No. 72 | 23.10.2021

Chinese-built train in program to update the Cuban railway system, Havana, Cuba, 2019 [Xinhua/Zhu Wanjun]


Dear reader, www

Today, we are delighted to announce the public launch of our latest publication, Chinese Voices. Every Sunday, Dongsheng will bring you a view into the key debates and critical thought guiding Chinese politics and society.

We draw from a broad range of sources, covering the work of important Chinese intellectuals, academics, and public opinion leaders – voices that are rarely published outside of China.

The opinions of the authors are not necessarily shared by the Dongsheng editorial collective, but the goal is to give our international readers a view into the richness of public debate in China today. Subscribe here in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Also, check out Tings Chak’s interview about common prosperity, the private tutoring industry, and climate change with Rania Khalek and Eugene Puryear of BreakThrough News.

Dongsheng editorial collective


Geopolitics

Cuba joins the Belt and Road energy partnership, seeking Chinese investments and technology in renewable sector

Energy sector receives 40% of investments in the BRI, whose renewable energy share increased from 39% to 57% (2019-20); Cuba becomes the 4th country in the region (Venezuela, Bolivia, and Suriname) to join the partnership

Global Times, 18.10.2021

China’s state banks lent US $137 billion to Latin American governments and state-owned enterprises (2006-21)

Washington promises investment in the region to regain lost influence, but its “Build Back Better World” project remains without a budget; Venezuela (US $62.2 billion) and Brazil (US $29.7 billion) have been the biggest beneficiaries of Chinese loans

Financial Times, 18.10.2021

China delivered 85% of eight major initiatives and 70% of funds (US $60 billion) committed to Africa, despite pandemic setbacks

To equalize trade imbalance, President Xi pledged more investment and non-commodities imports from Africa in 2018; in 2019, China imported US $95.5 billion of goods (crude oil, base metals, precious stones) and African imports totaled US $113.2 billion (machinery, transport equipment, electronics, textiles)

South China Morning Post, 18.10.2021

National Politics

Property prices fell in 36 of China’s 70 largest cities in September – highest rate since 2015 — and sales plummeted 16.9% year-on-year

With a 0.5% monthly drop in national average prices, sales of the top 100 builders (US $119 billion) plummeted 36.7% year-on-year (20.7% in August); government policies to curb property speculation and builders’ leverage are beginning to show results

Nikkei Asia, 20.10.2021

Nikkei Asia, 19.10.2021

Economy

In first three quarters, China’s GDP grows 9.8% year-on-year to US $12.88 trillion, despite COVID-19 outbreaks and energy shortages

In the same period, industrial production grew by 10.6% (US $5.02 trillion) and household consumption by 16.4% (US $4.98 trillion); state-owned companies recovered faster than private ones (+87% vs +34% in profits)

National Bureau of Statistics of China, 18.10.2021

Nikkei Asia, 18.10.2021

China’s foreign trade grows 22.7% year-on-year in first three quarters of 2021, reaching US $4.37 trillion

Despite rising tensions with the US (3rd trading partner), bilateral trade (US $543 billion) increased by 24.9%; ASEAN remains China’s largest trading partner (US $630.5 billion, +21.1%), followed by EU (US $599.3 billion, +20.5%)

CGTN, 13.10.2021

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Agriculture and Environment

China faces challenges of balancing rising coal consumption to boost economy with 2060 carbon neutrality goal

Nearly 70% of the country’s electricity comes from coal, with prices rising over 50% since 2020, causing losses for 70% of thermal plants in June; the government’s goal is to decrease coal to 11% of total energy production by 2050

Nikkei, 18.10.2021

Science and Technology

China sends longest-ever crewed mission to Tiangong space station for six months, carrying out technology tests, construction work, and spacewalks

China’s young space program is advancing with six more missions planned next year, including two crewed ones to complete the “Heavenly Palace” space station; European, Russian, Indian, and Israeli missions have failed in recent years

Asia Times, 17.10.2021

People’s Life Culture

Wang Yaping of Shenzhou-13 mission becomes the first female taikonaut on China’s space station and conduct a spacewalk

Wang is a pioneer in the male-dominated science fields, as government adjusts criteria and prioritizes funding for women; 49% of university degree-holders are women, but comprised only 5.3-6% of academicians in China’s top two science institutions (2019)

Global Times, 15.10.2021

South China Morning Post, 19.10.2021

Public square dancing, emerged during 1990s mass urbanization, is a popular activity among middle-aged and elderly Chinese women

Like Mao-era dance troupes, group leaders organize collective choreography and meet-ups, providing “dancing grannies” an economical way to exercise and find a sense of belonging; popular activity was included in 14th National Games

South China Morning Post, 18.10.2021

“Dancing grannies” in China [Shine]


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Geopolitics

No. 71 | 16.10.2021

Poster for the UN’s COP15 Convention on Biological Diversity in China [People’s Daily]


Dear reader,

For this week’s News on China, we share work done by Marco Fernandes who writes on the conglomerate HNA Group and the jailing of its founder (English) and updates us on the failure of the US trade war against China (English) in Brasil de Fato. Tings Chak publishes an article in Capire Magazine on the role of women in China’s poverty alleviation programme (English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French).

