Help for PRC students overseas; US-China truce?; Luckin blows up; Discourse power and propaganda struggle
I will hold another open thread tomorrow morning for subscribers only.
Here are some of the highlights in today’s newsletter:
The PRC authorities are intensifying their focus on preventing importing infections, and even though the vast majority are from PRC nationals, misbehaving foreigners are getting a lot of attention online;
The dramatic reduction in flights to China as part of the measures to combat imported cases has led to the stranding of hundreds of thousands of PRC students overseas. The government is now making a big deal out of getting them care packages and support through the local PRC embassies;’
Li Wenliang and 13 other medical workers who died fighting the epidemic are now officially martyrs;
The spokesperson for the CCP’s International Liaison Department is now on Twitter, and he used his first tweet to promote an open letter from the “Communist Party of China and more than 230 political parties from over 100 countries…calling for carrying out closer international cooperation to beat COVID-19”;
The US and China appear to be trying to make nice enough since the Trump-Xi call last work to find a way to cooperate on the global fight against the pandemic. I hope they can, but I am not holding my breath that any possible “truce” will last.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you on the open thread Friday.
1. The outbreak
A total of 35 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, all from abroad, six deaths and 55 asymptomatic cases were reported on the Chinese mainland as of Wednesday midnight, according to China's National Health Commission.
The coronavirus leading small group meeting held by Li Keqiang highlighted the importance of “managing the asymptomatic patients” and conducted the necessary epidemical investigations on them. The meeting also urged local governments to be careful to stop transmission from foreigners who enter China via land.
Regulators will play a monitoring role in the community and in fever clinics, Wang Bin of the National Health Commission's Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control said at a press conference in Beijing today, adding that they will do an effective job of tracking and managing sources of infection to find asymptomatic cases in time and take isolation measures in a timely manner...
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that according to a study done by a regional CDC the virus transmission efficiency of asymptomatic infected persons is one third of that of confirmed patients. But since just 4.4 percent of infections were spread by asymptomatic infected cases, their contribution to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic is still relatively minor.
The 14 martyrs were Wang Bing, Feng Xiaolin, Jiang Xueqing, Liu Zhiming, Li Wenliang, Zhang Kangmei, Xiao Jun, Wu Yong, Liu Fan, Xia Sisi, Huang Wenjun, Mei Zhongming, Peng Yinhua and Liao Jianjun. They were described as excellent representatives of role models among frontline medics and epidemic prevention workers.
Li Wenliang and 13 other medical workers who died on duties fighting the coronavirus are now honored as martyrs by the Hubei government. “(This) is the highest honor given by the party and the state to citizens who sacrifice themselves for the country, society and the people … they are the loveliest people of the new era, and their lofty spirits will be immortal!”
The Chinese embassy in Britain has prepared 200,000 "health kits" to ensure every student will get one, he said. Other Chinese embassies in Japan, Sri Lanka, and the U.S. etc., have also taken similar measures.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China has also coordinated with airlines to prioritize the delivery of the "health kits" although international passenger flights have been sharply reduced said Lyv Erxue, deputy director of the administration.
Article on page 3 of People’s Daily Thursday list all the things the Chinese embassies are doing for the Chinese students. “The motherland is always thinking about you,” the article titled.
Comment: This comes after parents complained online that the government was essentially leaving the students to die by cancelling most international flights.
China arranged nine charter flights in March that brought back 1,457 Chinese citizens abroad, including overseas students from Iran, Italy and other countries, Vice-Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said on Thursday.
Beijing police will expel a Tanzanian man who failed to follow the 14-day quarantine rule
A foreigner in Qingdao wrote an apology letter for cutting the line at a coronavirus testing site. The video of him shouting to Chinese behind him went viral and caused an uproar
People’s Daily wrote that foreigners must follow the rules in China and local governments must not give them special treatment
A 47-year-old Nigerian national has allegedly injured a nurse while resisting quarantine measures after testing positive for Covid-19 in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, according to the city’s public security authorities.
Noting that the spread of the virus was basically contained in China, Sun underscored focusing on preventing infections from abroad and an epidemic rebound at home.
Sun also called on experts and researchers to learn from the scientific achievements from other countries and promote effective drugs and treatment technologies, especially traditional Chinese medicine, internationally.
Comment: Sun has an essay in the latest Qiushi on working on the frontline in Wuhan - 深入贯彻习近平总书记重要指示精神 全面加强疫情防控第一线工作指导督导
Sun again stresses the importance of the decision to place everyone with mild symptoms or who may have come in contact with someone infected in centralized quarantine facilities:
Li’s great contributions to the fight against coronavirus have won praise and respect from many Chinese people. Recently, an image of her face left with deep wrinkles from wearing tight masks circulated all over the web. Many netizens took to nicknaming her “Grandma Li”, expressing their admiration and thanking her for her hard work on the front line.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday refuted some media reports which accused China's figures on COVID-19 of being "opaque."
