The Taiwanese temptress
Sep 21, 2018 (WiC 425)

When we think of espionage inevitably images from James Bond spring to mind: fast cars, gadgets and seduction. But aside from the seduction part, there wasn’t much in the way of James Bond glamour in Beijing’s recent exposure of a spy network from Taiwan that was targeting mainland students.

This was the revelation from the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council on Sunday, which said that a Taiwanese spy network had been “recklessly stepping up information collection and infiltration activities”. It asserted that a key tactic for turning mainland students studying in Taipei into informants was sex.

To prove its point a salacious example was revealed, the China Daily reports. This involved a Taiwanese spy calling herself Hsu Chia-ying who befriended an 18 year-old mainland student at a party in Taipei in 2011. They became lovers and initially after he returned to the mainland Hsu asked for basic information about his daily routine. But soon she was requesting more, and as a post-graduate working in a key state laboratory he had access to sensitive technical information. She subsequently blackmailed him and over three years he passed her 100 items of science and technology related information.

According to the China Daily report, the real name of the spy was Hsu Li-ting. She was not only active with the Taiwan Military Intelligence Bureau but she is 16 years older than the student she seduced. The public exposure of such activity comes at a time when relations between Beijing and Taipei have been increasingly strained, and signals a PR effort to warn the mainland’s youth of the dangers of studying at a Taiwanese university.

Volvo delays IPO journey
Sep 14, 2018 (WiC 424)

Volvo has a reputation for making some of the safest cars on the road. And it seems it wants to keep things as safe as possible for its shareholders too.

Volvo’s Chinese owner Geely was planning a stock market debut for the carmaker in Stockholm later this year at a valuation of at least $30 billion.

But it has hit the brakes on the IPO on concerns that Volvo’s shares might suffer from the market uncertainty triggered by the trade row between Beijing and Washington.

Volvo boss Hakan Samuelsson says the fear was that the share price could drop after the float. “The issues around trade are hard for us because they impact cars shipped between China and the US. It’s a huge drawback,” he told Bloomberg. “The risk is that these headwinds will increase.”

There were 45 auto sector IPOs around the world last year, raising nearly $7.8 billion, according to Dealogic data. This year only 12 have gone ahead, raising $1.8 billion.

Another reason for the delay is that Geely founder Li Shufu has decided that the brand needs to make further progress in the Chinese market, an insider at the company told Reuters. Geely bought Volvo from Ford eight years ago for $1.8 billion.

Raising the red flag
Sep 7, 2018 (WiC 423)

The Shaolin Temple is no stranger to making the news in China, in part because of its monks’ martial arts skills (which regularly prompt challenges from rival fighters keen to debunk the idea of Shaolin’s kungfu being invincible). Shaolin’s more commercial side grabs headlines too – because some think it sits ill with the Zen Buddhism that Shaolin espouses. For instance, its chief abbot Shi Yongxin was nicknamed the ‘CEO Monk’ after he incorporated the temple and trademarked its brand. He even monetised the monastery’s fighting prowess in a video game and in 2015 came up with an unusual proposal to combine a Shaolin Temple with a golf resort in Australia.

So you’d have thought Shi and Shaolin had just about exhausted their capacity to surprise. But late last month they managed to do so again when Shi did something for the first time in the temple’s 1,500 year history. At 7am on August 27 he and his monks raised the flag of the People’s Republic of China, at an event that also included the vice chairman of the Buddhist Association of China and a member of the Party’s local standing committee.

Sina says the move came after a meeting earlier in the summer of national religious groups in Beijing where a new initiative was proposed on ‘raising the flag at religious ceremonies’. After an “in-depth study of the constitution” Shi decided his temple would take the lead and set the example for others.

The ceremony again shows Shi’s pragmatic side, but for critics it is yet another example of the Party extending its control. As one netizen lamented: “Religion cannot be mingled with the state, it needs to maintain a neutral relationship. But in China it is hard to have pure religion.”