Links for Monday, May 4, 2020


  • Stock markets tumble
    Global stocks drop as U.S.-China tension flares / FT (paywall)
    “Global stocks fell on Monday as tensions flared between the U.S. and China over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. On Wall Street the S&P 500 slid 1%, while the Dow Jones lost 1.4% and tech-weighted Nasdaq was 0.7% lower.”
  • Who funds China’s defense industry?
    China’s Lockheed Martin, where art thou? / ChinaAI Newsletter
    In a translation of a 2018 article on why companies in China’s military industry struggle to find formal capital, ChinaAI reports:

According to Zero2IPO’s 2016 Top 10 VC/PE Firms in Military Industry, rough statistical estimates based on the public data regarding these top ten firms show that the total amount of capital invested in the field of military equipment in 2016 did not exceed 5 billion yuan [$708 million]. Far lower than hotspot fields like health, electronics, etc.

BYD Co. Ltd., best known as a new energy car maker backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, has temporarily shifted gears, finding profits by making and exporting face masks during the global COVID-19 pandemic…

BYD’s daily mask output surpassed 20 million as of April 17, according to a company statement (link in Chinese). A BYD official told Caixin that the company still has the potential to expand mask capacity by 1 million to 2 million per day if demand is strong.

China’s first-quarter total services trade fell 10.8% from a year earlier to 1.15 trillion yuan ($162.82 billion), according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Services exports in the January-to-March period declined 4.1% to 444.28 billion yuan while imports dropped 14.5% to 708.02 billion yuan, the ministry said on May 2. The narrowing of the trade deficit that started last year continues, it said.

China’s government this week gave its go-ahead for the set up of real estate investment trusts (REIT), opening a channel that lets investors tap the country’s property growth, while limiting their speculation in bricks-and-mortar buildings.

The pilot programme, implemented after more than a year of public consultations, will allow China’s mutual funds to issue public REITs that can be bought and sold like stocks on the country’s exchanges…

There were more than 50 million tourism trips within the country on Friday and Saturday, according to figures cited by state media. That meant that two days into the five-day break, which ends on Tuesday, the number of journeys has overtaken the total over the three-day Qing Ming festival in early April.

For a growing number of Chinese…hit by job losses, furloughs and salary cuts, the consumer economy has begun to spin in reverse. They are no longer buying — they are selling.

Instead of emerging from the coronavirus epidemic and returning to the shopping habits that helped drive the world’s second-largest economy, many young people are offloading possessions and embracing a new-found ethic for hard times: less is more.

A few years from now, many may look at the past few months as a defining period for internet services giant Meituan Dianping.

The nationwide lockdowns since January have struck at the heart of the online-to-offline businesses it relies on — movie theaters, hotels, and restaurants. CEO Wáng Xīng 王兴 has warned that Meituan could sink back into the red in the first quarter after reporting quarterly profits three times last year.


  • Capital of Heilongjiang province issues order as it battles to contain second wave of coronavirus infections.
  • State Council has sent team to lead province’s response to outbreak after officials were punished for their handling of the situation.
  • Those who came into contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases just before or soon after symptoms appeared were most likely to become infected.
  • Researchers say findings highlight the importance of early contact tracing and tracking as well as social distancing.

The news that Chinese regulators have given the go-ahead for clinical trials of three COVID-19 vaccines developed in the country is the culmination of months of efforts by a combination of start-ups, government-sponsored companies and research institutes…  

Approval for trials, however, is still a long step from a safe and effective vaccine. And although China’s pharmaceutical industry has matured a great deal in recent years, it is still on the whole a lot better at incremental innovation than breakthroughs.


The Chinese government has resumed a job placement scheme for tens of thousands of Uyghur Muslims who have completed compulsory programmes at the “re-education” camps in the far-western region of Xinjiang, sources said.

The plan, which includes a quota for the numbers provinces must take, was finalised last year but disrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Three years after its launch, a campaign of mass incarceration of Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has become a diplomatic headache for China, particularly in its relations with the West, but observers say a more coordinated global approach is needed to hold Beijing to account.

A virtual summit on Monday, hosted by the European Commission, hopes to raise an initial $8.2 billion to back an international effort to develop and ensure equal access to vaccines and treatments.