He said at WHO's daily briefing that experts from China and other Asian countries have shared the latest information to the organization based on science.
Chinese authorities are now putting considerable pressure on private companies to hand over sensitive data for anti-epidemic purposes and some privacy advocates fear the surveillance measures implemented during the pandemic could become permanent...
One reason for the difficulty is the complexity of China’s governance system, where different levels have different incentives and tools. Another reason is that privacy concerns have become a surprisingly important issue for parts of the government, as well as for private investors and customers...
For all the professed reticence of the companies, the government has used the coronavirus crisis to push for greater sharing of data from private and public sources. Indeed, some in China fear that some of the gains for consumer privacy in the past two years could be lost.
On the face of it, imaginary notions of China should not matter much during the covid-19 pandemic, which has left governments wrestling with hard questions about life and death. There is, for instance, nothing very abstract about a propaganda campaign under way inside China to stress that most new infections involve cases imported from abroad. Though almost all of these involve Chinese nationals, curbs on foreigners are tightening. The border has been shut to most of them. On March 27th the government shocked embassies in Beijing by declaring a halt to the issuing of new identity cards for most grades of diplomat. This was apparently in response to the flouting of virus controls by a Western envoy. Embassies, in effect, face a ban on staff rotations until at least mid-May.
2. The economy
Debate is heating up among economists and Chinese government advisers over whether the country should abandon its annual growth target this year given the huge uncertainties facing both domestic and external demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yu Yongding, one of China’s most influential economists and a former central bank adviser, is among the latest to add his voice to the discussion, urging the government to stick with its tradition of issuing a numerical goal for expansion in gross domestic product (GDP), even if it is a low one...
The target is a crucial tool for companies, especially large enterprises, to use as a reference when setting their business plans, Yu told Caixin in an interview on March 31. “If they don’t have a GDP target number at all, they can’t make their business plans,” he said...
On the opposing side of the growth target debate is Ma Jun, an economist who sits on the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) monetary policy committee as an academic member. Ma was previously head of the PBOC’s research bureau and is now director of the Center for Finance and Development at Tsinghua University.
“Further increase in the resumption of work rate for medium, small and micro-sized enterprises may hit a bottleneck, because some small, medium and micro-sized enterprises may have collapsed, and the data may not increase much,” Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance, said Monday, according to a CNBC translation of his Chinese-language comments.
As of Monday, more than 429,000 business have dissolved or suspended operations for the year so far, according to analysis from Qichacha, which runs a Chinese business information database...
Pang noted that the global spread of the virus may cause some interruption in new orders for foreign trade companies in April, and the ability of domestic demand to match the drop in external demand is uncertain because the virus, employment and the state of small and medium-sized enterprises contribute to the investment and consumption appetite.
3. Foreign work
The Communist Party of China and more than 230 political parties from over 100 countries issued a joint open letter Thursday, calling for carrying out closer international cooperation to beat COVID-19.
This is the first joint appeal of major world political parties for strengthening international cooperation since the COVID-19 outbreak...
As major political parties from countries of the world, we undertake to maintain close communication under the unusual circumstances, and ensure better performance of the due role of political guidance for the purpose of injecting political energy into the global fight against COVID-19. We firmly believe that our current difficulties are only temporary, just as the sunlight shall eventually shine after each storm. If the international community makes concerted efforts with confidence and resolve and takes a science-based and targeted approach, it will definitely win the final victory in the all-out global war against COVID-19. It is our belief that, after the pandemic, the community with a shared future for mankind will emerge stronger and humanity will embrace a brighter tomorrow.
Comment: Hu Zhaoming 胡兆明 Spokesperson & Director General, Bureau of Public Information and Communication, International Liaison Department 中联部, CPC Central Committee, has just opened a Twitter account, and his first tweet is about this letter. I wonder how many people imagined a world in which the ILD spokesperson would be talking to a global audience in English using an American platform, in this case Twitter.
Noting that this year marks the 70th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties, Xi said China is willing to work with Indonesia to continuously deepen cooperation in building the Belt and Road and push forward the development of their comprehensive strategic partnership.
The epidemic is a common challenge for all mankind, and only by fostering strong synergy can the international community defeat the enemy, stressed the president.
Xi, in a telephone conversation with King Philippe of Belgium, also said China is ready to share useful COVID-19 prevention and control experience with the European country, and promote cooperation in vaccine and medicine joint research and development, and other areas.
