Blinken to travel to China, EU-China relations, and China trade
+ an unexpected fashion hit and Messi in Beijing
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.
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
A Uyghur student who was detained in Xinjiang in December after posting a video on WeChat of the “white paper” protests has been convicted of “advocating extremism”.
Kamile Wayit, 19, was detained in Atush on 12 December the day after returning home from university in Henan, a province in central China. She has not been heard from since, but last week a spokesperson from China’s ministry for foreign affairs confirmed to the Economist magazine that Wayit had been sentenced on 25 March “for the crime of advocating extremism”. The spokesperson did not confirm the length of the sentence but it can be up to five years.
Ethnic minority Uyghurs could remain enslaved in China producing cotton for world markets unless the United Nations closes legal loopholes that allow Beijing to exploit the workers of its northwestern territory, a June report by a United States–based nonprofit foundation warns.
A new report, “Coercive Labor in the Cotton Harvest in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Uzbekistan: A Comparative Analysis of State-Sponsored Forced Labor,” outlines how Uyghurs are trapped in forced labor programs that have not yet become the focus of democratic lawmakers around the world. It was researched and written by Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Based on work Zenz began in 2018 into human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region — an area the size of Alaska that’s home to about 14 million Uyghurs, most of whom are Muslims — the report urges UN legislators to tighten up International Labor Organization rules.
In this second episode of a special two-part series, The Economist’s senior China correspondent, Alice Su, investigates China’s repressions of Uyghurs at home and abroad.
From 2017 to 2019 China locked up more than a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. During that time most Uyghurs living overseas were cut off from everyone they knew in China. Recently the Chinese Communist Party has closed many of the camps. It wants the world to forget what happened in Xinjiang and what is still happening today. It wants Uyghurs inside and outside China to keep quiet.
Alice Su explores how the Chinese state is able to control Uyghurs overseas through their families. She speaks to Nigara and Kewser, two Uyghurs who left China, about making the biggest decision of their lives; family or freedom?
The United States on Friday banned imports from China-based printer maker Ninestar Corp (002180.SZ) and a chemical company over alleged human rights abuses in China, according to a post for the Federal Register.
Ninestar, whose website says it is the world's fourth-largest laser printer manufacturer, and Xingjang Zhongtai Chemical Co Ltd, are being kept out of the U.S. supply chain for participating in business practices that target China's Uyghurs and other persecuted groups, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement.
The latest surge in COVID-19 cases in China is not surprising to researchers, who say that China will see an infection cycle every six months now that all COVID-19 restrictions have been removed and highly infectious variants are dominant. But they caution that rolling waves of infection carry the risk of new variants emerging.
China has approved the emergency use of a domestically developed Covid vaccine that guards against what is currently the most dominant strain of the virus globally.
WestVac Biopharma, which co-developed the shot with the West China Hospital of Sichuan University, said in a statement Thursday that the vaccine was the first that targets the omicron XBB subvariant to receive emergency use approval.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
China is sharpening its legal tools to fend off what Beijing says are intensifying efforts by Washington and its allies to subvert and infiltrate its party state.
In April, China’s legislature passed a major amendment to its anti-espionage law to establish a legal basis for state security law enforcement over a wider range of data and digital activities, allowing authorities to inspect the facilities and electronic equipment of organisations as well as digital devices such as smartphones and laptops belonging to individuals suspected of spying.
The expansion of the law made foreign companies operating in China worried that previously legal business intelligence operations could become national security offences.
Xi Jinping's comprehensive four-day inspection tour in the expansive Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, boasting the longest longitude and the second largest latitude in China, concluded on Thursday.
Today's piece, first of all, based on Xi's inspection this time, extends coverage to his other two in recent months, aiming to decode the enterprises highlighted in the inspection.
Secondly, it will briefly examine Xi's previous two inspection tours to Inner Mongolia to see what is important to this autonomous region.
