Apple, which has struggled to gain market share in China due to intense competition, has reportedly scored a deal with China Mobile. According to CNN, the deal would make iPhones cheaper and easier to buy for China Mobile’s 700 million customers. That’s welcome news for Apple, especially after the company’s “low cost” 5C phone proved too expensive for Chinese tastes. However, even lower prices might not help Apple’s sales in China. Back in September, Tech In Asia wrote that most Apple customers view the phone as a status symbol. Those who are looking for value are more likely to turn to Chinese brands like Xiaomi.
In other news, China’s schools have received renewed attention this week, as Shanghai students had the world’s best scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests for math, science, and reading. The Telegraph tries to discover the secret of Chinese academic success, which it credits to China’s cultural emphasis on education and a willingness to load students with extra homework. The Financial Times offers an alternative perspective on China’s education system, reporting that China’s education model is facing criticism domestically for its emphasis on memorization rather than creative thinking.
Over at the Brookings Institution, senior fellow Tom Loveless argues that Shanghai’s performance on the PISA is “almost meaningless” for grading China as a whole. “No one will know how well China can perform on an international test until it participates, as a nation, under the same rules as other nations,” he writes. Loveless also believes Shanghai’s test scores are artificially inflated because the hukou system denies the poorest children the chance to enroll in public schools.
Chinese students were also in the spotlight for a much darker reason, as the New York Times’ Sinosphere blog reports that Chinese between the ages of 15 and 24 are increasingly at risk for H.I.V. infection. China’s inconsistent sex education programs may be contributing to the crisis. In light of World AIDS Day on December 1, Al Jazeera explored China’s H.I.V. epidemic. The article takes Premier Li Keqiang to task for failing to live up to his promise to broaden efforts to fight H.I.V. infection.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will visit China next week. According to China Daily, McCarthy is hopeful that her trip will deepen China-U.S. cooperation on clean air and preventing climate change. McCarthy points to the U.S.’s experiences fighting smog back in the 1950s and 1960s as a potential focus for cooperation. Meanwhile, it’s shaping up to be another rough winter for air quality in Chinese cities. China Digital Times reports that Shanghai’s air is at its worst level since the unveiling of Shanghai’s new air quality index in 2012.
It wouldn’t be a links round-up without at least one piece on China’s Air Defense Identification Zone. Over at The Atlantic, James Fallows writes that China’s new ADIZ is not part of a grand foreign policy plan. Arguing that China’s main concerns are domestic, Fallows posits that “China’s foreign-policy and defense moves, far from fitting into a decades-long master plan, often seem ad-hoc at best and self-defeating at worst.” Meanwhile, though U.S. Vice President Biden, according to the BBC, “was very direct” about U.S. concerns over the new ADIZ in his meeting with Xi Jinping, neither he nor Xi mentioned the topic in their public remarks yesterday.
In more news on Biden’s trip to Beijing, the Wall Street Journal reports that Biden spoke through a translator to a group of Chinese waiting in line to apply for U.S. visas. In his remarks, Biden tied the American Dream to the necessity of “challenging the status quo,” which Biden said was in the “DNA of every American.” He went on to encourage the Chinese visa-seekers to “challenge the government.”
Despite Biden’s political exhortations, an editorial in Xinhua remarked that Biden’s focus was probably economic: “As Mr. Biden is on his way to visit China once again, it is dead certain that he has written down on his yellow legal pads many ideas to spur trade and economic cooperation with China.” The best way to secure U.S. economic interests in the region, the editorial continued, is to rein in Japan’s swerve to the “notoriously vicious far right.”