Both sides exchanged views on the impact of COVID-19 at the regional level and agreed to explore ways to provide support where necessary to regional countries on epidemic prevention and control. They also agreed on the importance of the resumption of production and trade flows. Both sides spoke highly of the China-ASEAN Special Foreign Ministers' Meeting on COVID-19 and the related medical experts' video conference, and agreed to support a meeting at a larger scale and higher level so as to strengthen the regional capacity to address public health emergencies, mitigate economic and financial risks, and maintain regional stability and development.
Both sides agreed that COVID-19 is a global public health emergency that does not respect nationality, race or borders. Both sides called on countries around the world to work together to address this transboundary threat for the protection and well-being of our peoples.
China should act with a sense of responsibility as a major country, but must not neglect those who try to trip it up. The country should neither remain silent, nor flinch away from the smears and attacks. No matter what happens, the country will continue promoting international cooperation on anti-epidemic efforts and safeguarding national dignity with practical actions.
"We kindly remind users to carefully check the use and instructions of the products and whether they meet the standards of the purchasers before purchasing and using them, to avoid making mistakes in emergencies and mistakenly using non-medical masks for medical use," she said.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo is the archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences'
The Chinese regime led by the all-powerful Xi Jinping and the CCP — not its people — owes us all an apology and compensation for the destruction it has caused. As a minimum, it should write off the debts of other countries to cover the cost of Covid-19. For the sake of our common humanity, we must not be afraid to hold this regime to account. Christians believe, in the words of Paul the Apostle, that we must “rejoice with the truth," for as Jesus says "the truth will set you free.” Truth and freedom are the twin pillars on which all our nations must build surer and stronger foundations.
Co-developed by African and international experts organized by Tsinghua University, Chinese Medical Doctor Association and StarTimes companies in Africa, the system provides scientific reasoning from the answers based on the big data collected from applied cases of over 10 million people in 19 countries and areas as well as the latest experience against COVID-19.
4. Telling China’s stories
Comment: The Thursday People’s Daily has an interesting page 9 article by Fu Ying. She clearly articulates a vision for telling China’s story better globally, by pursuing the long established of improving China’s global discourse power.
Ironically much of the way China is working towards that goal involves using American platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube to tells those stories globally, though there may be hope in Beijing that Wechat and TikTok can reduce reliance on those US platforms.
In the new situation, we need to be more sensitive and more fully grasp the opportunities and conditions given by the changing times, and take the initiative to make our own voices. This not only helps to strengthen the initiative and influence of our own discourse, but also helps promote international public opinion to reflect the world's development trends more truthfully and in a balanced manner.
A China that is constantly reforming, innovating, and continuously expanding and opening up, and a China that is determined to make all Chinese people live a happy life and make a huge contribution to world peace and development, do n’t worry about not having a good international reputation.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Party, General Secretary Xi Jinping has attached great importance to the work of external communication, and has repeatedly mentioned in a series of important speeches to tell Chinese stories and spread Chinese voices. We must grasp the profound connotation of Chinese stories, master effective methods of telling Chinese stories well, actively fight for the right to speak internationally, enhance the recognition of the development of China by the international community, and present a real, three-dimensional and comprehensive China to the world.
China ’s external communication methods are more diverse, not only for the world ’s communication, but also for “one country, one policy” for precise communication. The means of communication has accelerated from a single traditional media to a multi-media fusion.
In theory, the elements contained in discourse are more complicated. The first is the content and quality of discourse. Discourse needs to be influential and needs to be supported by high-quality content. The second is the ability to set and disseminate international issues. In real international relations, countries with strong ability to set international issues and discourse dissemination are often better able to shape and guide public opinion and master the discourse initiative. The third is the facts and practices contained in the discourse. Successful discourse needs to be based on rich facts and practices, and vague concepts and announcements are not enough to impress people, and it is difficult to improve the right to speak. The fourth is the recognition and feedback of dialogue. Only by winning the audience's approval and forming positive feedback can the discourse influence gradually increase.
The Chinese leadership’s efforts to increase China’s discourse power should not be dismissed or misconstrued as mere propaganda or empty slogans. Rather, they should be seen as evidence of the leadership’s determination to alter the norms that underpin existing institutions and put in place the building blocks of a new international system coveted by the Chinese Communist Party.
The report below updates and expands on a 2013 study by the same author, The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship: How the Communist Party’s Media Restrictions Affect News Outlets around the World, published by the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy.6 Drawing on recent scholarly research, media reports, interviews, Chinese government documents, and official speeches, the present report addresses the following questions:
What are the goals of the CCP’s efforts to influence media outlets and news reporting globally?
How does the CCP promote state media content and desired narratives internationally, while deploying various tactics to suppress critical news reporting?
