Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC)

China Press Review – November 17, 2021

Easing US-China tensions requires more dialogue
Ten months after he was sworn into office, Joe Biden has finally held a meeting with Xi Jinping. The summit was online, not face to face. But after many months of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, the very fact that the US and Chinese leaders spoke for three hours was important. One apparent breakthrough to emerge from the summit was an agreement, announced by the Americans, for China and the US to hold talks on their nuclear arsenals. Just a few days earlier, at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, the two nations had announced a plan to work together on climate change. This outbreak of dialogue and diplomacy is a hopeful sign that relations between China and the US can be stabilised, and may even be improving. Fashionable talk of a new cold war between the two nations may now give way to talk of a new detente.

China steps up opening up, supply chain security charm offensive in wake of Biden-Xi summit
Following the meeting between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan and Premier Li Keqiang spoke about China opening up further. Li also said that China wanted to work with all countries to keep industry and supply chains stable and enhance coordination of macro economic policies. Opening up to the outside world is a basic national policy and hallmark of China, China’s determination to expand its high-level opening up will not change, so does its determination to share development opportunities with the world,” Xi told his White House counterpart on Tuesday.
Xi also urged Biden to return US policy on China to a rational track and called for the two sides to “solve specific problems” in bilateral trade and economic ties. “China and the US, respectively the world‘s biggest developing country and the biggest developed country, whether they can handle the relationship well bears on the future of the world,” Wang added on Wednesday. He said that the two countries “should act on the important common understandings reached between the two presidents” and reiterated that Beijing will not waver in its resolve to deepen reform and opening up. “China cannot develop in isolation of the world and nor can the world develop without China,” he added. “Openness brings progress, whereas isolation leads to backwardness. We need to promote trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation, bring down trade and knowledge barriers, stay away from discriminatory and exclusive rules and systems, and keep the functioning of supply chains stable and smooth.” Premier Li also said on Tuesday that China would stick to free trade and multilateralism. China has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), while the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will come into effect in January. “Above all, we must remain committed to peace and development. Free trade and multilateralism have proven to be effective in safeguarding global peace,” he said.  US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, though, confirmed on Wednesday also at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum that the United States would not be joining the CPTPP trade pact fornow and would be trying to increase trade and deepen relationships outside the Asia-Pacific trade deal.Originally known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it was spearheaded by the US under the Obama administration until former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the pact in his first days in office in 2017

Chinese corporate bond defaults likely to continue to increase in 2022, Moody’s says
Offshore corporate bond defaults rose 28 per cent in first three quarters of 2021     Property developers, such as China Evergrande Group and Kaisa Group, have faced liquidity crunches in recent months

US, Japan create forum to resolve trade frictions
The United States and Japan on Wednesday unveiled a new forum to strengthen ties and resolve trade friction between the economic powers, while countering the distortions caused by China.

Evergrande’s fire sale continues as founder Hui Ka-yan disposes of corporate and personal assets to avert defaulting on debt
Evergrande last week sold the Dutch electric motor maker e-Traction to Saietta Group at a 97 per cent discount to its 2019 purchase price    With more than US$300 billion in total liabilities, Evergrande has so far averted default three times, coming up with capital to pay its overdue coupons and interests   Hui has injected more than 7 billion yuan in cash from the disposal of personal assets and share pledges to boost the firm’s liquidity, according to China Business News, citing unidentified people close to the matter.   Evergrande raised about HK$1.12 billion two weeks ago by further selling down its stake in internet company HengTen Networks Group as it faces a cascading series of interest payments on its offshore debt. Evergrande sold 530 million shares in a series of sales since November 4, reducing its stake in Hong Kong-based HengTen from 26.55 per cent to 20.82 per cent, according to regulatory filings with the Hong Kong stock exchange.  In the past two weeks, Hui mortgaged three of his luxury houses on The Peak in Hong Kong, the city’s most expensive address, according to reports in the Chinese media.
It is unclear how much Hui received, but each of the homes measuring 5,000 square feet (464 square metres), is valued at more than HK$800 million (US$102.7 million).  Meanwhile, the tycoon, ranked as Asia‘s wealthiest man in 2017 has raised US$50 million last month through selling two of his private jets, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Germany must reduce its dependence on China – health minister
Germany needs a more open discussion on how it can reduce its over-reliance on China in many areas as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased its economic dependency on Asia’s resurgent giant, acting Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Wednesday.     “We have experienced and had to experience how dependent we have become on China,” Spahn said at an economic conference organised by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