Dongsheng editorial collective


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Agriculture and Environment

China announces US $233 million fund to protect biodiversity in developing countries at UN COP 15 Convention on Biodiversity

Held in Kunming (Yunnan), China’s most biodiverse province, the Convention set 21 new goals, which included protecting at least 30% of land and sea areas globally and US $200 billion annual financing (2021-31)

China Daily, 12.10.2021

South China Morning Post, 09.10.2021

National Politics

Chinese government implements measures to contain the energy crisis, increasing coal production and imports and lowering energy prices

Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, and Shaanxi regions will increase production by 145 million tons, with 4 billion tons national consumption last year; government will allow energy price increases of up to 20%, without adjustments for households, agriculture, and public goods

Nikkei Asia, 09.10.2021

Caixin Global, 09.10.2021

President Xi advocates peaceful reunification with Taiwan at 110th anniversary meeting for 1911 Revolution that established China’s first republic

Xi said that “the Taiwan issue is entirely China’s internal affair, and no external interference can be condoned”; Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen responded “nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us”

South China Morning Post, 09.10.2021
Global Times, 10.10.2021

Hong Kong government announces “Northern Metropolis” plan to provide up to 926,000 housing units for 2.5 million people over 20 years

Plan aims to advance the city’s integration with the mainland, develop new “Silicon Valley”, provide 650,000 jobs with IT sector focus, and address severe housing crisis, which some blame for contributing to 2019 protests

South China Morning Post, 07.10.2021

Caixin Global, 07.10.2021

Government fines food delivery platform Meituan US $533 million for monopolistic practices, demanding exclusivity from merchants

Regulatory agency force the company to modify fee mechanisms, algorithm rules, and guarantee merchants’ rights, who will receive US $200 million compensation; in July, Meituan was ordered to increase wages and benefits for delivery drivers and allow unionization

South China Morning Post, 08.10.2021

Geopolitics

CIA creates intelligence center dedicated to China and will double mission centers for Iran and North Korea established by Trump

In line with Biden’s assertions that confrontation with China is one of the nation’s highest priorities, the CIA will invest in more language experts and technicians around the world to gather intelligence and counter China’s interests

Financial Times, 07.10.2021

Washington Post, 07.10.2021

Economy

Investment in real estate – with high prices and speculation – drove Chinese GDP growth, but government must look to consumption for new engine

In 2018, 87% of home buyers already owned another property (only 30% in 2008) and 78% of Chinese assets are in real estate (US, 35%); household debt/GDP grew from 26% to 61% (2010-21), posing challenges to advancing consumption

Financial Times, 06.10.2021

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People´s and Life Culture

Last year, 8.13 million couples registered marriages, down 40% and the seventh consecutive annual decline from the 2013 peak

Out of 3,000 urban residents (age 18-26) surveyed, 1/3 did not want to enter a relationship due to high living costs, while 44% of female respondents are reluctant to marry, mostly not wanting to have children

South China Morning Post, 09.10.2021

National Holiday hit, The Battle of Lake Changjin, set to be highest-grossing Chinese film ever, as domestic industry surpassed the US’s in 2020

For six years in a row, Chinese films have exceeded foreign productions in domestic box office, reaching US $3.9 billion in first half-year; country limits imported films (34 ann.) and streaming content (30%)

Nikkei Asia, 08.10.2021

Global Times, 07.10.2021

China celebrates 110th Xinhai Revolution anniversary, that established the 1st Chinese Republic and ended 2000-year-long imperial rule

After failed uprisings and Western and Japanese imperialist incursions – where Hong Kong and Taiwan were ceded – the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was overthrown by a national democratic revolution, headed by Sun Yat-Sen, modern China’s founding father

China Daily, 08.10.2021

South China Morning Post, 09.10.2021

Revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen after the 1911 Xinhai Revolution [Wikimedia Commons]


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No. 70 | 02.10.2021

Meng Wanzhou welcomed at the Bao’an International Airport in Shenzhen, 25 September 2021 [Jin Liwang/Xinhua]


Dear reader,

In this edition, we’re sharing with you what members of Dongsheng News have been working on.

In conversation with Rania Khalek, Kambale Musavuli and Dongsheng’s Mikaela Erskog debunk myths on China’s role in Africa and Western interventions on the continent (in English). Marco Fernandes was interviewed by João Pedro Stedile, a leader of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), going behind the headlines on topics from Evergrande to China’s foreign policy and its impact on the Global South (in Portuguese). Tings Chak talks about China’s poverty alleviation in the context of the US’s “new cold war” against China, along with historian Vijay Prashad and economist Richard Wolff (in English).