How have these dynamics evolved over the past three years under the consolidated CCP leadership of Xi Jinping?
To what extent do the CCP’s efforts appear to be achieving the desired effect?
This focus on discourse power highlights that the CCP and PLA recognize the power of narrative as a means to achieve advantage relative to a rival or adversary through reshaping the information environment in ways that have real-world impact. China’s efforts to advance soft power, and by extension discourse power may confront significant limitations, even provoking backlash in some cases. However, it is clear that the potential impact of such attempts to reshape the narrative and change the conversation should not be discounted, given the apparent impacts from seemingly constraining discussion on Xinjiang, to reshaping narratives on human rights, and even the popularization of "One Belt, One Road" with international audiences. At times, this contestation of discourse is also undertaken in conjunction with more material approaches to influence.
When President Trump spoke last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the leaders agreed to tamp down their war of words over the novel coronavirus — but the truce is temporary. The Chinese Communist Party’s brazen campaign of lies and distortion is just an example of the new information environment the United States and its partners must now come together to confront.
Several administration officials told me the public cooling off with Beijing is beneficial for both sides in the short term. Reports that Trump was persuaded by Xi’s “aggressive flattery” to stop saying “Chinese virus” miss the larger context. There was an interagency decision to push back on claims by Chinese officials that this coronavirus originated in the United States, a necessary but also costly effort...
This week, a group of Republican lawmakers are introducing a bill that would authorize sanctions against any foreign officials who suppress or distort information about public health crises. The legislation, led by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is named after Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor in Wuhan, China, who was at first punished for his revelations — and later praised by Beijing before he died of coronavirus.
The U.S. hypocrisy on “freedom of the press” has been seen through, and its political purposes of rudely oppressing Chinese media outlets are not a secret anymore. Its bullying practices conducted in the name of “freedom” will never be accepted and justified, and no country will tolerate that.
Media serves as a bridge and window of communication. For a long time, Chinese journalists in the U.S. have played an important role in deepening mutual understanding between the Chinese and Americans through their massive reports.
No, the propaganda war is not on hold. It is a 持久战, at least from the Chinese side.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. doesn’t know whether the Chinese government has underreported the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country...
The president has previously cast doubt on China’s numbers. But on Wednesday evening, he opted instead to talk up America’s trade relationship with Beijing, boasting that China will be buying billions of dollars’ worth of products from U.S. farmers...
Still, Trump said that Beijing’s tally appeared “to be a little bit on the light side, and I’m being nice when I say that, relative to what we witnessed and what was reported.”..
But we had a great call the other night,” Trump said referring to China’s president Xi Jinping. “We are working together on a lot of different things including trade. They’re buying a lot, they’re spending a lot of money. They’re giving it to our farmers.”
Some American officials had recognized that the deteriorating state of relations — at the worst point since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 — was impeding global efforts to fight the pandemic. Several of Mr. Trump’s aides quietly reached out to Chinese officials through American businessmen with extensive ties in China, according to people familiar with the efforts.
National security officials and China hawks in the State Department are skeptical the détente will last, but several top advisers to Mr. Trump have advocated restraint — notably Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law; Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary; and Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council.
They argue that the two superpowers need to work together to suppress the virus and resuscitate the global economy, and that Mr. Trump should not jeopardize a trade deal that the two nations reached last December...
“Actually this is smart,” said Orville Schell, the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. “Isn’t that the only way to do it? You cooperate where you share interests and you compete and criticize where you don’t. We did it with the Russians in the Soviet days and got some things done.”..
This week, Mr. Pompeo, the administration’s most vocal China hawk, adopted a more restrained tone and dropped his use of “Wuhan virus.”
"I will be very candid with you and say that in mid-January the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low. The very first case, which was someone who had been in China -- in late January around the 20th day of January," Pence told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Pence continued: "The reality is that we could've been better off if China had been more forthcoming."
“Some U.S. officials just want to shift the blame,” Hua told a regular briefing in Beijing. “Actually we don’t want to fall into an argument with them, but faced with such repeated moral slander by them, I feel compelled to take some time and clarify the truth again.”
Hua questioned the speed of the U.S.’s response to the virus after banning arrivals from China on Feb. 2. “Can anyone tell us what the U.S. has done in the following two months?” she said.
In a letter dated Tuesday, Republican Representative Jim Banks asked the U.S. government to seek a probe into the fates of Fang Bin, Chen Qiushi and Li Zehua. According to media reports, they went missing after taking videos and publishing them online including images of overwhelmed hospitals and corpses piled in a minibus.
Reminder: Tucker Carlson has a direct line to the President
"It's time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with China and the world," Hawley told "Tucker Carlson Tonight." "It's time to start putting American workers at the front and not kowtowing any longer to the Chinese government."..
