Links for March 12, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for March 12, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

The ByteDance-owned social media app has announced plans to launch a content moderation transparency center in its Los Angeles office in a renewed effort to earn the trust of users and policymakers.

The new facility, which will open in early May, will give external experts a panoramic view of TikTok’s daily operations, including how its employees apply TikTok’s guidelines to review content uploaded onto its platform, and how concerns of users and creators are processed, the company said in a Wednesday statement.

“Two Republican senators on Thursday introduced a bill aimed at banning federal employees from using Chinese social media app TikTok on their government-issued phones, amid growing national security concerns around the collection and sharing of data on U.S. users with China’s government.”

China’s Hubei Province, the center of a coronavirus pandemic, has unveiled a raft of measures to support local economic growth, the provincial government said on Thursday.

Hubei will actively expand its special bond issuance this year and aim for issuance of 30 billion yuan ($4.29 billion) in corporate bonds, the government said in a statement. 

So far, the serious supply disruptions many have feared haven’t come to pass. Many facilities are back online after production interruptions related to the coronavirus response. Others say they were far enough from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan to continue working immediately after the extended Chinese New Year break.

Store traffic in China is creeping back up after falling as much as 80% at the virus outbreak’s peak there earlier this winter, hammering sales of brands ranging from Burberry Group Plc to Kering SA’s Gucci. The recovery could accelerate in the coming weeks, fueled by so-called “revenge spending” sprees.

  • China will push ahead with its largest trade fair despite the outbreak of the new coronavirus, says Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强.
  • The Canton Fair will be an important part of Beijing’s efforts to ‘stabilize’ the global economy, Li says.

[I]nternet companies have reported a surge in business from elderly users since the outbreak began…

China has around 250 million people [in Chinese] over 60, and this figure is expected to surpass 480 million by the middle of the century. In Shanghai, over one-third [in Chinese] of residents are aged over 60.

Even when workers come back, Chinese businesses may find overseas demand slumping for their exports because of worsening coronavirus epidemics in other countries.

Experts warn that Beijing needs to watch for fake restarts: companies that switch on factories to get government subsidies but that produce little or nothing because they lack workers or supplies.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Sophisticated modeling of the outbreak suggests that China had 114,325 cases by the end of February 2020, a figure that would have been 67 times higher without interventions such as early detection, isolation of the infected, and travel restrictions.

But if the interventions could have been brought in a week earlier, 66% fewer people would have been infected, the analysis found. The same measures brought in three weeks earlier could have reduced cases by 95%.

Shifting freight off China’s roads could be key to tackling air pollution in the 14th Five Year Plan period (2021-25), according to an annual report [in Chinese] by the environment ministry. ​

Motorised vehicles have become a key driver of pollution; a single diesel truck creates as much pollution in China as 200 private cars. Diesel-powered goods vehicles are in fact responsible for 60% of the nitrogen oxides and 85% of the particulate matter pollution released on China’s roads, despite making up only 8% of all vehicles. These vehicles are thus a central target for pollution control measures.

Scientists discovered a skull preserved in amber that may belong to a bird-like dinosaur that lived 99 million years ago. Despite its fierce-looking face, the creature is estimated to be smaller than any known species of bird.

An international research team led by Chinese paleontologist Xíng Lìdá 邢立达determined that, based on its bone structure and long beak, the animal is a previously unknown ancient bird species, which are considered dinosaurs. They named it Oculudentavis khaungraae — meaning “eye-teeth bird” — and described the fossil in a paper published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

A summit planned for the end of the month in Beijing between China and the European Union is set to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, two EU officials and two diplomats said.

The Hong Kong government warned foreign administrations on Thursday not to interfere in its internal affairs after an annual U.S. human rights report cited police brutality, arbitrary arrests and restrictions on freedom of expression in the city.

The 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, issued by the U.S. Department of State on Wednesday, said that the Hong Kong government has resisted widespread calls for a special inquiry into accusations of police brutality that took place during the recent pro-democracy protests.

Two officials in the Chinese city of Wuhan were sacked and another was under investigation after government staff used a rubbish truck to ship a consignment of pork for human consumption, local authorities said.

  • Navy lasers
    China rejects report it fired laser at U.S. Navy plane / AP
    Peter Dutton of the U.S. Naval War College comments: “China responds to report it fired laser at U.S. Navy plane 1) He did not deny the PLAN fired the laser 2) He essentially described it as a defensive act in response to U.S. provocation 3) Cold War at Sea returns.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Chinese social media feeds are suddenly being filled with articles written solely in QR codes, in Klingon, and in dots and dashes. Netizens’ complicated cat and mouse game with China’s nebulous censorship systems has seen platforms inundated with content using increasingly obscure languages and codes in an attempt to spread information that is swiftly being deleted.

On Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, phone case makers claim to “make evil spirits retreat,” “give luck,” or “make one rich.” The discussion topic lured the interest of over 4.5 million netizens at the time, some going as far as to vehemently testify that certain phone cases are interlinked with feng shui — which, one 2015 article claims, is “not superstition,” but rather a reminder to “pay attention to the health of one’s wealth.”

  • All links above in Chinese.
  • Downsides of online education
    Education denied / The World of Chinese

[A] middle school student in Dengzhou, Henan Province, was reported to have attempted suicide by overdosing on medicine after failing to attend live streaming classes delivered by her schoolteachers — her family could only afford one smartphone and had given it to the girl’s sister to access her own online class. In Luoning county, also in Henan, a student was forced to do her homework on a desk outside the village committee office in freezing temperatures because the internet signal was too poor at home…

On Weibo, the hashtag “Children who can’t get online classes (上不了网课的孩子们)” has gained more than 24 million views. Even teachers are struggling with slow internet speeds in some areas: A Shenzhen-based teacher stuck in a village in Hubei Province, where travel is heavily restricted, has been forced to live stream her classes from the roof of her family home because the internet signal is stronger there.

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