Links for Monday, June 1, 2020

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BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Export orders for Chinese manufacturers kept shrinking and the data suggests factory jobs may also continue to fall.

The National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), an indicator of morale among the nation’s larger factories, stood at 50.6 in May, a slight drop from 50.8 in April.

A company controlled by the founder of scandal-plagued Luckin Coffee Inc. has agreed to sell its 21.26% stake in one of China’s leading car rental firms, potentially raising $100 million or more for Lù Zhēngyào 陆正耀 as his business empire comes under growing financial stress.

The Monday announcement, which would mark an end to Lu’s financial relationship with Car Inc., sparked a major rally for the company’s shares, which ended nearly 24% higher on the day. But even after the rally, the stock still trades at about half of what it did in early April before Luckin first admitted to massive revenue inflation in the final three quarters of last year.

[A]s heartening as it is to see major companies embrace plant-based alternatives, the fact remains that KFC and Starbucks’ ventures are small fries in the Chinese meat world. And they’re likely to remain so as long as plant-based meat alternatives cost more and taste worse than conventional meat.

Some frozen assets linked to disgraced former star fund manager Xú Xiáng 徐翔 may soon be returned by judicial authorities. Xu, who was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in 2017 for market manipulation following a 2015 stock market crash, had his assets frozen as part of the criminal investigation.

Four Chinese firms made up India’s top five smartphone vendors in the first quarter of 2020, according to research firm CyberMedia Research (CMR). Although Xiaomi maintained its top spot, other Chinese companies showed signs of catching up, with Realme more than doubling its market share.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

To the surprise of many, China announced [porous paywall] it will not set an annual GDP target this year for the first time in decades. Instead, it will prioritize employment and poverty alleviation. Climate experts say the change could help the nation abandon its traditional approach of recovering the economy at steep environmental costs.

New research has deepened, rather than dispelled, the mystery surrounding the origin of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. Bats, wildlife markets, possibly pangolins and perhaps laboratories may all have played some role, but the simple story of an animal in a market infected by a bat that then infected several human beings no longer looks credible.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

I am the chairman and majority owner of Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s largest newspapers, and since the city’s return to China in 1997, I have feared that one day the Chinese Communist Party would grow tired not only of Hong Kong’s free press but also of its free people. That day has come.

  • On Twitter Wednesday evening, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 [Cài Yīngwén] said her government is drawing up a rescue plan for Hong Kong citizens that will include “plans for their residence, placement, employment, & life in Taiwan.”
  • Beijing slapped down Tsai’s offer to Hong Kong asylum seekers, telling Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s to stop “looting a burning house,” reported Chinese state news agency Xinhua, which cited a spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office.

With Washington and its allies distracted by the pandemic and its economic fallout, Mr. Xi is taking bold steps on issues where he’s often faced international pushback, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea and a disputed border with India.

A video emerged on April 10 of a Nigerian diplomat in China, Razaq Lawal, publicly criticizing his compatriots’ maltreatment in Guangzhou by Chinese officials. Lawal protested that Nigerians were kept in COVIDovid-19 quarantine beyond the normal 14 days for Chinese citizens. Chinese officials were also seizing their passports. He pointed out that the Nigerian government did not treat Chinese citizens living in Nigeria any differently from its own citizens.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

As such, China’s sci-fi scene is emerging as an unexpected element in a broader initiative of cultural diplomacy aimed at projecting a positive and engaging impression of the country abroad. Yet unlike Beijing’s “panda” or “ping-pong” initiatives of the past, it is driven by popular grassroots enthusiasm — which has made Chinese officials sit up and take notice.

  • Teacher speaks out on homophobia in China
    Teacher reveals high price of coming out as gay in China / SCMP
    “When he came out as gay, teacher Cui Le made local news headlines and was subject to censorship and surveillance by his university in southern China. It took years — and a move to New Zealand — before he felt ready to tell his story.”