BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Is China’s digital currency close to launch?
Patents reveal extent of China’s digital currency plans / FT (paywall)
The People’s Bank of China has filed more than 80 patents related to its secretive plans to launch a digital currency, according to new research that shows the extent of Beijing’s ambitions to digitise the renminbi.
The trove of patents, seen and verified by the Financial Times, include proposals related to the issuance and supply of a central bank digital currency, a system for interbank settlements that uses the currency, and the integration of digital currency wallets into existing retail bank accounts.
Uncovered by the Chamber of Digital Commerce, their contents shed light on Beijing’s mounting efforts to digitise the renminbi, which has sparked alarm in the west and spurred central bankers around the world to begin exploring similar projects.
China’s provincial-level governments have been given the green light to issue a further 290 billion yuan ($41.6 billion) of special-purpose bonds (SPBs) early, adding to the 1 trillion yuan of such debt approved in November to boost infrastructure spending amid a slowing economy that’s set to take an additional hit from the coronavirus epidemic.
The Ministry of Finance announced (in Chinese) the additional quota on Tuesday as part of a second round of early allocations of local government debt that included a further 558 billion yuan ($80.04 billion) of general bonds.
Making solar power cheaper
China considers cutting 2020 benchmark solar prices by up to 18% / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“China is considering cutting benchmark electricity prices paid to utility-scale solar projects by as much as 18% amid efforts to let the renewable energy become a more competitive source of power, according to people familiar with the matter.”
Can China return to work safely?
Coronavirus updates: China seeks to restart economy while fighting outbreak / NYT (porous paywall)
The Chinese authorities have approved a broad strategy for trying to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control while restarting economic production, state news outlets reported Wednesday evening.
President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 ordered that tax cuts be drafted and put into effect.
Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强, the country’s No. 2 official, and the country’s cabinet called for major construction projects to begin across the country as soon as possible.
State-owned enterprises were told to cut rents. Banks were ordered to keep interest rates low…
The two most powerful political bodies in China — the Standing Committee of the Communist Party Politburo and the government’s cabinet of ministers — each issued similar orders. Both groups produced hints of the fairly broad stimulus program that many economists expect soon.
None of the announcements directly addressed the difficult balancing act that China now faces: how to put more than 700 million workers back on the job without creating conditions that could allow the virus to spread.
- China staggers back to work amid continued coronavirus outbreak / China Labour Bulletin
Officials from the National Development and Reform Commission claim that, as of 10 February, essential industries such as food and energy supplies were running normally [in Chinese].
With the exception of enterprises in Hubei, which are scheduled to resume production on 14 February, about 95 percent of coal mines and food production enterprises had resumed production, while the resumption rate for enterprises producing face masks and protective clothing were 76 percent and 77 percent respectively, the commission said.
Mercedes-Benz recently requested the government to permit its suppliers to resume production in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin, warning of a major hit to sales if the factory suspensions continue.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
The role of genetic data in outbreak detection
Early coronavirus genetic data may have forewarned outbreak / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China didn’t release key genetic data on the coronavirus until about two weeks after it emerged that a new SARS-like illness may be sickening people, highlighting the need for outbreak detection systems to incorporate modern scientific tools.
Insufficient attention was paid to the information doctors had gathered about the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus, scientists said in a commentary paper in the Lancet medical journal Tuesday…
“To be fair to the authorities, I think all national responses would do what the Chinese did,” said Lin Fa Wang, one of the four authors of the Lancet paper. “This is not a cover up or delay, this is all about policy and ‘rules of engagement’ for reporting. I hope people focus on the lessons learned.”
The world is in the dark about the epidemic’s real scale and speed, because existing tests have limited powers — and testing is far too spotty…
Today, there aren’t nearly enough test kits available to keep up with the skyrocketing case numbers, and some parts of the world may lack enough trained laboratory staff to apply them.
Ebola antiviral used in U.S. to treat COVID-19
Coronavirus: Antiviral that has ‘shown promise’ among U.S. biomedical agency’s drug tests, after patient responds to remdesivir medication / SCMP
- Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir was initially developed to fight the Ebola virus, and the company is working with Chinese health officials on a clinical trial.
- The first coronavirus patient in the United States was treated with remdesivir in late January and his symptoms improved.
How are coronavirus patients treated?
How doctors are treating patients with coronavirus disease / NPR
There’s no specific drug that can kill this virus. So doctors provide what’s known as supportive care…
The strategy of supportive care is to do whatever’s possible to keep vital organ systems functioning. That means monitoring vitals such as temperature, blood pressure and oxygen levels “and trying to keep those as normal as we can,” she says.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
U.S. sends solidarity planes over Taiwan Strait
U.S. sends surveillance planes over Taiwan Strait after Chinese war games ‘in show of support for Taipei’ / SCMP
- Flyover was a message of support for Taipei and a warning to Beijing, according to analyst.
- Two special mission aircraft flew from Okinawa base towards the South China Sea.
China playing a “long game” — FBI
How the FBI combats China’s political meddling / Axios
In May 2019, the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force quietly added a unit aimed at countering China’s political influence in the United States. In an exclusive interview, an FBI official reveals for the first time the bureau’s approach to countering China’s interference in local and state politics.
- Related: From Jakub Janda on Twitter: “Lithuanian intelligence published their 2019 annual report, outlining growing threats from Russia and China.”
Taiwan present at WHO meeting
Taiwan says it does not need Beijing’s permission to take part in WHO’s online coronavirus meeting / SCMP
- Excluded from the World Health Organisation on mainland China’s objections, Taipei said it dealt directly with organisation on outbreak.
- Beijing and the WHO say they ensured Taiwan was kept up to date with virus developments.
Travel ban updates
Final word on Philippine travel ban on Taiwan may be 2 days away / Focus Taiwan
“The Philippine government could decide within the next two days whether or not to lift a travel ban on Taiwan, said Eric Domingo, the Philippine health undersecretary.”
Virus outbreak: Ban on Chinese minors to remain / Taipei Times
“The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced that Chinese minor children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples would continue to be banned from entering Taiwan.”
Countries widen travel warnings to include Singapore / Caixin
What does COVID-19 mean for Belt and Road?
Belt and Road actors brace for coronavirus shock / Panda Paw Dragon Claw
China’s overseas operations, from power plants to railway constructions, are also not immune to what’s going on at home. According to a tally kept by the Chinese National Immigration Agency (NIA), 128 countries have installed border control measures [in Chinese] against Chinese citizens or people who have visited China.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Firecracker birthday protest against isolation measures
China charges man who pushed for birthday party despite coronavirus ban / Reuters
Prosecutors in China have brought criminal charges against a 59-year-old man who strapped on firecrackers and doused himself with gasoline to defy a ban on public gatherings during a coronavirus epidemic, the Xinhua news agency said.
The resident of the southwestern city of Chongqing planned a birthday banquet for more than ten tables of guests on January 28, the state-run agency said on Wednesday, but local officials battling the outbreak asked him to cancel the plan.
Chinese international students left in limbo
For a Chinese traveler, even paradise comes with prejudice / NYT (porous paywall)
“A Chinese student trying to return to her university in Australia is stuck on a South Korean resort island. Amid coronavirus anxiety, she has been met with fear and discrimination.”
How students from China are heading for third countries to get around travel ban / ABC (Australia)
International university students from China say they are transiting to third countries to wait out their quarantine period before flying to Australia to resume their classes.
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment issued advice earlier this week on how students “may” be able to get back to Australia via a third country and provided examples.