Links for Tuesday, April 14, 2020

It’s become a challenge to find hand sanitizer, disinfectants and thermometers on store shelves — and some companies are complaining that President Donald Trump’s tariffs are making it even harder.

Over the past three weeks, more than 100 requests have been filed with federal trade authorities asking for relief from tariffs on those supplies and other products made in China to help fight the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • In the first quarter, China imported twice as many U.S. soybeans and six times as much pork than a year ago, according to China Customs.
  • The China-U.S. phase one trade agreement is gradually being implemented, China Customs spokesperson Lǐ Kuíwén 李魁文 said Tuesday at a press conference, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.
  • Overall Chinese exports to the U.S. fell 23.6% in the first quarter, while imports declined 1.3%, the customs agency said.

Citic Securities Co. and CSC Financial Co., along with their government shareholders Citic Group and Central Huijin Investment Ltd., have recently started due diligence and a feasibility study on how to structure the deal, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing private matters…

A merger between Citic and CSC, both based in Beijing, would create an investment bank valued at $67 billion, surpassing even Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in market capitalization.

  • Two Chinese firms have been banned from selling medical equipment after they were found to have exported defective products, the commerce ministry says.
  • Both firms started trading in medical equipment after a sharp increase in global demand due to the global fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

India is calling on China to speed up the shipping of medical supplies held up due to new quality standards imposed after Beijing was accused of exporting flawed products to Europe.

With India’s confirmed cases of the new coronavirus rising above 10,000, the Indian ambassador to China, Vikram Misri, said on Tuesday that Beijing’s facilitation in the procurement of medical equipment would boost relations between the two countries.

China’s push to lead the world self-driving race is making another step forward: Didi Chuxing and AutoX are both about to launch their own autonomous ride-hailing pilot projects on the outskirts of Shanghai in late May, two sources familiar with the matter told TechNode on Tuesday. The projects are separate. The companies started their partnerships with the Shanghai government around the same time.

Up-and-coming Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. Ltd. has unveiled its latest 3D NAND memory chip with cutting-edge 128-layer technology, as it plays catch-up with global leaders like Samsung in China’s drive to become a semiconductor powerhouse.

The company…said its new chip, the X2-6070, has passed sample verification with several partners, and could start mass production by end of this year or in the first half of 2021.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

China could see another surge in coronavirus infections starting in November, one of the country’s highest-profile medical experts [Zhāng Wénhóng 张文宏, who heads Shanghai’s COVID-19 clinical expert team and directs the infectious disease department at one of the city’s top hospitals] has said, as low numbers of new cases prompt governments nationwide to get people back to work.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Finally, in late October 2013, Bloomberg’s famously intense founding editor-in-chief, Matthew Winkler, weighed in, via a private conference call…NPR has obtained audio of Winkler’s remarks on the call.

“It is for sure going to, you know, invite the Communist Party to, you know, completely shut us down and kick us out of the country,” Winkler said. “So, I just don’t see that as a story that is justified.”…

At the time, two Bloomberg editors told NPR the story didn’t run because it needed additional reporting. Winkler publicly said much the same. But these audio recordings reveal otherwise… 

In January 2014, [Michael] Bloomberg held a town hall for his global newsroom. NPR also obtained portions of that audio. Asked about the China controversy, Bloomberg sounded a new note.

“If a country gives you the license to do something with certain restrictions, you have two choices,” Bloomberg told his staff. “You either accept the license and do it that way, or you don’t do business there.”

The suspension imposed on the Twitter handle of the Chinese Embassy in Colombo was lifted after almost 19 hours on Tuesday after the embassy accused the U.S. social media giant of its double standards.

“This is double standards. There is so-called freedom of media, but on the other hand, they suspend and lock any account that is not on their agenda,” the spokesman added,” an embassy spokesman told News1st on Monday.

With the help of Tory-friendly media, a group of Conservative politicians has highlighted what they say is China’s mishandling of the crisis, which led to the outbreak in Britain, where Johnson himself developed COVID-19 and spent several nights last week in intensive care.

A leading U.K.-based firm will be summoned on Tuesday by MPs to answer questions over security concerns.

There are concerns that the Chinese owner of Imagination Technologies has renewed efforts to transfer ownership of sensitive security software to companies controlled by China.

Lawmakers worry the coronavirus crisis is diverting attention from controversial technology transfers.

Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador on Tuesday to protest over an article [the original appears to have been deleted, though a version can be found here, in Chinese] saying the country was keen to become part of China, the ministry said.

The ambassadorial summons is an unusual move since the neighbouring countries usually avoid criticising each other. The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Beijing has warned that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers who use “malicious filibustering” to paralyse the legislature could be in violation of their oaths and guilty of misconduct in public office.

Kwok rejected Beijing’s criticism as “unreasonable allegations” and “political rebuke.” He said in a statement on Monday that the agencies had no authority to comment on the operation of the Legislative Council and its subcommittees, as well as how legislators should fulfil their duties.

While the exact source and spread of the virus are not clear yet the question of origin is highly important, for the people of China and for all humankind: only by understanding how this global disaster could emerge we can prevent it from happening again.

Instruction in Tibetan classrooms in Sichuan’s Ngaba prefecture will soon be given exclusively in Chinese, with the students’ mother tongue used only in special classes teaching Tibetan as a language, sources in Ngaba say of an issue that has emerged as a major sore point among Tibetans.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Beijing is sending top prosecutors to the eastern province of Shandong to supervise an investigation into complaints of alleged sexual abuse involving a former senior executive of an oil and gas company [Bào Yùmíng 鲍毓明].

In a statement on Monday, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said a team from the top prosector’s body and the Ministry of Public Security had gone to the city of Yantai to look into the allegations.

Last week, a teenager’s claims of enduring years of sexual abuse by her “foster father” shook the Chinese internet. On Sunday, a prominent media outlet’s [Caixin] article told his side of the story, before being deleted within hours.

…The article, which was taken offline within hours, was widely criticized for victim-shaming language and unethical reporting after appearing to accept Bao’s version of the story — that he and Xingxing were in a consensual sexual relationship — without due diligence to get the woman’s point of view. The author of the article was further slammed for posting [in Chinese] on her WeChat account to describe the case as that of a young girl who had been looking for a sugar daddy and later changed her mind.

Perhaps I’m being too idealistic, even naïve, but I believe that literature has a way of resonating across the lines that divide us. And if we want to recall our common heritage, we can start by reading literature from distant, even supposedly “strange” lands… 

Our similarities far outweigh our differences. Stories help us construct a spiritual breakwater with which to face the next crisis, reminding us that we’re not alone, that our experiences have precedent, and that we belong to something bigger than ourselves. In so doing, they can free our hearts from anxiety, panic, and restlessness and allow us to slowly reclaim a solid sense of strength and faith.

Calls to more than 50 [Chinese restaurants] throughout the five boroughs turned up only one establishment — China Wang in the Spuyten Duyvil section of the Bronx — that answered the phone and was accepting orders on Monday afternoon…

As food suppliers, based largely in Manhattan’s Chinatown, have cut their hours or closed altogether, many restaurants have been left without a steady source of ingredients.

An investigation by the Daily Gazette into the lack of open Chinese takeout places in the Albany region found that the scarcity there stemmed, in part, from the scaling back of wholesalers in New York City…

Wilson Tang, the owner of the Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown, also cited an ongoing shortage of workers. He noted that many of his employees live in multi-generational homes and are concerned about spreading the virus to older relatives. Recent reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have also taken a toll on workers’ sense of safety.