EU reveals list of critical tech, the US-China chip race, and China-Philippines ongoing tensions
+ Taiwan to probe suppliers helping Huawei and Chinese track darling Wu Yanni’s false start controversy
Welcome to another edition of What’s Happening in China, a weekly newsletter that curates the latest and most important news and developments from the country.
New here? Subscribe to get What’s Happening in China in your inbox every Saturday.
Let’s jump into it…
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Writing poems, and waiting to be arrested – BBC Sounds
Tahir Izgil is one of the most highly respected living Uyghur poets. Tahir was born near Kashgar, in Xinjiang province, and from an early age he was immersed in the poetry of his culture. When the Chinese state clamped down on the Uyghur community, he lived under constant threat of arrest, and says he couldn’t even perform his poems. So he decided to try and escape his homeland.
Tahir has a memoir out about his experiences called Waiting to Be Arrested at Night, translated by Joshua Freeman.
A bipartisan Congressional commission, citing the NBA's stated values, called on the league to ban the sale and use of shoes and other sports apparel made by forced labor in China and to meet with victims of the authoritarian government's repression.
In a letter sent Friday [Sep 29] to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, leaders of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China asked Silver to meet with various groups to "learn about the sad reality of genocide."
The letter also called on the league to ban any NBA-branded gear made with forced labor from China and prohibit players from wearing shoes on game days that were made by Chinese companies using cotton from Xinjiang, a region where more than a million Uyghur Muslims are now held in barbed-wire camps.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
The Mongol Khan West End production: China blocks performances – The Sydney Morning Herald
Chinese authorities have banned a Mongolian theatre production soon to show in London’s West End by shutting down power, blocking 130 production staff and putting the cast under constant surveillance.
The Mongol Khan, which is due to open at the London Coliseum next month, was approved by Chinese authorities to perform in the city of Hohhot in Inner Mongolia, China’s northernmost province.
But 30 minutes before the play was due to start on September 19, the performance at the Ulaan Theatre was shut down due to a power outage.
The shutdown follows growing restrictions on Mongolian culture in China by Beijing.
Inner Mongolian activists say the Chinese government is systematically wiping out Mongolian culture and assimilating its shrinking population into the Han Chinese majority.
Beijing says it has lifted education and living standards across a region that has seen double-digit economic growth for most of the past two decades.
Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia have cut the number of weekly Mongolian language classes from schools across the region, Radio Free Asia has learned.
The move comes as schools complete the phasing out of Mongolian in favor of Mandarin as a medium of instruction for non-language classes including history, math and science — a policy that sparked mass protests by parents and students followed by a regionwide crackdown when it was first announced in September 2020.
Mongolian language classes have also now been banned from kindergarten, and reduced from seven timetabled classes a week to just three, according to people familiar with the matter.
Yuan is just one of tens of thousands of Chinese social media users who have adopted momo the pink dinosaur as their online alias, as a way to speak more freely, evade harassment, and protect their privacy. Today, you can find momos in all corners of the Chinese internet — from Douban forums on youth unemployment to Xiaohongshu posts recommending New York restaurants to Weibo threads discussing new TV shows. Douban’s momo group has over 11,000 members, while Xiaohongshu has over 10,000 users named momo, according to Chinese social media analytics site NewRank.
Momo was originally the default username for new accounts on Douban or Xiaohongshu. It then became popular in Douban communities like Goose Group — members used it to safely gossip about celebrities without being harassed by competing fandoms.
Forget “Special Forces Tourism,” the travel fad where cash-strapped travelers bustle between tourist hotspots at breakneck speed — the new way of exploring urban China this Golden Week holiday is the “citywalk.”
With both domestic and foreign travel at record highs during this extended eight-day holiday, some seeking more a more relaxing time are opting to roam around a city browsing shops, taking photos, and doing whatever they wish to, according to a set route or without one.
In contrast to conventional travel methods popular among Chinese travelers, which typically sees them “checking-in” at notable tourist hotspots, the “citywalk” has as its goal the immersion into a local culture and lifestyle rather than hitting certain “must-see” spots.
Amid renewed interest, wet markets in China are evolving too, merging modern amenities with traditional charm to cater to younger, experience-driven tourists.
E-invites instead of paper cards; decor sourced from Xianyu, a second-hand platform; durable metal candy boxes instead of the ubiquitous, cheaper paper versions. And for the grand entrance, Liu Junjie chose a humble bike ride over the conventional luxury car to fetch his bride.
Every National Day holiday, China sees a surge in weddings. While most often choose traditional and lavish ceremonies, 30-year-old Liu from Shanghai chose to emphasize sustainability this season. His eco-friendly choices showcase a rising preference among young couples: the carbon-neutral wedding.
A carbon-neutral wedding aims to minimize emissions by adopting eco-friendly products, implementing cost-saving strategies, and emphasizing recycling. The carbon impact of the wedding is measured and offset by purchasing carbon quotas or credits.
Mao to Now – China Books Review
Communist China, once all but impenetrable, opened up only to tighten politically again. Has Xi circled back to the Mao era? And what can we learn from six decades of China writings?
HONG KONG & MACAO
More than half of Hong Kong professionals have considered leaving the city in the near future, a survey conducted by a global recruitment consultancy has found.
The survey, which was conducted by consultancy Robert Walters, found that 52.3 per cent of professionals were considering leaving Hong Kong. More than 15 per cent of respondents planned to “leave as soon as possible,” while 36.7 per cent were considering a move within three to five years.