China is expected to join around 40 other countries in pledging funds at the event, but the U.S. is not expected to take part.

Days after Beijing had announced it was sending urgent medical supplies to Italy in its hour of need, Chinese state media showed Italians on their balconies and in the streets applauding the Chinese national anthem…

A close analysis of the videos conducted by the FT alongside work by two Italian fact-checking and manipulation experts raise concerns about their authenticity, adding to wider anxiety about Chinese disinformation in Europe.

As the coronavirus epidemic has been taken up by the Chinese party-state as a powerful propaganda tool this year, both domestically and in its foreign policy, the lines in this culture of “eating blood-soaked dumplings” have been constantly tested by skeptical Chinese who resent the dehumanization such propaganda demands.

  • Cuomo said efforts to procure masks from China amid state competition for medical supplies were “inefficient and ineffective.”  
  • “You can’t be dependent on China to have the basic equipment to save lives in the United States. That’s a national security issue to me,” the governor said.

The World Health Organization defended Friday its initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying it gave world leaders enough time to intervene early in the outbreak.

The agency declared COVID-19 a global health emergency on January 30 when there were only 82 cases outside of China and zero deaths, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference on Friday. “Meaning, the world had enough time to intervene.”

The text messages to the Chinese activist streamed in from ordinary Wuhan residents, making the same extraordinary request: Help me sue the Chinese government. One said his mother had died from the coronavirus after being turned away from multiple hospitals. Another said her father-in-law had died in quarantine.

But after weeks of back-and-forth planning, the seven residents who had reached out to Yáng Zhānqīng 杨占青, the activist, suddenly changed their minds in late April, or stopped responding…

The Chinese authorities are clamping down as grieving relatives, along with activists, press the ruling Communist Party for an accounting of what went wrong in Wuhan…

Beijing’s office in Hong Kong has slammed shoppers’ support for pro-democracy businesses as “violating” free market principles.

In a statement issued [in Chinese] on Saturday, the office…accused opposition lawmakers of using the “yellow economy” promotion to secure seats in the Legislative Council election in September, claiming that Hong Kong’s economy had been “kidnapped” by politics.

Touting the restrictions on China, Trump claimed that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden had issued an apology for past criticism on the subject.

“Biden has now written a letter of apology because I did the right thing,” Trump said.

Facts first: Biden’s campaign announced in early April that he supports Trump’s travel restrictions on China. But neither Biden nor his campaign apologized for any previous criticism of Trump.

  • Pete Buttigieg enters the “tough on China” race
    Pete Buttigieg: China wants four more years of Trump / Washington Post (porous paywall)
    Pete Buttigieg writes: “Trump is China’s dream candidate, and its government would be more than happy to deal with him for four more years. In his first term, the president hasn’t brought China to its knees: He’s made it stronger.”


The publication of Wuhan Diary — a first-person account of Chinese writer Fāng Fāng’s 方方 life in the city at the epicentre of the initial coronavirus outbreak — continues to fan the flames of nationalism in the country.

Besides the online backlash to the work from some quarters of the internet, authorities have put pressure on intellectuals who supported the writer, launching investigations into at least two people for making “inappropriate comments”.

It’s not your typical viral hit. Self-directed, self-funded, and shot mostly on a simple camcorder, the film follows the lives of coal workers in rural Hunan, a central Chinese province.

But [Jiǎng Néngjié’s 蒋能杰] “Miners, the Horsekeeper, and Pneumoconiosis” has become an unexpected sensation among Chinese documentary fans after its director took a creative approach to publicizing the feature.

Jì Cháozhù  冀朝铸, the Chinese diplomat and interpreter who played a crucial role in Henry Kissinger’s secret meeting with premier Zhōu Ēnlái 周恩来 in 1972, has died aged 91.

The meeting paved the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing, and Ji later described it as “the birth of modern relations between my native land, China, and the land where I spent so much of my childhood, America”.

Deep in the mountains of southwestern China, where tea was likely first discovered, a trail begins. Over the course of a thousand years, it has been carved step-by-step through some of the world’s most diverse and rugged terrain, traversing the lush tropical forests of what is now Yunnan province — a botanist’s playground — and up into the Himalayas, through treacherous river gorges and snowy mountain passes.