Hawley claimed that as the U.S. struggles to get a grip on the virus, China is hoping to take advantage of a weakened American society.
"They clearly see it as a strategic opportunity, the same way they see everything. They have a plan, they want to be the central power, the dominant world power"
"But," Hawley continued, "here's the thing. This is also an opportunity for us to open our eyes ... the American people have known ... that partnering with China is dangerous. They know that sending our supply chains overseas was wrong and now we have the opportunity to correct those mistakes."
The Arizona Republican said on Fox Business on Thursday that Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should resign over the organization's handling of the virus, which originated in China.
Three measures agreed to by senior U.S. officials in a meeting last Wednesday, but not finalized, would introduce hurdles that could be used to stop Chinese companies from buying certain optical materials, radar equipment and semiconductors, among other things, from the United States...
Since “the Chinese have said to us, ‘anything you give to us for a commercial purpose is going to be given to the military,’ what point is there in maintaining a distinction in our export control regulations?” said former White House official Tim Morrison, who was involved in drawing up the changes, which have been in the works since at least last year.
We suggest the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, establish special teams to discuss potential countermeasures in response to the mounting US pressure on Chinese high-tech companies, which is unlikely to be reversed in the short term.
After the novel coronavirus epidemic broke out on the Theodore Roosevelt, the US again sent a P-3C patrol aircraft to the region on Tuesday, China Central Television reported on Wednesday, citing foreign reports.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has significantly lowered the US Navy's warship deployment capability in the Asia-Pacific region, and an increase in warplane deployment was expected, so it can maintain its presence while also gaining related intelligence, Wei said.
With the drills, the Chinese military showed that it is capable of driving intruders and unfriendly priers away, he said.
6. Taiwan’s model
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, Taiwan seems to have it under control. The island is only 80 miles off the coast of mainland China and very near to where the virus originated; plus there were many daily flights to it from Wuhan. But Taiwan has only 329 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and only five people have died from it. Nick Schifrin reports on this COVID-19 success story...
Another reason Taiwan acted so early, they didn't trust either the Chinese government or the head of the World Health Organization, who, in January, praised China's response, says Bill Stanton, the former top U.S. diplomat in Taipei.
He was just defending the Chinese position and echoing what they had to say. And it made the Taiwanese even more suspicious to what the Chinese were doing for that reason.
China doesn't allow Taiwan into the WHO, and that's really stupid, because Taiwan is one of the main countries in the world that has expertise on international health issues.
Taiwan has been debating for years who it is and what exactly its relationship should be with China - including the island’s name. But the pandemic has shot the issue back into the spotlight.
Lin I-chin, a legislator for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said in parliament last month that Taiwan should change its English name to “Republic of Chunghwa”, an English rendering of the word Taiwan uses for China in its name.
“Taiwan has been brought to grief by China,” she said.
On Sunday, the New Power Party, one of Taiwan’s smaller opposition groups, released the results of a survey in which almost three-quarters of respondents said Taiwan passports should only have the word “Taiwan” on them, removing any reference to China.
By focusing on Taiwan’s donations of masks, the bloc made its manoeuvre “in such a way that the EU could hit China with the same argument it uses all the time: that mask donations should not be politicised”, a diplomatic source said.
In a statement released Thursday, HKSAR Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the broadcaster must abide by its charter when discharging its duties, including its mission to foster a sense of citizenship and national identity.
"It is common knowledge that WHO membership is based on sovereign states," read the statement.
"As the editor-in-chief of RTHK, the director of broadcasting [Leung Ka-wing] should be responsible for this," it added.
The SAR government said on Thursday that RTHK had breached the "One China" principle and its mission as a public service broadcaster with a report on Taiwan being ignored by the World Health Organisation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
An interview with the WHO's assistant director-general Bruce Aylward in the latest episode of RTHK's "The Pulse" has been watched by millions across the globe after going viral on social media. The exchange was reported on by numerous media outlets across the world after Aylward appeared to pretend not to hear a question regarding Taiwan and then apparently ended the video call.
the concern stems from WHO’s current leadership, who have regularly demonstrated their servility to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The latest example comes in the form of a now-viral video interview, in which a WHO senior adviser abruptly ends the interview when asked about Taiwan. Dodging questions about Taiwan to please Beijing isn’t fatal, but it is indicative of a systemic problem within WHO leadership: a subservience to Beijing that comes at the expense of its stated commitment to public health.
The Chinese military command responsible for patrols around Taiwan stepped up its drills by staging a long-endurance early-warning exercise in March, the official PLA Daily reported on Wednesday.
