Links for Friday, March 27, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Profits earned by Chinese industrial firms in the first two months dropped 38.3% from a year earlier to 410.7 billion yuan ($58.15 billion), worsening from a 6.3% fall seen in December last year, the National Bureau of Statistics data showed. It marked the steepest decline in data going back to 2010.

So far this year, venture capital investment in startups throughout Greater China — which includes the mainland and Hong Kong — has plummeted more than 65% compared to the same period a year ago, according to data provider PitchBook.

That’s bad news for many companies, which were already struggling to find funding during what came to be known last year as a “capital winter.” Firms in the region raised a collective $54 billion in venture capital in 2019, about half of what they raised in 2018.

Shenzhen is reportedly planning to greenlight road tests of autonomous vehicles carrying passengers as part of ongoing efforts to build a smart transport system.

The southern Chinese city’s transport authorities are seeking public opinion on an upcoming policy which would allow self-driving cars to test passenger transportation in designated areas including university campuses, industrial complexes and scenic areas, according to a report [in Chinese] by the state-run newspaper Shenzhen Special Zone Daily.

China is the world’s leading honey producer with around 200,000 to 300,000 commercial beekeepers, many of whom live itinerant lives moving their migratory honey bees across the country in search of nectar. The industry is crucial to the economy: Around one-third of the plants consumed depends on pollination by managed or wild bees, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Three weeks ago, Chinese scientists suggested, on the basis of genetic analyses, that the scaly, ant-eating pangolin was the prime suspect. But scientists have now examined those data — along with three other pangolin coronavirus genome studies released last week — and say that although the animal is still a contender, the mystery is far from solved.

China’s top e-commerce and express delivery operators are under pressure from the government and wildlife activists to become de facto enforcers of the country’s temporary ban on the trade in wildlife…

At the same time, however, conservation groups are calling on China to fully overhaul the way it governs the country’s lucrative business in order to give firms more clarity over what to target when they discover any potentially illegal activity.

China aims to become only the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on the surface of Mars (NASA was first with a pair of Viking landers in 1976 if you don’t count the former Soviet Union’s 1971 Mars 3 mission). With just a few months before launch, China is still keeping key mission details quiet. But we can discern a few points about where and how it will attempt a landing on the Red Planet from recent presentations and interviews.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Last week 70 Chinese students from universities including Cardiff, Birmingham, Warwick, University College London and Edinburgh, used a WeChat group to club together with their parents and charter a China Southern flight from London Heathrow to Guangzhou, which had been due to leave today.

China demonstrates it is incapable of grasping actual power ratios, and it is encouraged by the echo of certain American, but also Asian, assessments of Beijing’s inevitable ascent to world primacy. China has thus adopted conduct typical of a power at the height of its development. It is a serious mistake, despite the enormous economic growth of the last decades, in which endogenous hubris and Western narratives of the “Chinese miracle” have contributed to widening the gap between reality and boundless ambitions.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • Long lines at a funeral home in Wuhan
    In virus-ravaged Wuhan, hours-long queues to collect the ashes of the dead / Caixin
    “Authorities on Monday began allowing some people to collect the remains of those who had died during the height of the COVID-19 epidemic.”
  • Five recipients of the Mao Dun Literary Prize
    5 Mao Dun Literary Prize-winners / World of Chinese
    An overview of five novels that have received China’s prestigious Mao Dun Literary Prize, named after one of China’s most prolific modern authors, Máo Dùn 茅盾.