Inkstone Explains

Inkstone Explains

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China.

What is Jack Ma’s Ant Group, the fintech giant set for the world’s biggest IPO?
Digital financial services giant Ant Group is on the cusp of pulling off the world’s biggest initial public offering and could be worth over $500 billion in the near future, riding on the digitization of financial services in the world’s second-largest economy. Ant’s coming out parade illustrates China’s lead in digital finance. Its super-slick mobile payment app, Alipay, has over 1 billion users, who can click on the Alipay app for services ranging from food deliveries to garbage collection. It is the world’s most popular app outside social-media networks. Ant plans to plough the $34.5 billion it is raising from dual listings in Hong Kong and Shanghai into future revenue drivers, such as bl
Why Chinese people use ‘surrogate shoppers’ to buy stuff from abroad
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. A La Mer face cream costs $390 in retail stores in China but, according to a report from equity broker Bernstein, only $240 if one enlists the services of a professional shopper, or daigou.  For years these buyers have provided Chinese consumers with luxury goods at affordable prices, but they have been hit hard in recent months by the Covid-19 pandemic. What is a daigou? The term daigou means “buying on behalf of” in Chinese. It is used to describe professional shoppers who buy sought-after products overseas and resell them in China. Cosmetics, apparel
Decoding the censorship apparatus used by WeChat
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. Information is increasingly created, shared and consumed on a handful of social media platforms, a trend that has placed greater scrutiny on the owners and executives behind these tech behemoths, at least in the United States. As they have become more powerful globally, social media giants are trying to walk the tightrope by avoiding perceptions of censorship while corralling the spread of misinformation. In China, however, content censorship is part of the game and is widely accepted as a cost of doing business. WeChat, an app used ubiquitously throughou
This global coronavirus alliance was spurned by the US
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. In early October, China decided to join a global initiative for the fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines called Covax.  The vaccine project had been struggling in part because major powers like China and the US were not participating. The US has refused to join the program, but Beijing’s participation might be what Covax needs to get the ball rolling.  But what exactly is it and how does it work? What is Covax? The Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) alliance was launched in April by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and F
What’s the deal between the Vatican and Beijing?
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. A 2018 deal between China and the Vatican aimed to end a schism over the appointment of bishops in the world’s most populous country will expire later this month. While Pope Francis is willing to renew the pact, Beijing has yet to publicly express its intentions. The agreement aimed to resolve a split among China’s 12 million Catholics, who are split between a so-called underground church that is loyal to the Vatican and those who attend state-sanctioned churches. China under Chinese Communist Party rule has had a turbulent relationship with the Catholic
The hidden engine of Hong Kong’s economy
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. Foreign domestic helpers play an indispensable part in many Hong Kong households. Typically Filipino or Indonesian women, they cook for family members, take children to schools and care for the elderly.  The Hong Kong government and households have long been criticized for exploiting and discriminating against these workers despite the important role they play keeping the international finance center going.  Who are Hong Kong’s domestic helpers? Hong Kong’s foreign domestic helper program was introduced in 1973. The city currently has nearly 400,000 forei
What are Confucius Institutes and why are some closing?
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. First set up in 2004 in South Korea, Confucius Institutes (CIs) are officially aimed at promoting Chinese language and culture around the world. These institutes, named after the country’s most renowned philosopher, are normally run as joint-ventures between Chinese and international universities, and are operated and partly funded under the auspices of the education ministry’s Chinese Language Council International, known as the Hanban. All CIs teach Chinese language and culture but their other offerings vary. Some offer credit-bearing courses to univers
How bottled water created China's second-richest man
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. China’s billionaire class has a new member, Zhong Shanshan, who made his wealth from one of the country’s hottest commodities: bottled water. Zhong, who chairs one of China’s largest beverage bottling companies, has joined the likes of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Tencent CEO Pony Ma and real estate mogul Hui Ka-yan on the Forbes China Rich List. (Alibaba Group is the parent company of Inkstone.) According to Forbes, Zhong was worth $54.2 billion on September 21, making him the second-richest man in China, behind only Tencent’s Pony Ma. Zhong shot up the rank
Convenient or exploitative? Behind China’s food delivery boom
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. Cheap and quick food delivery was popular in China even before widespread travel restrictions turned it into an essential part of urban life for many globally. But as demand for the service has risen in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, public scrutiny is putting pressure on China’s tech giants to show consideration for the workers who risk their lives to hit the tight deadlines set by the services’ algorithms. How popular is food delivery in China? Getting food delivered to one’s doorstep is much more affordable in China than in wealthier countries. Tha
The downward spiral of Australia-China ties
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. The relations between Australian and Chinese governments have gone into a downward spiral in 2020. Over the course of less than a month in the summer of 2020, Beijing announced its second inquiry into Australian wine imports, suspended barley imports from the country’s largest grain exporter and confirmed the detention of a prominent Australian journalist. Then, the Communist Party-run tabloid Global Times on August 31 borrowed late Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew’s words to warn Australia that it risked becoming the “poor white trash of Asia” if it decoupl