BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Government revenue plummets
COVID-19 epidemic slams China’s government revenues / Caixin
The Covid-19 pandemic is taking a toll on Chinese government coffers, dragging down fiscal revenues in this year’s first two months by the most in 11 years as drastic measures to contain the disease put business activities on hold.
Revenues of China’s central and local governments in January and February totaled 3.5 trillion yuan ($493 billion), down 9.9% from the same period a year ago in the steepest drop since February 2009, data from the Ministry of Finance [in Chinese] showed.
AI firm open sources its deep learning platform
Megvii’s open-source platform offers Chinese AI alternative / TechNode
“Artificial intelligence company Megvii has open-sourced its self-developed deep learning framework MegEngine, allowing developers around the world to use and improve on the platform.”
Liquefied petroleum gas tariffs waived
China to resume U.S. LPG imports as Beijing waives trade-war tariff: sources / Reuters
“China has begun buying U.S. liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) again after a hiatus of nearly 20 months as Beijing waived punitive tariffs to boost imports of U.S. goods as part of the Sino-U.S. Phase 1 trade deal, industry sources said.”
How a Hubei memory chip factory kept producing under lockdown
How China’s chip industry defied the coronavirus lockdown / Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall)
In Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located, schools closed, trains stopped, and malls and supermarkets shut down. But the chipmaker [Yangtze Memory Technologies, China’s most high-profile memory chip project] stayed open, enabled by the local and central governments, which gave special dispensations to allow it to bring in materials and labor, and to ship finished goods out of the province to distribution centers in Shanghai. The company portrayed this as a heroic effort, and encouraged employees to submit stories about their efforts during the outbreak to the Chinese Communist Party, according to an internal note obtained by Nikkei, so that “those would later become great historical materials.”
Retailers offer big discounts as consumers stay home
Chinese consumers urged to splurge as economy begins path to normality / Reuters
“Electronics stores, coffee chains and even local authorities in China are slashing prices and handing out millions of dollars worth of discount coupons to kick start an economy battered by gradually easing, virus-fighting restrictions on movement.”
Four-fifths of U.S. firms in China yet to resume normal operations — survey
One fifth of American companies in China back to normal operations: survey / Reuters
More than one fifth of American companies in China are back to normal operations after widespread disruptions caused by the coronavirus epidemic, a survey showed Wednesday.
Nearly a quarter of the respondents to the survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China said they expected a return to normal operations by the end of April, although another fifth expect delays throughout the summer.
- U.S. firms in China more pessimistic on rebounding from coronavirus / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Alibaba now controls almost half of China’s cloud market
Alibaba now controls nearly half of China’s cloud service market, research says / Caixin
“For the three months through December, Alibaba Cloud controlled 46.4% of the market, which grew overall by 66.9% to $3.3 billion during the period, according to a report by research firm Canalys.”
Didi and Softbank to reach $300 million deal…
Didi is close to $300 million deal with Softbank / TechNode
“Softbank is expanding its commitment to Didi and is on the brink of reaching a deal to lead a $300 million investment into the ride-hailing startup’s self-driving unit for an undisclosed valuation…”
…As Didi eyes public transport sector expansion
Didi is refocusing on growth as safety concerns wane / TechNode
“Chinese biggest ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing is planning to expand its presence in public transport sector over the next three years outlined in a set of new growth targets…including daily orders of more than 100 million and monthly active user base of 800 million globally, according to an internal letter obtained by Chinese media Late Post.”
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
COVID-19 research updates
China shows way to ease lockdowns before vaccine, says report / Guardian
China’s tough lockdown and physical distancing measures in Wuhan and other provinces appear to have successfully ended new locally transmitted coronavirus infections and may chart a route back to normal life, according to a report from Imperial College London.
The report, from Prof Neil Ferguson and his team, who have been the main modellers of the epidemic for the UK and other governments, suggests it is possible to lift the physical distancing restrictions, as China has begun to do, without a resurgence of the epidemic.
- Thousands of covert coronavirus cases go under the radar in Wuhan, Chinese-led researchers say / SCMP
Roughly 60% of people who contracted the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan were asymptomatic or very mild cases not reported to the authorities, according to a study led by a group of Chinese doctors.
The estimate was based on about 26,000 laboratory-confirmed cases recorded in the city, the first epicentre of the coronavirus, between December and February, and was published on the medRxiv preprint platform early this month.
Tea compound targeted as potential conronvirus inhibitor / Taiwan Focus
“Researchers in Taiwan have identified an antioxidant compound in locally grown black tea leaves, as a potential inhibitor of protease activity in SARS‐CoV‐2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019, Chiayi Chang Gung Memorial Hospital said Wednesday.”
Coronavirus patients may be most infectious in first week of symptoms, study finds / SCMP
The pandemic coronavirus could be most contagious in the first week the carrier develops symptoms, which could partly explain why the disease has spread so quickly, according to a Hong Kong study…
The results showed that the viral load in the patients…was highest during the first seven days after symptom onset and declined gradually after that, according to the paper, published in The Lancet medical journal on Monday.
