Links for March 5, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for March 5, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Washington needs to give China some leeway in implementing a Phase 1 trade deal given a downturn in the world’s second largest economy caused by the coronavirus, U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said on Wednesday…

China’s moves to reduce some tariffs on U.S. goods and allow U.S. inspections of their food showed they were acting in “good faith,” Grassley added.

“We have to give some leeway to them because of the downturn in their economy, and less consumption as a result of it,” he told Reuters.

Chinese autonomous vehicle startup Pony.ai has announced it has launched “robotaxi” services with limited routes in a U.S. city, becoming one of the first companies to carry passengers in autonomous vehicles.

The service, named PonyPilot, went online February 25 in the city of Fremont, California, the company said in a public WeChat post [in Chinese] Wednesday. For now, it is only available to local government employees and is restricted to fixed routes connecting the city’s train station with some municipal buildings such as the town hall.

Chinese tech giant Alibaba launched its ‘cunbo project’ [cūnbō 村播 means rural livestreaming] in the spring of 2019 to promote the use of its Taobao Live app amongst farmers. The most influential livestreaming farmers get signed by Alibaba to elevate Taobao Live’s rural business to a higher level.

China is close to giving the go-ahead for some of its biggest state-owned companies to develop the giant Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea, potentially paving the way for the project to be built after years of legal wrangling.

A Chinese exchange-traded fund investing in 5G has drawn $2 billion in cash in less than two weeks, the latest sign of speculative activity buoying the nation’s shares.

The amount accounts for 80% of the funds the China AMC CSI 5G Communications Theme ETF has attracted since October’s launch, and makes the offering the most popular ETF in China in the past year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The fund tracks the CSI 5G Communication Index, which has jumped 25% this year.

  • Local governments bring back electric vehicle subsidies
    EV subsidies in China are making a comeback / TechNode
    “Two local-level governments [the city of Guangzhou and Hunan Province] in China have revived subsidies for electric vehicle purchases, a bid to stimulate auto sales already in a slump which is deepening with the novel coronavirus outbreak.”
  • Online housing platform gets big SoftBank investment
    SoftBank leads $2.4 billion round in Chinese housing platform Beike / TechNode
    “Beijing-based online housing platform Beike has secured $2.4 billion in a Series D Plus from a consortium led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund which is reportedly doubling down on investments in the Chinese real estate market.”
  • Augmented reality glasses firm raises $19 million
    Chinese AR glasses brand Mad Gaze banks $18.6m in series A money / Tech in Asia
    “Mad Gaze, a Chinese firm selling smart AR glasses, said it closed its series A funding round last month at $18.6 million, after securing $12 million in a pre-series A round in 2019.”
  • China will not restrict medical mask exports
    China backs free trade in masks despite coronavirus-induced shortages / SCMP
    “Lǐ Xīngqián 李兴乾, director of the foreign trade department at the Ministry of Commerce, said China had not banned the export of masks or related materials during the coronavirus epidemic, despite other countries imposing such limits.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

  • India, which supplies around 40% of U.S. generic drugs, announced this week that it was restricting exports of 26 drug ingredients and medicines that use them, including several common antibiotics and the active ingredient in Tylenol.
  • The news follows an announcement from the Food and Drug Administration warning that the coronavirus epidemic had already resulted in a shortage of a drug that it didn’t name.

From Thursday, a temporary “shelter hospital” in the central Chinese city of Wuhan is conducting additional tests on COVID-19 patients who have met the necessary criteria to be discharged, following reports of discharged individuals later testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

A senior researcher involved in efforts to contain the coronavirus epidemic is predicting there may be no more new cases in mainland China, except for the Hubei province epicenter, by mid-March, but the death of a patient after being discharged from hospital has added a worrying new aspect to the spread of COVID-19…

“We have analyzed the infections trend. So far, the daily infections in places other than Hubei have almost gone down to zero since late February,” Zhang told the official People’s Daily.

