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Author Mark O’Neill on the Secret History of Chiang Kai-shek’s Russian Daughter-in-Law

In China’s Russian Princess: The Silent Wife of Chiang Ching-kuo, author Mark O’Neill tells the extraordinary and largely unknown story of how a factory worker named Faina Ipat’evna Vakhreva ended up married to the son of Chiang Kai-shek.

O’Neill lived in Taiwan from 1981 to 1983, when the island was still under martial law, and Chian Ching-kuo was president at the time. O’Neill said that his wife was never seen in public or on television, and little seemed to be known about her, which is what inspired him to research and write this book.

In a presentation at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, O’Neill recounted how Chiang and Vakhreva met while they were working, most unexpectedly, at the same heavy machinery plant in Yekaterinburg. She was born in Orsha in 1916 and fled war to the more favorably located Yekaterinburg. Chiang, meanwhile, had asked his father, Chiang Kai-shek, if he could study at Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow, where he excelled at learning Russian and drinking and dancing, among other things. 

After graduating, he attended a military academy in Leningrad, after which Stalin would not permit him to return to China, effectively holding him hostage in the Soviet Union. Chiang was exiled to a communal farm, then a labor camp, and finally Uralmash, the heavy machinery plant where he met his future wife. 

The couple did eventually leave for China, where they endured World War II and civil war before fleeing to Taiwan in 1949. It’s an altogether fascinating story, one worth diving into for all the dramatic details.

Watch the full event below:

Visit our new Members’ Area in our FCC Website!

Dear Members,
Since the launch of our newly developed FCC Website early this year, the site is now faster loading, more secure and has a mobile version to cater for accessing everything on the site via all smartphones and tablet devices. The website's new features include a scrolling social media feed and easier-to-find archives of our speaker events. It also provides easily accessible and searchable news about the Club, our press freedom statements, and notices about our upcoming luncheon talks and our food and beverage promotions.
Now we are delighted to announce that the Members' Area is ready. It enables members to check their account statements and manage their own account. The online booking function and the E-Shop is still being tested and will be released soon, so stay tuned. 
To use the Members' Area, you will first need a one-time registration. An introduction on ‘How to register the members’ area’ is attached here. If you have any questions on how to register, feel free to contact the Concierge team at 2521 1511 or [email protected] on weekdays from 0900 to 2100.
The unveiling of this site is a culmination of months of work from the tireless staff along with the Board. We are proud of all their contributions and we thank everyone for their efforts. 
Let me know what you think — I'll see you at the Main Bar.
Keith Richburg
24 September 2021

China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ Diplomacy Has Changed During the Pandemic – Journalist Peter Martin

China’s so-called ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy is not a new phenomenon but it has taken on a new dimension over the course of the pandemic, said Bloomberg reporter Peter Martin in a Zoom talk hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong. 

“Some of China’s strengths have been highlighted; its ability to use its supply chains to produce massive amounts of vaccine and personal protective equipment, and to ship those around the world, kind of plays to a strength of the Chinese system,” said Martin. “But it’s paired with this insistence that once that aid is received, countries must be publicly grateful to Beijing and they should keep quiet about issues over which they might disagree.”

Martin, the author of China’s Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy, also discussed the origins of the Wolf Warrior ethos within the Communist Party, stemming from the inception of the party.

He explained that China’s first foreign minister, Zhou Enlai, “came up with the idea that Chinese diplomats should think and act like the People’s Liberation Army in civilian clothing, which meant of course that they would be unfailingly loyal to the Communist Party, they would show extraordinary discipline following orders and they would also develop what he called a ‘fighting spirit’ when China’s interests were challenged.”

Martin offered an overview of how China implemented this ethos in its foreign policy during its rise to power as the world’s second-largest economy, detailing a pivot from low-profile and conciliatory foreign diplomacy toward a more combative, defensive and provocative stance in recent years.

