Aug 31, 2018

Axios China

By Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian
Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Happy last Friday of summer. Today's issue is shorter than normal as no doubt many of you are heading out early to enjoy the three day weekend.

Thanks for reading, and if you want a daily and deeper look at China, please check out my daily Sinocism China Newsletter and follow me on Twitter @niubi.

1 big thing: China foresees new Cold War with U.S.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Trump. Photo: Xinhua/Li Tao via Getty Images

A senior official from the State Council's Development Research Center is arguing that President Trump's trade war is part of a broader plan to contain China.

Driving the news: The U.S. is expected to impose tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese imports as soon as next week, Bloomberg reported yesterday, with no denial from Trump.

The South China Morning Post summarized the commentary by Long Guoqiang:

“With the US labelling China as a strategic rival, Sino-US relations will experience a deep structural change,” he said. “As two major powers, it is normal for China and the US to engage in both cooperation and competition … We should abandon our illusions in facing the [trade] war, while at the same time remain rational and work hard to maintain overall stability.”..
Long’s commentary is the latest in a series of articles in People’s Daily over the last month apparently aimed at addressing growing scepticism over whether the Chinese economy will be able to weather the increasing pressure from Washington...
“China has changed from seeing this as primarily a trade conflict to now seeing it as part of a strategic competition,” said Wang Yong, director of the Centre for International Political Economy at Peking University. “So now China is preparing for a prolonged battle – and also for the worst-case scenario of a new cold war, or even a hot war.”

The bottom line: Both sides look to be preparing for a much more contentious relationship.

Go deeper: The coming yearlong U.S. trade war with China.

2. Congress has "broken the mold" on China

Robert Sutter, a long-time government official who is now a professor at George Washington University, says the 115th Congress has "broken the mold" for dealing with China, showing "widespread support" for a harder line from President Trump.

Why it matters: The Chinese are not wrong — there really has been a structural shift across the U.S. government in policies towards China. The Chinese have been slow to grasp this change.

Sutter writes:

This Congress has broken the mold of past practice where the US Congress more often than not since the normalization of US relations with China four decades ago has served as a brake and obstacle impeding US initiatives in dealing with China. That pattern saw repeated congressional resistance to administration efforts to advance US engagement with China at the expense of other US interests that Congress valued such as relations with Taiwan and Tibet, and human rights.
Today’s congressional-executive cooperation rests on the Trump administration’s overall hardening of US policy toward China. Congress is responding with widespread support and asking for more. Notably, Congress strongly backs the Trump administration’s push for greater military, intelligence, and domestic security strength to protect US interests abroad and to defend against Chinese espionage and overt and covert infiltration to influence the United States. It opposes perceived predatory lending of President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative and Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. It seeks greater protection against Chinese efforts to acquire advanced US technology companies in pursuit of economic leadership in these fields. And it presses for greater US support for Taiwan.

Go deeper: Read Sutter's full post.

3. America's youth is warming to China

Among 18-29-year-olds, 49% view China favorably and 36% unfavorably (+13), compared to a 38%/47% (-9) split in the country for all adults, according to a new Pew survey.

Why it matters: Competition with China for supremacy in the economic, military and technological fields is ramping up, and could well define the decades to come. It’s therefore noteworthy, and a bit surprising, that young people are more likely to have positive views of the country.

Go deeper.

4. Recalibrating the Belt and Road Initiative

The Chinese leadership held a symposium earlier this week to mark the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

  • The BRI has come under much criticism recently for saddling target countries with significant debt for too many economically wasteful projects.

Between the lines: The message from Xi at the symposium will make some adjustments at the margins, but overall the BRI will continue full steam ahead, even as the propaganda around it is tweaked to make it seem less threatening,

  • The BRI was written into the revised Constitutions, got heavy billing at the recent Foreign Affairs Work Conference, and is clearly a signature initiative of Xi that, like Made in China 2025, is not going away.

The bottom line: The official Chinese report 习近平:推动共建“一带一路”走深走实造福人民 on the Monday meeting makes clear that the scope of the broader geopolitical ambitions remains essentially unchanged. It also places the BRI within the context of the major changes and adjustments underway in the international order — plus the resulting historical opportunity for China.

Go deeper: China's grand infrastructure plan has spooked its rivals.

5. China's hottest show is an imperial concubine drama

Screenshot from the first episode of "The Story of Yanxi Palace" from YouTube

"The Story of Yanxi Palace", a Qing Dynasty era costume drama set in the Forbidden City, has broken records for online viewership in China.

By the numbers: iQiyi announced in a press release today that the 70 episode series has been streamed over 15 billion times. It was streamed an average of 300 million times a day, with more than 700 million views on its peak day.

The show is driving fashion trends, as Jing Daily explains:

Set in the 18th-century Qing Dynasty, the show follows the predictable yet relatable storyline of how a loyal maid climbs ‘the imperial ladder’ to eventually become the emperor’s favorite concubine. What’s not cliche, though, are the show’s well-rounded character, as well as its set and costume design. The authentic portrayal of ancient China style in the show has fashion bloggers obsessing over fashion details in long, fawning posts that track, fame by fame, all the show’s wardrobe choices – from clothing and accessories to hairstyles.

I am up to episode 5, only 65 more to go...

Watch it: All the episodes are on YouTube here.

Go deeper: Pandaily writes Yanxi Palace Puts Feminist Spin on Chinese Historical Drama.

6. Worthy of your time

China Leadership Monitor — Alice Miller's Valedictory: Analyzing the Chinese Leadership in an Era of Sex, Money, and Power

South China Morning Post — After Communist Party summer retreat, Xi Jinping is sticking to his policies

The New York Times — Bloomberg Moves New Forum for Elites From China Amid Fallout of Trade War

Xinhua — Top leaders attend congress of returned overseas Chinese

Bloomberg — Muslim Governments Silent as China Cracks Down on Uighurs

Sixth Tone — Elite School Literally Divided Over Incoming Migrant Students

The New York Times — Too Many Chinese Children Need Glasses. Beijing Blames Video Games

ChinAI Newsletter #25: Tencent A Complete Takedown and Rethinking of China's so-called AI giant

The Washington Post — It’s time to end the ‘China hustle’ on U.S. stock exchanges

South China Morning Post — China to genetically screen its athletes to ensure the best compete in 2022 Winter Olympics

Elephant Room — The Story of Chinese Chives

Guernica Chengdu Cool: The Rise of Sichuan’s Homegrown Hip Hop

This week's issues of my Sinocism China Newsletter

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Thanks again for reading. Don't forget to check out my daily Sinocism China Newsletter and follow me on Twitter @niubi. Happy Labor Day!