China’s inflation: why was official database updated with more historical data?
China’s producer price index (PPI) rose by 10.7 per cent in September, which at the time was reported as a record high     But a rise to 13.5 per cent in October from a year ago was only reported as the highest since July 1995 and not a record, due to updates to official database

China’s energy crisis is easing, but Beijing says ‘results must be consolidated’ as winter months loom
Vice-Premier Han Zheng says efforts to secure power supply have achieved ‘initial results’, but coal production must continue to increase   Analysts say China faces challenges including lingering electricity shortages, rising energy consumption and limited generation capacity

China Stops Issuing GSP Licenses to 32 Countries
On October 25, 2021, the General Administration of Customs China (GACC) released a statement saying that, as of December 1, 2021, it would no longer issue Generalized System of Preference (GSP) certificates of origin (also called ‘Form A’) for goods exported to 32 countries, because these countries no longer offer China GSP status. The 32 countries are composed of the 27 EU member states, the UK, Canada, Turkey, Ukraine, and Liechtenstein. The misunderstanding that appears to have arisen in some online media is that China was recently removed from these countries’ GSP lists, and that is what prompted the GACC to stop issuing GSP licenses. However, China has actually not received GSP privileges from these countries for many years.  Since 1978, a total of 40 countries have granted China GSP status. The EU ceased granting China GSP privileges on all goods in 2015 after the World Bank upgraded its developing status to an ‘upper-middle income country’. Switzerland and Canada both revoked China’s GSP status in 2014, and Japan followed in 2016.  Currently, only New Zealand, Australia, and Norway still grant China GSP status.   The GACC’s recent announcement is therefore not a response to these countries’ recent decision to revoke China’s GSP status, rather a retiring of a service that is no longer required for these countries

Western brands aim for the sky in Xi Jinping’s China
When Chinese president Xi Jinping called in August for wealth redistribution and “common prosperity for all”, markets reacted quickly. Rapid selling wiped more than €60bn off the market capitalisation of Europe’s four largest luxury groups in two days.    Already jittery because of Beijing’s crackdowns on video gaming, for-profit education and tech billionaires, investors feared a repeat of the 2012 anti-corruption campaign, which hit sales of sports cars, showy watches and pricey liquor.    So far, these concerns look overdone. Rather than crimping growth, China’s drive for an “olive shaped” distribution of wealth looks to be an opportunity for western brands, albeit a complicated one that will require them to steer around political and social minefields.

Hong Kong banks face deadlines to migrate US$205 billion of contracts tied to scandal-ridden Libor with no alternative rates in place
Banks in Hong Kong must step up efforts to remediate about US$25.8 billion legacy Libor-linked contracts to new benchmark by year end      As global regulators phase out the scandal-ridden Libor benchmark, companies must work with banks on transition to avoid legal disputes

China, US agree to ease restrictions on journalists
The US and China have agreed to ease travel and visa restrictions on each others’ journalists.  Under this, both governments will increase the validity of journalist visas from three months to one year, provided they are eligible under all applicable laws and regulations.    Both countries have also pledged to allow journalists to freely depart and return, which they had previously been unable to do.

Secretive Chinese committee draws up list to replace US tech
Formed in 2016 to advise the government, the Information Technology Application Innovation Working Committee has now been entrusted by Beijing to help set industry standards and train personnel to operate trusted software. The quasi-government body will devise and execute the so-called “IT Application Innovation” plan, better known as Xinchuang in Chinese. It will choose from a basket of suppliers vetted under the plan to provide technology for sensitive sectors from banking to data centers storing government data, a market that could be worth $125 billion by 2025.