A warplane conducted tactical acrobatics, which were not specified, immediately after taking off, the report said. The move had not been common during previous drills, and was intended to simulate quickly countering enemy planes during wartime, the report quoted the plane’s captain Liu Yin as saying.
7. The Candace Claiborne case
Media coverage has recently homed in on the possibility that China’s advanced software could be exported around the world, potentially giving the Chinese state back doors into foreign telecommunications networks. But the Claiborne case illustrates that threats to America’s security can take far humbler forms. When her case came before a judge in 2017, it hit the headlines for a few days and was then quickly forgotten. She was ultimately convicted of defrauding the American government, a relatively light offence compared with some of the more attention-grabbing cases involving Chinese espionage. But intelligence experts in America viewed Claiborne’s case with alarm. “What it illustrates is that the Chinese intelligence services will dedicate years and significant resources to recruit even an office-management specialist,” said Ryan Gaynor, a supervisory special agent in the FBI, who investigated Claiborne’s case.
Claiborne left an extensive trail of communications with her Chinese contacts and her story offers unusually detailed insights into the patience and guile of Chinese intelligence services, challenging received wisdom about Chinese espionage. At the heart of the case is a critical question: how did an ordinary, hard-working woman sent to do public service abroad end up in the thrall of an enemy agent?
Candace Marie Claiborne, a former employee of the U.S. Department of State, was sentenced today to 40 months in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $40,000 for conspiracy to defraud the United States, by lying to law enforcement and background investigators, and hiding her extensive contacts with, and gifts from, agents of the People’s Republic of China, in exchange for providing them with internal documents from the U.S. State Department.
8. Unlucky day for Luckin investors
Luckin Coffee disclosed Thursday that an internal investigation has found that its chief operating officer fabricated 2019 sales by about 2.2 billion yuan ($310 million)...
The investigation found that Jian Liu, Luckin’s chief operating officer, and several employees who reported to him, had engaged in misconduct, including fabricating sales. Liu and the employees implicated in the misconduct have been suspended, and Luckin said it will take legal action against those responsible.
A January anonymous short-seller report (PDF on Google Drive) that accused the firm of this and other misdeeds
The information identified at this preliminary stage of the Internal Investigation indicates that the aggregate sales amount associated with the fabricated transactions from the second quarter of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2019 amount to around RMB 2.2 billion. Certain costs and expenses were also substantially inflated by fabricated transactions during this period. The above figure has not been independently verified by the Special Committee, its advisors or the Company’s independent auditor, and is subject to change as the Internal Investigation proceeds.
Huxiu reports that Luckin COO Liu Jian who was sacked over the fraud is a former lieutenant of Luckin’s Chairman and CEO at the car rental company CAR Inc. The Chairman Lu Zhengyao started both the companies.
Following Luckin’s SEC report, leading Chinese investment banks including China International Capital Corporation (CICC) and Haitong Securities endorsed Luckin, saying the short-seller report had major flaws. The short-seller report, they believe, does not include evidence that proves Luckin’s business is fraudulent. International investment Credit Suisse claimed the accusations are not backed by clear evidence, and it expressed concerns about the impact of the coronavirus on the coffee market.
The coffee chain upstart, which opened its first store in Beijing in 2017, sold $378 million in new shares at $42 each and a $400 million five-year convertible, the people said, who aren’t authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. The fundraising came less than a year after it raised $645 million in a U.S. listing in May 2019...
Shareholder Centurium Capital also sold 4.8 million shares this week, raising $202 million.
China’s Centurium Capital, a big backer of domestic startup Luckin Coffee, said it has raised more than $2 billion in its debut fund, giving the private equity firm more firepower to cut deals involving the world’s second-largest economy...
The firm, co-founded by the former head of Warburg Pincus Asia Pacific, David Li, said in a statement on Wednesday that Centurium Capital Partners 2018 L.P. raised the sum in U.S. dollars...
Centurium began to gain recognition last year when it made a big bet on Luckin Coffee, the Chinese challenger to Starbucks Corp. It invested about $180 million in Luckin in the startup’s first two fundraising rounds.
ts vision was outlined in an internal PowerPoint presentation widely circulated online in China and echoed by one of Luckin’s leading investors, Li Hui. The vision foresees the current incarnation of the plucky startup growing into a combination of Starbucks, 7 Eleven, Costco and Amazon, aspiring to match, respectively, those chains’ premium beverages, ubiquity, curation and one-stop-shop nature.
