Economic data; More cases outside China now; Pompeo and Yang Jiechi chat as tensions over virus origin claims increase

I do not even know where to begin, I just hope all of you are safe. It is a tough day to do anything but hide somewhere in a fetal position, and it is hard to get a newsletter out on schedule when you are doing that…

The January-February PRC economic data released Monday gives us a better idea of the depth of the slowdown, and it is ugly. And in spite of the slow resumption of economic activity now underway inside China the sudden shutdown of much of the rest of the global economy is going to cause the PRC leadership massive headaches, from further economic, employment and social stability pressures within China to increased opprobrium globally against Xi and the CCP for covering up the outbreak in the early days and sharing responsibility for what may turn out to be the biggest economic shock in decades.

No wonder the propaganda organs are working so hard to portray Xi and the CCP as saving the world now while sowing doubt and disinformation about the origin of the virus.

I am increasingly convinced the anti-Chinese sentiment globally will get quite ugly, far beyond what we are already seeing in some places.

Beijing has responded to the surge of overseas Chinese, and some foreigners, rushing back to the perceived safety from the virus inside China by now requiring a 14 day quarantine in designated locations for all travelers, with a handful of exceptions, entering Beijing from overseas, at their own expense. That policy has not yet extended to all points of entry but I would be surprised if it will not be in the near future. The authorities are rightfully concerned about a surge in new infections from imported cases, as they remain focused on preventing a second wave of the outbreak that would push the economy into an even deeper hole.

Thanks for reading, stay safe.


1. The economy

Key Economic Gauges Plunge as Economy Feels Coronavirus Pain - Caixin

Fixed-asset investment, a key driver of domestic demand that includes infrastructure investment, plunged 24.5% year-on-year in the first two months of 2020

Government-driven infrastructure investment plunged 30.3% in the first two months, reversing a 3.8% increase for the whole of 2019.

China’s retail sales, which include spending by governments, businesses and households, fell 20.5% year-on-year

Value-added industrial output, which measures production by factories, mines and utilities, plunged 13.5%

China’s Coronavirus Downturn Is Now Official—and Brutal - WSJ $$

The country more or less ground to a halt last month. Industrial growth fell 13.5% on the year—a more abrupt dip than during the financial crisis. Nearly every other indicator also took a record dive. Of 41 major industrial sectors, 39 contracted: oil and gas and tobacco were the only exceptions...

March data, when it arrives, could in theory be worse....

The problem is that China’s January and February figures are always released together due to the Lunar New Year, and the nation’s shutdown didn’t really begin until late January. So the combined figures, as bad as they are, still have a couple of weeks of “normal” data in early January baked in

China economy: Millions lose jobs as unemployment spikes from COVID-19 - CNBC

Roughly 5 million people in China lost their jobs amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus in the first two months of this year, according to data published Monday.

China’s official, but highly doubted, urban unemployment rate jumped in February to 6.2%, its highest on record, the National Bureau of Statistics said. That’s up from 5.3% in January and 5.2% in December.

China's economy skids as virus immobilizes factory, consumer sectors - Reuters

“Judging by the data, the shock to China’s economic activity from the coronavirus epidemic is greater than the global financial crisis,” said Zhang Yi, chief economist at Zhonghai Shengrong Capital Management.

“These data suggest a small contraction in the first-quarter economy is a high probability event. Government policies would need to be focused on preventing large-scale bankruptcies and unemployment.”

Coronavirus: China’s central bank will use ‘variety of measures’ to cut loan costs for firms | South China Morning Post

“The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) will continue to take a variety of measures to promote a decline in loan interest rates, and to support the resumption of production and economic development,” Sun Guofeng, head of the PBOC’s monetary policy department, said at a press briefing in Beijing.

Those measures included using monetary tools to ensure banks had sufficient liquidity, and interest rate reforms, he said. It would also leverage its deposit benchmark rate so that banks could cut lending rates to help small businesses cope with the impact of the coronavirus.

Central bank works to stabilize market sentiment - China Daily

The release of 550 billion yuan ($78 billion) in new funds into the financial sector will be effective before China reports January and February economic indicators, including industrial production and fixed-asset investment. That liquidity injection will stabilize market sentiment and ease tightened financial conditions after global equities markets nose-dived last week, said analysts.

Banks that meet particular criteria can keep less cash in reserve after the authorities announced on Friday a reduction of the reserve requirement ratio by 0.5 to 1 percentage point. Some eligible joint stock banks, in which the government and private sector jointly hold shares, will be allowed to lower the RRR by an additional 1 percentage point.

China Urges Officials to Dine Out and Shop to Boost Consumption - Bloomberg

In provinces such as Anhui, Jiangxi and Jiangsu, government notices urged officials to spend money on food or shopping and encourage their friends and family to do the same

Beijing bans face-to-face dining in restaurants amid epidemic - Xinhua

The guidelines issued by the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau also asked outlets of catering firms and canteens of government units and institutes to place dining tables at an interval of at least 1 meter.

