BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Airline numbers down as travel restrictions eased…
Chinese airlines to carry two thirds fewer domestic passengers this Labor Day / Caixin
“China’s domestic airlines will carry about a third as many passengers over the five-day Labor Day holiday as they did this time last year, despite government efforts to ratchet down some COVID-19 quarantine measures and return to normalcy.”
China gives green light to more domestic travel by unifying its chaotic QR health codes / SCMP
China is to ease its domestic coronavirus travel restrictions by issuing national standards for a COVID-19 health QR code, national authorities announced on Friday.
Eligible citizens who were previously subject to tough quarantine and travel restrictions will be allowed to travel around the country.
…But road traffic is returning to normal
高德Q1报告：全国近7成城市拥堵恢复至去年同期90% / Sina Technology
“Gaode Q1 report: Traffic congestion in nearly 70% of cities nationwide has returned to 90% of that seen in the same period last year.”
David Zipper summarizes on Twitter: “Chinese auto traffic rebounding FAST as the pandemic ebbs: Rush hour traffic already higher than a year ago in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Xi’an. Nationwide, ~70% of cities are at least 90% back to normal as of early April.”
Urban unemployment could hit 10%
In China, millions of students brace for joblessness / Economist (porous paywall)
Urban unemployment could reach 10% this year, reckons the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist. And that does not include the tens of millions of migrants who sat out the epidemic in their ancestral villages. Many of them now have no jobs to return to in the cities.
- China’s next big virus challenge is creating jobs / Al Jazeera
In a study published on April 23, The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that 22 million more urban workers will lose their jobs this year on top of the five million who became unemployed in the first quarter, while another 250 million could experience wage cuts ranging from 10-50%.
250 ventilators thrown out over safety concerns
Entire U.K. order of 250 Chinese ventilators ditched over danger to lives / Guardian
Chinese ventilators that ministers heralded as vital to the NHS’s efforts to tackle COVID-19 were badly built, unsuitable for use in hospitals and potentially dangerous for patients, it has emerged.
All of the devices in a consignment of 250 ventilators that arrived from China on 4 April posed such serious problems that they could not be used and were ditched.
Firms delay filing annual reports
More than 120 Chinese listed companies apply for regulatory approval to delay publishing their annual reports / SCMP
“The number of mainland China-listed firms to delay filing annual reports past the regulatory deadline of April 30 has surged to 129, from four the year before, an indicator of the level of disruption that will linger after coronavirus lockdowns end.”
Will Trump block pension fund’s investment in Chinese stocks?
Trump eyes order to block savings fund from Chinese stocks / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“President Donald Trump is exploring blocking a government retirement fund from investing in Chinese equities considered a national security risk, a person familiar with the internal deliberations said.”
Trump refuses to limit pork exports
Trump push to keep meatpacking plants open comes as pork producers profit from China trade deal / CNBC
- President Donald Trump’s executive order this week requiring American meatpacking plants to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic is raising new questions about the United States’ exports of pork to China.
- The order has highlighted a debate within the White House over whether to limit exports of pork to China, and what the president decides could have major implications for other U.S. exports.
- Trump told meat company CEOs this week that he is not interested in restricting exports at this time, according to current and former White House officials who requested anonymity to describe a private call.
Game removed due to erotic content
Chinese Minecraft clone yanked from app stores over sexual content / Sixth Tone
A popular Chinese world-building game was removed from domestic app stores on Tuesday after struggling to remove erotic content and deter sexual predators.
The issues within Mini World: Block Art — which since its release in the summer of 2017 has been downloaded 50 million times on the Google Play store, and many more times on Chinese app stores — were brought to light on April 2 when a content creator…posted about them on video-sharing site Bilibili.
Details of Baoshang Bank takeover released
Resurrected Baoshang starts business as Mengshang Bank / Caixin
The new bank set up to take over troubled regional lender Baoshang Bank Co. Ltd. disclosed Thursday the details of its equity structure and senior management team.
A national deposit insurance fund managed by the central bank will be the largest shareholder of the new bank, Mengshang Bank, assuming a 27.5% stake, according to a statement posted on the website of the former Baoshang Bank.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
60% of confirmed COVID-19 cases asymptomatic
Three-fifths of new coronavirus cases in China show no symptoms / FT (paywall)
“Three-fifths of new coronavirus cases in China showed no symptoms of the illness when they were diagnosed, according to data that are likely to complicate moves by governments around the world to lift strict lockdown measures.”
