“Beijing Sprawl” and Other News and Comment ABCF Week 25 Update

Jogging everywhere and nowhere: Xu Zechen’s ‘Beijing Sprawl’ – The China Project

In this collection of nine interconnected short stories, characters are constantly moving without really going anywhere.

Cliché is generally considered toxic in writing, but Beijing Sprawl, a newly translated collection of connected stories, embraces it. Author Xú Zéchén 徐则臣 packs an entire book with storylines that echo, and although each piece has its own tragic, unexpected twist, they follow a similar structure as Xu features fragments of young migrants’ lives on the periphery of Beijing. It seems the resemblance is exactly Xu’s intention: For a book about urban migrants hoping to eclipse the tired rhythms of their own daily lives, the repetition comes across as a literary choice.


Women on Xiaohongshu don’t want kids. They want this monkey plushie from IKEA. – The China Project

China’s birth rate is falling precipitously as young adults delay traditional life milestones like marriage and baby-making. But it turns out that parenthood is still appealing to them — just not in its traditional form. On Xiaohongshu, the preferred social media app of Chinese millennials and Gen Z, an obscure subculture surrounding a monkey plushie has gone from niche to mainstream in recent weeks, with owners of the toy playing mom and dad to the stuffed animal.

The subject of this online fandom is a cuddly orangutan sold by IKEA, the popular low-cost Swedish furniture retailer that currently has 37 stores across China.


With caution, Honduras begins its diplomatic relationship with Beijing – The China Project

Castro had declared a national state of emergency in November 2022, limiting some civic freedoms so Honduran police could crack down on cartels. She has declared her administration a “re-foundation” for Honduras, a fresh start for the country (even launching a new national holiday to commemorate the event). New P.R.C. ties fit neatly into this spin — a country starting from scratch needs fresh horizons.

Infrastructure may be a good long-term solution, with Castro’s government aiming to set up enough hydroelectric dams in the country’s mountainous and river-filled landscape to generate 600MW of electricity. Numerous reports indicate Honduras is hoping the P.R.C. will help fund Patuca II, another hydroelectric dam on the Patuca River. Meanwhile, Honduran port company ENP has signed an agreement with China Harbor Engineering Company for $269 million to upgrade the Pacific port of San Lorenzo and its surrounding bridges and roads. ENP’s head claimed the money would come from either zero-interest loans or donations.


Wu Chaojin and Zhang Jinrong on Goofing Off - Reading the China Dream

The expression “goofing off 摸鱼[lit., “fishing”]” comes from another expression - “fishing in troubled waters 浑水摸鱼” – the original meaning of which is to find a way to exploit some problematic situation for your own profit.   By now it has come to mean playing around while on the job, going online to do things unrelated to work.  At first it basically had to do with the work world, but the term became popular online and now also is used to refer to students who use their smartphones and computers to do things that that have nothing to do with class.
Recently, goofing off seems to be everywhere. …


Tourism industry official deplores collapse of inbound tourism (pekingnology.com)

Foreign visitors are crucial to restoring friendships & preventing "decoupling" amid mounting unfavorable views from the West

It is obvious that China’s inbound tourism is now at the bottom. Many excellent tour guides in this segment are struggling or even quitting. What’s worse, young people are unwilling to enter the segment, resulting in a crisis of human resources. Overall, I think inbound tourism suffers the severest setbacks. In addition to the workforce, the supply chain of inbound tourism is basically disintegrated, if not completely. 

Another question that seems to have not been discussed yet is what I call complete degradation. It means that the origin of inbound tourists has undergone significant changes. The proportion of tourists from Western countries, Japan and South Korea has dropped significantly, and they are the fundamentals for China’s inbound tourism. Now they are replaced by tourists from Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and other neighboring countries who have relatively lower spending power. …

What’s worse, during the pandemic, most of the foreign residents in first-tier cities returned to their home countries. I was distressed to witness such an exodus from Shanghai, as these foreigners would have the potential to boost China’s inbound tourism. As long as there are foreigners living in a place, they will continue to provide information to their friends back in their motherland, making a great contribution to our inbound tourism. As far as I know,  a large group of foreigners has already left China, which will unfortunately exert a long-term negative impact on China’s inbound tourism. …

Firstly, inbound tourism provides people-to-people diplomacy in the background of anti-decoupling and anti-encirclement. I believe that “Only when foreigners come to China will they know China, and only after they know China will they be close to China.” …

Let me conclude with one sentence: Amity between the people holds the key to good relations between countries; mutual understandings hold the key to amity between the people; more exchanges hold the key to mutual understanding.