Restaurants in China Are Reopening, But Finding It Hard to Recover Business - Caixin

More and more restaurants have worked to resume business as usual, with most of China outside Hubei province returning to work in recent weeks, but multiple restaurant chains have told Caixin their cashflow remains well below half of what it was prior to the outbreak, even after adjusting strategies and shifting focus to deliveries and catering.

China's finance ministry first quarter fiscal revenue affected by coronavirus - Reuters

In the first quarter of 2019, China’s fiscal revenue rose 6.2% year on year to 5.37 trillion yuan ($766.75 billion).

China’s Resistance to the Global Equity Rout Is Now Crumbling - Bloomberg

“If the virus sets off a chain reaction of economies around the globe entering recession, China will feel the blow from shrinking demand,” said Ge Shoujing, a senior analyst at the Reality Institute of Advanced Finance in Beijing. “A further slump in assets around the world will surely be a drag.”..

Monday’s 4.3% loss in the CSI 300 Index means the gauge is only about 1 percentage point away from erasing the rebound since markets reopened to crisis on Feb. 3.

Chinese Banks Providing 10 Billion Yuan in Discount Loans on Average Each Day to Help Combat Coronavirus – China Banking News

At a State Coun­cil press con­fer­ence held on 15 March Sun Guofeng (孙国峰), head of PBOC’s mon­e­tary pol­icy de­part­ment, said that the loans had en­abled nine na­tional banks and 10 provin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal le­gal per­son banks to also is­sue 182.1 bil­lion yuan in dis­count loans to 4708 key na­tional and lo­cal en­ter­prises.

财新: 疫情“冰封”楼市, 2月19个城市新房零成交

Property sales also hit record low. Zero new residential property was sold last month in the 19 of the 70 cities monitored by the central statistics bureau. In 24 cities, no used property was sold. Analysts expect more stimulus policies from the government.

第一财经:事关八百万人就业!今明年事业单位空岗主招高校毕业生

More than 8.7 million Chinese college students will graduate this year. To make sure they will be employed, the CCP organizational department has issued a notice instructing all public institutes to hire more this year. As part of the efforts, the ministry of education has said earlier that universities will expand the admission of graduate students. A survey last month by recruiting website 51job said 34% of the companies had suspended their campus recruiting this year.

人民日报:守土有责, 守土有方

People’s Daily frontpage commentary said local officials must shoulder their responsibilities in helping the economy and business get back to normal while preventing virus spread. It again repeats Xi’s orders earlier and warns against “bureaucratism”. 

[视频]山东:万名干部下基层, 防控发展两手抓

Shandong province said it has sent 10,000 officials to work in companies and neighborhood committees, so to coordinate and make sure they have whatever they need from the government to resume business and to prevent virus outbreak.

Apple’s COVID-19 Response - Apple

We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27.


2. Imported cases now the big worry

China sees fewer coronavirus cases, wary of international travellers - Reuters

China had 16 new infections on Sunday, the National Health Commission said on Monday, down from 20 the previous day, taking the mainland’s tally to 80,860.

Twelve of the new figures were imported infections, exceeding for a third day the number of domestic transmissions.

China vows to stem coronavirus cross-border spread, expedite manufacturing resumption - Xinhua

A leading group of China's novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic response convened a meeting on Monday, which was chaired by Premier Li Keqiang..

"Currently, the influx of infections from overseas brings uncertainty to the end of the epidemic in China," the statement said, underscoring the necessity to "accurately step up prevention and control measures against the import and export of infections."

Coronavirus deaths and infections globally surpass China — Quartz

Infection cases reported by countries outside China reached 88,367, overtaking the 81,020 in China. Italy accounts for the most deaths and new cases among countries outside China, with 1,809 and 24,747, respectively.

Public isolation prior to home isolation for imported cases: Beijing government - Global Times

Chen Bei, the vice secretary of the Beijing municipal government, made the announcement at a press briefing on Sunday, two days after a new imported case was confirmed in Yizhuang in suburban Beijing, lifting China's total imported infections to over 110.

Chen says there will be medical staff at government-designated spots and that people with special circumstances can be put into home observation after strict assessments. .

She added that those put under compulsory quarantine and observation will have to bear the costs themselves, and those who hide their information and travel history will be held accountable according to law and their misconducts will be put into the social credit system.

Beijing reports 5 imported COVID-19 cases - Xinhua

The five imported cases included three from Spain, one from Italy and one from Thailand, according to the commission.

The city also reported one newly-added local suspected case and eight imported suspected cases, with three from Spain, and each one from the United States, Norway, Japan, Italy, and Britain respectively, the commission said.

No Foreigners Among Beijing's 31 Imported Cases So Far | the Beijinger

Of the 31 reported cases of COVID-19 that have come in from overseas so far, all have been Chinese citizens and 27 were determined to be symptomatic on the plane, Beijing CDC deputy director Pang Xinghuo said at this afternoon's press conference on epidemic control.

北京日报:这六类行为,将以妨害国境卫生检疫罪定罪处罚!