Check out the powerful panels at the China and the Left conference organized by Qiao Collective, The People’s Forum, CodePink, and the Monthly Review (in English).

As a treat, this week’s News on China links to Zhang Liping’s 2018 series for Sixth Tone on the history and future of China’s favorite liquor, Maotai, and her visit to Maotai City.

Finally, as the People’s Republic of China celebrates its 72nd anniversary, News on China will also take a one-week break, returning after the Chinese national holiday.

Dongsheng editorial collective


Economy

To circumvent the Evergrande crisis, Beijing asks state-backed companies to buy the builders’ assets, while local governments control its revenue

Among many deals, Guangzhou’s state-owned construction company is considering purchasing a soccer stadium (US $1.9 billion) and surrounding condominiums; municipalities in 10 provinces centrally manage the company’s cash flow to ensure continuity of projects

Reuters, 29.09.2021

Caixin Global, 27.09.2021

National Politics

Over 20 provinces and regions face power cuts, mostly affecting heavy industry, while authorities vow to prioritize power supply for people’s needs

Due to soaring coal prices, coal plants reduce production to avoid losses, but the government agrees to increase electricity rates by up to 10%; state measures towards carbon emission goals are among the factors

Caixin Global, 30.09.2021

Bloomberg, 28.09.2021

HNA Group founder Chen Feng and CEO Tang Xiandong are arrested days after the restructuring of one of China’s largest private conglomerates

HNA ballooned with Hainan Airlines’ success and massive loans to buy assets – majority Deutsche Bank stake and 25% of Hilton Group – accruing US $77.3 billion in debt; part of group will be acquired by state-owned companies

South China Morning Post, 24.09.2021

Caixin Global, 25.09.2021

Yuan Renguo, ex-chairman of state-owned beverage giant Kweichow Moutai, is given a lifetime sentence for receiving US $17.5 million in bribes

Yuan gave distribution privileges of the liquor, a national symbol commonly gifted in business and politics, with bottles costing up to US $2,700; anti-corruption policy targeted the custom, but company remains the world’s most valuable beverage-maker (US $260 billion, 2020)

Caixin Global, 24.09.2021

Financial Times, 24.06.2020

Read the three-part series on Moutai’s past and present

Geopolitics

US drops extradition charges against Huawei’s finance chief Meng Wanzhou, who returns to China after three years in Canadian detention

In 2018, Canadian authorities arrested Huawei founder’s daughter, at the behest of the US, on charges of violating sanctions against Iran, for which Meng pleaded not guilty but acknowledged wrongdoing; Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – convicted for spying – left China hours after

Global Times, 25.09.2021

CGTN, 26.09.2021

Accusations against IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva represent anti-China pressure from the US Congress, says Jeffrey Sachs

Republicans allege that Georgieva – as then head of World Bank – pressured her staff to improve China’s “Doing Business” ranking, denied by lead economist; China increased from 31st to 25th (2020-21) in rank, now canceled by current (Republican) director

Financial Times, 27.09.2021

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Agriculture and Environment

New hybrid rice variety resistant to diseases, floods, and saline-alkaline soils is featured at the 2021 Chongqing Harvest Festival

Cultivated alongside fish, shrimp, and crayfish farming, the 2-meter tall “Giant Rice” is increasing peasants’ income while combating food insecurity; festival attracted over 100,000 visitors who participated in harvest-related activities

iChongqing, 26.09.2021

Chinese scientists succeed in synthesizing starch from carbon dioxide for the first time ever

According to a Chinese Academy of Sciences paper, synthetic starch production could save over 90% of the necessary arable land, reducing pesticide use and carbon emissions; the average age of the young team of scientists is 30 years

Global Times, 24.09.2021

People’s Life and Culture

Chinese people enthusiastically welcome Meng Wanzhou home after 1,028 days in Canadian detention

A trending topic receiving 1.5 billion online views, Meng’s return was met with hundreds gathered at the Shenzhen airport carrying banners and singing patriotic songs, with live broadcast reaching 100 million people

What’s on Weibo, 25.09.2021

South China Morning Post, 26.09.2021

Parents are satisfied with new education reforms aimed at easing the burden on students, according to Ministry of Education surveys

Surveys of 108,000 elementary and middle schools show that 96.3% of schools are offering after-school activities to assist working parents, 97.5% of the surveyed parents (57 million) are satisfied with “double reduction” policies

Sixth Tone, 23.09.2021

2021 Chinese Farmers’ Harvest Festival in Dazu, Chongqing [Dazu Media]


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No. 69 | 25.09.2021

Model of Evergrande real estate development in Shenyang [Sina]

Economy

Founded in 1996 with few employees and benefitting from the 2000s real estate boom, developer Evergrande earned US $78.4 billion last year