From the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, medical practitioners have followed China’s guidelines set up in January and treated hospitalized patients with α-interferon combined with the repurposed drug Kaletra, an approved cocktail of the HIV protease inhibitors ritonavir and lopinavir. The World Health Organization has noted that this combination could provide some clinical benefit.

The majority of medical staff in China’s hospitals are women, and during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it has been women who have been at the forefront of the battle to contain the epidemic…

On the eve of International Women’s Day on 8 March, it is essential that the contribution of women workers is recognised by the government and their employers and that the trade unions start to take their responsibility to protect female workers far more seriously at this critical time.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

The move to honor Li is the latest in a series of moves authorities have made in a bid to calm the widespread grief and fury over his death. President Xi Jinping’s government has in recent weeks ousted top officials in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, and dispatched an investigation team hours after Li passed away. No result or information about its findings have been released. 

A close look at reports from the most recent four meetings of the Standing Committee shows “Xi Jinping Thought” absent in all instances… 442” remains relevant as a means of signaling unified action under the leadership of the party — while “Xi’s thought” may be seen as too abstract and untimely in light of practical tasks at hand.

Now that China is slowly going back to work, the country’s formidable propaganda apparatus is attempting to orchestrate a whole new narrative about the origin of the virus, the Chinese Communist Party’s role in combating the outbreak and how Beijing is emerging as a global leader in the struggle to contain the spread of the virus abroad.

China will step up funding support for local government bodies to ensure smooth operations as a coronavirus outbreak takes a toll of their revenues, Vice Finance Minister Xǔ Hóngcái 许宏才 said on Thursday.

The ministry will meet the funding needs of the central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, as its revenue has shrunk, Xu said, with only “sporadic” income in February.

To circumvent the ban, some students traveled to a third country where they spent 14 days in self-quarantine before entering Australia. In some cases, universities have provided financial assistance for students to make those trips. Australian universities have allowed some students from mainland China to circumvent travel restrictions and return to study. But critics say that practice may inevitably import the infectious coronavirus to local campuses.

Daren Tang, head of Singapore’s intellectual property office, was nominated incoming director-general [of the World Intellectual Property Organization or Wipo] subject to confirmation from the body’s general assembly in May, the UN organization said on Wednesday. Mr Tang defeated Wáng Bīnyǐng 王彬颖, currently a Wipo deputy director and a former Beijing trade official, in a second round of voting with 55 votes to 28, according to people briefed on the election.

A growing emphasis on Chinese-language schooling in Tibet, though facilitating greater participation in China’s modern economy, is slowly destroying the cultural identity of Tibetan schoolchildren, according to a report released on Thursday by Human Rights Watch

Though many Tibetans agree that facility in the Chinese language is necessary in order to participate in parts of the country’s economy, “I think people feel very strongly that this lack of Tibetan-medium instruction really is an assault on their distinct cultural identity.”

Homeowners are dumping their properties in Hong Kong for as much as HK$11.6 million ($1.5 million) in losses to pack up their bags because of the city’s dire economic prospects, analysts said. More could be pressured to sell into a weak market to hasten their emigration plans…

The desperation is reflected in the number of applications for “certificates of no criminal conviction”, a necessary document for emigration applications, which surged by almost 24% in the first two months this year to 4,377 from the same period last year, according to the Hong Kong Police Force.

But under the Trump administration, the total U.S. CDC program in China went down to three U.S. experts and a handful of local hires. Meanwhile, the Beijing-based EID program was drawn down. Had this program been up and running at full strength, we wouldn’t have needed to offer to send a team of health experts, as the administration did last month; we would have had people available and familiar with relationships of trust right there in China.

Researchers can’t study disease unless they have access to it, and diseases emerge in different parts of the world. That’s why the NIH funds research worldwide, instead of the more restrictive rules of the National Science Foundation. And that’s why the CDC opened offices around the world to track emerging infections.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

No L.G.B.T.Q. group has performed this dance with the authorities as successfully and carefully as Blued — a for-profit entity. By staying within the commercial and public-health sectors and framing the fight for gay recognition in terms of business, the company, under the leadership of its founder and chief executive, Gěng Lè 耿乐, has cultivated a minority community free of political activism.

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