China’s supreme court, supreme procuratorate, ministry of justice and the others jointed issued a document warning that visitors entering China who fail to report fever symptoms and their possible contacts with coronavirus patients, and those who refuse to comply with China’s quarantine policies will face criminal charges.

观察者网:黎女士,被立案!

Beijing police reported that it has filed a criminal investigation into the 37-year-old Chinese woman who lives in Massachusetts who came back to Beijing with her family last Thursday but failed to report her fever symptoms. The family has been put under quarantine. The police vowed that it will “resolutely strike” on such “criminal activities”. It is reported that Ms Li, who worked in the biotechnology company Biogen, may have contracted the virus in a conference in Cambridge, Boston last month.

财新:疫情总动员,各地怎么做 

In a bid probably to discourage overseas Chinese from traveling to China, both Beijing and Shanghai governments have said those who returned from overseas will have to pay the medical bills from their own pockets if they are not insured and tested positive of the virus.

Beijing completes renovation of SARS treatment hospital for COVID-19 control - Xinhua

Beijing built Xiaotangshan Hospital in just a week for the treatment and control of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, in 2003.

Coronavirus: China’s first confirmed Covid-19 case traced back to November 17 | South China Morning Post

The first case of someone in China suffering from Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, can be traced back to November 17, according to government data seen by the South China Morning Post.

China advises nationals against traveling abroad amid COVID-19 pandemic - Xinhua

Chinese authorities on Monday suggested that residents on the mainland not travel abroad amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, particularly to countries hit hard by the pandemic.

Officials with the National Health Commission and the National Immigration Administration made the remarks at a press conference.

陈一新:联动开启“抗疫歼灭战”“经济发展战”“风险化解战”-中国长安网

Chen Yixin emphasizes that Wuhan needs to jointly fight tree battles - "annihilate the virus", "develop the economy", "defuse risks". The stability management tasks ahead in Wuhan are going to be very daunting

Coronavirus: residents of Hubei community defy lockdown to protest against overpriced food | South China Morning Post

After weeks of quietly accepting a government-enforced lockdown, the patience of some residents of a Chinese city close to the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak finally ran out on Thursday, as they gathered to protest against the high prices they say they are being forced to pay for their groceries.

China to withdraw medical staff from Hubei gradually -state media - Reuters

state broadcaster CCTV reported on Monday, citing a work group meeting chaired by Chinese premier Li Keqiang

Govt announces steps to protect unattended children amid epidemic - Gov.cn

These measures cover children whose parents or other guardians are identified as confirmed or suspected cases of the COVID-19 or need to be quarantined for observation, or cannot fully assume the guardianship responsibility due to anti-epidemic work or otherwise.

Xi Focus: Xi's article on providing strong sci-tech support for winning war against COVID-19 to be published - Xinhua

An article by President Xi Jinping on providing strong scientific and technological support for winning the battle against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be published Monday on the Qiushi Journal, a flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee...

The article highlighted linking the research on medicines and medical equipment with clinical treatment, and that saving the lives of more patients was the most pressing and important task.

The task of paramount importance for scientific research is treating severely and critically ill patients, and traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine should be combined for treatment, according to the article...

The article stressed the importance of public hygiene campaigns in improving living environment. It emphasized resolutely eradicating the bad habit of eating wild animals to promote a civilized, healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle.

The article is taken from Xi's March 2 speech - 为打赢疫情防控阻击战提供强大科技支撑


3. Possible date for the two meetings

Reuters first broke the news of a possible delay, now they report it may happen in five weeks at the earliest.

China eyes rescheduled parliament for late April or early May: sources - Reuters

China tentatively plans to hold its delayed annual gathering of parliament in late April or early May, two people involved in preparations told Reuters, as new coronavirus cases in the country drop sharply even as they surge elsewhere...

Holding the events, which typically draw a combined 5,000 delegates to Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, would be a major indication that the Chinese leadership sees things as returning to normal...

The NPC’s timing is not finalised, and one of the people said the number of attendees may be reduced, with those visiting from outside Beijing needing to undergo quarantine.


4. US-China tensions rise over origin of the virus

Secretary Pompeo’s Call with People’s Republic of China Politburo Member Yang Jiechi - United States Department of State

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke by phone on March 16 with Yang Jiechi, Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China. Secretary Pompeo conveyed strong U.S. objections to PRC efforts to shift blame for COVID-19 to the United States. The Secretary stressed that this is not the time to spread disinformation and outlandish rumors, but rather a time for all nations to come together to fight this common threat.

杨洁篪应约同美国国务卿蓬佩奥通电话-中新网

According to CCTV, China’s top diplomat and politburo member Yang Jiechi talked with Pompeo on the phone on Monday. Yang said “some American politicians had been smearing China and China’s efforts to control the virus”, which has been a huge success under Xi’s “personal command and personal planning”. Yang said the smearing had “caused a huge outcry among the Chinese people”, and any of the US behaviors to hurt China’s interests will receive China’s “resolute counterstrike”.

