Links for February 27, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Thousands of Amazon.com Inc. sellers who built their businesses using China’s cheap and efficient manufacturers are on the spot as the coronavirus shuts factories there.

Sellers say Amazon’s ranking algorithm demotes products that are out of stock. To avoid that painful fate, many are raising prices to slow sales, and attempting to shift production to other countries.

The growing popularity of online gay-friendly adverts in China shows business is waking up to the “pink yuan” and more liberal attitudes among young people, but the government remains unmoved.

China’s gay economy is worth $300 billion to $500 billion annually, reaching about 70 million people, marketing research firm Daxue Consulting said, making it the biggest gay and transgender market in the world in terms of population.

“Young Chinese people do appear to be opening up and accepting LGBT+ culture,” said Allison Malmsten, a China analyst at the Shanghai-based company. “The LGBT+ market in China has a lot of untapped potential.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Chinese demand for pangolins has created an international smuggling network that stretches all the way to Africa. Countries bordering China, such as Myanmar and Nepal, are often used as transit routes, with smugglers benefiting from their lack of resources to properly enforce anti-trafficking laws. Pangolins are also native to many of these countries, and poaching is a tempting way to make a bit of extra cash, especially for people in poorer, rural regions.

But are they the real criminals here? What about the big-time smugglers at the top of the pyramid? How much are they making, and what’s the best way to stop them?

China’s robotic Chang’e-4 spacecraft did something last year that had never been done before: It landed on the moon’s far side, and Yutu-2, a small rover it was carrying, began trundling through a crater there. One of the rover’s instruments, a ground-penetrating radar, is now revealing what lies beneath.

In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, a team of Chinese and Italian researchers showed that the top layer of the lunar soil on that part of the moon is considerably thicker than some expected — about 130 feet of what scientists call regolith.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Visit to camps for mostly Muslim minorities that China calls ‘training centers’ must give full access, Michelle Bachelet’s spokesman says. But negotiations stalled last year and no UN high commissioner for human rights has visited China since 2005.

  • The coronavirus brings new and awful repression for Uyghurs in China / Washington Post
    Uyghur activists are presenting evidence that the Chinese authorities’ reaction to the epidemic is causing hunger and panic even outside the camps. There are also separate reports that the Chinese authorities are forcing Uyghurs to return to work at factories that had been shut down because of the epidemic — despite the ongoing risks.

Online, people are openly criticizing state media. They have harshly condemned stories of individual sacrifice when front-line medical personnel still lack basic supplies like masks… They have heaped scorn on images of the women with shaved heads, asking whether the women were pressured to do it and wondering why similar images of men weren’t appearing.

One critical blog post [in Chinese] was titled “News coverage should stop turning a funeral into a wedding.”

  • A fairy tale ending / China Media Project

    How do you ensure a story has a fairy tale ending? You write the ending yourself of course. In recent days, official state media in China have celebrated the publication of A Battle Against Epidemic: China Combatting Covid-19 in 2020, a book that compiles writing by official state media to paint a portrait of leadership resolve in the face of a major challenge.

Peter Navarro, the leading China critic in the Trump administration, is seizing the moment.

The White House’s director of trade and manufacturing policy and the administration’s other China hawks are pushing to use the coronavirus crisis to press U.S. companies to end their dependence on foreign suppliers…

The efforts are more subtle than Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ blunt declaration in January that coronavirus spreading abroad could “accelerate the return of jobs to North America.” But the message is the same: The U.S. needs to be less dependent on foreign markets in general — and China in particular.

Adding to the tensions between Rome and Beijing, Italy is now the epicenter in Europe of the fight against coronavirus that first emerged in China. To contain the outbreak, Italy on January 31 suspended flights to and from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The ban until April 28, the first by a European Union member, was blasted by China, which said it is “strongly dissatisfied with the overreaction and restrictions of the Italian side.”

Such strains may get worse, with opposition leader Matteo Salvini threatening a less accommodating approach to China if he engineers a return to government.

Moscow’s mayor sought to patch up a rare public dispute with China, as Russia’s efforts to control the coronavirus fueled tension between the two close partners.

“I ask you to be understanding of the measures we’re forced to take aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus in one of the biggest megalopolises in Europe,” Sergei Sobyanin wrote in a letter Wednesday to China’s ambassador to Russia, Zhāng Hànhuī 张汉晖.

The message came just days after the diplomat had written to complain that “the kind of special monitoring of Chinese citizens in public transport in Moscow doesn’t exist in any country, even in the U.S. and western nations.”

Two nurses working at the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic — the central Chinese city of Wuhan — have made a global appeal for assistance on the website of the medical journal, The Lancet.

Zeng Yingchun and Zhen Yan, who hail from the southern province of Guangdong, were among a wave of medical personnel dispatched to the front line of the epidemic at the beginning of the year…

“The conditions and environment here in Wuhan are more difficult and extreme than we could ever have imagined,” the nurses write, citing a severe shortage of protective equipment like N95 respirators, face shields, goggles, gowns, and gloves.

British medical journal the Lancet on Thursday retracted a letter from two Chinese nurses purporting to be on the front line of the coronavirus fight, saying the authors had requested that it be withdrawn because it was not a first-hand account…

“On February 26, 2020, we were informed by the authors of this correspondence that the account described therein was not a first-hand account, as the authors had claimed, and that they wished to withdraw the piece. We have therefore taken the decision to retract this correspondence,” the Lancet said.

It gave no further explanation.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

In the wake of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, China updated its existing rules governing the wildlife trade, but a combination of loopholes and muddled enforcement has continued to render them largely ineffective. If we want this time to be different, we first need to understand the cultural and commercial drivers of the trade, as well as the flaws in the current regulatory and enforcement system.

  • Visual artists
    Emotive vessels / Neo Cha
    “Taiwanese artist Fan Yanting creates ceramic art that feels human. His pottery wares — etched with faces and given endearing backstories — are as expressive as they are functional.”
    Trash photography / Neo Cha
    “‘I’m not a photographer, and I don’t want to become one,’ says Lao Xie Xie with a laugh. ‘I just use a camera as a tool to make real what I have in my mind.’ If that’s true, then his mind is a sublime and seamy place.”