Surveyors sent to measure Mount Everest
China launches mission to determine height of Mount Everest once and for all / SCMP
China is sending a surveying and mapping team to the summit of Mount Everest this month in a bid to end the long-running debate over the precise height of the world’s tallest mountain.
The mission was announced on Wednesday at one of the mountain’s base camps in Tibet, where a team of 53 surveyors has been making technical preparations since March 2. The team will use China’s BeiDou navigation satellite system and Chinese surveying instruments for the project.
Taiwan: No new COVID-19 cases
No new COVID-19 cases for 6th day, but masks still required / Focus Taiwan
Risky Belt and Road coal plants to go ahead
Shelving of huge BRI coal plant highlights overcapacity risk in Pakistan and Bangladesh / Chinadialogue
The 6.6 gigawatt Hamrawein coal power proposal in Egypt has been shelved because of over-capacity concerns and a growing preference for renewable energy…
The indefinite postponement of the enormous Belt and Road project, which would have been the second largest coal-fired power plant in the world, is a timely warning for other BRI countries planning greater reliance on coal power.
Pakistan and Bangladesh both have serious and growing overcapacity concerns of their own. Yet they intend to continue with new Chinese built and financed coal power plants despite already being financially burdened by power capacity payments as existing plants stand idle.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Riot police find few May Day protests in Hong Kong
Riot police fan out but Hongkongers eschew May Day rallies / AFP via Hong Kong Free Press
“Riot police fanned out across Hong Kong on Friday after democracy activists threatened to defy a ban on gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic — but the streets remained largely calm.”
Former People’s Daily journalist jailed
Chinese journalist jailed for 15 years for attacking Communist Party / AFP via SCMP
A journalist who worked for some of China’s most powerful state newspapers has been jailed for 15 years after being accused of attacking the ruling Communist Party, according to court documents.
Chén Jiérén 陈杰人 was convicted on Thursday of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble, extortion, illegal business operations and bribery”, a court in central Hunan province said in an online statement.
- Christian Shepard on Twitter: “Veteran journalist Chen Jieren sentenced to 15 years in prison. Chen was a state media editor turned critical blogger, part of the old guard from an era of relative press freedom in the 2000s.”
E.U. calls for China to cooperate with COVID-19 investigation…
European Union ratchets up pressure on China with call to cooperate with coronavirus inquiry / SCMP
“The European Union has urged China to cooperate with an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, increasing diplomatic pressure on Beijing for greater transparency.”
…As it denies disinformation report softened due to China
Top E.U. diplomat says disinformation report was not watered down for China / NYT (porous paywall)
Facing pointed criticism from lawmakers on Thursday, the European Union’s top diplomat denied that Chinese officials had pressured his team to soften language in a recent report on disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic…
The European Union’s senior diplomat, Josep Borrell, acknowledged that Chinese officials had objected to the report, but said such objections are “are the daily bread of diplomacy.”
China responds to U.S. review of telecom firms
商务部回应美将审查4家中国电信运营商 / Guancha
“The Ministry of Commerce responds to the U.S. decision to review four Chinese telecom operators.”
Donald Clarke summarizes on Twitter: “China demands that [the] U.S. not treat Chinese telecoms companies like China treats U.S. telecom companies. ‘I demand freedom from you in the name of your principles; I deny it to you in the name of mine.’”
For context: FCC signals likely revocation of four Chinese telecom firms’ licenses (paywall).
University of Texas questioned over links to Wuhan lab
U.S. probes University of Texas links to Chinese lab scrutinized over coronavirus / WSJ (paywall)
The Education Department has asked the University of Texas System to provide documentation of its dealings with the Chinese laboratory U.S. officials are investigating as a potential source of the coronavirus pandemic.
The request for records of gifts or contracts from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and its researcher Shí Zhènglì 石正丽, known for her work on bats, is part of a broader department investigation into possible faulty financial disclosures of foreign money by the Texas group of universities.