US State Department summons Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai amid anger over Beijing coronavirus comments | South China Morning Post

The assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David Stilwell, gave a very “stern representation” of the US government’s position on the matter to Cui, who was “very defensive”, according to a State Department spokesman. “No threats, just frank diplomatic discourse.”

“China is seeking to deflect criticism for its role in starting a global pandemic and not telling the world,” the spokesman said. “Spreading conspiracy theories is dangerous and ridiculous. We wanted to put the government on notice we won’t tolerate it for the good of the Chinese people and the world.”

Amid escalating accusations from officials and politicians in China and the US, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian posted a series of tweets late on Thursday and early Friday suggesting that the virus, which causes the potentially deadly illness Covid-19, may have been spread by the United States military.

Beijing cites Washington's summons of its diplomat as 'unreasonable' - CGTN

Beijing on Monday called Washington's recent summon of the Chinese ambassador "unreasonable," urging a "healthy" China-U.S. relations.

"Maintaining the healthy development of bilateral relationship not just benefits the people of both countries, but is something expected by the international community," Geng Shuang, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry said in a press briefing...

Geng also urged U.S. officials that have been wantonly attacked China during this time to stop. "Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire," Geng cited an ancient Chinese idiom.

China state media accuses U.S. politicians of spreading 'political virus' - Reuters

Some United States politicians are using coronavirus as a weapon to smear China, the Xinhua official news agency said on Sunday, as a war of words escalated between the two countries over China’s handling of the epidemic...

The editorial accused Robert O’Brien, the U.S. national security adviser, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of spreading a “political virus” and using it to put China down...

Xinhua also attacked the U.S. politicians for calling the virus the “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus”.

Coronavirus: Washington-Beijing war of words continues as Chinese diplomat calls Mike Pompeo to complain about ‘denigrating’ remarks | South China Morning Post

“Your shortages of masks, gloves, tests, and equipment, and even your stock market plunging, was it all caused by China? It's time to admit what you've been hiding from your voters and the international community, because there are many doubts,” to Kazakhstan Zhang Xiao said in a post written in Russian...

China’s ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, blamed “certain US politicians” and the US media with “ulterior motives” for spreading prejudice. “Why are certain people and media still promoting such absurd logic? What are they up to?” he asked.

The original - 新华国际时评:散播“政治病毒”破坏全球抗疫合力

Chinese diplomat points at US on virus source amid public suspicion over US info black hole - Global Times

"What Zhao tweeted is a countermeasure in public opinion war against the US, which has been leveling various accusations on China," Shen Yi, an expert from Fudan University, told the Global Times, noting that the US government is believed to hide the truth about the exact number of patients infected with COVID-19.

我国驻哈萨克斯坦大使怼美国:浪费中国赢得的时间

Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan lashed out at the US on Facebook. In a post written in Kazak, ambassador Zhang Xiao accused the US for not telling the truth about the virus spread in the country, and had wasted the time China earned for the world.

夷长 on Twitter:

Some on Twitter did a count and said at least nine Chinese embassies or ambassadors on Twitter retweeted Zhao Lijian’s conspiracy theory post about coronavirus being created by the Americans.

Exclusive – Marco Rubio: China’s Shameless Coronavirus Pandemic Propaganda Campaign - Breitbart

There are no words to describe the absurdity of the accusation, but for those who monitor China’s ruling regime it comes as no surprise. Deflection and blame are par for the course, but what is surprising is how many in the United States media are inadvertently carrying water for Beijing...

Xi Jinping is using state-directed media outlets to do more than blame America; he is orchestrating a campaign of disinformation across the globe and leveraging his nation’s economic and military heft to ensure other countries fall in line with the CCP’s messaging...

America has worked to assist all countries — China very much included — suffering from this pandemic. But we cannot stand by as Beijing’s lies result in economic decline and in lives threatened across the world.

Will Xi send condolences and offer aid to the US?

China’s Xi Sends First Condolences Since Virus Outbreak - Bloomberg

China’s President Xi Jinping sent his condolences to other nations for the first time since the global outbreak of the coronavirus, offering them to South Korea, Iran and Italy, the government said in three separate statements.

He later extended the condolences to the European Commission and European Council. China is willing to actively provide help for Europe to conquer the virus, Xi said.

Xi Jinping sends hope to virus-hit Italy in phone call - CGTN

President Xi delivered confidence to the virus hit nation, vowing to continue offering medical supplies to Italy. A nine-member team of medical experts, along with 31 tons of medical supplies, arrived in Italy late last Thursday, ready to assist the country in containing the deadly virus.


5. People’s Leader Xi

Anhui Provincial village speaker system propaganda about war on the virus includes Xi as People's Leader, no reason to think this is just in Anhui.

