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Links for Friday, April 24, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

There are growing calls for China to provide direct financial support to small private sector businesses as many are struggling for survival due to the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak…

But it is still seen as a long shot that China will grant direct payments to companies given the huge cost of such a programme and the complexity of administering it.

Two former Huawei employees [who were arrested in December 2018 after internal disputes at Huawei] are trying to file legal complaints against the company in a case that exposes the allegedly close relationship between the world’s biggest telecoms equipment company and the Chinese police.

The cases are a rare example of employees launching complaints against one of China’s “national champions” after serving time in police detention.

“Initially I thought blockchain, especially distributed ledger technology [DLT], had no commercial value because it was too expensive,” said Yifan He [何亦凡 Hé Yìfán], CEO of Beijing Red Date Technology. “Then I realized we can actually build a multi-framework platform to reduce the cost for everyone.”  

That realization is a core idea of the Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN), a government-supported initiative scheduled to open for global commercial use Saturday. As the only one of the three original founding companies with a specialized software background, Red Date initiated the project and has been spearheading the network’s technical design.

China has near-universal health insurance and the world’s most powerful surveillance state, yet it still failed to contain the initial spread of the new coronavirus in Wuhan. The disaster is bound to prompt some soul searching.

Two trends look likely to gain steam: the rapid expansion of commercial health insurance and burgeoning online healthcare services.

  • China has rolled out a digital currency trial in Xiong’an, an area southwest of Beijing in the Hebei province, according to state-backed media reports.
  • McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway are the only three American firms among 19 companies participating in the trial.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Beijing authorities now require those who complete 14 days of centralized quarantine to isolate at home for seven more days.

Meanwhile, Heilongjiang province, which has been dealing with imported cases from Russia, has increased the isolation requirement to 35 days for Mudanjiang residents who come back to the city from Russia through the Suifenhe land border crossing. A prefecture in Jilin province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region added two additional weeks of mandatory home isolation to the original two weeks of centralized quarantine.

The antiviral medicine remdesivir from Gilead Sciences failed to speed the improvement of patients with COVID-19 or prevent them from dying, according to results from a long-awaited clinical trial conducted in China. Gilead, however, said the data suggest a “potential benefit.”

A summary of the study results was inadvertently posted to the website of the World Health Organization and seen by STAT on Thursday, but then removed.

We regret that the WHO prematurely posted information regarding the study, which has since been removed…the study results are inconclusive, though trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease.

  • Staff email addresses and login credentials reportedly leaked and circulated online, but it’s not clear who was behind it.
  • WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S. CDC among those hit by the cyberattacks.

“Maybe by September, we might have a vaccine to be used for emergency,” CDC director Gāo Fú 高福 told CGTN on Thursday.

“For example, if we have some emergency outbreak again, [even if a] vaccine is still under phase two or phase three clinical trials, it can be used for some special groups. For example, health care workers.”

Coronavirus cases in China may have been four times higher than officially reported numbers, according to a study published in the Lancet medical journal.

Infections would have been 232,000 in China as of February 20 if the calculation of cases confirmed by “clinical diagnosis” had been applied throughout the outbreak, the Lancet reported. That compares to the 55,508 cases announced at the time by the country’s National Health Commission, according to the report.

China’s space agency revealed the name of its first Mars exploration mission on Friday, and said the mission is on track to take place “in the coming months.”

The mission has been named “Tianwen 1,” [天问一号 tiān wèn yī hào] the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement on Friday, following the naming of the country’s planetary exploration program “Tianwen,” meaning “quest for heavenly truth.”

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

China closed a border crossing with Myanmar on Friday after fighting in that nation spilled into a Chinese province and damaged buildings.

State broadcaster CCTV said vehicles, a school and other buildings in Yunnan province were damaged by bullets, artillery fire and flames from an exploding gas station in Myanmar. CCTV reported no deaths or injuries in the Chinese town of Jiegao, but the situation inside Myanmar was unclear.

A report published by the E.U. on Friday accused Russia and China of targeting European citizens, including Britons, during the pandemic, and provided a range of examples.

Echoing other experts, the bloc’s foreign affairs wing, the European external action service, said there had been a “proliferation” during the month of April.

“Despite their potentially grave impact on public health, official and state-backed sources from various governments, including Russia and — to a lesser extent — China, have continued to widely target conspiracy narratives and disinformation both at public audiences in the E.U. and the wider neighbourhood,” the report sad.

“Sure, millions of Chinese suck the blood out of rabid bats as an appetizer and eat the ass out of anteaters but some foreigner snuck in a bottle of the good stuff. That’s it,” Michael Caputo tweeted on March 12…

Now, Trump is reportedly nominating retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata — a Fox News regular — as Rood’s successor [as undersecretary of defense for policy]. It’s impossible to imagine Mattis signing off on this choice for the Defense Department’s No. 3 job…

Tata is also militantly anti-China: He recently said on Fox News that China’s initial attempt to cover up the coronavirus was “tantamount to detonating a nuclear bomb accidentally and killing 150,000 people.”

The U.S.’ plan to reopen a consulate in Greenland is part of American efforts to check the presence of China and Russia in the Arctic, a government official said.

The reopening of the consulate in the self-governing territory of Denmark and U.S.$12 million funding for mining and renewable energy projects in the area represent Washington’s efforts to increase engagement with “Western Arctic states” and a matter of “good old-fashioned diplomatic statecraft”, a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

U.S. hospitals and state officials face desperate shortages of the masks, ventilators and other gear they need to fight the coronavirus…

Now some of China’s elite — and others with big stakes in keeping the U.S.-China relationship alive — are stepping in to help.

An ad hoc network of companies, wealthy individuals, academics and former diplomats has emerged to help the United States get the Chinese-made goods it needs to save patients and protect front-line workers — and, perhaps, help polish China’s dented image along the way.

“China is the only country that has performed well in dealing with this crisis,” declared Saudi-owned broadcaster Al-Arabiya in a March review of China’s COVID-19 efforts. While nominally independent, the station — reportedly taken over by the Saudi the royal court in 2014 —  tends to reflect [porous paywall] official Saudi views. These views can change, however. In an April segment that covered mounting criticisms of Beijing, presenter Rufaydah Yassin commented that “it appears that China’s efforts to market its successes with regard to the coronavirus have not yet panned out.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Residents of Wuhan grabbed 30 million yuan ($4.2 million) worth of WeChat coupons in 9 minutes on Sunday, WeChat developers said in a blog post. The coupons generated transactions worth 13 times their value on the first day of usage. The vouchers are offered by the local government as well as individual merchants through WeChat Pay. Users get the vouchers via lucky draw through a WeChat mini-program.

Sūn Yáng 孙杨, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, was handed an eight-year competition ban in February by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for a drug test gone awry at his home in September 2018.

Despite this ruling, Sun was still invited to participate in a three-month training camp, from April to June, in his home province of Zhejiang, according to an official notice published by the Beijing Youth Daily on Wednesday.

After the notice went viral, the Chinese Swimming Association (CSA) declared [in Chinese] that Sun’s invitation to Olympic training was actually void because of the competition ban which he is reportedly in the process of appealing.

  • Teachers prepare to go back to school
    A thread by Tanner Brown on Twitter: “At a restaurant in W. China. This woman is having a 100-decibel mass call with primary school-kid parents, explaining the complicated rules for restarting in-room classes. She’s very prepared, professional, and efficient. Here are some of the rules:”
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