Global Times recently released a commentary on the U.S. Biden Administration’s position on waivers on vaccine as intellectual property. Although Russia and France appear supportive, many advanced nations are against the waivers, especially Germany and Switzerland. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t directly mention the waivers, but did show support for improving availability and affordability. The U.S. position is positive. However, the current situation is very complicated since all 164 WTO members must agree in order to realize the waivers. A single veto can halt the process. The Biden administration cannot get this done solely based on executive power, let alone convincing the EU members and manufacturers. So far Biden has only made a political statement. Whether this is just a show to hold the “moral high ground” or the U.S. really meant it remains to be seen. If the U.S. does not take tangible actions, then the Biden slogan is just for headline news. Eventually he will blame other people for the failure. If Washington delivers on its position, then this time China will not go against the U.S.
Source: Global Times, May 7, 2021
United Daily News (UDN), one of the primary Taiwanese news groups, recently reported from New Delhi that Chinese workers in India have complained about not being able to return home. Without making a public announcement, the Chinese government quietly asked the Indian government not to issue travel permits to Chinese workers. This indirectly resulted in Chinese workers in India being banned from returning by air. Mr. Zhang, a Chinese citizen working in the Indian technology industry, confirmed this. He said he was not able to obtain an e-pass from the Indian government, even if he provided all the required documents. Another manager working for a Taiwanese firm suffered the same experience. Sun Weidong, the Chinese Ambassador to India, said in a media interview that the Chinese Embassy had frequent communications with Chinese citizens in India. Reporters in New Delhi from the Central News Agency (CNA, the largest news agency in Taiwan) contacted the Chinese Embassy. No one took the phone call, including the Media Relations section and the Consular Section. Taiwan and South Korea are arranging evacuation planes to bring their citizens home. Japan already did so. However, due to the border military conflicts between India and China, the number of Chinese citizens in India had significantly declined.
Source: UDN, May 6, 2021
On Tuesday May 11, China announced its latest census data showing that the country’s total population in 2020 is over 1.4 billion, with the population aged between 15 and 59 accounting for 63 percent of the total. That is 6.79 percentage points lower than the 2010 census. The population over 60 years old reached 18 percent of the total, 5.44 percentage points higher compared to 10 years ago. The figures indicate that China has a growing aging population. However, experts found inconsistencies in the official data and questioned its authenticity.
Yi Fuxian, a demographic expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pointed to the abnormally high birth rate in 2020. Starting from 2016, the number of new births were decreasing year after year, with the only exception being 2020, when the new births increased by 26 million, nearly doubling the 14 million births in 2019. The birth rate in 2020 even broke the historic record established in 1991.
What is also puzzling is the sudden increase of 16.41 million for people over the age of 65. This means that in 2020 the number of people above 65 years old is 60 percent more than in 2019. All those who turned 65 last year were born in 1955. However, it was found out that the birth rate in that year did not increase but actually plunged from previous years, with only 20 million births.
A third anomaly was the high death toll in 2020. 14.6 million died in 2020, up from 9.45 million in 2019, an increase of nearly 5 million, or more than 50 percent. This was also a record high death number since the year 1980.
Source: Radio Free Asia, May 11, 2021
Well-known Chinese news site Sina (NASDAQ: SINA) recently reported that Fitch downgraded China Huarong Asset Management Co. to BBB (from A), after Huarong delayed releasing its annual report. Earlier, both Moody and Fitch had put China Huarong on the negative rating watch list. Huarong is a majority state-owned financial asset management company in China, with a focus on distressed debt management. Huarong’s subsidiaries have not been able to release annual reports either. So far, the Chinese government has not acted on its promise to support Huarong. However, Huarong confirmed that, Huarong International, a Huarong branch, has, thus far, not defaulted on any of its bonds. China Chengxin Credit Rating Group, which is China’s first nationwide credit rating company, also put Huarong on the negative rating watch list.
Source: Sina, April 27, 2021
In response to the epidemic, China’s issuance of debts has expanded. This has also led local governments to have a higher fiscal risk. Data shows that, by the end of 2020, local governments in China had a debt balance of 25.66 trillion yuan (US$3.99 trillion), with the debt ratio rising by nearly 4 percentage points over 2019.
Among the 31 provinces, Jiangsu, Shandong and Guangdong, the top 3 provinces in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), are also the regions with the largest amount of local debts. In 2020, between January and June, Jiangsu’s debt issuance reached 245.871 billion yuan (US $38.2 billion), almost the level of the entire year of 2019. Guangdong’s debt issuance in the first half of 2020 has already surpassed the total for the whole year of 2019. The speed of debt accumulation also significantly accelerated in the provinces that have a low economic ranking. For example, the size of Yunnan’s debt issuance reached 137.667 billion yuan (US$ 21.4 billion), more than double that of the same period in 2019.
The debt growth of local governments helps further promote investment but it also increases the risk of default. China stipulates that a local government’s debt ratio should not exceed 100 percent. That is, the maximum balance of local debt should not exceed the level of local fiscal capability. However, nine provinces have already exceeded the threshold of 100 percent.
Li Yang, the director of the government affiliated National Institute for Finance and Development, said that, if local governments cannot rely on their own revenues to balance their own expenditures, it is a dangerous fiscal phenomenon.
Source: Central News Agency, May 9, 2021
Online protesters welcomed the drawing competition “China in the Eyes of Turks.” The Turkish Ministry of Education and the Chinese Embassy in Turkey are organizing a drawing contest for Turkish high school students with the theme “China in my eyes,” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The drawing contest has triggered a backlash among Turks, with Twitter users creating hashtags based on the contest’s name and posting pictures that are parodies of Uyghurs being persecuted.