“学习强国”乡村大喇叭 让防疫宣传声入人心--安徽频道--人民网 

每日早中晚三个时段,准时播放习近平总书记同期声。疫情期间,滚动播出了习近平总书记2020年1月28日会见世界卫生组织总干事谭德赛、2020年2月10日在北京市调研指导新型冠状病毒肺炎疫情防控工作、2020年2月27日同蒙古国总统巴特图勒嘎会谈的三段同期声,让广大干部群众真切地感受到总书记人民领袖的卓越领导力和以人民为中心的为民情怀。总书记坚定不移、温暖人心的话语,像指南针和定盘星,坚定了广大农民群众打赢疫情防控阻击战的信心和决心。

Several other reports of meetings in Tianjin, Hubei and Jiangxi on the epidemic prevention work praising the “People’s Leader”:

天津市委常委会扩大会议暨市防控领导小组和指挥部会议召开 李鸿忠主持并讲话--新闻报道-人民网 

彰显了人民领袖爱人民、为人民的鲜明政治品格

王贺胜强调慎终如始善作善成 坚决夺取疫情防控的全面胜利--湖北频道--人民网 

王贺胜指出,习近平总书记的重要讲话高屋建瓴、统揽全局、饱含深情,体现了人民领袖的为民情怀和对广大医务工作者的关心关怀,为我省疫情防控决战决胜把关定向、提供了根本遵循。全省卫生健康系统要用心领会、用情感悟、用功践行,慎终如始、再接再厉、善作善成,继续把疫情防控作为头等大事和最重要工作抓紧抓实抓细。

王贺胜:逐步恢复正常医疗秩序满足群众就医需求--新闻报道-人民网

3月13日,湖北省委常委、省疫情防控指挥部副指挥长王贺胜到武汉大学中南医院、水果湖社区卫生服务中心调研医疗服务工作,向奋战在一线的医务人员表示慰问,并召开座谈会,听取大家的意见建议。

王贺胜指出,在疫情防控决战决胜的关键时刻,习近平总书记亲临湖北武汉考察,体现了人民领袖的真挚情怀和对医务工作者的关心关爱。全省卫生健康系统要将总书记的关怀转化为服务人民健康的具体行动。

东湖评论:坚定必胜信念,凝聚战疫磅礴力量-荆楚网-湖北日报网 

“武汉加油!”“中国加油!”的声音此起彼伏,在武汉春日的暖阳里久久回响。习近平总书记考察决胜之地,让我们感悟了人民领袖心系武汉人民的情怀,感受到了党中央传递的必胜信念,凝聚起了向疫情发起最后总攻的磅礴力量。 稿源:荆楚网

湖北:医疗救治取得阶段性成果,治愈率达76.1%_新闻中心_中国网 

湖北省卫生健康委员会副主任涂远超表示,这次新冠肺炎疫情是新中国成立以来我国发生的传播速度最快、感染范围最广、防控难度最大的一次重大突发公共卫生事件。习近平总书记十分牵挂湖北武汉的疫情,时刻惦记湖北武汉人民的安危,高度重视医疗救治工作。3月10日,总书记专门赴湖北武汉考察疫情防控工作,一下飞机就前往火神山医院,连线正在病区工作的医务人员,深情的赞扬医务人员是新时代最可爱的人,充分体现了人民领袖对广大义务工作者的关心、关怀,也极大的鼓舞了医务工作者战胜疫情的信心和斗志。

江西省委常委会召开会议-深入贯彻习近平总书记考察湖北重要讲话精神一鼓作气夺取疫情防控和经济社会发展双胜利--江西频道--人民网 

会议指出,在抗击疫情的关键时刻,习近平总书记赴湖北省武汉市考察疫情防控工作并发表重要讲话,充分肯定疫情防控取得的阶段性重要成果,对毫不放松抓紧抓实抓细各项防控工作提出明确要求,发出“坚决打赢湖北保卫战、武汉保卫战”的总攻号令,充分体现了习近平总书记对湖北和武汉的关心关怀,彰显了人民领袖的深情大爱和责任担当,也为我们一鼓作气坚决打赢疫情防控阻击战、统筹推进疫情防控和经济社会发展各项工作注入了强大动力、提供了根本遵循。

坚持党对人民军队的绝对领导是永恒的主题-中工理论-中工网 

在国防和军队建设上,以习近平同志为核心的党中央领导全军直面问题、勇于变革、攻坚克难,重振政治纲纪、重塑组织形态、重整斗争格局、重构建设布局、重树作风形象,推动强军事业开创新局面、踏上新征程、取得新的历史性成就。事实表明,习近平同志作为党的核心、人民领袖、军队统帅,集中反映了全党共同意志、全军共同心声、全国人民的共同期盼,是历史的选择、人民的选择,是民心所依、众望所归。


6. Ren Zhiqiang has disappeared

Chinese tycoon Ren Zhiqiang goes missing after criticising Beijing’s response to coronavirus outbreak | South China Morning Post

It is not known if Ren’s disappearance is linked to the strongly worded article, which was critical not only of the initial cover-up of the virus outbreak, but also of the way in which Beijing is now seeking to promote its success in handling it and the growth of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s personal power.

The South China Morning Post has independently confirmed that the article was written by Ren...

