News roundup: Chinese lab to study Ebola and other dangerous pathogens - SupChina

News roundup: Chinese lab to study Ebola and other dangerous pathogens

A new Chinese lab to study the world’s most dangerous diseases

A laboratory designed to research the world’s most dangerous communicable diseases is set to open in Wuhan in the central Chinese province of Hubei. The lab will allow Chinese researchers to study diseases like Ebola, SARS, and Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever, store virus samples, and “act as a World Health Organization ‘reference laboratory’ linked to similar labs around the world,” according to the scientific journal Nature.

Initial approvals to build the 300 million yuan ($44 million) facility were given in 2003; if the final stages of a multitiered approval process go smoothly, the lab could open in June this year. Design and construction were completed with French assistance. Nature says that Chinese scientists are “celebrating their entrance to the elite cadre empowered to wrestle with the world’s greatest biological threats.”

Environmental indicators to outweigh GDP in officials’ performance assessments

Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper the People’s Daily today reports that new measures will for “the first time in the history of the People’s Republic of China” give more weight to environmental protection than economic development in the assessment of officials. Nonetheless, progress may be slow. Growing the economy is difficult to reconcile with environmental considerations, and the top story on the Chinese versions of both the People’s Daily and the official Xinhua News Agency today is about a Xi Jinping speech on the importance of poverty alleviation (an English summary is here).

Bao Bao the beloved panda leaves Washington, D.C., for Chengdu  

Bao Bao, a panda cub born in 2013 in Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo, boarded a plane bound for Chengdu yesterday. Back in China, she will join a panda breeding program and her offspring may be released back into the wild. Four American zoos have pandas on loan from China; when they breed, their cubs are expected to return to China by the age of four as per the terms of an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association. The New York Times notes (paywall), “Panda rearing has become a rare and unusual field of partnership between the United States and China.”

NBC has footage of Bao Bao leaving the zoo and boarding a plane. FedEx, which provided the panda-themed cargo plane (pictured above) to take Bao Bao to Chengdu, has more information and photos about pandas on planes. There’s more on Bao Bao’s destination in our SupChina Chengdu Directory.

 —Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor in Chief

Today on SupChina

Will Xi’an become a megalopolis at the heart of the New Silk Road?” is a report from SupChina’s Daniel Xin, who explores the new development plans for China’s ancient capital.

This issue of the SupChina newsletter was produced by Sky Canaves, Lucas Niewenhuis, and Jia Guo. More China stories worth your time are curated below, with the most important ones at the top of each section.


  • China to focus on tackling deep financial risks in 2017, senior policymaker says / SCMP
    Speaking in Hong Kong on Tuesday, a senior Chinese official from the Central Leading Group for Finance and Economic Affairs said that despite its official GDP growth figure of 6.7 percent last year, China’s economy “lacked an inner driver for development,” and that private investment “remained tepid…while financial risks led by growing property speculation were increasing.”
    Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that “China’s $9 trillion moral hazard problem” has become “too big to ignore.” In other words, the government needs to do something about investment schemes that promise risk-free returns because there is an explicit or implicit guarantee that the state will bail them out if they fail. The article says that the country’s main financial regulators are tackling the problem with a set of new rules, but that “history suggests Beijing may have a hard time following through on reforms.”
    In related news: Bloomberg also has a story on the risks of state debt posed by “public private projects” in which private capital funds public works in partnership with government organizations. Reuters looks at the problems caused by large-scale borrowing by the Liaoning provincial government, under whose watch the northeastern province’s economy has been shrinking.


  • ‘Never have I seen a man fallen from so high,’ judge says as he sentences Donald Tsang to 20 months’ jail for misconduct / SCMP
    Hong Kong’s former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen 曾荫权 was sentenced to 30 months in jail for failing to disclose conflicts of interest. Tsang’s administration approved broadcast licenses for a company at the same time as he was negotiating over a penthouse apartment owned by a major shareholder of that company. The judge cut the jail term down to 20 months in recognition of Tsang’s public service. In the wake of the conviction, the South China Morning Post reports that there is fresh scrutiny on the business dealings of Hong Kong’s current chief executive, CY Leung 梁振英.  
  • Discipline investigations target universities and the Cyberspace Administration of China / People’s Daily (in Chinese)
    State media today prominently reported on a new round of disciplinary and anti-corruption investigations planned for 2017. The announcements repeatedly use a phrase that means something like “darkness hiding under a lamp” to refer to Party and state organizations that are supposed to be upholding Party norms but are, in fact, engaged in nefarious activities. There is also a focus on ideological purity. For a list of organizations that will be investigated, see here (in Chinese). Most are well-known universities, including Peking University and Tsinghua, but the “Leading Small Group” of the Cyberspace Administration of China, headed by Xi Jinping, is also targeted.


  • Steamed soup dumplings with vinegar or soy sauce — that is the question / (in Chinese)
    Steamed soup dumplings (小笼包 xiǎolóngbāo), a famous Shanghai dish, have become the topic of a debate on Chinese social media. Specifically, the question of what to dip them in has aroused passions, with the main controversy being “Do you dip in vinegar or soy sauce?” as asked (in Chinese) by one Weibo user, although other commenters voted for sugar, sesame, hot pepper chili oil, and peanut butter.
  • Beijing gets tough on noisy, dancing grannies / SCMP
    Dancing in public spaces is popular among middle-aged and elderly Chinese ladies in many cities across China. While some people support this fitness activity, others criticize it as a public disturbance because of the loud music cranked out by tinny speakers that it usually involves. Starting in March, people in Beijing who dance in public to loud music could face fines or even detentions. The new regulations stipulate that “outdoor exercises organized by groups or individuals should not disturb public order or affect others’ work and living conditions.”