He said that the Wolf Warrior approach really gained momentum in 2017: “When China’s economy was stronger and larger than it had ever been, Xi Jinping was pushing the Belt and Road Initiative around the world, [China] opened a military base in Djibouti and was militarizing islands in the South China Sea.”

Watch the full discussion below:

Remembering Jonathan Mirsky

By Stephen Vines

Jonathan Mirsky was never a conventional journalist, nor conventional anything else. He died in London in September at the age of 88. 

For many years he was among the best known China watchers in the hacking business and won the British Press Awards International Reporter of the Year title in 1989 for his Tiananmen massacre coverage in The Observer

In Beijing he was “rewarded” with a savage beating at the hands of the police while covering the protests.

He later moved to The Times and was based in Hong Kong from 1993 to 1998. Towards the end, Mirsky fell out with the paper’s increasingly accommodating attitude towards Beijing ordered by owner Rupert Murdoch, who had big ambitions for expanding business in China.

Mirsky became a familiar figure at the FCC, where a lack of alcoholic consumption and an enthusiasm for discussion – not forgetting an impressive stock of Jewish jokes – marked him out as a not so run-of-the-mill member.

Mirsky, or Minsky as I called him after he was mistakenly identified as such by aristocratic Times Editor William Rees-Mogg, came to journalism through the circuitous route of academia and never quite lost his affection for the long form preferred in universities.

I got to know him back in the 1980s when we were both working for The Observer in London. He was an eccentric character in a newsroom where eccentricity was the norm. At the time I was engaged in the hard-edged area of labour reporting, while Mirsky was pontificating on China from afar. 

Infuriatingly to us hacks who thought that the only kind of reporting that mattered came from on-the-spot observation, he managed to produce superb and highly readable analysis which often outdid the work of Beijing-based correspondents.

When we were later both based in Hong Kong, we occasionally joined forces for interviews. It was an exasperating experience as Mirsky liked to be discursive and, with his genuine interest for people and what made them tick, would spend a great deal of time talking to the interviewees about their lives, while I was impatient to extract the news line of the day.

The Mirsky method often worked far better than the more conventional news-gathering approach, and he made firm friends with many of the people he interviewed. Among them were the Dalai Lama, who wrote to him shortly before his death, and Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last Governor – a combination of friendships likely to confirm the worst misgivings of an ever-suspicious government in Beijing.

Mirsky came from an aggressively secular intellectual leftist New York Jewish family and quickly graduated towards left-wing politics both as a student and an academic. It was this leftism that led him to become one of the early visitors to China in 1972 when the regime was keen to cultivate fellow travellers.

It would however be inaccurate to describe Mirsky as an apologist for the regime, because a sharp eye for the reality of Mao’s China and an uncontainable independence of mind defied such a simple characterisation.

In later years, most especially after Tiananmen, he became a prominent critic and was banned from entering the PRC. To describe Mirsky as being somehow “anti-China” would be a gross misconception because he had a deep love of all things Chinese and almost certainly a deeper knowledge of China’s culture and history than many of the most avid “patriots” who flaunt their love of the nation these days.

Above all Jonathan Mirsky was a mensch. It’s a Yiddish term that covers everything from friendship to humour to kindness yet is still inadequate to convey the true nature of the man.

“The implementation of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ was never expected to be painless” – Regina Ip

Offering an overview of the relationship between China and Hong Kong, longtime public servant and politician Regina Ip, a member of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council, said that tensions between the mainland and the SAR were natural and to be expected. 

“The implementation of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ was never expected to be painless and trouble-free,” said Ip during a lunchtime talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. “It is a bold and innovative concept, but the accommodation of a small but radically different system within a large, continental-size economy, is bound to be fraught with tensions and challenges.”

Describing One Country, Two Systems as “a reunification project,” she offered a firsthand account of being present at the negotiations between Britain and China that preceded the Joint Declaration. She also reflected on her time as the Secretary for Security, when she was responsible for implementing Article 23 of the Basic Law, which led to widespread protests.