The company specializes in middle-class real estate with low production costs; founder Xu Jiayin was the richest Chinese person in 2017 (US $45 billion) and joined the country’s top advisory body (CCPPC)

Nikkei Asia, 22.09.2021

With over US $300 billion in debt, construction giant Evergrande risks bankruptcy, facing protests from creditors for months

Due to the new state policy to limit high indebtedness of construction companies since last year, about half of the company’s 800+ projects are on-hold; Chinese government is expected to intervene

Brasil de Fato, 21.09.2021

Caixin Global, 20.09.2021

Backed by government funding, China leads the US in many high-tech sectors – particularly hardware – but lags behind in software

Chinese companies dominate sales of smartphones (58% 2021, US 15%), solar panels (67% 2020, US 1%), commercial drones (80% of US market 2020 Q1, US 4%), and telecoms equipment (36% of 2021 revenue, US 9%) but still lag in semiconductors (4% of 2020 sales, US 47%)

Washington Post, 21.09.2021

Geopolitics

Australia, US, and UK announce new military alliance (AUKUS) and agreement to supply nuclear submarines to Oceanian country

Although not explicitly mentioned, China is the target of the “security pact” that signals a regional “arms race”, causing Indonesian president Joko Widodo to cancel scheduled visit to Canberra; Australia cancels submarine contract with France in “backstabbing” move

People’s Dispatch, 22.09.2021

Global Times, 21.09.2021

Iran becomes a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at the 20th anniversary summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan

After 16 years of observer status, Iran joins China, Russia, Pakistan, India and other Central Asian members; stabilizing Afghanistan – an observer state – is SCO’s priority as the joint declaration calls for “a more representative, democratic, just, and multipolar world”

The Diplomat, 21.09.2021

Xinhua News, 18.09.2021

Read the full Dushanbe declaration

Beijing orders Chinese mining companies that broke laws in DR Congo to leave, as Kinshasa reviews infrastructure-for-minerals deals

Wu Peng, senior diplomat for the region, said companies will be punished by the Chinese government, while IMF gives DRC pressure to “clean up” foreign deals to get access its US $1.5 billion credit line

South China Morning Post, 16.09.2021

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Agriculture and Environment

At the UN General Assembly, President Xi pledges China will stop building coal plants abroad and support developing countries in low-carbon energy projects

China is the world’s largest coal producer and public financier but funds only 13% of total coal power capacity (2013-19) overseas; 44 international coal plants (US $50 billion) could be impacted

South China Morning Post, 22.09.2021

Reuters, 22.09.2021

China’s leading coal producers join green energy trading pilot to boost renewables and achieve carbon emission goals

The program allows CO2 emitters to directly buy green energy, thereby offsetting emissions and financing high-cost renewables sector; this should see 20-30 billion kWh of green energy traded next year

Caixin Global, 16.09.2021

South China Morning Post, 09.09.2021

People’s Life and Culture

Chinese version of TikTok limits app use for children under 14 years-old to 40 minutes/day

Douyin announcement comes amid government measures to discourage minors from spending too much time online and recommends providers “implement time management tools, feature restrictions, and purchase restrictions for underage users”

Sixth Tone, 18.09.2021

China commemorates 90th anniversary of the September 18 Incident, that began the 14-year-long war against Japanese aggression (1931-45)

During the 1931 “Mukden Incident”, the train station explosion in northeastern Shenyang was used as pretext for full-scale Japanese invasion; activities were organized and sirens wailed in cities nation-wide to remember the 35 million Chinese casualties of that war

China Daily, 20.09.2021

China Daily, 18.09.2021

September 18 Incident [Li Min/China Daily]


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No. 68 | 18.09.2021

“Ghost city” of Kangbashi in Inner Mongolia, 2019 [Caixin/Chen Liang]

Geopolitics

President Xi announces additional donation of over 100 million vaccine doses for developing countries this year

China provided one billion doses to over 100 countries and pledges to reach two billion by year-end, adding to US $100 million donation to COVAX; WHO calls for G20 to fulfill their commitment to distribute vaccines

CGTN, 10.09.2021

CGTN, 09.09.2021

China opposes military coup in Guinea and calls for release of president Alpha Condé, amid region’s growing instability

Home to the world’s largest undeveloped iron deposit in Simandou, Guinea is the second largest producer of bauxite (essential material for aluminum), supplying 50% of imports to China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of aluminum

South China Morning Post, 12.09.2021

Global Times, 06.09.2021

Economy

Coal price soars (US $177.50/t) due to increased demand from China and India, approaching 2008 all-time high (US $180/t)

Economic recovery and summer weather increase energy demand in both countries, which consume 65% of global coal; Chinese power distributors ask government for rate increase to avoid multi-million dollar losses

Nikkei Asia, 13.09.2021

South China Morning Post, 10.09.2021

Increasing demand for high-tech products drive up rare earth prices, expected to hit component manufacturer profits