In 2016, he openly challenged Chinese President Xi Jinping’s view that the country’s state media should be aligned to the party.

After Xi visited the headquarters of state broadcaster CCTV, Ren posted on Weibo: “When does the people’s government turn into the party’s government? ... Don’t waste taxpayers’ money on things that do not provide them with services.”
The message was promptly deleted, Ren’s Weibo account was blocked and he was placed under a year’s probation by the party, which said his social media posts “repeatedly contrasted” with its policies.

Prior to his account being deleted, Ren had 37 million followers on the Twitter-like platform.

Translation: Essay by Missing Property Tycoon Ren Zhiqiang | China Digital Times (CDT)

I too am curiously and conscientiously studying [Xi’s teleconferenced February 23] speech, but what I saw in it was the complete opposite of the “importance” reported by all types of media and online. I saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his “new clothes,” but a clown who stripped naked and insisted on continuing being emperor. [我也好奇并认真的学习了这篇讲话,但我从中看到的却与各种新闻媒体和网络上报道的“伟大”完全相反。那里站着的不是一位皇帝在展示自己的“新衣”,而是一位剥光了衣服也要坚持当皇帝的小丑] Despite holding a series of loincloths up in an attempt to cover the reality of your nakedness, you don’t in the slightest hide your resolute ambition to be an emperor, or the determination to let anyone who won’t let you be destroyed...

This conference [speech] may also reflect a crisis of governance within the Party, but it didn’t show people that there were any critical opinions at the meeting, it didn’t investigate or reveal any facts, it didn’t clarify the cause of the outbreak, and still nobody was reviewed for or admitted their responsibility. Trying to cover up the true facts with various “great achievements,” as if this epidemic began with your written instructions on January 7. So, what happened in December? Why wasn’t information made available promptly? Why did CCTV on January 1 investigate news about eight rumormongers? And how could we have the January 3 admonishment? Why was the United States notified of the outbreak on January 3? Why not mention the various crises that happened before January 7? Why haven’t the January 7 instruction been made public, not yet even today?! How were various national-level meetings able to gather after January 7? Why are you still traveling abroad? Why did you celebrate Spring Festival in Yunnan?

The Chinese text - 任志强:人民的生命被病毒和体制的重病共同伤害

Muting Coronavirus Anger, China Empowers Its Internet Police - The New York Times

Online enforcers are dragging in hundreds for questioning as an assault on online speech continues. They are a sign how Beijing has given censors a more punitive role...

The internet police, as they are known here, have gained power as the Communist Party has worked to seize greater control over the thoughts, words, and even memories of China’s 800 million web users. Now, they are emerging as a bulwark against the groundswell of anger over governance breakdowns that exacerbated the epidemic.


7. Masks and Jack Ma

The World Needs Masks. China Makes Them — But Has Been Hoarding Them. - The New York Times

China made half the world’s masks before the coronavirus emerged there, and it has expanded production nearly 12-fold since then. But it has claimed mask factory output for itself. Purchases and donations also brought China a big chunk of the world’s supply from elsewhere...

The Chinese government has begun some shipments to other countries as part of aid packages...

Analysts in the West say China is also looking for political influence by having top diplomats announce the donations. “It is certainly making it a tool of foreign policy,” said Jacques deLisle, the director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania.

Comment: The headline is unfortunate. Of course China bought/used every mask it could. Any country in same situation would. Shame on companies and countries that allowed the outsourcing of this capacity, it does not seem fair to blame China for this aspect of the global disaster. How many other key goods and ingredients will be exposed by the outbreak as being too reliant on China inputs and manufacturing? The decoupling momentum is going to accelerate dramatically.

Chinese official warns against U.S. effort to limit foreign medicine supplies - Reuters

“In the era of globalization, the interests of all countries are deeply intertwined. In the face of the epidemic, it is neither realistic nor wise to attempt to artificially cut off the global industrial chain and supply chain,” said the Chinese official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Jack Ma Foundation at Forefront of Global Battle Against COVID-19 - Pandaily

The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have donated much-needed medical supplies to multiple countries over the past several weeks, underscoring their commitment to bolster public health and help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world.

The two foundations have sourced, purchased and shipped surgical masks and other medical gear to afflicted areas in Japan, South Korea, Italy and Spain. They’ve also sourced and readied for shipment 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and one million masks for donation to the United States, and donations of medical supplies are planned for Africa.

Jack Ma opened a Twitter account and his first two tweets were about his donation of masks and test kits to America:


8. The Record of Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2019

Full text: The Record of Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2019 - People's Daily Online

A close look at U.S. hegemonic practices disguised in human rights protection - People's Daily Online 

A record of human rights violations in the U.S. was issued Friday by the State Council Information Office of China. The 20,000-character report titled “The Record of Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2019” cites abundant facts and data, proving that the human rights situation in the U.S. has been poor and deteriorating in recent years.

