17th December Highlights

Selfies, Social Credit, signing up African leadership to the China model, and David Cameron’s new job.


David Cameron in China
Photo credit: Daily Mail

China’s Selfie Obsession

This is your Sunday morning coffee read. A well sculpted and effortless read, Jiayang Fan’s piece is informative and deeply reflective in equal measure. The author avoids an overly judgmental tone, but the picture she paints of the world of Chinese internet celebrities and digital/analog beautification is clearly dystopian.

I asked Li, who works as an administrative assistant in a regional bank, how she managed to afford all the surgery. “It’s how I spend most of my money,” she told me, adding that, over the years, boyfriends had also chipped in. She said with satisfaction that no one who’d known her at school would recognize her now and that she’d destroyed every picture she could find of herself before the surgeries began. “The beauty of photos taken before the digital age is, if you destroy it, it’s gone for good.”

Cameron’s New Job

This isn’t so much a good read, as something interesting to keep an eye on. News of former PM David Cameron’s new job hit headlines yesterday, but no one really managed to say anything meaningful.

A lack of Belt and Road (BRI) awareness is partly to blame, but there does also seem to be a real sparsity of information about what the “UK China Fund” actually is, and what it will do.

So far, all we know is that it’s a UK-China joint private equity fund supported by the UK government that is somehow connected with the Belt and Road/infrastructure between “China and its trading partners”.

It may turn out to mean nothing (and in the grand scheme of things £750 mil is a drop in the bucket), but for this blog, which is interested in UK-China relations and BRI, it’s an interesting development. It’s also worth keeping an ear to the ground for the setting up of a UK Belt and Road government office, or UKBRO, which I’m told is not a joke.

Beijing is Cultivating the Next Generation of African Leaders by Training them in China

This is your weekly recommended dose of Quartz. Whilst reading this article, bear in mind both Xi’s promise that China would not ‘export’ the China model, and his Party Congress statement that the China model might function as an example for developing countries.

Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking

I’ll keep it short and sweet on this one: An excellent all round piece by Mara Hvistendahl on the Social Credit System in China. Check out MERICS’ paper on the subject while you are at it.


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