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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

SupChina: China News Digest

1. Hey, People’s Daily — leave my womb alone!

A backlash is growing on Chinese social media against a recent commentary (in Chinese) in the People’s Daily, which urges citizens to reproduce because China’s falling birth rate makes having children “not just a family matter but also a national issue.” The piece dismisses people who don’t want children as choosing a “passive way to dealing with the stresses of modern life.”
It’s rare to see a People’s Daily article going viral on the Chinese internet, but this commentary has stirred up Chinese internet users, and they are not happy. On Weibo, some posts about the commentary attracted hundreds of thousands of comments (in Chinese). A hashtag bearing the headline of the piece, 生娃是家事也是国事 (shēngwá shì jiāshì yěshì guóshì), is trending on Weibo with over 15 million views.
One Weibo user wrote:
It’s true that having children is a national issue, but it’s more of a family matter. A country can’t regulate what happens in people’s bedrooms, let alone in such an arbitrary way. When you don’t want children, you force people to get sterilized. When you want more, you urge us to give birth. What do you think I am?
China ended its decades-long one-child policy in 2016 (here is a Sinica Podcast with author Mei Fong if you need a refresher course on the recent history of Chinese family planning policy). Since then, birth rates have not increased as much as government planners had hoped, and they have responded with policies and propaganda campaigns to encourage childbirth.
The government’s new interest in women having more rather than fewer children has sparked intense debate on Chinese social media. The conversation largely centers on why state media always uses a denunciatory and paternalistic tone when covering the topic, blaming families unwilling to have more children for being selfish, and objectifying women as mere tools for reproduction.
In other childbirth-related news, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that China’s zodiac stamp for the upcoming Year of the Pig, issued by the national postal service China Post, depicts a happy pig family with three piglets. This has prompted some speculations that China may be ready to loosen its family planning policy again.
—Jiayun Feng

2. China’s wave-riding hypersonic weapon

CNNQuartz, and the Global Times (in Chinese) are reporting that China claims to have successfully tested its first hypersonic missile, which it’s calling a “wave-riding hypersonic weapon” (乘波体高超音速武器 chéngbōtǐ gāochāoyīnsù wǔqì). The missile could potentially carry multiple nuclear warheads.
  • “The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), based in Beijing and part of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, conducted the first test of the ‘Starry Sky-2’ 星空2号 xīngkōng èrhào aircraft last Friday,” says CNN. CAAA’s own statement about the test is here (in Chinese).
  • The Starry Sky 2 was shot into near space using a conventional solid-propellant rocket. After reaching a predetermined altitude, the weapon end of the rocket split off and flew back to down to Earth.
  • The missile reached speeds of Mach 6 — six times the speed of sound, or 4,563 miles per hour (7,344 kilometers per hour), “riding” on the shock waves caused by its own hypersonic flight. At this speed, it would take half an hour to go from Beijing to New York.
  • The weapon displayed a “high degree of structural strength and maneuverability at speeds of Mach 5-23,” and would be “difficult to intercept,” according to sources cited by the Global Times.
  • China’s new weapon “would likely make a mockery of U.S. missile defense systems in battle,” according to Quartz. CNN says the development “could intensify pressure on the US military.”
—Jeremy Goldkorn

3. Trade war, day 33: China threatens Apple could be ‘bargaining chip’

In our report for SupChina Access members on day 32 of the trade war (paywall), we noted that Chinese state media appears to be becoming less restrained in its rhetoric on the trade war.
Today, the People’s Daily republished an op-ed that singles out Apple — which recently became the first company to hit a $1 trillion market cap, in large part thanks to strong sales in China — as a potential “target of anger and nationalist sentiment” in the event of continued trade tensions.
  • Early in the trade war, China established a strategy for dealing with the U.S. that shied away from the mass consumer boycotts that Beijing has incited against South Korea, Japan, and many other countries in past disputes of various kinds.
  • The People’s Daily op-ed could signal a break from that reluctance to threaten boycotts — though a variety of unspecified, non-tariff retaliations to the Trump administration’s tariffs have been threatened for months.
  • The op-ed was first published in the Global Times on August 2, CNBC notes, though as SupChina has pointed out, the Global Times is a mass-market subsidiary of the People’s Daily, and contains significantly less authority in speaking for Beijing than the People’s Daily itself.
  • The headline of the article in both publications reads, “Strong sales of US brands including Apple give China bargaining chips in trade row.”
Speaking of “anger and nationalist sentiment,” we have analysis of exactly that on both sides of the Pacific and more — just click through to SupChina.
—Lucas Niewenhuis

4. Deng Xiaoping learns from Xi Jinping’s dad

Benjamin Carlson, China economic correspondent for Agence France-Presse, tweetedabout a visit to an exhibit at the National Museum of Art in Beijing about the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up (改革开放 gǎigé kāifàng).
He notes: “Deng Xiaoping was hardly to be seen. Xi Jinping — and his father — stole the show.” Read the whole thread, and look at the photos. I found this one particularly interesting:
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Carlson annotates: “Xi's dad also got top billing, in the 2nd-biggest painting of leaders in the exhibit. He's shown instructing a seated and rapt Deng on where to set reform in motion. Title: ‘Early spring.’”
Thus Deng Xiaoping — generally regarded as the architect of the reform and opening-up policy — has become a disciple who learned at the feet of Xi Zhongxun. Now, his son — the chosen one — is ready to complete his father’s vision and realize the China Dream.
—Jeremy Goldkorn

5. Blood pressure drug recalls — an update on Valsartan

In our Access members newsletter (paywall) yesterday, we covered the recalls of the blood pressure medicine Valsartan because of a carcinogen found in an ingredient produced by Chinese suppliers Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals, Tianyu Pharmaceutical, and Rundu Pharma.
If you take this medicine, the American FDA has updated its recall and also published a list of Valsartan products not currently recalled. If you are outside the United States, call the supplier, as the batch numbers are different and the FDA lists may not apply to your country.
The FDA is now saying that based on manufacturer records “of the recalled valsartan, some levels of the impurity may have been in the valsartan-containing products for as long as four years,” according to website Fierce Pharma. However, the risk to users of the affected batches is relatively slight:
FDA scientists estimate that if 8,000 people took the highest valsartan dose (320 mg) from the recalled batches every day for the full four years, there may be one additional case of cancer over the lifetimes of those 8,000 people.
In the Chinese media, the only news stories I can find about the recalls are about the share prices of the three affected Chinese companies — see, for example, the top results for a Baidu News search for 缬沙坦 (xié shā tǎn — Valsartan): every single result is a report on stock market reactions to the affair.
—Jeremy Goldkorn

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