Since September 2020, prices increased for praseodymium (73.7%), holmium (109.4%), and terbium (60.4%), and other essential metals for electronics, electric cars, wind turbines, etc.; China is the only country to control the whole supply chain, producing 85% of global refining outputs

National Politics

China commits to raising teachers’ salaries, compensating for longer working hours, and equalizing pay among civil servants of similar categories

Public school teachers’ salaries vary by region, but average annual income was about US $16,500 (2020); announcement comes after recent education reforms that reduced extracurricular activities and increased working hours for teachers

Government-led investment revives China’s “ghost cities”, attracting private businesses and residents through jobs, housing, and schools

As urban population grew from 18-64% (1978-2020), over-construction, debt, and insufficient migration created “ghost cities” like Kangbashi, Binhai, and Zhengdong, now home to 945,000 residents (up 27.5%, 2019-20) and manufacturing (iPhone, pharmaceuticals, automobile), driving up property prices tenfold in 10 years

Bloomberg, 02.09.2021

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Agriculture and Environment

Government invested US $5.09 billion in subsidies for new energy vehicle (NEV) production in five years, but plans to reorganize sector

Aiming to make the industry more competitive globally, China will remove subsidies by the end of 2023 and encourage mergers of national companies; since January, NEV sales jumped 190% year-on-year, reaching 1.8 million units

Caixin Global, 08.09.2021

CGTN, 13.09.2021

China doubles target for next 5 years after failing to meet energy storage commitment with pumped-storage hydroelectricity (PSH)

Storage reached 31.5 of the 40GW planned for 2020, while 2025 target will increase to 62GW; China is the global leader in installed PSH storage capacity, but this system accounts for only 1.4% of the national grid

South China Morning Post, 13.09.2021

People’s Life and Culture

Art and sports training industry grow after government bans private tutoring sector from teaching core school subjects

National plan to increase weighting of art and physics in school exams also boosts art education – expected to reach US $46.4 billion market value by 2022 – but focus on grades may counter government goals to ease burden on students

Beijing Review, 10.09.2021

South China Morning Post, 05.09.2021

Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” is rooted in ancient history of philanthropy carried out by politicians, scholars, and merchants

Under the Confucian ideal that the rich should contribute to the well-being of all, philanthropist Fan Li gave away fortunes three times 2,500 years ago and Song dynasty politician Fan Zhongyan turned his home into a school for the poor

The World of Chinese, 09.09.2021

A dance teacher with her students in Chongqing, 2021 [Xinhua via Beijing Review]


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No. 67 | 11.09.2021

Dear reader,

In a conversation with journalist Rania Khalek, Dongsheng member Tings Chak speaks about China’s campaign against poverty, the century of humiliation, and recent regulations of Big Tech and more. Watch the hour-long interview in English here or listen to the podcast (Spotify, Apple).

To learn more about how China managed to eradicate extreme poverty in a country of 1.4 billion people, read Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research’s study Serve the People: The Eradication of Extreme Poverty in China (English, Spanish, Portuguese), co-authored by Tings.

Dongsheng editorial collective

National Politics

To reduce high housing costs, China caps rent increases to 5% annually, plans housing construction, and revisits property tax

Since January, the average square-meter property price fell 8% in the country, but increased 3.3% in large cities; the sector represents 13% of GDP, but the government aims to make housing more affordable towards achieving “common prosperity”

GuangdongMacao cooperation zone plan expands “one country, two systems” and diversifies Macao’s economy (70% of GDP from casino industry)

Guangdong mainland with the former Portuguese colony Macao, allowing its residents to work cross-border and businesses will enjoy lower income taxes (15%) in the mainland Hengqin zone

Vice premier Liu He vows firm support of the country’s private sector amid government measures regulating business practices, from within Big Tech to celebrity culture

Liu reassures the sector and the role it will play in stabilizing growth and employment, which already contributes to taxes (50%), GDP (60%), technological innovation (70%), and urban employment (80%) of the country’s total

Economy

Government creates stock exchange in Beijing to help small and medium enterprises and announces US $46.4 billion in loans for the sector

The backbone of China’s economy (80% of the urban labor force, 50% of government tax revenues), SMEs face rising production costs, indebtedness, and the effects of Delta outbreaks; measures aim to ease access to financing

Science and Technology

Amid global supply crisis, China’s largest chipmaker SMIC will invest US $8.87 billion in a new Shanghai factory

The plant’s goal is to manufacture 28-nanometer and older-generation chips used in the automotive and electronics industries; since 2020, SMIC has been under US sanctions, preventing the company from developing more advanced technologies

Geopolitics

Russia more than doubles its agroexports to China (US $4 billion, 2017-20), seeking to reduce Chinese dependence on imports from US

Russia’s Far East territory (6.5 million hectares), with favorable climate and soil, is the country’s bet to expand agricultural production; China leases hundreds of thousands of hectares in the region, which could replace US soybeans over next years