Comment: This is bad for all US-listed Chinese shares, especially when you have the epidemic that has stressed many companies, and access by auditors, not very effective in normal times, has been even more hampered by the epidemic controls. No one should be surprised if book cooking increases during times of significant economic stress. And did any US pension funds have money directly or indirectly invested into Luckin? This kind of fraud is manna for those in DC who want to legislate these Chinese ADRs off US exchanges
Business, Economy and Trade
Top State-Firm Supervisor Launches New Asset Manager - Caixin Formation of the new company, China Rongtong Asset Management Group, was announced by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) in a Tuesday post on its website. The new company’s public WeChat account describes it as a manager of centrally-owned assets in a wide range of areas. Those include real estate, agriculture, tourism and hotels, as well as services for industries from recycling, technology and health care to security and finance. The company is one of three new SOEs set up by SASAC since last year.
China to Start Buying Oil for State Reserves After Crash - Bloomberg The world’s biggest importer is taking advantage of a 60% plunge this year to snatch up cheaper barrels for its stockpiles, a source of considerable speculation in the oil market because of the government’s reluctance to release information about their formation, size or use.
Purchase of Crypto Faithfuls’ Favorite Website Raises Eyebrows - Bloomberg Binance Holdings Ltd., one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency-trading platforms, acquired CoinMarketCap.com, arguably the most popular website among individual investors for tracking coin prices.
Yicai Global - China's Wuhan Bags USD1.5 Billion in First Land Auction Since Virus Outbreak The central Chinese city sold 10 plots covering 120.74 hectares during an online auction held on March 31, according to the Wuhan Land Trading Center. Seven plots with an area of 106.74 hectares were for real estate use. Several well-known property developers including Beijing-based Longfor Group and Hong Kong-based China Jinmao Holdings Group were among the winning bidders.
Yuan Weakens Past Key Support Level as Depreciation Quickens - Bloomberg The currency fell as much as 0.41% on Thursday to depreciate past 7.125 per dollar for the first time since October, before paring losses. Analysts cited demand for greenbacks and concern over the country’s export outlook as reasons for the declines.
China interbank market to expedite debt sales - sources | Reuters China's interbank market regulator plans to ease short-term financing rules and allow more companies to simplify their bond sales procedures, three people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The move comes as the interbank market faces increasing competition from the stock exchange as a venue for bond sales, and as Beijing broadens funding channels for companies struggling in a virus-hit economy.
China’s Leveraged Traders Are Cashing Out in New Blow to Stocks - Bloomberg Borrowed money in stock accounts fell 3.5% month-on-month in March to 1.1 trillion yuan ($148 billion), according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Stock turnover is down around 60% from a February peak, showing how quickly participation in the equity market has cratered. Some traders are switching to bonds and cash-like instruments instead, predicting stocks won’t really recover for at least another six months.
Politics and Law
丁一凡：疫情之下，新自由主义的“洗脑包”会破灭吗？ Ding Yifan, a former research fellow with the state council think tank, wrote that how the West mishandled the coronavirus, together with the 2008 financial meltdown, taught China a lesson that the government must not recede from the market, and it should intervene when necessary.
“70后”副部级干部再增8人，全国至少有20人|人事观察·年终盘点② In the past days at least four officials born after 1970 have been promoted to provincial- and ministerial-level jobs. There are at least 24 of them now, and many have experience working in finance or state-owned companies.
Xi sends coded message to closest aides through Zhejiang trip - Nikkei Asian Review "There is a coded message hidden in this Zhejiang trip," a Chinese source familiar with domestic politics said, "a message sent out to his close aides deployed across the country." During the trip, Xi visited Yucun Village for the first time in 15 years. "How time flies!" he tells his old acquaintances with a big smile, as seen on state-run media..."President Xi has not changed a bit," his former subordinates must have thought. "He will continue to take care of us." It is a feeling shared only by a group of aides known as the "Zhejiang faction." Those that served under him in Zhejiang are now scattered in key provinces…Gong Zheng, a Zhejiang-faction member, was tapped as acting mayor of Shanghai, China's commercial hub. The appointment was made to fill the seat of Ying Yong, another Zhejiang faction member, who was moved to head the coronavirus-hit province of Hubei in February.
