Links for Tuesday, February 11, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Leading tech giant Tencent has launched an online platform that allows users to locate confirmed coronavirus cases in more than 140 cities nationwide. The platform, dubbed the Novel Coronavirus Community Compounds Search Map, has been available on Tencent Maps and messaging app WeChat since Saturday, and uses official data from local health authorities to mark residential communities with confirmed coronavirus cases and show their distance from the user.

Other companies and media organizations including Qihoo 360, Sogou, and Yicai have launched similar platforms for locating confirmed coronavirus cases.

China has launched an app that allows people to check whether they have been at risk of catching the coronavirus.

The ‘close contact detector’ tells users if they have been near a person who has been confirmed or suspected of having the virus…

To make an inquiry users scan a Quick Response (QR) code on their smartphones using apps like the payment service Alipay or social media platform WeChat.

Once the new app is registered with a phone number, users are asked to enter their name and ID number. Every registered phone number can then be used to check the status of up to three ID numbers.

The app was jointly developed by government departments and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation and supported by data from health and transport authorities…

Mastercard Inc. won approval to set up a bank card clearing business in China, gaining access to a $27 trillion payments market as part of the nation’s financial opening.

The announcement [in Chinese] by the People’s Bank of China on Tuesday signals the country is moving ahead with the speedier opening of its financial system that was agreed on as part of the phase one trade deal with the U.S., even as it grapples with a virus outbreak.

Nissan is the latest car maker to temporarily shut one of its factories as it can’t get parts from China. The firm will halt production for two days at a plant in Japan which makes the Serena and X-Trail models.

Tesla’s shares gained 3.1% Monday, closing at $771.28, amid reports that the U.S. electric car maker has resumed production at its Shanghai factory this week. Production had previously been shut down due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The restart of production comes two weeks after Tesla’s chief financial officer Zach Kirkhorn announced during an earnings call that the Chinese government had required the Shanghai plant close due to 2019-nCoV concerns, which would delay the deliveries of the China-made Model 3 sedans.

Billionaire Lǐ Shūfú’s 李書福 Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. surged in Hong Kong trading after the company announced plans to merge with Swedish affiliate Volvo Cars, a move that could pave the way for China’s first global carmaker.

The pair, both controlled by Li’s closely held Geely Group, have started discussions and the plan is for the combined entity to be listed in Hong Kong and Stockholm, according to a statement on Monday. Shares of Geely Automobile rose as much as 12%, the biggest intraday gain since April, and were up 6% at 11:51 a.m. local time.

Chinese electric car company Nio reported a year-on-year sales drop in January, but its CEO downplayed the negative results, blaming them on the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Nio delivered 1,598 vehicles in January, consisting of 1,493 ES6s and 105 ES8s models, representing less than half of the number the company sold in December. The figure also put an end to the company’s five consecutive months of shipment growth, and marked a year-on-year decline of 11.5%, the company said in a statement Monday.

Oil prices fell to their lowest level since January 2019 on Monday on weaker Chinese demand in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and as traders waited to see if Russia would join other producers in seeking further output cuts.

China’s largest e-commerce company, valued at HK$4.56 trillion ($587 billion) in Hong Kong, can’t be included in the stock connect program linking the Asian financial hub with Chinese investors at present, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

Chinese video-sharing app Kuaishou generated 50 billion yuan (around $7.2 billion) in revenue in 2019, with live-streaming revenue accounting for the largest share, Chinese media Jiemian reported on Monday.

Kuaishou is one of China’s most popular short-video apps and a major rival of Bytedance’s Douyin, the domestic version of TikTok.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Hundreds of environmental public interest cases are brought in China’s courts every year, but almost none are preventive in nature. They are usually brought in response to environmental damages already incurred. This isn’t good enough.

Environmental problems should be prevented from occurring in the first place. Destroyed ecosystems, climate change, extinctions, people suffering permanent health effects of pollution — these are all problems which cannot really be “cleaned up”. As China’s courts are playing an ever-greater role in environmental governance, now is the right time to allow preventive public interest cases.

Researchers in Guangzhou, China, have suggested that pangolins — long-snouted, ant-eating mammals often used in traditional Chinese medicine — are the probable animal source of the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 30,000 people and is wreaking havoc worldwide.

Scientists say that the suggestion, based on a genetic analysis, seems plausible — but caution that the researchers’ work is yet to be published in full. “This is an extremely interesting observation. Although we need to see more details, it does make sense as there are now some other data emerging that pangolins carry viruses that are closely related to 2019-nCoV,” says Edward Holmes, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Sydney, Australia.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Chinese artificial intelligence company iFlyTek has filed a request with U.S. authorities to exempt it from a trade blacklist. The exemption would enable it to buy medical supplies to help fight the novel coronavirus which has broken out in China, the firm said in a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Monday.

In October 2019, iFlyTek and several other Chinese tech firms were placed on the so-called U.S. Entity List, barring them from purchasing products and services from American companies.

“States with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers don’t have a drug problem,” Trump said during a White House event with governors. “I don’t know that our country is ready for that, but if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty — death penalty — with a fair but quick trial, they have very little if any drug problem. That includes China.”

The Chinese government has flatly denied — again — any suggestion that its operatives are conducting cyberattacks or espionage in the United States, following the Justice Department’s move to charge four members of the Chinese military with a 2017 hack of the Equifax credit reporting agency.

The massive data breach compromised the personal information, including Social Security numbers and birth dates, of about 145 million people — or nearly half of all Americans.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has asked the Philippine government to “correct” its travel ban introduced Monday that includes Taiwan along with China, Hong Kong and Macau…

The Philippines’ travel ban announced that day has resulted in confusion. Passengers of flights from Taiwan, which took off before the ban was introduced, were denied entry and stranded in several airports in the Philippines.

In addition, several airlines, such as Air Asia and Cebu Pacific, have announced the cancellation of flights between Taiwan and the Philippines.

Hong Kong business people have donated over HK$1.11 billion ($140 million) as well as medical supplies to mainland China to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus, according to Beijing’s liaison office…

Donations reportedly included HK$100 million ($12.88 million) from the Li Ka Shing Foundation to go towards combatting the virus in Wuhan. Shimao Properties also donated HK$30 million ($3.86 million), among other contributions. The funds will be transferred to the Red Cross Society of China for distribution and monitoring, the office said.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

This week, there was one man among the patients at Wuhan’s ‘Fang Cang’ shelter hospital (方舱医院) [Fāng Cāng Yīyuàn] who attracted the attention of netizens as he was spotted in an online picture lying on the bed and reading a book.

It’s rare enough to see someone infected with the much-feared coronavirus still engrossed in a book. But was especially noteworthy to many Weibo users is the type of book the patient was reading.

The book, that was identified as Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, is not exactly known as ‘light reading.’

One of the Weibo posts that pointed the reading man out in the photo, which was shot by Changjiang Daily (长江日报) [Chángjiāng Rìbào], described him as “an invincible Wuhan-er” (打不垮的武汉人) [dábùkuǎ de Wǔhànrén].