Agriculture and Environment

China’s biodiversity protection policy achievements receive recognition at World Conservation Congress, held in Marseille, France

Launched three years ago, China’s Ecological Conservation Red Line has demarcated protected areas in 15 provinces and municipalities (2.4 million km²); policies have rescued more than 100 endangered species, such as the Asian elephant and the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, but compliance remains a challenge

Chinese juncao technique that innovates mushroom growing without fertilizers has been implemented in over 100 countries and adopted by the UN since 2017

Cultivation preserves nature, requires little labor and can produce 1,200kg of mushrooms in 10m², generating up to US $300,000 annually/hectare; China invests in spreading the technique to BRI countries

People’s Life and Culture

In Tokyo, China tops the Paralympics medal tally for the fifth time in a row

251 athletes (53% female) participated in the Games, winning 96 gold, 60 silver, and 51 bronze medals, highlights included wheelchair basketball, badminton, marathon running, and track and field; Team China’s success is thanks to increasing livelihood support for people with disabilities

In a long tradition, Chinese society places emphasis on the morality and responsibility of celebrities, expected to be social role models

The expectation of celebrities to be public educators is rooted in Confucian tradition and emphasized after the 1949 Revolution; wrongdoing of celebrities and their fan groups today, amplified through the internet, are now the target of government’s industry regulation

Chinese women’s wheelchair basketball team won the silver medal in Tokyo [VCG via Global Times]


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No. 65 | 28.08.2021

Common Prosperity

President Xi announces a new cycle of reforms to address social inequalities in the country and build “common prosperity”

Following recent measures in education, housing, and the tech sector, government will formulate public policies that reconcile economic efficiency with the strengthening of the welfare state, such as taxes (property, income, and inheritance), social security reforms, and encouraging philanthropy

Government’s centennial goal of “common prosperity” continues the work of reform and opening-up of Deng Xiaoping

Letting a “few get rich first” of the Deng-era was seen as a transitional phase in building socialism, while developing the productive forces to create conditions for more people to share in society’s material and cultural wealth

Inequality between countryside and city, social classes, and regions increased in recent decades, decreasing social mobility

Despite China’s economic success, the wealth share of the top 1% increased (20.9% to 30.6%) over the last 20 years, with average disposable income in Shanghai (US $9,843) exceeding Gansu and Tibet’s (US $2,620); medical expenses remain the main cause of “illness-induced poverty”

Tech giant Tencent Holdings donates US $7.7 billion towards “common prosperity” after Xi’s announcement

Funding to support low-income groups, rural revitalization, and healthcare and education comes after the company’s April commitment (US $7.7 billion) towards “sustainable innovations for social value”; Tencent’s revenues rose 20% (April-June) year-on-year, with daily profits of over US $77 million

National Politics

China’s new Personal Information Protection Law sets international standard, defending national security and rights of Chinese citizens

Effective November 1, provisions govern the collection and use of personal data, limit practice of “automated decision-making” (e.g. targeted marketing), and regulate cross-border data transfers, while requiring companies to undergo regular third-party audits

Geopolitics

Argentina and China reactivate agreement to build the fourth nuclear plant in the South American country, using Chinese technology Hualong

The 1,200 MW reactor project will receive Chinese financing (ICBC) – with 8-year grace period – for 85% of the cost (US$ 8 billion) and technology transfers; the two countries reinforce “comprehensive strategic alliance”

Economy

Fearing risks of real estate and financial markets crises, government requires Evergrande – country’s largest developer – to resolve debts (US $300 billion)

Regulators asked the construction company to reduce leverage after a series of court orders to freeze assets in loan disputes or suspend sales of real estate projects; Evergrande discusses the sale of assets ranging from shares in other companies to buildings

Agriculture and Environment

China halves rice growth cycle to 60 days through groundbreaking controlled “factory” environment

Precisely regulated artificial lighting, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and nutrients provide optimal conditions for year-round growth; one dwarf-variety among the six tested yielded the equivalent of 43.3 kg/hectare, with two others showing high-yield potential

China plans to plant 33.33 million hectares of forest and grassland by 2025 to achieve carbon neutrality goals

Having created the world’s largest planted forests that increased coverage from 12% to 23% (1980s- 2020), China plans to further increase forests to 24.1% – including national parks (18% of land area) – and grasslands to 57% by 2025

Science and Technology

Government subsidies aim to boost Chinese companies in the domestic industrial robot market, which doubled between 2016 and 2020

The goal is to increase the domestic industry’s market share from 30% to 50% (2020-25); Chinese robots cost about 30% less than Japan and Europe’s, which are more advanced and own nine of the top 10 brands in the Chinese market

Student with robot at an expo in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, 27 May 2017 [Photo/VCG]


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No. 64 | 21.08.2021

Geopolitics

Taliban takes over Afghan capital after 20-year US-led war, while China is expected to play a key role in country’s reconstruction