In one drawing, a girl is leaping upwards towards the star and moon flag with a blue background, the symbol of the East Turkestan independence movement, with her right hand raised as if she is striving for a firm goal.
Ahmet Davutoglu, a longtime ally of current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a former foreign minister and prime minister, uploaded this drawing and posted “Our dream is East Turkistan. Dear children, draw your dream of saving your brothers and sisters in our ancestral home and send them to this contest. Say it out loud so that those who don’t want to see it can hear it!”
“#hayalimdekicin (China in my dream)” became a popular hashtag after netizens posted the Turkish Ministry of Education’s official letter on the Internet, while many Twitter users posted a number of comical images that were parodies of Uyghurs being persecuted.
The paintings included a group of men in blue shirts sitting on the ground under an iron curtain in a Xinjiang concentration camp with an adult in a red robe with a Chinese national five-star flag holding the mouth and nose of a Uighur girl in pigtails, a stained star and moon flag stained with five stars painted in blood, and a boy whose family was imprisoned in a concentration camp, sitting alone in his home and crying on Eid al-Fitr, a religious holiday that Muslims celebrate.
Twitter user @MardinTes said in Turkish and translates, “Our students should participate in this contest, with thousands of pictures depicting the torture, assimilation and genocide that the murderer China has inflicted on our kinsmen.”
Another user @seyittumturk7 posted in Turkish and translates, “State of Pain China, State of the Blood China, State of persecution China, State of Terror China, State of Tears China, Genocide State China.”
The Uyghurs living in Xinjiang province of China are a Turkic ethnic group sharing the same cultural and ancestral roots with the Turkish people. Beijing’s genocidal persecution of Uyghurs is viewed by most people in Turkey as the persecution of their brothers and sisters.
Source: Central News Agency, May 7, 2021
In the past decade or so, red tourism has become a unique phenomenon in China. Red tourism refers to the general public visiting the locations and landmarks that have historical significance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The number of participants has increased from 140 million at the beginning to 1.41 billion in 2019. Jing Gangshan is known as the revolutionary base of the CCP. It has a population of 170,000. More than 19 million tourists visited it in 2019 and it had tourism revenue of 16 billion yuan (US$2.49 billion). In Shanghai, there are more than 610 red (CCP) historical sites and memorial facilities. As local officials describe it, the red culture has been integrated into the city’s genes.
In March of 2021, months before the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China launched the “100 Excellent Routes for Red Tourism.” During the recent May 1 Labor Day holiday break, travel agencies have also actively promoted “Red Tourism” as part of their “patriotic education campaign.”
Beijing officially proposed the plan of red tourism in 2004 and finalized the implementation at the end of 2005. It hoped that the development of red tourism could strengthen the education about the CCP’s history and tradition and reinforce patriotism among the general public, especially the youth.
According to Zhang Yu, Secretary General of the independent Chinese PEN society, more than 10 years ago, when Red Tourism first started, many participants were supporters of Mao Zedong who was the first-generation leader. Those people were unhappy with the regime at the time and used the trip to visit the CCP’s historic sites just to vent their dissatisfaction. Zhang said that the red tourism can gradually change people. Many believed that following the cultural revolution, no one would believe in the CCP anymore. Now the fact is that a significant percentage of people believe in the CCP. The most important goal for the red tourism is to (make people believe) that China would not have continued to exist if it were not for the communist party.
Source: Central News Agency, May 8, 2021
The Australian government is reconsidering its decision to lease the Darwin port to a Chinese-owned company and may suspend the lease in response to national security concerns.
In 2015, the government of the Northern Territory of Australia reached a lease agreement with the Chinese company, Landbridge Group. Landbridge paid a one-time rent of over AU$500 million for the right to operate the Port of Darwin for up to 99 years, claiming at the time that the deal would promote Australia-China trade and tourism.
Huangfu Jing, an Australian commentator, observed that, with the deterioration of Australia-China relations, local opposition has been growing louder and louder. “In the early years, the international environment had not come to the point it is at today. The mainstream (Australian) society, especially the business community, believed that we could make money and trade with China. It (the Northern Territory government) made use of such opinions and facilitated the sale for its own benefit.”
The Port of Darwin is a dual-use civilian and military port, where U.S. Marines are stationed on a rotational basis. Huangfu added, “Beijing actually monitors every move the US Marines make in the Northern Territory and (the deal) does far more damage to Australia’s national interests than what the rental income covers. Landbridge is ostensibly a private company, but few Chinese private enterprises that can invest overseas are not under Beijing’s control.”
Australian media reports that the National Security Committee in Canberra has asked the Department of Defence to review and advise on the lease. Prime Minister Morrison also said last week that if national security becomes an issue at the port, action should be taken.
Joseph Cheng, retired professor at the City University of Hong Kong, said the Darwin Port is sensitive not only because of the presence of U.S. troops, but also because China sees it as a breakthrough in promoting its “Belt and Road” strategy. “There is an immense ocean stretching from China to the South Pacific. If China could obtain some bases on some of the islands, it would be very helpful to China for it to maintain a global communication system and a global satellite monitoring system. It would be very convenient to have Darwin Port as a connection point in the middle. The port stretches north to Papua New Guinea and then to Indonesia. The waters between the north coast of Australia and Indonesia are also believed to have rich oil and other energy resources.”
Source: Radio Free Asia, May 3, 2021