China this week Feb 27 - Mar 3
Some interesting bits and bobs I read about China this week
It’s been a fairly quiet week in China news land, but there are still a few interesting reads floating around.
Let’s kick off with some high level political news. In the run-up to the annual session of the National People’s Congress, two interesting pieces of news have come out. The FT reports that Xi will announce huge overhauls in the financial, technology and science sectors, in a bid to increase investor interest in Chinese firms and boost economic growth. Radio Free Asia adds that the CCP is planning on bringing several government agencies under their own auspices, most notably the Ministry of Security (internal and external intelligence agency) and the Ministry of Public Security (policing). They argue that this is a move by the party to strength the Central Committee’s control over political, economic and social security.
These two pieces show how the CCP is planning on taking a more direct role in China’s recovery, as well as boosting internal security following the covid lockdown protests that shook the central leadership towards the end of last year. It’s clear they’re done taking chances, and won’t be leaving anything up to ‘free markets’ or ‘free speech’ anymore (to the extent that they were in the first place).
“The top priority of the congress will be to chart a course for growth both in the short term and to try to convince domestic and foreign investors that there is a path for long-term sustainable growth,” said Victor Shih, professor of Chinese political economy at the University of California, San Diego.
Hong Kong Free Press has two pieces on nationalism. The first outlines how aspiring school principals will be assessed for their “sense of national identity” and “political astuteness” moving forward. The second covers the story of how the protest song Glory to Hong Kong was played at an ice hockey match instead of the Chinese national anthem. The Hong Kong government was not best pleased.
We’re well overdue an update on the Hong Kong situation, so I’m working on something for the podcast (and possibly the newsletter too), watch this space!
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Asia Times has a heartwarming piece about how the capture of Taiwan by China would mean the end of the world. According to a study quoted in the article, this ‘earth-shattering’ situation would lead to nuclear proliferation in the Asia Pacific region, may encourage China to take other disputed territories by force, and could lead to all-out warfare. Oh, and the PRC would become increasingly influential globally, more influential than the US! How terrible!
Speaking of the US, Congress is in the midst of creating a panel to assess the threat of Chinese infiltration into US firms operation in China:
“One thing I’m interested in understanding is, if you’re a major company with interests in China, like Disney or the NBA, how are you navigating the complexity?” Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin lawmaker, told the Financial Times.
“I genuinely want to hear the perspective of these companies that really have made the same bet that everybody made for the past three decades, which is, let’s just pursue business in China, with China integrated in the global economy, and that good things will happen. The bet . . . paid off literally for a lot of investors and businesses, but it didn’t pay off politically, geopolitically or politically for us or for the Chinese people.”
“Americans don’t sort of think about the MSS [Chinese Ministry of State Security] in the same way they thought about the KGB in the old Cold War,” Gallagher said. “But gradually people are waking up to the threat the CCP poses to American sovereignty.”
In the cultural realm, Radii has a good long-ish read on how bride prices in the countryside are becoming eyewatering. A nominal ‘gift’ paid by grooms to the bride’s family, bride prices are a deeply entrenched practice in both north and south China, though the custom varies from region to region. Factors such as the sex-ratio imbalance, demand for urban hukous, and the fact that women are generally more independent all contribute to rising prices:
Xia Jun, recently told China’s state-backed Xinhua News Agency that he would need at least 700,000 RMB (101,000 USD) to afford marriage. This figure is out of reach for Xia, who earns 6,000 RMB (869 USD) a month. The cai li, also known as ‘bride gift’ or ‘bride price,’ commonly costs 200,000 to 300,000 RMB (29,900 to 43,500 USD), a figure that has steadily increased over the years.
And finally, on a lighter note, a moving piece from Sixth Tone all about how a rural minority village in China struggled to survive during the pandemic. Hebian village in Yunnan province had jumped on the trend of transforming the village into a popular tourist spot for city-dwellers, but once lockdowns stopped all travel, the villagers had to scramble, some returning to the land and others starting new business ventures.
Hope you all have a great weekend!
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