Costing over US $2 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, the war has left Afghanistan in turmoil; Beijing maintains its embassy operations and dialogue with Washington and the Taliban, stressing cutting ties with East Turkestan Islamic Movement linked to Xinjiang terrorism

Months after Xinjiang cotton boycott, Adidas and H&M suffer decline in sales (16.3% and 28.1%, respectively), while Chinese sports brands grow

Propelled by data-driven marketing, first-half year profits expected to grow for Li Ning (nearly 200%) and Xtep (65%), while Anta’s market share (16.6%) nears Adidas’ (17.4%); US threatens sanctions on these companies

Science and Technology

China leads in artificial intelligence research quality, receiving more citations (20.7%) than the US (19.8%) for the first time in 2020

Global leader of AI publication volume since 2012, China is focusing on developing domestic talent; Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence team created Hua Zhibing, an AI “person” who can write poetry and draw

National Politics

Government suspends English final exams in Shanghai elementary school in another educational reform to ease pressure on students

Math and Chinese final exams will be given only in third (9 years-old) and fifth (11 years-old) grades, while other evaluation forms will be encouraged; English has the same weight as math and Chinese in the gaokao (entrance examination)

Ride-hailing app Didi will improve payment transparency for its 13 million drivers, while government announces cap on share of platform’s earnings

Newly-launched feature allows drivers to view earning proportion for each ride over the past day and week; with 493 million users (90% of market), Didi was removed from China’s app store after July national security probe

Economy

Economic opening boosted net FDI in China*, rising from US $80,000 to US $149 billion (1979-2020), second to the US (US $156 billion)

Foreign trade grew from US $20.6 billion to US $4.64 trillion (1978-2020), and the main export shifted from primary to mechanical and electronic products for 230+ trading partners

*Gross FDI in China (US$163 billion) becomes world’s largest for the first time in 2020

As global trade recovers, shipping costs hit record high, increasing nearly tenfold since the pandemic began

Costs to ship a container from China to US west coast (US $15,800) increases 50% in one month; container shortages and pandemic restrictions at key Chinese ports push freight costs and times up, disrupting supply chains and posing inflation risks

Agriculture and Environment

China promotes agricultural digitization, but agribusiness technologies only benefit large-scale farms

Modern Agriculture Platform, from seed and pesticide giant Syngenta, provides crop-monitoring and other services for over 773,000 hectares of farmland; with focus on more profitable large-scale farms, expanding services to the country’s majority small peasant economy will be difficult

People’s Life and Culture

Thousands helped to save relics after floods in Henan, home to 65,500 heritage sites (one-tenth of China’s total)

Over 1,500 museum workers, soldiers, and volunteers helped reinforce the river dam in historic Xunxian county after 3,600 year-old ancient city walls were flooded, while 1,000 cleaned up the Longmen Grottoes UNESCO World Heritage site

Museum culture thrives in China, fueled by investment in new facilities, TV programs, and consumer products that popularize cultural heritage

From 2016 to 2020, an average of one museum was opened every two days (totaling 5,788); despite the pandemic, last year’s 29,000 exhibitions and 225,000 educational activities received 540 million visitors

Visitors at the Nanjing Museum in Jiangsu Province, 22 August 2019 [Visual People via ChinAfrica]


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No. 27 | 20.08.2021

Chinese and Eritrean doctors prepares an operation for a hydrocephalic child in Asmara, Eritrea, 23 May 2008. [Xinhua/Zhu Xiaoguang]

Dear reader,

News on China: Africa Weekly has looked back on key stories we’ve published over the last few months, as we transition towards discussing weekly news in our new podcast.

In part two of our retrospective, we share stories that deal with some of the prevailing narratives around Africa-China relations. We also share stories that give a general overview of the historical development of key Africa-China relations and collaborations.

If you have any comments or questions, please let us know at editor@dongshengnews.org.

Dongsheng editorial collective

Category Icons

Geopolitics

2020 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) marks 20 years of strategic partnerships in trade, infrastructure projects, and political relations

Chinese infrastructure investments total US $110 billion – boosting industry on the African continent (16,000 km of roads and railroads, 20 ports, 80 power plants, etc.) – with bilateral trade reaching US $200 billion in 2019

Economy

US study of 1,000 Chinese loans refutes allegations of “debt-trap diplomacy” and seizure of African assets for unpaid loans

Between 2000-19, China cancelled US $3.4 billion in debt and restructured/refinanced 26 loans; holding 20% of Africa’s debt, China’s bilateral negotiations offer tailor-made solutions, with 20 countries receiving debt relief in 2020

Agriculture and Environment

Belt and Road infrastructure investment plays key role in climate change response in Africa, where 45% of people lack electricity access

Beyond energy financing (US $3 billion, 2019-20), China is pursuing a “green silk road” and low-carbon development, but to facilitate this in Africa, it is necessary to strengthen domestic institutions and invest US $120 billion (2020-30) to broaden electricity access