美国贫富分化现实如此冷酷(钟声)--国际--人民网

美方若果真能把人权问题当回事,为什么不思祛除长期困扰美国社会的贫富分化痼疾?别忘了,美方一些人四处招摇,道貌岸然地对他国人权状况指手画脚时,美国社会底层民众的生活却因贫富分化加剧而更加艰难。美国国内忍饥挨饿的孩子、无家可归的穷人、久病难医的患者就在那里,美方一些人有何颜面自诩为样板。世界当然不能以此为样板!消除贫困,一个都不能少。美方所谓“人权卫士”能够负责任地作出这个承诺吗?事实表明,迄今为止他们心中并没有树立这样的必为之志。

谎言遮不住金钱政治的丑陋(钟声)

自诩为世界人权卫士的美方一些人,打着人权幌子干尽污蔑、抹黑他国的勾当。殊不知,他们越是沉迷于扮演“人权教师爷”角色,越是把世界的目光引向美国的沉疴宿疾。譬如美国的公民权利和政治权利,在现实中究竟打了多少折扣?世界看得清清楚楚。正如中国国务院新闻办公室发表的《2019年美国侵犯人权报告》所列举的大量事实,美国愈演愈烈的金钱政治如何扭曲民意、金钱游戏如何影响美国政治选举,世界有目共睹。


Business, Economy and Trade

Global Banks, Wary of Some China U.S. IPOs, Walk Away From Deals - Bloomberg Global banking giants have grown more wary of underwriting initial public offerings by Chinese companies in the U.S., concerned about rising reputational risks after a string of disappointing deals.

China and the coronavirus: there’s a bigger serious financial threat brewing for the U.S. - The Washington Post CalPERS’s main defense is that it increased its holdings of Chinese assets because it tracks two major Wall Street indexes to make investment decisions, the FTSE Russell Index and MSCI. Both drastically increased their holdings of Chinese assets last year and continue to do so. MSCI was directly pressured on this by Beijing. But as experts have pointed out, CalPERS doesn’t track them 100 percent and, in fact, has its own formula for investments. They could choose to not take on added risk of Chinese investments if they wanted to.

Virus Pushes China’s Poor Rat Meat Farmers to Brink of Despair - Bloomberg via Yahoo News Bamboo rat meat, a once profitable commodity China’s poor traded for quick returns, now risks pushing those farmers back into poverty. Many local governments had encouraged impoverished citizens to breed the animal, offering financial incentives as part of poverty-relief measures. But Beijing has now clamped down on trading wild animals due to the coronavirus, potentially destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers. // Comment: Here is a Youtube video on making braised bamboo rat from Youtube star Chef Wang

Politics and Law

China: Fears for female activist held incommunicado: Li Qiaochu | Amnesty International Li Qiaochu, an active defender of the rights of women and workers, was taken away by police in Beijing on 16 February 2020. Detained in an unknown location, her arrest is suspected to be related to her activism against gender violence and the fact that her partner, Xu Zhiyong, attended an informal gathering of lawyers and activists in Xiamen in December 2019

CPC issues regulation on full, strict Party governance - Xinhua As an important measure taken by the CPC Central Committee, the promulgation of the regulation aims to improve the responsibility system of exercising strict Party self-governance, the office said. All localities and departments were asked to study and implement the regulation, enhancing political awareness and improving their abilities to perform duties and overcome risks and challenges, so as to advance the modernization of China's system and capacity for governance, said the office.

Chinese journalism ‘coronavirus crisis hero’ comes under attack online | South China Morning Post A reporter who wrote a story dismissing the risk of human-to-human transmission in the early stages of the coronavirus epidemic has come in for criticism online after being held up as a coronavirus hero. The online backlash began after Liao Jun, from state news agency Xinhua, was invited to speak about the role of women in the crisis at a press conference organised in Wuhan, the centre of the epidemic, by the State Council for International Women’s Day on March 8.

Foreign and Defense Affairs

Pakistani president to visit China - Xinhua Pakistani President Arif Alvi will visit China from March 16 to 17 at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced Monday.

China anger at Peru author Mario Vargas Llosa coronavirus comments — QuartzThe Chinese embassy in Lima published an announcement (link in Chinese) today blasting the Nobel laureate for his “irresponsible” comments he made with regards to China and the coronavirus outbreak. The statement, which can be found on the embassy’s account on chat app WeChat, was in reference to a column (link in Spanish) written by Vargas Llosa and published in Spanish newspaper El País yesterday.

No I do not think this is serious but the reaction from Beijing may be interesting- COVID-19 Outbreak: Complaint Filed Against Chinese President Xi Jinping in Muzaffarpur Court for Allegedly 'Hatching a Conspiracy to Spread Coronavirus' | 📰 LatestLYA complaint was filed in a Muzaffarpur court against Chinese President Xi Jinping and China's ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, on Monday for allegedly "hatching a conspiracy to spread coronavirus". The matter is slated for hearing before the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) on April 11.