Heilongjiang Province criticized over COVID-19 clusters
China’s northeast border region accused of mishandling clusters and putting recovery at risk / SCMP
China’s cabinet has criticised Heilongjiang Province over its handling of imported coronavirus cases in the country’s northeast, saying cluster outbreaks in the region could ruin nationwide efforts to curb the pandemic.
In a harshly worded statement on Friday, the State Council called on local medical institutions to clearly understand the severity of the situation facing China. The cabinet said it required every level of the disease prevention and control system to step up testing and treatment.
TV series about mask maker goes viral
China has a dashing new hero for our coronavirus times: The ‘Mask Hunter’ / Washington Post (porous paywall)
Millions of Chinese have been glued to their screens, eagerly anticipating the next installment of a high-stakes action series. There’s a suave protagonist who travels on private jets and stays in fancy hotels, his steely female sidekick, and a cast of dodgy arms dealers and business operators on the make.
It’s not the Chinese equivalent of a James Bond movie, but rather a real-life drama for our coronavirus times: He’s the “Mask Hunter” on a mission to buy specialty fabric to make into face coverings.
Aircraft carrier returns after exercise
China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier returns home from a month of training / SCMP
- Warship joined by at least five escort vessels and analysts say the drills were ‘very significant’ to show the strike group wasn’t hit by coronavirus.
- Latest exercises also seen as putting pressure on Taiwan’s pro-independence forces, with strike group sailing through the strait.
China-Africa relations precarious, as China assures all is fine
China’s expensive bet on Africa has failed / Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall)
Scholar Minxin Pei writes:
China’s commercial activities in Africa, such as investments, infrastructure projects and bank lending, have long attracted scrutiny and criticism. Critics have accused Beijing of practicing a new form of economic colonialism to gain control of the continent’s valuable natural resources by luring unsuspecting African nations into so-called debt traps.
While this perspective dominates the narrative about Beijing’s economic ties with Africa, it likely exaggerates Chinese strategic foresight and overlooks the pitfalls of China’s big bet on the continent.
Interview: Africa-China relations to remain solid in wake of COVID-19: experts / Xinhua
“Africa-China long-standing relations will remain intact because it was based on mutual respect and understanding in the wake of the COVID-19 despite many challenges arising from the pandemic.”
Ugandan woman visited by police after posting video about racist treatment
This woman got a visit from the police after posting a video about racism in China / BuzzFeed News
[After being denied entry to a 7-Eleven] Darasa posted a video on Facebook on April 23 complaining of this “super racist” treatment. Shortly after, two groups of police officers paid a visit to her hotel. They demanded she delete the video, took dozens of pictures of her, for reasons that were never made clear to her, and began phoning friends who were involved in making the video.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
The bureaucracy of quarantine
Ms. Du, door sensors and me: life with a Beijing COVID-19 quarantine handler / Guardian
“To the outside world, China’s lockdowns and strict quarantine requirements are evidence of its vast state power and draconian tendencies. But on the ground, the implementation is often bureaucratic and bumbling and the measures more tedious and overbearing than intimidating.”
Tourist attractions reopen…kind of…
Forbidden City, parks in Chinese capital reopen to public / AP via Washington Post (paywall)
Beijing’s parks and museums including the ancient Forbidden City reopened to the public Friday after being closed for months by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Forbidden City, past home to China’s emperors, is allowing just 5,000 visitors daily, down from 80,000. And parks are allowing people to visit at 30% of the usual capacity.
Social distancing brings silver linings to Chinese students
Back to school in China: ‘We treat them like it’s kindergarten’ / FT (paywall)
“Smaller classes, shorter days and parental pick up at the school gate instead of a crowded journey on public transport — for some urban Chinese children, a return to school has meant better conditions than before the epidemic.”
Government seeks to change chopsticks habits
For the chop: ‘dining table revolution’ takes aim at food sharing in China / Guardian
In the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese authorities are pushing for a “dining table revolution” to change long-held traditions of communal eating…
Authorities have launched an aggressive campaign to convince diners to use designated serving utensils known as gōngkuài (公筷) gōng sháo (公勺), or “public chopsticks” and “public spoon.” Officials are also encouraging the serving of separate portions rather than “family style,” where a group shares several dishes.
Poets of 1989
Tiananmen: Lives of the poets / Asian Cha
Scholar Gregory Lee takes a look at the lives and work of China’s poets in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square.