In Review: November 2021 Highlights
By Steven Irvine – Founder, CEO & Editor ‘Week in China’
Welcome to the second of my monthly columns for PBEC, in which I give my editor’s recommendations, this time my ‘must reads’ from November’s Week in China magazine output. It’s been a busy month, so it’s been tricky to make the selection.
Obviously one of the key events of the month – alongside the Cop26 meeting – was the online bilateral summit arranged between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. As we pointed out in our article on the meeting, there was a tacit acknowledgement that this three-and-a-half-hour presidential head-to-head was a ‘G2’. For various political reasons the summit was a long time coming, and we explain some of the concessions China pushed for before it agreed for Xi to talk to Biden. Read our article for our take on who benefited most:
As to the COP26, we also offered our assessment of China’s impact on this key environmental summit – one that Xi notably did not attend in person in Glasgow:
In late November I also hosted PBEC’s annual Dialogues Week 2021 sixth panel session on the ‘Impact of Technology on the delivery of Education’. One of the key items we discussed was on the China Mainland EdTech market, and the ramifications of new government regulations introduced over the summer, which targeted specifically the private education sector. Interestingly, we just published the third of our updates – we produce them quarterly – on our Top 50 China Unicorns ranking. A key theme was which firms dropped off our list: the EdTech’s, given their collective valuations have plummeted since the summer, you can check out this article in relation to this subject here:
Our China Unicorns web page, with profiles of all 50 constituent companies can be found here: www.weekinchina.com/unicorns/
We also featured a really enlightening Q&A this month with someone I consider to be among the very best China economists. He looked at China’s recent trade data (a record trade surplus of $87 billion in October) and explained what this meant: “That contrary to the conventional wisdom, China and the US were NOT decoupling and that the Chinese economy had emerged from the pandemic with a far greater share of global exports.” (Additionally, the Chinese public are not travelling abroad at all, and spending far more money domestically on leisure & F&B, unlike before Covid-19 spread around the world). In this exclusive interview with Jonathan Anderson of Emerging Advisors Group, he also went behind the numbers to explain why the politically sensitive data was not yet showing up in China’s foreign exchange reserves. This Q&A with Jonathan Anderson can be read here; I guarantee you’ll find it eye-opening:
Finally, two interesting ‘Cultural’ stories I picked up on. The first was the news that the widow of Bo Yang had ordered that his famed book – published and widely read for a quarter century – go out of print. With its controversial title – ‘The Ugly Chinaman’ – the decision marks the end of a particular era and underscores yet again the ‘rising China’ theme. For those that have not read the book, or don’t know how it came about (from a lecture given by Bo in Iowa), our article offers some quick insights on why it was a cultural sensation:
Bo, of course, lived in Taiwan (born in Henan province in 1920, he was a writer, historian and philosopher who moved to the island in 1949) and it seems Cross Straits news only increases – even where children’s songs are concerned. ‘Going to Taiwan in 2035’ has caused quite a stir: it is a catchy kids’ song from mainland Chinese artist Meng Xudong about taking a bullet train from Beijing to Taipei – something that would only be possible if Taiwan was reunified with the Chinese mainland (it would also require a 150km tunnel). So why the date 2035 and why is the song now being taught in some mainland Chinese schools? For more on what this lyric says about one of the world’s most dangerous geopolitical flashpoints, read our article:
Next month, I’ll offer an end of year selection of our best articles in 2021. Enjoy!
Steven Irvine – Founder, CEO & Editor ‘Week in China’