Mar 16, 2020 – Today's Top Question on Zhihu: Demonizing Foreign Pandemic Control — Zhihu Digest One of the top answers is a breakdown of the recent New York Times article “China Bought the West Time. The West Squandered It.” (中国争取的时间,被西方白白浪费 is how the answerer translates it) in support of the idea that western pandemic control efforts have been objectively poor...Many of the other top answers take this same approach, pointing out how western media has reported on China’s temporary hospitals as 集中营 (concentration camps). The gist of these answers is: “Western media demonized our prevention efforts, so why shouldn’t we demonize theirs?”

Freedom of the press a rarity for Chinese journalists in US - Global Times Continuous sullying by US politicians and media has led the American public to think Chinese correspondents in the US are "spies" and "mouthpieces" of the Chinese government. The US is a country where ideology plays a strong and significant role. With the constant negative reporting on China by US media, many Americans think twice about accepting an interview with a Chinese journalist. - The author is a Chinese correspondent in Washington DC who wished to remain anonymous

Launch of China's new Long March 7A ends in failure - SpaceNews.com China’s attempt to launch its first new-generation Long March 7A rocket ended in failure Monday, resulting in a classified satellite apparently failing to enter geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Railpolitik: the strengths and pitfalls of Chinese-financed African Railways – Panda Paw Dragon Claw - By Chen Yunnan as this case study of Ethiopia’s engagement with China’s railway financing shows, the “China model” of supporting railway expansion in Africa comes with both strengths and constraints. Though “debt sustainability” concerns loom large in conversations about railway projects, the difficulties experienced in Ethiopia’s railway projects are more directly linked to its creditor-debtor and employer-contractor relationships formed under those deals. A parallel case of a Turkish-financed railway project, constructed sequentially after a major Chinese-line, highlights the pros and cons of the politically-oriented China model vis a vis a more transactional, commercially-motivated project.

Trump Threat Spurred Indonesia to Drop Russia, China Arms Deals - Bloomberg The Trump administration pressured Indonesia into dropping deals to buy Russian-made fighter jets and Chinese naval vessels, part of a global effort to prevent its top adversaries from eroding the U.S.’s military superiority.

Briefing With Senior State Department Official On the PRC’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy - United States Department of State PRC’s acquiring and diverting foreign technologies, specifically advanced and emerging technologies, and particularly those related to artificial intelligence to incorporate them into its next-generation military capabilities.  It is doing so through a strategy that eliminates the barriers between China’s defense industrial complex and the civilian economy.  It is a strategy that they call military-civil fusion.

Hostage Michael Kovrig allowed to call to sick dad amid COVID-19 | Ottawa Citizen Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese embassy in Canada says Michael Kovrig has been allowed to have a telephone conversation with his father, who is very ill. The embassy says in a statement that they allowed this for humanitarian reasons, and it also says Kovrig and fellow detainee Michael Spavor are being given better food to strengthen their immunity against the novel coronavirus, which originated in China.

China, ROK establish joint mechanism to fight COVID-19 - Xinhua Its mission is to implement the important consensus reached by the two countries' heads of state, strengthen bilateral communication and collaboration, coordinate prevention and control efforts by the two countries, to achieve an early victory over the epidemic for the health and wellbeing of the two peoples, and at the same time uphold and advance bilateral exchanges and cooperation.

The U.S. is now investigating Chinese telecom giant ZTE for alleged bribery - NBCNews The new investigation, which has not been reported previously, centers on possible bribes ZTE paid to foreign officials to gain advantages in its worldwide operations. The fresh scrutiny on ZTE comes just after the end of the corporate probation period agreed to under the March 2017 plea agreement it struck with the Justice Department. Under the agreement, ZTE agreed to a civil and criminal penalty and forfeiture of $1.19 billion.

Taiwan

It is Time for a Currency Manipulation Truce… Especially as Taiwan Disclosed its True Foreign Exchange Position | Council on Foreign Relations One that its true foreign exchange position is over $600 billion, as it has over $30 billion in domestic foreign currency bank deposits as well as almost $100 billion in foreign currency swaps with local financial institutions. And two, that its actual intervention in the market in 2019 was $5.5 billion ($6.6 billion if you look just at the second half of 2019, as it reported that it sold in the first half of 2019). That’s around a percentage point of its GDP, below the Treasury threshold.

Tech and Media

TikTok to Stop Using China-Based Moderators to Monitor Overseas Content - WSJ $$ The decision will result in the transfer of more than 100 China-based moderators to other positions within the company, according to people familiar with the matter. The move is the latest effort by TikTok’s owner Bytedance Inc. to distance itself from concerns about it being a Chinese-operated company.

How an unlikely Tencent project is helping China's indie scene | GamesIndustry.biz In its third year, Tencent's Next Studios is carving out a unique niche in China's complicated games industry

Society, Arts, Sports, Culture and History

Yung Moeun, Pol Pot’s Trusted Aide and Beijing Envoy, Dies At 73 - VOA Yung Moeun said she continued to remain Pol Pot’s personal cook from 1967 to 1975. But, when the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, Yung Moeun was sent to Beijing as the Cambodian embassy’s political liaison officer, in charge of direct communication with Pol Pot’s all-powerful Office 870.