Links for Monday, February 10, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

ByteDance appears to be a beneficiary of China’s coronavirus outbreak, with three of its apps making it onto App Annie’s top 5 list of non-game apps by downloads on Apple’s App Store in China this January.

News aggregator Jinri Toutiao claimed the second spot on the list, seeing its ranking increase by 52 places from last December, while short-video app Xigua Video came in fourth, rising from 36th place the previous month. ByteDance’s video-sharing app Douyin (known overseas as TikTok) came in fifth.

China’s Geely Automobile said on Monday it is in early discussions with Swedish carmaker Volvo Car AB about combining the two businesses into a global business with listings in Hong Kong and Stockholm.

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Geely Automobile’s parent group, acquired Volvo from Ford Motor Co. in 2010.

China’s smartphone shipments are likely to suffer a year-on-year drop of more than 30% in the first quarter of 2020 due to the novel coronavirus that has led to the shutdown of countless handset manufacturing plants in the country, according to research firm IDC.

Shares in Ericsson AB and Nokia Corp. rose Friday after the Trump administration floated the idea that the U.S. could buy a stake in either of the telecom-equipment manufacturers — a sign that investors at least are taking the gambit seriously.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr told an audience in Washington on Thursday the U.S. and its allies should consider taking a controlling financial interest in the two Nordic companies, as a way of countering the dominance of China’s Huawei.

Ross LaJeunesse…was the head of government affairs for Asia and the Pacific in 2010, when the company abandoned its Chinese search engine, after deciding it was no longer willing to censor search results in accordance with the government’s wishes.  

The U.S. is deploying drones and other technology as it scours for potential rare-earths reserves at home and abroad to wean the nation off its dependence on Chinese imports.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

  • Silicon Valley-based GenapSys is in early talks with Chinese health authorities to help fight the epidemic with its gene-sequencing technology.
  • Its iPad-size gene sequencer is 100 times smaller than traditional gene sequencers, making it ideal for widespread deployment during outbreaks, it says.

It is “almost certain” that patients infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) can be infectious even if they do not have symptoms, which might make controlling the virus much harder, a Taiwanese epidemiologist said Monday.

Academia Sinica epidemiologist Ho Mei-shang (何美鄉) [Hé Měixiāng] said she drew her conclusion from the interaction between the fifth and eighth confirmed coronavirus cases in Taiwan.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

  • Taiwan sends fighters to intercept mainland military aircraft after they cross dividing line in Taiwan Strait.
  • Incursion comes at end of visit to Washington by vice-president-elect William Lai [赖清德 Lài Qīngdé] that angered Beijing.

Trade tensions between Beijing and Washington have been building for years… Yet the tally of gifts and contracts from China to U.S. universities since the start of 2013 is approaching $1 billion.

About 115 colleges got monetary gifts, contracts or both from sources in mainland China in the six and a half years through June, according to a Bloomberg analysis of U.S. government data. The leader was Harvard University, which pulled in $93.7 million, the majority as gifts. The University of Southern California and University of Pennsylvania were second and third.

Difficult as it is to measure public opinion in China, it is doubtless true that for many Chinese, the anti-corruption campaign — Xi’s key initiative — has been highly popular. With the economy growing steadily before the virus hit, most Chinese are also still seeing their living standards rise.

But Li’s death and the mismanagement of the crisis have done more than just crystallise the elite’s dislike of Xi. Over time, they could direct the anger of the wider populace against him as well.

No matter how bad the coronavirus epidemic gets, the crisis will not change how China is governed under President Xi Jinping. Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has strengthened the Communist Party’s hold on power and developed a comprehensive national agenda from which all else — including domestic crisis management — must follow.

The Justice Department announced charges on Monday against four members of China’s military on suspicion of hacking into Equifax, one of the nation’s largest credit reporting agencies, and stealing trade secrets and the personal data of about 145 million Americans in 2017.

“This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” Attorney General William P. Barr said.

The charges underscored China’s quest to obtain the personal data of Americans and its willingness to flout a 2015 agreement with the United States to refrain from hacking and cyberattacks, all in an effort to expand economic power and influence.

France is in the early stages of rolling out its next-generation wireless technology, and the government’s stance over Huawei’s possible role still lacks clarity, according to some telecoms industry trade bodies. Some French media outlets have reported in recent months that the company could face restrictions in several cities.

The Chinese embassy said in a statement on its website that it was “shocked and worried” by such reports, adding that French President Emmanuel Macron and other officials had given repeated assurances that all companies would be treated fairly.  

  • Owner of Australian farm has Xinjiang ties
    ‘Political indoctrination’: Katherine Farm owner involved in controversial Chinese program / ABC (Australia)
    “A Chinese company [Xinjiang Yikang] that owns farmland in…[Australia’s] Northern Territory has been cooperating with a controversial ‘political indoctrination’ program in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, where more than 1 million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been detained in camps.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Some provinces and cities have adopted peculiar NIMBY-style epidemic control measures, unilaterally sealing off roads [in Chinese] in an attempt to contain the virus, engaging in tit-for-tat requisitions [in Chinese] of emergency supplies with other localities, and locking returning migrants in or out of their homes. While a number of netizens have praised these so-called hardcore preventative measures as necessary to contain the epidemic, it’s worth reflecting on the potential risk they pose to China’s economic and social order.

To get to know the man before he became a martyr, Sixth Tone has reviewed Li’s [Lǐ Wénliàng 李文亮] Weibo posts, written in vivid and vigorous prose, from 2011 to about a week ago. The young doctor who studied in Wuhan and later made his home in the city had a penchant for posting photos of his daily meals and snacks. He posted about gifts he received from online lotteries, staying up late to watch snooker by livestreaming, and the latest gadgets he hoped to buy.

  • Indonesia hopes its famous reptiles will lure Chinese tourists to the ‘super premium’ site of Labuan Bajo.
  • But danger lurks in this tiny town and not just from deadly beasts: nobody told the locals what ‘premium’ means.

Some students of Asian descent at Arizona State University felt a chill in the campus atmosphere soon after the disclosure last month that a person connected to the school tested positive for the novel coronavirus.