Links for Monday, March 2, 2020


Tencent Holdings’ super app WeChat, with a user base of 1.2 billion people, has blocked links for a ByteDance remote work tool, as Chinese tech giants fight for dominance in the burgeoning enterprise collaboration market. The latest move adds another ByteDance app to WeChat’s blacklist — which already includes Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and its sister platform Xigua Video…

Chinese students are not enthusiastic about taking online classes at home, to say the least. Many took to social media to vent and to app stores to leave one-star reviews for the platform.

Dingtalk is trying to fight back with the only weapons that work in a meme war:  A deluge of memes and catchy, yet cringe-worthy, apology music videos have flooded social media.

  • Ride-sharing platform gets slap on the wrist
    Didi rival Dida censured for resuming inter-city rides / TechNode
    “Beijing regulatory agencies reprimanded ride-hailing platform Dida Chuxing for resuming inter-city services to and from Beijing as the current novel coronavirus outbreak lingers on.”


China’s Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, the country’s top research body on animal diseases, said [in Chinese] it developed an African swine fever vaccine that laboratory testing has showed is safe and effective.

The institute, which is overseen by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said the live vaccine with reduced virulance was created from a series of gene-deleted viruses using the country’s first African swine fever strain as a backbone.

Data collected from the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument on ESA’s Sentinel-5 satellite shows a significant drop of nitrogen dioxide — a gas mainly emitted by cars, trucks, power plants and some industrial plants — between January 1 and February 25…

Although during the end of January and start of February there is usually a drop in nitrogen dioxide across China as businesses close during the Lunar New Year, this year, the reductions have continued long after the end of the festival.

China has an estimated 20 million people living with rare diseases, many of whom struggle to pay their medical bills due to gaps in insurance coverage. The average Chinese rare disease patient pays over 50,000 yuan per year for their treatment, with insurers covering only 20% of the costs, according to a 2018 survey [in Chinese] by the Illness Challenge Foundation.

This morning, news from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) let loose a barrage of panic. Dog owners in Hong Kong woke up to headlines about a dog in Hong Kong having tested as a ‘weak positive’ for COVID-19, or with ‘low level’ of coronavirus.

The crucial piece of the news is that there is no evidence that dogs can contract or spread COVID-19, and that this could be a false positive.

  • 65-year-old woman in Kunming hospital intensive care unit showed no adverse effects to her first shot and after two was up and walking again, researchers say.
  • Results ‘could be very important and inspire similar clinical practices in treating critically ill COVID-19 patients.’

If there is a positive impact of the coronavirus epidemic, look for it in Japan, where people are observing better hygiene and the number of influenza cases is far below a typical year. The trend hasn’t been clearly seen in Europe or the U.S., where the threat of the epidemic has begun to hit home only in recent weeks, but if people elsewhere begin to take flu-prevention measures, thousands could be saved.

In recent days the WHO has complained that China has not been sharing data on infections in health care workers. Earlier this month, the editors of the journal Nature called on researchers to “ensure that their work on this outbreak is shared rapidly and openly.”

Much more could be known and, in all likelihood, some scientists out there have good, if not definitive, answers. And yet, the lack of consistent, reliable and regularly updated information on the key measures of this outbreak is startling. In an era when we get flash-flood warnings on phones and weekly influenza statistics from every state, why is data on the new coronavirus so limited?

China has stepped up the alert in case swarms of locusts that have laid waste to agricultural land in Pakistan, India and East Africa find their way across its borders, a government agency said on Monday.

“Although experts believe that the risk of swarms entering the country and causing disaster is relatively low, [China] will be hampered in tracking the locusts by a lack of monitoring techniques and little knowledge of migration patterns [if they do] invade,” the National Forestry and Grassland Administration said in an emergency notice on its website.


Anming Hu, an associate professor of mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, was arrested Thursday on a federal indictment and charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements. The indictment alleges that beginning in 2016, Hu defrauded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by concealing his affiliation with Beijing University of Technology, a university in China. Federal law prohibits NASA from using appropriated funds on projects in collaboration with China or Chinese universities.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg on Friday pledged to de-escalate U.S.-China trade tensions, make it easier for farmers to hire foreign labourers and increase federal agricultural research. The former New York mayor’s farm policy programme, first reported by Reuters, comes ahead of the “Super Tuesday” March 3 nomination contests in 14 states, including farm-heavy states like Minnesota and Oklahoma.

The US Navy would have no problem defeating its Chinese counterpart in a naval conflict today, but Beijing’s outsized ambition and “off the charts” shipbuilding capabilities are rapidly turning it into a formidable adversary, the nation’s top naval official said on Friday. Thomas B. Modly, the acting US Navy secretary, said that in order to better counter China and Russia, the navy needs more technologically advanced amphibious, support and unmanned vessels and more focus on internal efficiency.

Kenya’s high court on Friday ordered the temporary suspension of all incoming flights from China and instructed the government to track down and isolate the 239 people who arrived in the country this week aboard a China Southern Airlines flight.

The judge’s ruling came after people on social media in Kenya raised their concerns after passengers on the flight from Guangzhou were seen leaving the airport without undergoing any health checks.

The Chinese embassy in Russia has withdrawn its claim that Chinese nationals were being singled out for coronavirus containment measures or abused while in quarantine in the country. The U-turn came after the embassy sent a diplomatic note to the Moscow city government last Monday claiming that only Chinese nationals appeared to be targeted by the city’s containment measures.

  • China sends aid to Iran
    China sends team to aid Iranian response to surging coronavirus / WSJ (paywall)
    “A team of Chinese experts arrived in Tehran Saturday to help combat the deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus outside China, as the number of confirmed cases in Iran jumped more than 50% overnight and Iranian authorities complained of a shortage of supplies needed to contain the rapidly spreading illness.”
  • Profile of a dissident seeking asylum in Taiwan
    The original sin of Li Jiabao / NPR

Lǐ Jiābǎo 李家寶…is seeking asylum…after posting a video that went viral on Twitter criticizing the Chinese president and Communist Party… Fearing imprisonment — or worse — if he returns to China, Li has extended his student status for almost a year. But the democratic island of Taiwan has no formal asylum law, and is wary of openly welcoming Chinese “mainlanders.”