China and US set for talks to ‘stop competition veering off into conflict’ in wake of Joe Biden and Xi Jinping’s virtual summit
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says the two sides are ready for a strategic dialogue on setting up ‘guardrails’ to manage tensions  Sullivan was speaking in the wake of talks between the two countries’ leaders, who agreed to work to stabilise their relationship   According to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Xi called for greater cooperation in areas such as climate change, diplomacy, security, economics and trade.  Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology institute in Beijing, said that “there is still a lack of mutual trust between China and the US,” and the rest of the world should not expect a breakthrough.  “Mutual trust needs to be built through some big and small things,” said Zhou, who identified Taiwan as the key problem.  “For example, recent visits by American lawmakers to Taiwan on US military aircraft were all seen by Beijing as provocative moves to challenge its red lines.”

The irony and efficacy of China’s judicial reforms
In the 2010s, the Chinese judicial system underwent several reforms that attracted scholarly and public attention. These reforms were executed in the name of strengthening judicial autonomy and accountability. But the reforms were a mask for political motives and have had limited success.

Coronavirus: China tightens entry rules for Beijing ahead of Winter Olympics
All visitors must show a negative Covid-19 test result from the past 48 hours, while flights to the city have been cancelled or limited    Case numbers in China remain lower than in most countries, with eight domestic infections recorded on Tuesday

Asia-Pacific families grow wealth faster on back of riskier assets like cryptocurrencies, report says
More than 90 per cent of family offices in the region plan to increase or maintain existing private equity investments next year     The survey of 385 family offices globally shows a greater appetite in Asia for new asset classes like cryptocurrencies

China Warns State-Owned Companies To Stop Bitcoin Mining Or Risk Strict Penalties
China has issued a warning to its state-owned enterprises to stop cryptocurrency mining. It also warned that it would increase electricity rates for companies that continue to defy the ban.This latest warning comes amid the ongoing crypto ban in the East Asian country. Some months ago, the government of China declared all crypto trading activity illegal. Subsequently, crypto miners and exchanges like Huobi and Binance began to relocate to countries with crypto-friendly regulations.Related Reading | Is This The Reason China Banned Bitcoin Mining? Carvalho’s Mind Blowing TheoryHowever, despite the crackdown on crypto, Chinese residents continue to trade Bitcoin. And Beijing authorities are not relenting in their efforts to find ways to prevent crypto use.

Chinese cryptocurrency media outlets suspend websites as Beijing shows zero tolerance on virtual assets
ChainNews tweeted Monday that its website would suspend service for up to 10 hours for ‘upgrade maintenance’, but the site remained down on Wednesday   The Twitter accounts of ChainNews and Odaily provided links to their Telegram channels, where they continue posting news and interacting with readers  To deliver Beijing’s zero tolerance message on cryptocurrency, the NDRC, in a very rare case, confirmed last week that a senior official in Jiangxi was probed for tolerating mining operations under his watch, which equated to his support of mining and being disloyal to Beijing.  The harsh crackdowns have triggered a series of compliance moves by cryptocurrency firms.  In June, the operators of cryptocurrency exchanges Huobi and OKCoin cancelled their Beijing subsidiaries’ company registrations. Huobi also introduced a 24-hour withdrawal delay and halted derivatives trading in China.  BTC China, which once ran the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, said in June that it had “completely exited from bitcoin-related businesses”

Beijing to discuss efforts to clean, control the internet at ‘cyberspace civilisation’ conference
The event comes months after the Communist Party and the State Council released a set of guidelines for building a ‘cyberspace civilisation’      It urges all levels of government to bring ideology, culture, moral standards and online behaviour under control  China’s internet watchdog ramped up its censorship agenda last month by publishing a new list of government-approved news outlets, giving the nation’s internet platforms an exhaustive directory of sources they are allowed to republish, as Beijing seeks to increase its control of online content.  The “white list” released by CAC comprised 1,358 sanctioned online news providers and was nearly four times longer than the previous list released in 2016. The approved outlets include hundreds of mobile apps, along with the Weibo and WeChat social media accounts directly managed by government bodies and media groups overseen by the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department.  Among the notable exceptions were Caixin Media, The Economic Observer, Caijing Magazine and the 21st Century Business Herald. Caixin was the only one of the four to be on the 2016 list.

