Tea Leaf Nation
China, From Within: Tibet’s Drug Problem, and Taiwan’s New Gambling Islands
A week of news the West missed from the world's most populous country.
Every day, FP‘s China team at the Tea Leaf Nation channel scours dozens of Chinese media outlets to find compelling stories unreported in Western mainstream press. This week, we bring you Lhasa’s drug problem, Taiwan’s gambling future, trouble ahead for Hong Kong, and much more.
China’s Ministry of Public Security released a list of 108 cities that are considered problem areas in its anti-drug efforts, according to a Nov. 19 report by business magazine Caixin. Almost all of the populous cities in China are on the list, but notably, several cities in peripheral areas with large ethnic minority presence were also named, including Lhasa in Tibet, Urumqi, Kashgar, and Ili in Xinjiang, and seven cities in southern Yunnan province.
Taiwan’s parliament may approve legislation allowing casinos on the Matsu Islands, a group of islands belonging to Taiwan but close to the coast of mainland Fujian Province, according to a Nov. 20 article in Caixin. In 2009, Taiwan lifted a 15-year prohibition on gambling on its outlying islands of Kinmen, Matsu, and Penghu, and in 2012 residents voted in favor of allowing casinos to be built, hoping to attract tourism. If the legislation passes, the first international gambling resort may be completed as early as 2019, potentially drawing in 5 million tourists to the island.
Gambling revenue in the Chinese territory of Macau, the international gambling center which brings in more revenue than Las Vegas, has dropped off sharply as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has targeted government officials who hazard large displays of wealth, which includes high-stakes gambling. Taiwan’s Matsu Islands may be able to attract mainland gamblers seeking casinos outside the mainland’s reach.
Qiang Shigong and Liu Zhaojia, two prominent Hong Kong experts with ties to the central government, both believe that Beijing will take a hardline approach in governing the Hong Kong in the future. The experts told Hong Kong’s respected newspaper Ming Pao that the central government may set up procedures for Hong Kong’s chief executive, its head of government, to report to Beijing in order to better "direct implementation of policies in the region." Beijing may also build a mechanism through which the country’s legislature can actively review Hong Kong’s legislation, and may "reject legislation that [is] not in line with the Basic Law." The appointment of local officials may also be subject to greater scrutiny.
Liu believes that the central government has made concessions to Hong Kongers for more than a decade after its return to Chinese rule, but the future is an era "when Hong Kong must make concessions." He also expects conflicts between Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps to become more frequent and rancorous.
Beijing residents, accustomed now to bouts of suffocating smog that have plagued the Chinese capital for years, have come to look to wind to blow away the haze and bring them some relief. But now a Nov. 20 report by state-run China Weather Net claims that extensive wind farms in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region northwest of Beijing, are partly to blame for the city’s worsened air quality.
The report cites U.S. and Chinese scientists whose research shows that wind farms reduce wind speeds in regions downwind of the farms. The kilowatt output of Inner Mongolia’s wind farms increased 31-fold between 2007 and 2014. Meanwhile, air quality in Beijing, which lies further along on a cold air stream route that also passes through Inner Mongolia, took a marked turn for the worse in 2008.
In the past four months, China’s powerful radio, film, and TV bureau (SAPPRFT) has issued a set of what many in China have dubbed the "harshest ever" restrictions on Internet TV and online streaming. The government has always exerted strong control over traditional TV broadcasts; with strict censorship and restrictions on foreign TV, the new regulations aim to exert government control over global Internet TV. But Caixin wrote on Nov. 17 that "consumer demand cannot be stymied" — consumers are continuing to find innovative ways around the new regulations, like downloading special software or apps to navigate around the restrictions.
Shujie Leng contributed research.
Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a journalist covering China from Washington. She was previously an assistant editor and contributing reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @BethanyAllenEbr