“It is really a great pity that my draft bill did not get enacted,” said Ip. “If it got enacted, it would not have been necessary for Beijing to do it for Hong Kong. I experienced firsthand how a legitimate constitutional requirement to protect national security was scuttled at that time because of widespread misunderstanding of our constitutional responsibility.”

Speaking about the National Security Law enacted in 2020, Ip was quick to defend it. 

“The implementation of the National Security Law is bound to impose certain new limits on Hong Kong people’s freedoms, but this trade-off between security and freedom is a universal phenomenon,” said Ip. “Hong Kong’s National Security Law remains much milder and more restrained than similar legislation in many other jurisdictions.”

She continued: “Our judiciary remains independent in reaching judicial decisions, and robust in upholding legal principles.”

Asked to comment on freedom of speech under the National Security Law, Ip did not seem concerned. 

“I think the freedom of speech — although some people are naturally a bit concerned whether what they say, what they do, what they write could infringe the National Security Law — I think the freedom of expression is still alive and well. I mean, [the FCC is] carrying on business as usual,” said Ip. “I think the concerns are understandable but I don’t think there is any really undue suppression of the expression of freedom in Hong Kong.”

As for Hong Kong’s future, Ip was wholeheartedly optimistic: “Our economic integration with the GBA will bring unprecedented opportunities to the people of Hong Kong.”

In conclusion, she said, “My personal opinion is that the future of Hong Kong cannot be brighter.”

Watch the full event below:

FCC Minimum Spend

Dear Members,
With the lifting of many of the restrictions which have limited FCC activities for so long, we have been delighted to welcome back more members to the Club's expanded offering of speaker events, film nights, musical events and our extensive F&B promotions. As a result of the Club being more accessible, the minimum spend requirement will now revert to being charged to Member's accounts on a quarterly basis and hence will be charged to Member's September accounts which will be sent in early October. We will continue to offer the opportunity for Members to purchase vouchers to be used in subsequent months if you are unable to utilise the Club before the end of September.
21 September 2021

HKJA Statement Responding to Security Secretary

The FCC has been following with concern remarks by the Secretary for Security regarding the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the city’s largest union for working journalists. The secretary’s remarks questioned the details of HKJA’s membership rolls. The HKJA has responded to the secretary’s remarks with the following statement, which the FCC is republishing. The FCC expresses its support for all working journalists during an increasingly challenging time in Hong Kong’s media environment:

In response to media enquiries about our membership and the Secretary for Security’s comments on Wednesday, the HKJA would like to make the following comments:

As of 15 September 2021 at 2pm, HKJA has 486 current members. They include 331 full members, 22 associate members, 34 public relations members, 56 student members, and 43 retired or permanent members. The numbers of our membership fluctuate as the Association processes new applications and renewals daily.

In response to media enquiries on the number of our members employed by specific media outlets, we would like to note that our members come from a large number of media organisations. Each individual membership lasts one year and members are required to renew their membership by the end of the year. If the media outlet where a member works has closed down, or if the member has left the media industry, they will not be able to renew their membership. The details on membership eligibility are available on our website’s membership application section, and are stated in our charter.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Security Chris Tang today said HKJA may “assuage the public’s doubts” by publishing our membership list “without disclosing personal information.” We are baffled by the Secretary’s apparently illogical suggestion. HKJA hopes the Secretary could understand that our members’ employment is part of their personal information. We are therefore unable to decipher how we could possibly make public the media outlets where our members are employed, without also disclosing their personal data at the same time.

We would like to reiterate that under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, HKJA may not disclose members’ personal data without their expressed consent. Any suggestion to make our membership and their employers public in order to “assuage doubts” would appear to incite a breach of the Ordinance.

Hong Kong Journalists Association
15 September 2021







Author Michael Schuman Explains How Chinese History Affects Present-Day Policy

While some Western governments may look at China’s rise with anxiety and some with awe, many Chinese see their country’s growing prominence on the global stage as a return to a natural state of affairs. In his insightful historical survey Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World, journalist and author Michael Schuman examines how the Chinese view their past and their place in the world—and how that affects their present policies and ambitions.