Science and Technology

Africa advances space cooperation with China, which launched 59 satellites in 2020 to provide TV, navigation, and meteorological services

Mozambique joined 115 countries and regions (1,200+ people trained) using Fengyun meteor technology; Ethiopia launched second Chinese-backed satellite and 19 African countries (8,162 villages) completed project acceptance for satellite TV in 2020″

Health

China’s ‘Health Silk Road’ (2020) to facilitate international cooperation on pandemic control is grounded in nearly six-decades-long medical internationalism

Since sending a medical team to newly-independent Algeria (1963), over 23,000 Chinese medical personnel have been sent to Africa, where proactive healthcare delivery (targeting rural settings and seeking out patients) has characterized their work

People’s Life and Culture

Boomplay expands music streaming to 47 African countries, as sub-Saharan Africa expects 475 million mobile internet users (2025)

Launched by Transsion, Chinese app partners with Universal Music Group, aiming to become the largest African music streaming service, investing (US $1 million) in local artists; Transsion’s Tecno holds 48.2% share of Africa’s smartphone market (Q4 2020)

Moment in History

China’s development model and international relations have the potential to help Africa break historical underdevelopment and poverty

From supporting national liberation movements to agricultural training centres (1950s-1990s) to contemporary relations such as funding 6,200km of railway and over 5,000km of roads (2017), claims of China’s role in Africa being “colonial” are unfounded

No. 63 | 14.08.2021

Geopolitics

Over 30 major business organizations appeal to Biden against tariffs on imports from China (US $550 billion/year), which have fueled US inflation

With imports from China equivalent to ¼ of US manufacturing output (US $2.4 trillion), ending the 20% tariff applied to half of imports from China could reduce durable goods cost by 2% in the US

Science and Technology

Chinese companies and mobile payment apps boost Africa’s fintech sector, serving populations without access to formal banking

Offering insurance, loans, funeral cover, and remittances on e-banking apps compatible with non-smartphones on 2G networks, hundreds of locally and foreign-funded fintech companies serve unbanked Africans; Huawei powers TeleBirr (Ethiopia) and M-Pesa (Kenya), which transacts more than most banks

National Politics

Alibaba Group will lose tax breaks given to high-tech companies, adding US $1.7 billion to its taxes this fiscal year

Key enterprises pay less taxes (10-15%) than the country’s average (25%); China’s top e-commerce platform warned investors that its total tax burden will increase (from 18% to 23-25%), amid government’s targeted suspension of the sector’s tax benefits

Government issues national fitness plan to promote public health, driving sports industry to US$773 billion by 2025 (+72% from 2019)

Plan includes creating 2,000 fitness venues within 15-minutes walking distance, making a sports instructor available for every 500 residents, and ensuring 38.5% of people exercise regularly, with two hours/day of sports for students

Agriculture and Environment

Record algae bloom covers 60,594 km2 of Shandong’s coast, diminishing oxygen levels essential for marine life

Believed to originate from neighboring Jiangsu’s seaweed farms – which expanded from 29,751 to 102,961 acres (2004-19) – Qingdao’s government has deployed 12,686 vessels to collect what could total one million tonnes of Ulva prolifera

Economy

China’s industrial production increased from 2.7% to 25.4% of global total (1990-2020), totaling US $4.8 trillion in 2020

China’s manufacturing surpasses the US, Germany, and Japan’s combined; China leads in high-tech exports (US $715.8 billion) – followed by the US (US $156.1 billion) – but still relies on imported strategic inputs, such as chips

China’s 2020 household debt hits record high, reaching 130.9% of disposable income and hurting domestic consumption growth

In June 2020, credit cards bills over six months overdue totaled US $13.1 billion, ten times more than a decade earlier, with total household debt equivalent to 62% of GDP

People’s Life and Culture

China’s competitive, test-oriented education system fueled for-profit tutoring industry boom (2010-18) reinforcing social classes

Due to pressures on only-children to “get ahead”, over 30% of primary and middle schoolers participated in extracurricular classes in 2018, doubling parents’ spending (US $51 billion) since 2016; experts warn industry overhaul could result in underground tutoring

China’s elderly who use the internet are happier, using digital tools to maintain relationships and access services

Rather than being “digital refugees”, Tsinghua research of 200 elderly (2018-20) found higher levels of happiness for those online, using technology to create relationships that mirror close-knit rural society; online scams and fake news are common problems

Women fill labor shortages in construction and transportation sectors, spurred by China’s declining working-age population and new rural revitalization initiatives

In 2018, 9.5 million women worked in construction, comprising 14% of construction workers (from 10%, 2014); in some projects, ⅓ of city construction workers are women (from near-zero in 1980s), despite gender wage gap

Women maintenance road workers in Beijing, 2016 [Xinhua/Li Xin]


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