China’s Crackdown on Mosque Domes is Drawing Rare Resistance – The New York Times
China is destroying Arab-style architectural features of mosques, such as domes and minarets. The tightened control on religion has been met with rare resistance.
Known for defending the rights of workers, women and religious and sexual minorities, Chang Weiping was seized by authorities in 2020 after releasing a video alleging that he had been tortured during a previous detention.
A record number of Chinese students have begun sitting the country’s notoriously difficult college entrance examinations known as “gaokao”, the first since the authorities suddenly lifted zero-COVID rules that forced classes online for months on end.
China’s education ministry says a record of nearly 13 million students have registered for the exams, which began on Wednesday.
Quotes from Chinese leader Xi Jinping have been used as essay prompts in the country’s highly competitive university entrance exams, known as gaokao, for the first time.
A Chinese exam paper on Wednesday asked students to write more than 800 Chinese characters on their “understanding and thinking” of two Xi quotes said to “vividly point out universal principles.”
Opinion: On China’s Biggest Test, Is Creativity Worth the Risk? – Sixth Tone
I don’t regret the hours I spent toiling away at essay prep. Now that I’m safely beyond the graders’ reach, I can even find enjoyment in reading about the gaokao prompts each year. They offer a valuable window into what educators from different places and at different times deem important.
At the same time, given the pressure students are under, the uncertainty of the essay section presents a unique challenge. Even though I knew my score wouldn’t affect my university decision, it was frustrating to realize my success or failure ultimately rested not on my own abilities, but on who was assigned to grade my work. In the end, I chose to skip the test. Some things are best experienced from a distance.
Chinese universities are drastically increasing tuition fees this year, with some making their first rises in two decades, hurt by a reduced national budget for tertiary education and tight local government finances.
The higher fees come amid a financial crunch among local governments after three years of disruptive COVID-19 policies, a property crisis and a sluggish economy. Chinese universities, almost all public, rely heavily on state funding.
Facing a difficult job market, highly educated Chinese have found a new way to monetize their degrees: “knowledge street vending.”
Opinion: China’s ‘Parachute Generation’ Grows Up – Sixth Tone
Prior to the pandemic, tens of thousands of Chinese kids left home every year to attend high school in the United States. Was it worth it?
Opinion: How Scooters Caught China’s Urban Planners Off Guard – Sixth Tone
Despite heavy investment in mass transit, car ownership has skyrocketed over the past 20 years, contributing to lengthy commutes and leading some cities to restrict their use. But planners’ myopic focus on cars led them to miss the rise of another equally important form of transportation that would take over China’s streets: the electric scooter.
Opinion: Remembering a Massacre That China Keeps Trying to Erase – The New York Times
“Who controls the past controls the future,” George Orwell wrote in “1984.”
Yet Orwell may have been too pessimistic, for in Poland, Romania, Mongolia, Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan, I have seen suppressed history eventually re-emerge — popping up, as a Chinese saying goes, like “bamboo shoots after a spring rain.” In Taiwan, a 1947 massacre of protesters was once unmentionable; now there is a park honoring the victims.
Some day, I believe, China will also hail its heroes of 1989. In the meantime, all we can do is try to honor truth — often a messy, nuanced truth that still hides mysteries — and thus play our part in what the Czech-born writer Milan Kundera described as “the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
Hainan Airlines has found itself at the center of a storm after rolling out strict weight standards exclusively for its female flight attendants, failing which they face potential consequences. The airline’s decision has sparked intense backlash, with many condemning it as a form of weight and sex discrimination.
PetroChina executive’s affair produces an unexpected fashion hit – The China Project
There’s a silver lining to everything. The latest scandal taking over the Chinese internet — involving a now-dismissed top official at a major state-owned enterprise who was caught in an extramarital affair — has created an unexpected fashion hit: A dress worn by his mistress.
Coming up next:
Blinken’s China trip
Chinese spy base in Cuba?
China trade tumbles in May
AI regulation draft
Chinese snooker players banned for life
And so much more…