Recovered patients who retest positive unlikely to infect others
China’s positive test results in ‘recovered’ COVID-19 patients explained / Sixth Tone
To date, there are no known cases of discharged patients infecting others, but it’s too early to say categorically that they aren’t contagious.
“It could be that there’s no live virus, or it could be that they were no longer infectious,” Shen says. “It’s also possible that these patients followed our suggestions to rest at home and thus did not spread the virus.”
China’s health authority has recommended [in Chinese] that all COVID-19 patients quarantine themselves at home for an additional two weeks after being discharged.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Taiwanese officials criticize China
Taiwan doubles down on virus criticism as China denounces ‘disgusting’ behavior / Reuters
On Tuesday, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang [苏贞昌 Sū Zhēnchāng] accused China of covering up the crisis in its early stages and not giving the world early enough warning.
Then on Wednesday, Cho Jung-tai [卓荣泰 zhuó róng tài], chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), reiterated the cover-up accusation, adding that China had hoodwinked the WHO.
- Taiwan anger over China military drills during COVID-19 outbreak / AFP via Channel NewsAsia
Anger is rising in Taiwan over China continuing to buzz the island with fighter jets and warships even as they both fight the global coronavirus pandemic…
“As the world grapples with the severity of the COVID19 pandemic, China’s military manoeuvres around Taiwan have continued unabated,” President Tsai Ing-wen [蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén] said in a tweet late on Tuesday (March 24) accompanied by pictures of her visiting troops.
Brazil stops blaming China for crisis; instead pretends crisis doesn’t exist
Brazil’s Bolsonaro buries hatchet with China’s Xi to fight coronavirus / Reuters
Bolsonaro has faced increasing criticism for his cavalier attitude toward the virus, which he has dismissed as a “fantasy” and a “small flu” despite its infecting over 300,000 people worldwide and killing tens of thousands…
Earlier on Tuesday, Bolsonaro patched up a diplomatic spat with China, agreeing in a call with President Xi Jinping to fight the spread of the coronavirus together.
Stranded Hongkongers flown home
More stranded citizens to be flown home from China as top microbiologist urges Hong Kong-wide curfew / Hong Kong Free Press
“Over 500 Hong Kong citizens stuck in Hubei province…will return home on the second batch of charter flights on Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, a top microbiologist has recommended a city-wide curfew to stem a surge in infections around Hong Kong.”
Australia objects to Yang Hengjun indictment
Australia condemns China’s ‘indictment’ of academic / AFP via Hong Kong Free Press
Australia on Wednesday hit out at China’s apparent decision to indict a prominent author on spying charges, insisting he is at risk from COVID-19 and must be freed.
Chinese-Australian writer Yáng Jūn 杨军 — also known by his pen name Yáng Héngjūn 杨恒均 — was detained over a year ago, soon after making a rare return to China from the United States.
Prison sentence for Uyghur singer
Uyghur singer Rashida Dawut sentenced to prison term by Xinjiang authorities / Radio Free Asia
Rashida Dawut, a long-time member of the Xinjiang Muqam Troupe in the XUAR capital Urumqi who produced popular solo albums in the 1990s, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for “separatism” by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court in late 2019, a source claiming to have close knowledge of the situation recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Racism against Asians amid COVID-19
Coronavirus: There’s nothing funny about racism, Chinese-American stand-up Joe Wong says / SCMP
Joe Wong (Huáng Xī 黃西) added to criticism of Trump’s clarifying tweets about Asian Americans: “We Asians are referred to as ‘they’, and ‘they’ are not ‘us.’” The SCMp article also points out: “A recent study conducted by San Francisco State University recently found a 50 per cent rise in the number of news articles related to the coronavirus and anti-Asian discrimination between February 9 and March 7.”
British teens attack Chinese students wearing masks at Southampton University / Shanghaiist
A group of Chinese students wearing face masks were attacked on the street last week by teenagers in the United Kingdom.
According to the local Daily Echo, police said that the attack was reported to be racially aggravated and linked to the coronavirus outbreak. Four Chinese students were hurt, though none seriously so.
Rich Chinese students flee back home
Chinese students fleeing coronavirus-hit US pay $30,000 for seats on private jets / Reuters via Straits Times
As the coronavirus spreads across the United States, Chinese students from wealthy families are persuading their parents to pay tens of thousands of dollars for seats on private jets to get home.
The alternative, in a world of locked borders and grounded commercial planes, is 60-hour flights with multiple transit hops over the Pacific.
Mr Jeff Gong, a lawyer in Shanghai, asked his daughter, a high school student in Wisconsin, if she wanted 180,000 yuan (S$36,700) as pocket money or a ticket on a private flight home.
Translating Chinese women writers for an English audience
The translator championing Chinese women writers for English readers / SCMP
An interview with Nicky Harman, who has published 11 novels.