BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Op-ed: How WeChat fell behind
WeChat is losing the war for users’ attention / Walk the Chat
Thomas Graziani writes, “It can seem easy to [blame] WeChat’s current demise [on] their inability to spot the short-video craze early. I would, however, argue that WeChat started losing the battle earlier. WeChat neglected incremental changes that could have improved the platform.”
Migrant workers return to work…
China says 78 million migrant rural workers have returned to work / Reuters
“A total of 78 million Chinese migrant rural workers have already returned to work, accounting for 60% of the total who left for home for the Chinese New Year holiday, a government official said on Saturday…”
…But not everywhere
Coronavirus delays Nigeria’s Chinese-built rail project / SCMP
Nigeria’s transport minister said on Friday that completion of a major railway project has been delayed by the coronavirus outbreak as Chinese workers had not returned to the country.
The 150km (90 mile) railway line linking economic hub Lagos to the city of Ibadan is being built by the state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
“Most of the Chinese workers who went on their New Year holiday have not yet returned due to the coronavirus and this has delayed the work,” minister Rotimi Amaechi said.
Exports, imports, and iPhone sales plummet
China export slump ‘on par with global financial crisis’ as surprise trade deficit concerns Beijing / SCMP
On Saturday, China’s customs body reported a rare trade deficit of $7.1 billion — the first since March 2018, when it was $5.5 billion — although that was for a single month. Meanwhile “the decline in exports, if seasonally adjusted, is on a par with the 2008 global financial crisis”, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.
China’s exports and imports plummet in January and February / SCMP
“Exports fell by 17.2% in January and February combined compared to the same period a year earlier, according to data released on Saturday by the General Administration of Customs…Imports dropped 4% from a year earlier…”
Apple sells fewer than 500,000 smartphones in China in February amid coronavirus / Reuters
“Apple sold fewer than half a million smartphones in China in February, government data showed on Monday, as the coronavirus outbreak crippled demand.”
Apple’s iPhone shipments to China plunge 60% in February / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Facial recognition through facemasks, and new rules
Even mask-wearers can be ID’d, China facial recognition firm says / Reuters
…Hanwang Technology Ltd, which also goes by the English name Hanvon, said it has come up [with] technology that can successfully recognize people even when they are wearing masks.
“If connected to a temperature sensor, it can measure body temperature while identifying the person’s name, and then the system would process the result, say, if it detects a temperature over 38 degrees,” Hanwang Vice President Huang Lei told Reuters in an interview.
China has released an update to the standards governing personal information, offering new clarity for tech companies including those using biometric data for facial recognition applications…
The latest changes include requiring collectors of biometric data to inform each subject of the purpose, method, and scope of collection and usage, as well as length of time the information will be stored. It also requires that users give express consent.
U.S. grants tariff exemption for medical gear
U.S. excludes Chinese face masks and medical gear from trade war tariffs / SCMP
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office in recent days granted exclusions from import tariffs for dozens of medical products imported from China, including face masks, hand sanitising wipes and examination gloves, filings with the agency showed on Friday.
Chinese owner agrees to sell Grindr…
Grindr’s Chinese owner Beijing Kunlun Tech to sell gay dating app for U.S.$608 million / Reuters via SCMP
Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech said on Friday that it has agreed to sell Grindr, a popular gay dating app it acquired in 2016, for about $608.5 million [to San Vicente Acquisition].
The deal comes after a U.S. government panel asked Kunlun to divest itself of Grindr. The panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), has not disclosed its concerns about Kunlun’s ownership of Grindr.
However, the United States has been increasingly scrutinising app developers over the safety of personal data they handle, especially if some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel.
…As U.S. orders Chinese firm to divest from cloud software
Trump administration blocks Chinese acquisition of hotel software company / NYT (porous paywall)
In a statement Friday, the Trump administration said there was “credible evidence” that Beijing Shiji Information Technology and its Hong Kong subsidiary might “take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.” It ordered the Chinese company to divest itself of StayNTouch, an American company that makes cloud-based hotel management software, and its assets, including customer data, within 120 days.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Children more susceptible to COVID-19 than previously thought — study
Children may be just as vulnerable to coronavirus as adults, study finds / SCMP
- Researchers looking at cases in Shenzhen say 2% were kids under 15 at early stage of outbreak, but later it rose to 13%.
- Another study finds that among patients’ close contacts, children under 10 had nearly the same chance of becoming infected as other age groups.
How many people will the COVID-19 virus infect?
Global infections could increase tenfold every 19 days, Chinese study says / SCMP
The number of coronavirus cases outside China will increase tenfold every 19 days if no drastic measures are taken to contain its spread, according to a study by a team of Chinese scientists.
The research, headed by leading geneticist Jīn Lì 金力 at Fudan University in Shanghai, also traced the spread of the virus outside China back to just 34 “unobserved carriers”.
How many people will get sick from the coronavirus? Epidemiologists model answers / WSJ (paywall)
“Scientists quietly see a best-case scenario of tens of thousands of deaths; 10 million over two years is the worst case.”
COVID-19 virus sensitive to heat — study
Coronavirus ‘highly sensitive’ to high temperatures, but don’t bank on summer killing it off, studies say / SCMP
- Pathogen appears to spread fastest at 8.72 degrees Celsius, so countries in colder climes should ‘adopt the strictest control measures’, according to researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong province.
- But head of WHO’s health emergencies programme says it is ‘a false hope’ to think COVID-19 will just disappear like the flu.
