October 8th Highlights


Chinese demographics lead to sex doll surge, the tourists are coming, followed by the dragon, Theresa May’s British Dream, and looking beyond THAAD.

Weekly Highlights for Sunday, October 8th 2017

Monday – Sex dolls and China’s missing women

This well-written article explores China’s male sex toy industry, crediting China’s dangerously skewed gender demographic with a recent boom in sex doll and fake vagina sales.

The author, Mei Fong, published a book on China’s one child policy last year. By her own admission, the article makes use of material that didn’t make it into the book. At the time, the sex toy angle was speculative and Mei Fong felt she shouldn’t ‘overstate the importance of what might be a small-bore attempt to address a big problem’.

In 2017 however, we can safely say that the sex doll industry has taken off, and Mei’s article comes on the heels of news a couple of weeks ago, that Beijing’s latest contribution to China’s bubble-like sharing economy, sex doll sharing app ‘Touch’, had been shut down.

In fact, this piece is a little outdated, as it wasn’t actually published Monday. I’ve cheated and included it, because it was only brought to my attention through Monday’s SupChina newsletter, which everyone should definitely subscribe to.

Tuesday – The Chinese tourists are coming 

This article highlights an interesting phenomenon, one which The China Road plans to explore from a UK perspective in upcoming weeks.

In this short piece, Vicky Wang looks at the growth of outbound Chinese tourism and the adjustments that target countries are making to woo their Chinese visitors. Her slightly uncertain point seems to be that this boom might easily go bust (just as the Japanese tourist wave eventually peaked), and that countries shouldn’t try to hard to please the Chinese.

Wednesday – The Dragon is coming

For Wednesday I’ve got to skate over reports of high-tech Chinese warships sailing up the Thames (in a friendly manner), to bring you this fascinating piece on EU screening for Chinese investment.

The rub is that dependence on Chinese finance, following the Eurozone crisis, is causing Beijing to gain a worrying amount of influence in the decisions of the European Council. The article points to the moment when Greece blocked an EU human rights statement just after COSCO (Chinese shipping company) took over Piraeus port. The article includes an interesting map showing Chinese FDI as proportion of GDP, and the point is that some countries are more susceptible to Chinese pressure than others.

Franck Proust MEP, who The China Road has interviewed for an upcoming article on post-Brexit Sino-UK relations, is cited as saying ‘China’s strategy in Europe is divide and rule’.

Thursday – May’s British Dream

Unfortunately, news of Theresa May’s cringey performance at the Tory Party conference is also making its way onto your China feed.

This Guardian article argues that, though drawing blanks in Britain, May’s phrase ‘The British Dream’ would be instantly recognisable in China. In fact, May’s speech was picked up by Chinese netizens, who accused May of plagiarism.

Which is a valid accusation, except that the phrase was actually stolen from ex-Tory leader Michael Howard, whose usage predates Xi’s. Even so, it’s an interesting story, and SupChina picks up on it, along with the Chinese ships up the Thames story, to suggest that the 20th century is finally, well and truly over, with the Chinese now holding the upper hand, rather than being the victims of Opium War era unfairness.

Friday – Chinese art at the Guggenheim

Today, no politics, sort of. Art is always a bit political, especially when it’s Chinese art viewed from a Western perspective.

This article performs the much needed service of talking about Chinese artists other than Ai Wei Wei. It’s a well written piece that covers the new Guggenheim exhibition of Chinese art, focusing on the issue of censorship. This time we’re not talking about censorship by the CCP, but by the Guggenheim, which recently dropped three pieces due to their extreme nature.

If you’re unfamiliar with modern Chinese art, it is worth checking out the work of some of the artists mentioned in the piece, like Sun Yuan and Peng Yu – a few of their pieces are truly disgusting. I remember first coming across images of these works (sewed together corpses, terrible animal cruelty and the like) and being naively shocked that such art was being made in China in the 1990s.

The piece comes to the rather agreeable conclusion, that though the works in question were unethical, they should have been kept in the exhibition, so as to provide for a new debate over morality’s place in extreme art.

Saturday – Development/Stability nexus

I’ve cheated again. I did however read this on Saturday.

This is basically a think piece on the CCP’s need to balance stability with growth, and what the article calls ‘the development-stability nexus’, this is worth a read and I’ll it speak for itself.

Sunday – Beyond THAAD

This South China Morning Post article looks at China-South Korea relations and sees a long term decline that goes beyond South Korea’s deployment of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).

South Korea’s deployment of the US sponsored missile defence system angered Beijing and sparked a series of what are essentially economic sanctions against South Korea.

The article looks at the wider economic picture, but falls short of elaborating fully. A worthwhile read, but it needs an extra thousands words or so.

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