Weekly Wrap Up: (Jan 1-7)

1) US and China gear up for an information war:

Dec.23 – National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is signed to combat foreign propaganda and unify the US image abroad – http://bit.ly/2i3rRxU

Dec.31 – CCTV is rebranded China Global Television Network (CGTN); a congratulatory letter from President Xi Jinping…[urged] the newly launched CGTN to “tell China’s story well, spread China’s voice well…” – http://bit.ly/2jnnYHt 

Jan.4 – Apple blocks access to NYT app in China- http://nyti.ms/2hTOV3J

The US and China are going tit-for-tat on both the political and business fronts. Unsurprisingly, after XI’s statement that Chinese media is to be surnamed”the party”, foreign media crackdown in China was a highlight of 2016. Apple is desperately trying to keep making money in China, despite a drop in sales. Expect Voice of America Chinese (美国之音) to start making headway in the news sometime soon.

2) Fears of trade wars under TRUMP administration:

“China Prepares for Trade War with Trump”- http://bit.ly/2iOCpE4

“Chinese state media, that [Trump would] be met with “big sticks” [Chinese link] if he tries to ignite a trade war or further strain ties, [the CCP] has reportedly ‘compiled possible countermeasures’ against ‘well-known U.S. companies or ones that have large Chinese operations.'”

Including: “subjecting well-known U.S. companies to tax or antitrust probes…the launch of anti-dumping investigations… and scaling back government purchases of American products. … The retaliatory measures could affect companies related to agriculture, pharmaceuticals, technology and consumer industries.

3) CCP membership has been reduced by XI JINPING in 2016: 

“Party Rules: China’s Communist Party Goes for Quality Over Quantity”- http://on.wsj.com/2iKpW3x

“Curbing [CCP] party-membership growth was an early priority for XI[accepted applicants]…declined by 5% from 2013 to 2015, while applications increased by 2.7% over the same period… party membership has slipped to the slowest pace in nearly three decades. 22.25M people applied, and the party only shortlisted 9.98M applications. University graduates accounted for 44.3% of the party, up ~3% in 2 years.” 

4) TRUMPs nominations of China advisors, a potential strain on relations:

“Trade hawks to rule the roost in Trump’s White House” – http://on.ft.com/2hKmyCy 

Peter NAVARRO‘s Death by China (Youtube Link) sparks concern over the selection of overly-aggressive China-hawks as Trump advisors and cabinet members. However, it is a common theme in history that candidates start out as ‘tough on China’ only to change their stance in the face of diplomatic, security, and economic concerns.

In James Mann’s book About Face he “reviews how most U.S. presidents after Richard Nixon reversed themselves once in office by jettisoning tough campaign rhetoric and adopting a less confrontational China policy” – Thomas J. Christenson The China Challenge, pp 180.

5) CCP investigates Xinjiang county and prefecture party leadership after bombing: 

Xinjiang Party Officials Probed After Karakax Attack” – http://bit.ly/2iZhnQ5

“The Xinjiang Discipline Inspection Commission announced the investigation into Hu Jun (party secretary of Karakax county) in south Xinjiang, and Zhang Jinbiao (party secretary of Hotan), the prefecture where Karakax is located.

 6) Decision to deploy THAAD provokes Chinese response: 

“China bans charter flights to South Korea amid conflict over THAAD”- http://bit.ly/2hynHMy

Beijing abruptly banned all Korea-bound charter flights from China for January…[in] retaliation for a joint U.S.-South Korea decision to deploy THAAD.” Entertainment, business, and tourism industries will also take a hit.

7) Chinese pollution Air Quality Index (AQI) in China was literally off the charts:

“Airpocalypse” China pollution reaching record levels: – http://bit.ly/2iTTVqj 

Traffic accidents, aviation groundings, and cancer risks are all major concerns.

8) XI to select over half of new members for Central Committee for 19th party congress in Fall 2017:

“Xi Jinping is busy arranging a huge reshuffle” – http://econ.st/2hZE6gG

Hundreds of people are retiring, and this will be the first time the members of the Central Committee will be selected by XI and not his predecessor.

For your edification in Chinese government 101: every 5 years the Central Committee meets for ‘elections’. XI was selected in 2012 and will serve two 5-year terms for a maximum of 10 years in office as president (2012-2022). However, XI holds multiple titles (President, Party Chairman, Commander-in-Chief of the Central Military Commission, and ‘the Core’ [leader]). While some of these titles are practical (President/Chairman), others are symbolic (‘Core’). But symbolic power means a lot in Chinese governance. Previously, the nomination of Hu Jintao as Chairman of the CCP left his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, hungry for power, who in turn kept the title of Chairman of the Central Military Commission for two additional years.

9) The One Belt One Road (OBOR) “silk road” initiative has reached London:

“China Sends Its First Freight Train to London” – http://for.tn/2iTIIpG

I heard an interesting comment at the NCUSCR conference for the 2017 forecast of China’s economy that “OBOR is simply a mechanism to fund infrastructure projects, and it is almost impossible to differentiate if those funds are going to domestic or foreign projects.” Others however, see the OBOR as part of a “grand strategy for global influence“.

10) Banning ivory trade in China akin to banning drugs in the US:

“China’s Plan To Ban Ivory Sales Will Not Save Africa’s Elephants” – http://bit.ly/2iVDqak

“Just as a 30 year old “War on Drugs” in the United States did absolutely nothing to stem the flow of illegal drugs into America’s cities, there is little reason that a similar ban on a valuable product such as ivory will produce a different outcome in China….The ivory trade remains legal in Japan, the U.S. is the world’s second largest destination for illegal ivory and demand in emerging markets like Vietnam, Thailand and other Southeast Asians is actually going up.”

(CC Photo Credit)

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