According to the survey, among those considering leaving the city, 96 per cent had already taken steps to prepare for work abroad. Forty per cent said they had applied for overseas roles, while 27 per cent had looked for internal transfer opportunities.
The survey interviewed 107 professionals in Hong Kong across various industries, including tech, finance, and construction.
Ten people who took part in a protest in Hong Kong’s Central district in 2019 have been jailed for up to four years for rioting.
The ten defendants, some of whom were teenagers at the time of the offence, appeared before District Court Judge Clement Lee on Thursday morning.
The defendants were convicted of participating in a riot in the vicinity of Pedder Street, Des Voeux Road Central, and Connaught Road Central on November 12, 2019. According to the statement of facts, they disrupted public order in the city’s financial district.
Accusations that the president of Hong Kong’s top university has been amassing power by filling key roles with little consultation or transparency continued to mount on Thursday, while the Post learned the government was hoping the scandal would subside before the institution’s top council holds a special meeting next week.
As the feud intensifies, two influential figures within the University of Hong Kong (HKU) community – former council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and interim provost and deputy vice-chancellor Richard Wong Yue-chim – have been trying to help the opposing sides settle their differences, according to sources.
Anonymous emails sent to the governing body have accused HKU president and vice-chancellor Xiang Zhang of mismanagement, and five years into his tenure he now faces a potential inquiry by the council. He has denied the claims, saying “rumour-mongers” are taking confidential information out of context and twisting the truth.
Feted in Busan this week as the Asian Filmmaker of the Year, Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-fat bemoaned censorship in China for its impact on the film industry.
“We have a lot of censorship requirements in mainland China. Scripts must go to many departments. So, we need [to portray] clear situations in scripts. Honestly, we will try our best to make movies with Hong Kong spirit. In the 1980s people watched a lot of Hong Kong films. I’m proud,” said Chow at a press event at the Busan International Film Festival on Thursday.
“After 1997 [the year when Hong Kong ceased to be a British colony and was returned to China] a lot of things changed. We have to pay attention to our government. Otherwise, it will be hard to get the money to make movies. The Mainland market is so huge.”
Several Taiwanese technology companies are helping Huawei Technologies Co. build infrastructure for an under-the-radar network of chip plants across southern China, an unusual collaboration that risks inflaming sentiment on a democratic island grappling with Beijing’s growing belligerence.
At a time when China threatens Taiwan regularly with military action for even contemplating independence, it’s unusual that members of the island’s most important industry may be helping US-sanctioned Huawei develop semiconductors to effectively break an American blockade. Those sanctions were called into question after Huawei unveiled a smartphone in late August with an advanced made-in-China chip, spurring alarm in Washington and calls to completely cut off Huawei and its Shanghai-based chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp.
Taiwan will investigate whether Taiwanese firms helping Huawei Technologies Co. with chipmaking plants in China violated US sanctions, ramping up scrutiny of a company at the heart of Washington-Beijing tensions over technology.
Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua told lawmakers Wednesday her agency has agreed to launch a probe into that unusual relationship. She was responding to a request by ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Lai Jui-lung during a legislative session that followed a Bloomberg News report this week identifying four firms working on chip plants backed by Huawei in China. Lai asked for a preliminary report on the probe within a month.
Lithuania and Taiwan are deepening economic cooperation in semiconductor development and other fields, as they build on ties established over the last two years, the Eastern European country's minister of the economy and innovation told Nikkei Asia.
Taiwan is investing in Lithuania's emerging chip sector, laser companies and other high-tech industries the small Baltic nation is keen to nurture, Ausrine Armonaite said in an interview on Wednesday in Tokyo.
Asked why Lithuania is strengthening ties with Taiwan at the expense of China, Armonaite answered: "Every partner is free to choose [with] whom to cooperate more, and we wanted to increase our partnership with Taiwan, just as with Japan or other countries in the region ... We didn't mean to hurt anyone. We simply wanted to diversify our economic partners."
A category four cyclone has produced one of the strongest wind gusts ever recorded worldwide, and injured almost 200 people as it crossed the southern tip of Taiwan early on Thursday.
Typhoon Koinu brought wind gusts of up to 95.2 metres per second, or 342.7km/h (212.9mph) when it crossed Taiwan’s outer Lanyu (Orchid) island on Wednesday night. The Central Weather Administration (CWA) told the Guardian it was the highest wind gust recorded in Taiwan since the organisation was founded in 1986. The gust destroyed the island’s anemometer, the CWA said.
The gust appears to be the third-strongest recorded globally. In 1996 Western Australia’s Barrow Island recorded a 408km/h gust, which broke the record set in 1934 when a 372km/h gust was recorded in the US on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
China Welcomes Taiwanese Athletes at the Asian Games – The Diplomat
China has been going out of its way to be welcoming to the Taiwanese athletes, as it pursues a two-pronged strategy, both wooing Taiwan’s people while threatening it militarily.
What is boba tea, Taiwan's iconic drink? – National Geographic
The first iterations of the drink — also called boba tea — emerged in the 1980s out of Taiwan’s traditional tea shops, and today boba tea shops remain a fixture in most neighbourhoods across the island. Rather than sit-down spots, these are usually grab-and-go establishments, operating at devilishly fast speed.
Bubble tea has since proliferated across the world, with dedicated shops popping up everywhere from Berlin to Brasilia, and you’ll find starch pearls (as the bubbles or boba are also known) in much more than milk tea. They’re served in all sorts of ways, whether that’s in rose-scented lattes or even as a pizza topping.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to What's Happening in China to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.