In a lunch talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club moderated by FCC President Keith Richburg, Schuman said that his own experience of learning history had inspired the book.

“We are, I think, all in part shaped by our history and, more importantly, how we learn our history and how we perceive our history, or in some cases, misperceive our history,” said Schuman. 

“This creates a certain worldview — how we see ourselves, how we see other countries, and how we see that they fit into the greater world — and my sense of what’s going on now as we seem to be heading unfortunately into a new period of superpower competition, is that you can see these different worldviews playing a role in this unfolding and unfortunate competition.”

Watch the full event below:

Longtime ‘South China Morning Post’ Political Cartoonist Harry Harrison Discusses His Life and Career in Hong Kong

For over 20 years, award-winning political cartoonist Harry Harrison has put pen to paper satirizing Hong Kong life and politics for the South China Morning Post. Having recently released a new book, Add Ink: Cartoon Chronicles of Life in Hong Kong, Harrison appeared at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club to discuss his career and the process of drawing cartoons. 

He explained that his creative process starts every day around 6pm, when he receives a list of news stories for the next day’s newspaper. He then drafts as many as ten cartoon ideas and sends them in for review.

“Every night, I think they hate the cartoons,” said Harrison. 

He said that his sense of humor stemmed from being a child whose family moved around a lot, which meant that he often encountered bullies at new schools.

 “I discovered humor, one-liners, would diffuse just about any situation and make you friends very quickly,” said Harrison.

FCC President Keith Richburg, who moderated the event, said that, in spite of all the negative developments for press freedom in Hong Kong, he felt that SCMP continuing to publish Harrison’s cartoons was a positive sign.

Harrison responded: “I’m continuing doing what I do assuming I’m treading the right side of whatever invisible red line there. As far as I know, that’s what’s happening and they know what my cartoons are about. Either that or I’m sitting on a powder keg.”

Watch the full event below:

China’s Social Welfare Goals Drive Its Big Tech Regulatory Framework – FCC Panel

China’s active approach to governing social welfare goals in the age of big tech has become a widely known attribute of the CCP’s modus operandi in recent years. However, according to a panel of experts who were invited to speak by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, this starkly contrasting approach to regulation in the West poses a myriad of uncertainties for some of its largest companies looking to raise capital in U.S. equity markets, and have stoked concerns of data privacy and national security risks for both the U.S. and Chinese governments. 

“The content regulation part of the fan and gaming economy is saying, ‘Hey, these types of activities we don’t want to see our youth engaging in, and we don’t want to see this driving our social media and getting the attention of society, we don’t think it’s healthy,’” said Rui Ma, founder of Tech Buzz China. “‘We don’t think it’s moral’ – you could say that is political, or you could say that also actually that’s been very evident from day one, this has been part of policy in general.”

Paul Triolo, head of the geo-technology practice at the Eurasia Group, highlighted the regulatory complexities for Chinese firms tapping foreign capital with U.S. stock listings: “How viable is the VIE structure from a U.S. regulatory point of view?”

“There needs to be more transparency in revealing regulatory risk, and also just emphasizing for U.S. investors that the VIE structure does not mean ownership in a Chinese company but in a shell company in the Cayman Islands,” said Triolo. “There’s a sense that there has to be some level of collaboration here so that you don’t disrupt financial markets, and big areas of business where there still tremendous amounts of dependence between the two economies.”

“The political climate doesn’t allow the current administration to be too close to China, so at the end of the day, I’m still very optimistic in terms of some of the biggest issues the world is truly facing, such as climate change and pandemic. It does require the world’s two largest economies to work together,” said Jennifer Zhu, executive chairman of the Commons Project. 

“The most important thing is that we’re not going to see many Chinese tech companies listing in the U.S., and they will choose domestic stock markets — and when I say domestic, I’m for the first time including Hong Kong as well.”

Watch the full discussion below:

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