Self-identified 5 predicaments in China's international communications (pekingnology.com)

Earlier this week, Zhejiang Publicity published 国际传播必须破解五大困局” International communication must overcome five major predicaments and made some very interesting points.

China has long held that there should be a clear distinction between so-called “internal communication” and “external communication.” The blogpost says the No.1 predicament is that China’s external communication has increasingly converged to its domestic one, and identifies problems such as

presenting a one-sided positive image, emphasizing only the positives and strengths, avoiding reporting on challenges or difficulties, and simply copying and pasting bureaucratic and political jargon….

… However, many people have expressed that some videos suffer from the drawbacks of being too broad in theme, having too many characters, excessive accumulation of concepts, one-way communication, and a lack of empathy.

On the other hand, analyzing successful works in terms of their communication effects, we can observe that they place more emphasis on presenting details and the genuine thoughts of ordinary people. …


Yan Xuetong on Blinken's China visit, Taiwan, the war in Ukraine, etc. (pekingnology.com)

Yan Xuetong, Director of The Institute of International Studies, Tsinghua University is one of China’s preeminent scholars on international relations. Every July, his institute organizes the World Peace Forum, the first high-level international security forum initiated by a Chinese institution.

Today (Tuesday, June 20) Yan holds a press briefing on the coming event, where he talked about the event, made a speech on the changes in the international relations situation from the perspective of the digital era, and then answered journalists’ questions.


What makes China's "special-forces-style" travelers special? (substack.com)

Zhang Nan, a young man from China's Chengdu city, has made himself an online celebrity by posting his record of topping "Wu Yue," five famous Chinese mountains located in five separate provinces, within five days, and his refined schedules and fast-paced travels made him a typical young Chinese in love with low-budget and physically challenging travel.

A new fad among young Chinese, such trips were made mostly by college students or workplace newcomers who have taken pride in completing their seemingly impossible travel plans and fancied themselves as special forces.


Webinar Summary – At a Crossroads: China’s Post-Pandemic Economic Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean | Global Development Policy Center (bu.edu)

The conversation began with a high-level overview of new developments in the relationship as outlined in the 2023 edition of the China-Latin America and the Caribbean Economic Bulletin. In her remarks, Ray cited the bulletin and emphasized three trends. First, rather than switching from reliance on the US economy to dependence on China, LAC has instead diversified its economic relations towards a more balanced pattern of engagement across multiple partners. Second, the relationship has begun to mature beyond the export of primary products, for example in renewable energy investments or electric vehicle manufacturing. Third, Ray noted the increasing prioritization of LAC goals in the relationship, such as Ecuador’s attention to exporting non-traditional agricultural products in its recently announced free trade agreement (FTA) with China. 

Myers then provided a focused overview of the past year’s loans to LAC countries from China’s two main development finance institutions: China Development Bank (CDB) and the Export-Import Bank of China (CHEXIM). According to a recent report co-authored by Myers and Ray, $813 million in loans were signed in 2022 between China’s DFIs and three LAC countries: Barbados, Brazil and Guyana. Myers highlighted a potential new focus on the Caribbean where smaller loans can have a much greater impact. These loans are part of a more diversified global financial landscape, she pointed out, where non-traditional development lenders such as the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are also important players. 


Who are the main customers of Chinese-made vehicles? (gingerriver.com)

Official figures showed that China overtook Japan to become the biggest car exporter in the world in the first quarter of 2023, shortly after surpassing Germany as the second largest in 2022….

Some highlights first:

  • In 2022, Russia imported approximately 117,000 passenger vehicles from China, a 40 percent increase compared to the previous year. China has become the main source of imported passenger vehicles in Russia.
  • Mexico's position as the second-largest buyer of Chinese automobiles among the top ten countries is surprising, since Mexico itself is a major automotive producer, ranking seventh globally in terms of production volume.
  • In Australia or Southeast Asia, Chinese automobiles possess an advantage in terms of price over European brands. They are gradually capturing consumers who used to buy from Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and other manufacturers, offering them affordable vehicles.
  • In Middle East countries, customized designs tailored to the local environment and affordable quality services are key factors contributing to the popularity of Chinese automobiles.


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This compilation is put together by DeLisle Worrell, President of the ABCF. Previous updates may be found at commentary | Association for Barbados China Friendship (abcf-bb.com)