(Slightly sleepless night, after the street outside was occupied by fire trucks and cops in the early hours. Should’ve taken photos but didn’t. Apparently someone in an apartment in a nearby side-street managed to set their mattress alight with a scented candle. I’ll leave others to speculate on what sort of person it could be. No-one hurt.)
SCMP op-ed on China’s efforts to counter impressions that the country has peaked…
“Beijing did have soft power – as a reliable supplier of lots of stuff, an incredible ability to deliver goods cheaply and on time. The US pales in comparison,” said Yasheng Huang, global economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“But the way they’ve weaponised trade has really damaged that.”
…China restricts opinion polls, but data suggests waning optimism. Net monthly funds outflow reached US$53.9 in September, according to China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, a seven-year high.
The MSCI China Consumer Discretionary Index is around one-third of peak 2021 levels. And more Chinese – used to steadily improving living standards – are voting with their feet.
Some 13,500 high-net-worth individuals with investible assets over US$1 million will leave China this year compared with 10,800 last year, the advisory firm Henley & Partners estimates.
And the US Border Patrol arrested 22,187 Chinese people for illegally crossing from Mexico between January and September, nearly 13 times the same period in 2022.
The UK’s Council on Geostrategy asks a range of experts how secure Xi Jinping’s rule is – in a few hundred words each. So much quotable stuff here from Geremie Barmé, Willy Lam, George Magnus, Sari Arho Havrén and others.
Bloomberg article on the Mainland’s ‘lie flat’/’B1B2’ sub-culture – young Chinese eschewing long work hours and designer-label junk, and shopping in mall basements where all the cheap stuff is…
This new urban consumer awareness recalls a bit of Japan in the late 1990s, when domestic brands blossomed after the asset bubble burst … These days, Japanese brands are well-loved around the world.
China’s latter-day hippies could help propel local trendy-but-affordable brands (like Uniqlo in Japan) onto the world stage, thus creating some authentic ‘soft power’ for the country. Only snag: the nation’s leadership denounces ‘lying-flat’ as some sort of unpatriotic infantile decadence.
Fascinating timeline showing the transfer and exploitation of the intellectual property rights to Chinese sci-fi bestseller Three Body Problem. Looks like they should make a movie about the plans to make a movie. (Paywalled item on the saga here.)
From CMP – all you need to know about ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ – China’s catch-all criminal charge…
…a court in Chizhou City, Anhui, sentenced Zhou Zhizhong to a four-year term for picking quarrels because his repeated petitioning was perceived as “putting pressure on the government.”
…picking quarrels has been increasingly used to silence all kinds of objectionable speech and public discourse. This includes public discussions that might incite unrest, criticisms of social-economic government policies (such as policies toward urban real estate), disrespectful social media posts against individual traffic police, complaints about quarantine facility conditions, and even a work of fiction that possibly hinted at internal struggles in a stated-owned enterprise.
Also from CMP – for hardcore enthusiasts – an investigation into the ‘new form of human civilization’ Beijing pushes these days…
Five and a half years after he declared that “intellectual transformation” was required to propel “every major leap forward in human society and every major development in human civilization,” Xi’s bold new phrase purported to fulfill the promise of that transformation.
Of course, there was nothing genuinely intellectual about this process. It was, like so much CCP-speak, little more than a bold, top-down authoritarian project of framing. Essentially, the entire sweep of CCP history, and the economic and social development of the past 40 years, was being repackaged and brightly gift-wrapped to present the leadership of Xi Jinping and the CCP as a gift — not just to Chinese, but to all of humanity.
Essentially it is an attempt to legitimize CCP (and third-term-leader) rule by declaring an ancient-culture/Marxism governance model that beats anything the West has. But also…
…a reminder … that Chinese notions of soft power are often hard-edged with defensiveness, less about confident appeal than about desperately and insistently hanging tight.