Women more likely to survive COVID-19 — survey
Women more likely to survive coronavirus in China, studies find / SCMP
- But frontline female medical workers also report more symptoms of anxiety and depression, researchers say.
- Men suffer more physical effects, accounting for 70% of [the] death toll in one survey.
COVID-19 virus can stay in air for 30 minutes — study
Coronavirus can travel twice as far as official ‘safe distance’ and stay in air for 30 minutes, Chinese study finds / SCMP
- Authorities advise people to stay 1-2 metres apart, but researchers found that a bus passenger infected fellow travellers sitting 4.5 metres away.
- The scientists behind the research said their investigation also highlighted the importance of wearing face masks because of the length of time it can linger.
Inside Wuhan’s ‘fangcang’ shelter hospitals / Sixth Tone
[Fāng cāng (方舱) or prefabricated / mobile] hospitals act as buffers for patients who aren’t sick enough to need urgent treatment but should still be under medical observation. Mild patients can be admitted to fangcang after testing positive for the coronavirus. Only and if their situation gets worse will they be transferred to a hospital with a higher care standard. Older people with preexisting health conditions are not admitted to fangcang, which provide only limited treatment and may not be suitable for those with weaker immune systems…
In stark contrast to the early days of the epidemic, over half [in Chinese] of all fangcang beds are now empty. Authorities believe that the shelter hospitals have played a crucial role in bringing the epidemic situation in Wuhan under control.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Another Tsinghua professor speaks out
Professor Guo Yuhua on the poison in China’s system / China Heritage
Guō Yúhuá (郭於華, 1956-) is a prominent scholar in the Sociology Department of Tsinghua University. She was one of the first people to speak out in protest against the overt official persecution of her colleague Xǔ Zhāngrùn 許章潤, a professor of law at Tsinghua, from March 2019…
In the following interview, conducted by Radio Free Asia and published on 3 March 2020, Guo Yuhua addresses the coronavirus epidemic in the context of China’s systemic limitations.
Czech-China feud continues
Czech prime minister says China’s ambassador should be replaced / Reuters
“China should replace its ambassador in the Czech Republic after the Chinese embassy sent a threatening letter to Czech authorities, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said, a position that may further strain relations between the two countries.”
Read more on SupChina: Is China losing the Czech Republic?
Thailand risks hurting Chinese tourism
Thailand does the once unthinkable by hindering Chinese tourism / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The government signaled Friday it prefers arrivals from China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Iran and Italy to self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 disease. They also have to report daily to officials and face fines for non-compliance…
[Chinese tourists] spent more than $17 billion in the Southeast Asian nation last year, over a quarter of all foreign-tourism receipts, and the industry as a whole accounts for about a fifth of the economy.
Hong Kong police force isn’t as popular as it thinks
Netizens initiate mass ‘unlike’ drive after Hong Kong police celebrate 300,000 Facebook fans / Hong Kong Free Press
One commenter said: “People liked and followed your page just to keep tabs on what you are doing, so that they can slam you right after you posted. Please don’t think you are popular.”
Another wrote: “Thank you for posting about this. It reminded me that I need to unlike your page.”
Makeshift bomb factory in Hong Kong shut down
‘Bomb-making factory’ raided by Hong Kong police, 17 arrested / AFP via Hong Kong Free Press
A “bomb-making factory” in Hong Kong with 2.6 tonnes of chemicals was raided by police on Sunday and 17 people arrested over a plot to force the city’s government to close its border with mainland China…Two Hong Kong groups claimed responsibility at the time, saying a shutdown of boundary crossings was needed to curb the spread of the deadly new coronavirus to the city.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Mixed martial arts
Zhang Weili defends strawweight title over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in thriller / ESPN
Zhāng Wěilì 张伟丽 “recorded the first defense of her 115-pound title Saturday, as she defeated former five-time defending champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk via split decision in a five-round fight that will go down as one of the greatest in the division’s history.”
COVID-19-fueled racism in Kenya
The anti-Chinese prejudice being fueled in Kenya / BBC
On 27 February, a message went viral on Facebook, allegedly posted by a Kenyan member of parliament, calling for his constituency residents to avoid interaction with Chinese nationals who had just returned from China after celebrating their new year.
The post warned that if the government did not do enough to protect its citizens, and forcefully quarantine any of these Chinese nationals, then the residents had his permission to chase away and stone any Chinese people within their vicinity…
Kenya is not alone in this prejudice, but what is interesting is that all the initial cases of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa have been linked to European travel rather than China. Yet there is no equivalent anti-European feeling.
Poorest most affected by COVID-19
In coronavirus fight, China’s vulnerable fall through the cracks / NYT (porous paywall)
“The coronavirus is exposing the breadth of China’s wealth gap and the holes in its social safety net.”
Henan’s Jewish enclave
China’s Kaifeng Jews date back 1,400 years and have an unlikely ambassador — a teenager from Hong Kong / SCMP
The Jews of Kaifeng do not have a rabbi, or a synagogue. Their last religious leader died more than 150 years ago, and their last place of worship was destroyed by flood at around the same time.
The dwindling community — estimated to number about 1,000, with only 100 practising members — is largely unknown to other Jewish congregations around the world. In fact, it is a mystery to most inhabitants of the city…
And though they have their own modest museum, they are also far from the beaten tourist track. Visitors turn up no more than once every month or two.
In recent years, however, the Kaifeng Jews have found the most surprising of ambassadors determined to keep their history alive: a Hong Kong teenager studying at a British boarding school.