Links for Thursday, May 28, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Between January and April, the Chinese internet sector and related services generated combined revenue of 344.6 billion yuan ($48.1 billion), up 4.9% year-on-year, according to statistics [in Chinese] released Wednesday by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). R&D spending rose 5.3% to 17.3 billion yuan [$2.4 billion]. All firms surveyed had annual revenue of more than 5 billion yuan in the previous year.

The revenue growth rate was 15.3 percentage points lower than the same period of last year, while the R&D investment growth was down by 16.1 percentage points.

After close inspection, both the Government and the mining industry concluded the new iron ore regulations unveiled by Beijing were likely to actually help Australian exporters by streamlining the import process.

And while Beijing’s decision to cut coal imports will hurt the Australian industry, the consensus in Canberra is that the move is — probably — aimed at helping China’s coal miners rather than punishing Australia’s.

[E]ven prior to the COVID-19 wipeout, many Chinese businesses in Russia were reliant on an unstable, policy-dependent, and fundamentally rotten business model. Any abrupt change in the business environment — whether tighter border controls, a suspension of group tours, or increased tax regulation — could have brought it crashing down.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

The desert locust swarms that started in East Africa this February have spread to the Middle East and South Asia – and may reach East Asia. But despite Chinese concerns about a plague of locusts, the government said [in Chinese] in early March that the real threat is a reappearance of the larvae of the fall armyworm moth. First seen [in Chinese] in China in 2019, this insect breeds faster than locusts and is now well-established in the country, appearing in large numbers in the south and southwest.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to pass a measure that would punish top Chinese officials for detaining more than one million Muslims in internment camps [porous paywalls], sending President Trump a bill intended to force him to take a more aggressive stand on human rights abuses in China.

The bipartisan vote, 413 to 1, cleared legislation that would compel Mr. Trump to impose sanctions on Chén Quánguó 陈全国, the top Communist Party official in Xinjiang, where the camps are, and mandate that the director of national intelligence produce a list of Chinese companies involved in the construction and operation of the camps.

  • Beijing approves Hong Kong security plan…  
    全国人大高票通过关于建立健全香港特别行政区维护国家安全的法律制度和执行机制的决定 / Xinhua
    Emily Feng summarizes on Twitter: “Full text of proposal for HK National Security Law now out. China’s legislature has approved its standing committee to draft final law. Upon first glance, it’ll be even broader than expected, prohibiting all ‘acts and activities’ against national security.”
    Hong Kong security plan is approved, tightening China’s hold / NYT (porous paywall)
    “China officially has the broad power to quash unrest in Hong Kong, as the country’s legislature on Thursday nearly unanimously approved a plan to suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and seemingly any acts that might threaten national security in the semiautonomous city.”
    Antony Dapiran on Twitter: “Result was a foregone conclusion. (Surprising it was not unanimous.) Remember this is just the decision to authorize NPC Standing Committee to go ahead & draft the law & apply it to HK by promulgation. Process will take ~2 months. Next step is to see actual draft proposed law.”
    AFP’s Xinqi Su asks on Twitter: “Who is the one who did not press the voting button by the way?”
    Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (Huáng Zhīfēng) in a thread on Twitter: “1/ Despite foreign doubts and #Hongkongers’ criticism, #NPC just passed #nationalsecuritylegislation. #China unilaterally imposes the law with its legislation entirely under a black box, with no legislative scrutiny and public consultation.”
  • …As the Hong Kong government responds  
    林郑月娥上街签名,支持国安立法 / Global Times
    “Carrie Lam 林鄭月娥 [Lín Zhèng Yuè’é] signs her name on the street in support of the national security legislation.”
    CNN’s Ivan Weston on Twitter: “In an exclusive CNN interview, Hong Kong’s 2nd highest ranking official Matthew Cheung [張建宗 Zhāng Jiànzōng] tries to reassure investors & foreign governments that a new national security law drafted by Beijing would only target suspected ‘terrorists and separatists’ in the former British colony.”
    Channel NewsAsia’s Wei Du 杜唯 asks on Twitter: “I have a question: if Cheung has no idea what the law will say, how does he know 99.9% of people won’t be affected?”
  • Hong Kong billionaire defends security law
    Tycoon Li Ka Shing defends China’s proposed law as its sovereign right / Bloomberg via Straits Times
    “‘It is within each and every nation’s sovereign right to address its national security concerns,’ Mr Li [李嘉誠 Lǐ Jiāchéng], 91, said in a text message sent by his representatives yesterday.”
  • U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia issue a joint statement on Hong Kong…  
    Joint statement on Hong Kong / U.S. Department of State
    “China’s decision to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
  • …As the U.K. says it could extend Hongkongers’ visa rights  
    James Landale on Twitter: “Breaking: @DominicRaab tells China that unless it suspends plans for new security laws in Hong Kong, the U.K. will give greater visa rights to 300,000+ British National (Overseas) passport holders. Current right to 6 mths in Britain without visa would be increased to 12 mths.”
    James Palmer responds on Twitter: “this is a step forward, but they should just be full citizens.”
  • Hong Kong no longer a safe haven for China’s rich?
    China’s rich skirting Hong Kong to seek asset safety elsewhere / Reuters
    Reuters’ Vincent Lee in a thread on Twitter: “Reuters: He said his bank had begun receiving inquiries from Chinese high net worth individuals (HNIs) about opening accounts outside Hong Kong. ‘Chinese HNIs like the law from the perspective of their love for the Chinese flag, but not from their asset protection perspective.’”
  • Trump signs executive order targeting social media
    Trump signs executive order aimed at regulating social media as U.S. death toll passes 101,000 / Guardian

Trump added that he would hold a separate press conference on China tomorrow, when he will likely again accuse Twitter of helping Beijing spread false information about coronavirus.

After Twitter added a fact-checking label to two of Trump’s tweets about vote by mail, the platform similarly labeled tweets from a senior Chinese official who claimed the virus may have originated in the United States.

Hundreds of fake or hijacked social media accounts have been pushing pro-Chinese government messages about the coronavirus pandemic on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, a BBC investigation has found.

The network of more than 1,200 accounts has been amplifying negative messages about those critical of China’s handling of the outbreak, while praising Beijing’s response.

Although there is no definitive evidence that this network is linked to the Chinese government, it does display features similar to a state-backed information operation originating in China that Facebook and Twitter removed last year.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

In an era of unpredictable weather and increasing flooding around the globe, urgent solutions are needed. Landscape architect Dr. Yú Kǒngjiān 俞孔坚 thinks cities can do a better job of being less at odds with nature and their surrounding environments. In response, he advocates the creation of “sponge cities”…designed to retain, clean, and reuse stormwater.

  • Divorce law change stirs debate
    Izzy 穆戈 on Twitter: “China just passed its first civic code in history. One change in the marriage and family section is getting a ton of attention on Weibo: a mandatory 30-day cool-off period for a mutual divorce. Meanwhile, no one seems to bat an eye that one/two-child policy-related stuff is gone.”