News roundup: Sperm crisis in China?
The top story in most Chinese state media on Tuesday was the commemoration of the 130th anniversary of the birth of Zhu De, politician, revolutionary, and general of the People’s Liberation Army. President Xi Jinping gave a speech at the event, urging “the Party, the military and the nation to learn from Zhu and contribute to the cause pioneered by veteran revolutionaries.” The image above is a postage stamp printed shortly after the Communist Party revolution of 1949, depicting Zhu De with Mao Zedong and troops under their command.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times published yesterday an article titled “Sperm crisis in China as fertility slides,” which reveals that “last year fewer than a fifth of young men who donated sperm in the inland province of Hunan had sufficiently healthy semen to qualify as a donor, according to a 15-year study of more than 30,000 applicants," adding that by comparison, in 2001, "more than half qualified.” The researchers have not proved the cause of the problem but “point to ‘increased environmental pollution, including pollution of water, air and food,’ as a possible explanation.”
For more on what some call a “demographic time bomb” caused by an aging population and falling birth rates, you can listen to a Sinica Podcast with Mei Fong, author of One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment, or see this list of relevant background material.
Finally, SupChina also publishes today a backgrounder for the upcoming Sinica Podcast interview with New York Times correspondent Edward Wong, who is returning to the U.S. after nine years based in Beijing.
More China stories worth your time are summarized below.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
- Should Facebook self-censor to enter the Chinese market? / ChinaFile
Thoughts on whether Facebook should use self-censorship tools to operate in China, featuring Sinica’s Kaiser Kuo, New York University professor and writer Clay Shirky, and former Google executive Andrew McLaughlin.
- MTS says probing its China executives / Reuters
“MTS Systems Corp, a maker of industrial sensors, said on Tuesday it was investigating apparent violations of its code of conduct involving some top executives in its China operations,” Reuters reports.
- Uber China doesn’t play nice anymore with worldwide Uber app / The Nanfang
“Unveiled Sunday, the newest version of the Uber China app requires all users to create a new account using a local phone number as well as a valid Chinese online payment system such as Unionpay, Alipay or Baidu Wallet. Also, it’s completely in Chinese; ‘English language’ is not currently an option.”
- Alipay says sorry after app turns into ‘Girls Gone Wild’ platform / What’s on Weibo
“Online payment app Alipay triggered controversy in China this week when it launched a new group chat feature that soon turned into a ‘soft porn’ place. CEO Peng Lei now apologizes and says the past 48 hours have been ‘the most difficult two days’ of her Alipay career.”
- Lionsgate extends streaming deal with China’s iQiyi platform / Variety
“Lionsgate has signed a new long-term output deal with China’s online platform iQiyi covering Patriots Day, Robin Hood, The Glass Castle, American Assassin, and Wonder,” Variety reports. “The agreement covers subscription (SVOD), transactional (TVOD), and advertising video-on-demand rights for films streaming on iQiyi’s platform in China, which includes over half a billion unique users. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
- In long arc of U.S.-China ties, Trump’s a curveball / WSJ
A meditation on U.S.-China ties and the possibility of a trade war in the time of Trump with background from John Pomfret’s “sweeping new history of U.S.-China relations,” The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom.
- Beijing prosecutors grant bail to four police officers under investigation over suspect’s mysterious death / SCMP
“The mysterious death of Lei Yang in May prompted a massive public outcry against perceived police brutality,” reports the South China Morning Post. The 29-year-old Beijing environmental scientist died while in police custody less than an hour after his arrest.
- China’s new tool for social control: A credit rating for everything / WSJ
An update on the proposed system under which “Beijing wants to give every citizen a score based on behavior such as spending habits, turnstile violations and filial piety, which can blacklist citizens from loans, jobs, air travel.”
- China takes a chain saw to a center of Tibetan Buddhism / NYT
Larung Gar, “an extraordinary and surreal sprawl” that is considered to be “one of the most influential institutions in the Tibetan world,” is under construction as China takes steps to increase its control over the settlement. “I heard my home will be demolished,” one monk said. “I don’t know whether I’ll be allowed to stay.”
- Six more detained over east China power plant collapse / Xinhua
In the aftermath of the accident in Fengcheng City on November 24, among the additional six people in police custody, “four were suspected of ‘major liability in the accident’ and two were suspected of ‘producing and selling shoddy products.’”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
- Q&A with science fiction author and Hugo Prize winner Hao Jingfang / NYT
“Sunlight is so scarce that it is rationed based on economic class. Schools are so packed that the poorest parents must wait in line for days to secure spots for their children,” writes Hao Jingfang in Folding Beijing. In this science fiction novelette, which won a Hugo Award in August, the story is set “in a futuristic Beijing, though many of its scenes seem grounded in the problems vexing Chinese society today.”
- Mei Lanfang’s voice in new vinyl / China Daily
Newly released: a collection of vinyl records of the late Peking Opera artist Mei Lanfang. Containing 64 pieces performed by Mei from 1920 to 1960, it includes Feng Huan Chao (Return of the Phoenix to the Nest), Mulan Cong Jun (Hua Mulan Joins the Army) and Gui Fei Zui Jiu (The Drunken Beauty).
- Inside and outside the system: Chinese writer Hu Fayun / New York Review of Books
“Most Chinese writers who tackle sensitive topics tend to use what Perry Link calls the ‘daft hilarity’ style — dealing with the Cultural Revolution and other topics with the subtlety of a South Park episode. Hu prefers finely honed novels that deal with big issues in complex, nuanced ways,” writes Ian Johnson.