk having to foot the bill instead.

Electric vehicle sales in China — the world’s largest auto market — fell off a cliff after June, when the government slashed purchase subsidies. From July through October, sales of new-energy cars, which include plug-in hybrids, were 28% lower than the year before.

U.S. trade with China extended its slide in October as goods imports from the nation fell to a fresh three-year low amid prolonged talks between the two largest economies on a trade deal.

Merchandise imports from China declined 4.8 percent from the prior month to US$35.3 billion while exports tumbled 17 per cent to US$7.49 billion, the least in almost a year, Commerce Department data showed Thursday. The gap narrowed to a seasonally adjusted US$27.8 billion, a seven-month low.

The overall U.S. deficit in goods and services trade narrowed to US$47.2 billion in October, less than the median estimate of US$48.5 billion median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.


A spate of fatal carbon monoxide poisonings across northern China is raising questions about the country’s push to get rural residents to burn a special type of coal during the winter to combat pollution.

At least six people died and about a dozen people were hospitalized in the city of Tangshan in Hebei this year, state-run CCTV reported this week. More than 70 patients were admitted to a hospital in nearby Cangzhou on Nov. 22 because they inhaled the poisonous gas, local media reported.

The incidents have sparked discussion about whether so-called smokeless coal, which produces less ash and particulate emissions, is safe to use and whether the public has been adequately educated on how to use stoves designed for burning the briquettes. 

The kitchen waste of some Beijingers is being processed in a most unusual manner. Residents of Vanke Xishan Courtyard take any uneaten food to a small building where it’s transformed into products including fish-feed and plant fertiliser. The 10m2 brick building is spotless and without a whiff of rotting food. The secret weapon? Maggots.

It is fast becoming compulsory for citizens to sort their household waste in China’s major cities. The most difficult to deal with is kitchen waste, also known as wet waste, which is a big concern for city bosses. Could insects be employed to deal with it “in-house”? The initial signs in Beijing are promising though a market for the fattened larvae is yet to properly mature.


The capital of the Czech Republic will sign a sister city agreement with Taipei next month after previously breaking off its relationship with Beijing, its mayor Zdenek Hrib has said.

Prague City Hall on Monday approved a document that laid out plans for economic, business, scientific and cultural cooperation, according to Czech news outlet CTK. Hrib said the agreement will be signed when he receives Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je for a visit in January.

In October, Prague canceled its sister city relationship with Beijing after the Chinese side refused to budge on a clause that required the Czechs to support the “One China” policy. Hrib — who has defied Beijing on topics such as Taiwan and Tibet — said the “One China” idea had no place in a sister cities agreement, adding that it was “political” and “one-sided” in nature.

An outspoken former Chinese rights attorney has been arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”, as the Chinese government continues to crack down on the country’s rights activists and political dissidents.

Tán Yǒngpèi 覃永沛, 50, who often criticized Beijing on social media including Twitter, was arrested on Tuesday in southern China, according to an arrest notice seen by AFP.


While to an outside observer, it may seem as though foreign etiquette classes are mere mimicry in which participants do little more than repeatedly practice elegant ways to sit down and stand, the truth isn’t so straightforward. It’s a complex and seemingly paradoxical process. On one side, etiquette has become a tool for empowering China’s increasingly mobile and globalized elite. On the other, it’s a way for them to produce — or reproduce — a Chinese essence in which they adapt what they learn in the academies and fuse it with their understanding of Chinese values. 


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David Ho on scientists caught in the U.S. crackdown on China

We interviewed renowned medical researcher David Ho at the NEXT China 2019 Conference in New York City on November 21, 2019, for his thoughts on recent U.S. government espionage claims brought against scientists of Chinese heritage.