Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely?


Ok. Here’s a few things worth chewing over regarding Chinese tech now that the purge is done, Jack Ma is in the can and President Xi Jinping is ready for a win please, preferably economic.

A quick catch up:

Tuesday’s quiet revelation from China’s top central banker that ‘we will proceed no further in this business,’ regarding the 2 year purge of Chinese tech platforms, was a strong enough signal for China bystanders that the tech bet was probs back on.

UBS sees potential upside valuations for China’s mega-cap net platforms to grow some 20-25x, given average earnings growth in 2023. And despite the fact they’ll never achieve the free and wanton voluptuousness of their corrupt and western youth, there’s legs hidden somewhere amongst the share price folds yet.

But now, in the extremely cold light of day I’m having a bit of a Macbethian moment of disquiet.

Anyway, struggling with those profundities while the snow finally falls outside, a surprise not popped up on my newswire here in 1970’s France, and well, I thought I’d write a few of these doubts and fears about the Chinese tech renaissance down.

There’s heaps more than 3, I might send the rest later.


1. Across the Atlantic, it seems American lawmakers have taken a break from showing global autocrats how weak and divided they are by showing global autocrats the one thing they’re united and determined about.

The Congressional House voted overwhelmingly to go bipartisan on a shiny new select committee whose soul purpose in life is to focus and deal with the multi-coloured constellation of perceived  threats posed by a now clearly off-the-hook China.

Both Republicans and Democrats in the House gave the newly minted Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy something to actually do – the much derided McCarthy pledged that Making China Terrible Again would truly be a bipartisan affair.

It’s easy to laugh at the Americans, which makes it easy to forget they’re a hard bunch – some might say punitive – to cross when everyone’s in on the same gag.


2. Fibbing local Party cadres have, across a smattering of second tier cities and rural regions, started popping up to say how their local COVID-cases look like they’ve already peaked.

They may’ve peaked.  There’s no good data on cases. There’s no good data on infection rates and transmission. There’s defo no data deaths but suddenly, crematorium activity is a handy benchmark

From the WaPO is reportedly this funeral home in Tongzhou, on the outskirts of Beijing. That’s supposed to be newly built parking area, according to imagery captured by Maxar on Dec 24. (Maxar Technologies)

And considering the arbitrary application of aw and authority in China’s poorer rural areas, I’d be desperately worried about what’s going on.

If it is carnage out there, China’s brutalised agrarian population have a hard-earned and well-deserved reputation for taking their grief and applying it with vigor to anyone they reckon is responsible. Ask Mao.

China’s possibly forgotten how to be nice to its neighbours. Tit-for-tat punitive visa measures are a thing of old. When we were in Guangzhou back in the day, the Americans always had to up and go cross the border into Hong Kong for a day before being able to reapply once their visa’s had expired. That was a petty imposition in retaliation for a US tweak to Chinese entrance visas. But that was a small hassle and done with a smile.


3. Overnight Chinese state media’s been strutting its stuff about how the bosses have canceled South Korean and Japanese visas, in a stampy-feet payback led by stompy himself, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang 

Like lots of countries these two are restricting Chinese visitors until there’s some COVID-clarity. Qin Gang apparently dragged his South Korean counterpart over the coals about it on Monday. That was silly. According to reports of Seoul, positive Covid-19 cases out of China didn’t just double – they went up x 14 sometime between November and December.

China’s also been a little insane about its own approach to COVID-19 containment, let’s recall.  So, it looks as if petulant impunity and not compelling statecraft remains the mainstay of Xi’s diplomatic tack.

That’s a shame because after making such a diplomatic goose of itself these last years by shouting at everyone via its ludicrous Wolf Warrior diplomats, expectations were high that a newly secure Xi might try his hand at the wonderfully effective and historically admired/feared charm offensives of the Jiang Zemin – Hu Jintao eras.

These were the days when China’s ambassadors were actually formidable. Courteous, quietly spoken. They smiled and read Shakespeare – “look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t!” They not only got what they wanted, they did it by cooling tempers, building respect … and subsequently steadying markets.

So that could be out too now which is a big disappointment for everyone.


No U-turns, just more tanty’s

It makes a hard job even more thankless for Foreign Ministers like Penny Wong tasked with finding common ground. It’s certainly real hard to offer real concessions when negotiating with the spoilt proxy of a morally ambiguous techno-dictatorship who’s been greenlit to flights of tanty. And it’s downright impossible to maintain face by rewarding rudeness.

That’s why Stockhead is calling out our little-known peer, The Financial Times, which just published a bang-off feature about how China is coming in from the cold.

Apparently spoon fed drivel from unnamed high-ranking CCP insiders, the FT is cheering on Xi’s line about wanting to be the nice China again… and could even be convinced to go visit Paris or somewhere lovely and tell someone tres European that this whole Russia invasion thing is not his cup of tea. Hello. Separating Europe and the Anglosphere has always been a shared goal of all the naughty kids. The FT, just by publishing has begun the process.

But this guy at the Carnegie has it right

So does legendary China watcher Bill Bishop:

“I agree that they are trying to signal a reset, but I am still skeptical it is substantive as opposed to a tactical shift to buy some time and good will to work out some of the messes they have made. When it comes to Russia-Ukraine, if Xi really wants to signal a shift then he should get on a call with Ukraine President Zelensky. That should be zero cost if the PRC is truly neutral.

“I am also skeptical, perhaps blinkered some of you might suggest, but I would consider the possibly that the PRC communications strategy is getting more sophisticated and the people behind understand that if you want to influence elite opinion in the EU one of the best if not the best vehicles to do so is through the FT.”