Big fish in small ponds: China’s subnational diplomacy in Europe
Largely bypassing EU institutions and national governments, China has steadily expanded its ties at the subnational level, striking up partnerships with countless regions and cities. This has led to increased Chinese investment, research and development (R&D) cooperation, and political and cultural exchanges. Regions and cities in Europe have predominantly welcomed and benefited from Beijing’s increased subnational interest and activities. While in Europe subnational governance is primarily decentralized, with regions and cities acting autonomously, China’s provinces and cities are part of a highly centralized and unitary system. This puts European subnational actors at a disadvantage when facing Chinese counterparts. China uses the subnational level to increase its influence, advance its strategic economic and political interests. In this context, European subnational actors that hope to benefit from Chinese investments, R&D cooperation, and cultural exchanges also face risks with regard to growing economic dependency, industrial espionage, technology transfer, and increasing political pressure and disinformation.These risks are compounded by Europe’s several weak spots when it comes to subnational relations with China. There is a lack of oversight, coordination, strategic orientation, and often China competence. European cities and regions have employed different approaches when it comes to dealing with China’s growing international ambitions and proactive subnational diplomacy. Some have continued doing business as usual, some have ended their relationships with Chinese counterparts or pushed back on controversial issues.  Governments and the European Commission can pursue a range of recommendations, in order to promote their interests vis-à-vis China, while limiting Chinese subversive influence and geostrategic interests

The Biden-Xi meeting left one big question unanswered, says analyst
The U.S. and China still face “hard-edged, irreconcilable differences” that are deeply entrenched, said Stephen Olson, senior research fellow at Hinrich Foundation.  It remains to be seen whether the bilateral fallout will ease after the virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, said Olson.The Biden-Xi meeting was an important in stabilizing U.S.-China relations, and “things can only get better” from here, said Gary Locke, a former U.S. ambassador to China.

Biden-Xi summit offers brief respite for Taiwan tensions
Beijing likely reassured that U.S. president said he doesn’t support independence With relations between Beijing and Washington at their frostiest in decades, expectations were low for any deliverables from Xi Jinping and Joe Biden’s summit this week. At the center of the discussion was Taiwan, and while the two leaders agreed to disagree, the short-term effect may be one of reduced tensions.   China’s approach has had the effect of improving communication channels between Taipei and Washington. American officials briefed their Taiwanese counterparts before and after Biden spoke with Xi, and Taiwanese media is reporting that annual U.S.-Taiwan political and military talks will be combined into one meeting this week.   Meanwhile, the Tsai administration will continue working to bring Taiwan out of the international isolation imposed on it by China. Former Vice President Chen Chien-jen, who served during Tsai’s first term, will attend a democracy forum in Vilnius, Lithuania this week. Lithuania is one of several former Soviet states in central and eastern Europe that have warmed up to Taiwan in recent months.  Speculation is high that Taiwan will be invited to Biden’s Summit for Democracy next month. Such a move would be a diplomatic boost for Taiwan, which is effectively blocked by China from membership or even observer status in the United Nations and its associated organizations such as the World Health Organization. Given its success in handling COVID-19, the exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO’s World Health Assembly, in particular, has been criticized by the U.S. and other countries.”I fully expect that the Tsai administration and the Biden administration will seek ways to enhance Taiwan participation in the international community,” Glaser said. “Beijing misreads U.S. intentions as promoting Taiwan independence, when in fact it is only seeking to find avenues for Taiwan to share its expertise with the international community and protect the 24 million Taiwanese people.”

EU shelves Taiwan trade upgrade amid high-wire balancing act on China
Announcement of new strategic format for liaising with Taiwan on trade and economic issues is postponed, although it is likely to be revisited    Some EU lawmakers want Taiwan issue to be higher on the bloc’s agenda, but there is concern that ties with Beijing could plunge further   The rhetoric on Taiwan has gone into overdrive in recent months, overtaking Hong Kong and Xinjiang as Europe’s China-related issue du jour.EU lawmakers and some governments and officials in the Central and Eastern European countries of Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia have been determined to place the Taiwan issue firmly on the EU’s agenda. “Taiwan has been a taboo subject in some capitals,” said Noah Barkin, a Europe-China watcher for Rhodium Group in Berlin. “That is changing, because of Lithuania, because of China’s behaviour, its displays of force in and around Taiwan. And so I think there’s going to have to be a broader discussion within Europe about its policy towards Taiwan.”In a diplomatic flurry last month, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu visited European capitals including Brussels and a delegation from the European Parliament made a maiden trip to Taiwan.  The European Parliament also voted to adopt by a landslide majority its first report on Taiwan, which called for closer relations with the island. A senior EU diplomat said that although there would be some debate, it was unlikely that sanctions renewal would face major opposition given that the situation on the ground in Xinjiang “does not appear to have improved”. Zhang refused to be drawn on whether China’s retaliatory sanctions would be removed, saying the “ball was in Brussels’ court” on both that and the CAI. Nor would he be pushed on whether China would retaliate further should the sanctions be rolled over. The EU’s upcoming trade agenda could also cause consternation, particularly the draft anti-coercion legislation and supply chain due diligence rules aimed at combating forced labour, both of which are set to be unveiled in December.Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Geneva later this month could provide another opportunity to spar. EU trade officials said that China had been “a rather constructive and engaged player” in WTO talks over e-commerce and trade in services and that a fiery trade policy review last month – in which the EU joined the US, Japan, Britain, Australia and Canada in accusing China of a laundry list of trade felonies – had not soured the mood.But they added that China should be willing to play more of a leadership role in crunch talks on fisheries, urging Beijing to stop accepting subsidies and to stop blocking a clause that would outlaw forced labour on fishing boats.

China-Australia relations: Canberra needs to ‘sit down’ with Beijing over CPTPP, trade minister Dan Tehan says
China formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in September     Australia is currently suing China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over tariffs on barley and wine amid ongoing tensions between Canberra and Beijing

China population: tumbling regional births underline crisis, could force Beijing to ‘double down’ on policies
China’s population grew to 1.412 billion in 2020 despite births falling to 12 million last year, prompting authorities to roll-out policy changes and invectives    But Chizhou city in Anhui province says its number of births in the first 10 months of the year plummeted by 21 per cent compared to a year earlier

China’s Content Manipulation Reaches New Frontiers
Through a combination of industrial scale and technological clout, the CCP is increasing the reach of its influence operations. The sheer scale of China-linked information manipulation activities is remarkable. One study from May by the Oxford Internet Institute and the Associated Press documented 26,879 Twitter accounts that amplified posts from Chinese diplomats or state media nearly 200,000 times before getting suspended by the platform for violating rules prohibiting manipulation. Importantly, these retweets, which appeared in many languages, made up a large proportion of all shares for official Chinese accounts.. Alongside the constantly adapting inauthentic campaigns on social media platforms owned by U.S. companies, each month brings new examples of how China-based firms like XiaomiHuawei, or StarTimes are infusing their technology exports with propaganda, selective censorship, or surveillance capabilities. The pressure on these companies to support the CCP line is likely to increase in the coming year, as Beijing hosts its second Olympics amid calls for a boycott, regulators impose a crackdown to bring the Chinese tech sector under tighter supervision, and Xi Jinping prepares to begin an unprecedented third term as CCP leader in November 2022. It is therefore all the more important that foreign governments, tech platforms, journalists, and independent investigators maintain their vigilance and work to detect, expose, and when possible, neutralize manipulation campaigns.

Cultural Revolution was a catastrophe and Mao was responsible, China’s Communist Party upholds in landmark statement
Historic resolution adopted by top party leadership reasserts previous narrative on the decade of turmoil and bloody Tiananmen crackdown     Document cements President Xi Jinping’s status on a par with Mao and Deng, seen as paving the way for him to stay on at the helm

China’s millennials, burned out on city life, opt to live off the land
A movement of young Chinese professionals are quitting the rat race for the simple joys of an organic, agrarian lifestyle    Tech- and business-savvy millennials are bringing new ideas and enthusiasm to an agricultural sector largely dominated by peasant farmers

For Chinese Men, Starting a Family Now Comes at a Price
Women have long paid a steep penalty for starting a family, but this used to be offset, at least partially, by a “fatherhood premium.” Those days are over.

Alain Gillard
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