China amends, abolishes administrative regulations - Xinhua The custody and education measures for prostitution-related offences were also abolished, following the termination of the "custody and education" system by a decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee in December 2019. 国务院正式决定：废止卖淫嫖娼人员收容教育办法_网易新闻
新疆维吾尔自治区党委召开常委（扩大）会议 陈全国主持--新闻报道-人民网 会议指出，习近平总书记的重要指示，充分体现了人民领袖爱人民的崇高风范，体现了对安全生产的高度重视
昆明以书香致敬战疫天使 —昆明日报 - 之城,则是,一座,不过是,本报讯 - 昆明日报 - 汉丰网 市委宣传部特意牵头昆明新华书店组织了这次送书活动。精心挑选的两本书也颇有深意，《平语近人》让读者在领会习近平总书记治国理政精妙语言的同时，深刻领悟到习总书记 “我将无我、不负人民”的人民领袖情怀，更加坚定为人民服务的信心和决心
Supreme People’s Court’s 2020 judicial interpretation agenda | Supreme People's Court Monitor On 17 March 2020, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC)’s General Office issued a document setting out a list of 49 judicial interpretation projects for which the SPC judicial committee gave project approval. This document sets out the responsibilities of various divisions and offices of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) in undertaking an important part of the SPC’s work, promulgating judicial interpretations for 2020. As discussed in two blogposts in 2018 and two blogposts in 2019, the SPC has a yearly plan for drafting judicial interpretations, as set out in its 2007 regulations on judicial interpretation work. The plan is analogous to the legislative plans of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and its Standing Committee.
Foreign and Defense Affairs
Hungary, eager for loan, wants to classify details of Budapest-Belgrade Chinese rail project - Reuters The project, part of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road initiative intended to open new foreign trade links for Chinese firms, has been stalled for years. The bill, dated March 31 and submitted by Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén to parliament, argues that its aim is to help secure a loan from the Chinese Export-Import Bank to finance the project.
Wuhan's military industry back in action as epidemic situation eases - China Military The Wuhan-based No.701 Institute under the state-owned China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited (CSSC), a major design institute for China's warships, has been working overtime since March 3 to ensure that an undisclosed major project is not affected by the epidemic, according to a statement the institute released on its WeChat public account on Wednesday.
Researchers develop AI-based control system for underwater robots - Xinhua Researchers from the Shenyang Institute of Automation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics in the UK have constructed a novel deep-learning-based control system to achieve autonomous mobile manipulation in dynamic and unstructured environments.
The European Mayor Who Doesn’t Want China’s Help With Virus - Bloomberg Hrib, the Pirate Party’s former health policy expert, developed a fondness for democratically run Taiwan when he spent two months there as a medical student in 2005. A certificate of honorary citizenship to Taipei hangs on his office wall. While his views resonate with a much of Prague’s liberal population, it contradicts the Czech Republic’s “one China” foreign policy.
Has China Won? by Kishore Mahbubani — stars and gripes | Financial Times $$ In the end, Mahbubani ducks the question his book’s title poses. Despite his criticisms of the US, he recognises its many strengths: an individualistic culture; the best universities in the world; a magnetic attraction for the world’s best and brightest (including 351,000 Chinese students); and its strong institutions — although Donald Trump is working on that. He concludes that a “geopolitical contest between America and China is both inevitable and avoidable”. Read this book to be provoked, if not convinced.
A Million N95 Masks Are Coming From China—on Board the New England Patriots’ Plane - WSJ The mission received waivers from China to land and do so without quarantining—nobody would be on board besides the necessary flight crew—but they were told the crew still needed visas. So the entire group scrambled to a local pharmacy and took pictures for the application. The pictures were flown to New York to be taken to the Chinese consulate, and then flown back to Ohio. Huang Ping, China’s counsel general in New York, proved to be a major ally in the effort and get the rush jobs done, including by opening the consulate over the weekend to get the visas processed in time, people familiar with the matter said.
Daily Telegraph Gives Chinese Coronavirus Propaganda Direct Line To The UK-Buzzfeed The Telegraph is one of dozens of newspapers around the world that have struck deals with China in recent years. According to one report, the paper received £750,000 annually to carry the material from the People's Daily, a relationship which, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, had led to accusations that the British newspaper had softened its editorial line on Beijing.
Competing in Artificial Intelligence Chips: China’s Challenge amid Technology War | Centre for International Governance Innovation This special report assesses the challenges that China is facing in developing its artificial intelligence (AI) industry due to unprecedented US technology export restrictions. A central proposition is that China’s achievements in AI lack a robust foundation in leading-edge AI chips, and thus the country is vulnerable to externally imposed supply disruptions. The COVID-19 pandemic has further decoupled China from international trade and technology flows. Success in AI requires mastery of data, algorithms and computing power, which, in turn, is determined by the performance of AI chips. Increasing computing power that is cost-effective and energy-saving is the indispensable third component of this magic AI triangle. Research on China’s AI strategy has emphasized China’s huge data sets as a primary advantage. It was assumed that China could always purchase the necessary AI chips from global semiconductor industry leaders. Until recently, AI applications run by leading-edge major Chinese technology firms were powered by foreign chips, mostly designed by a small group of top US semiconductor firms. The outbreak of the technology war, however, is disrupting China’s access to advanced AI chips from the United States. Drawing on field research conducted in 2019, this report contributes to the literature by addressing China’s arguably most immediate and difficult AI challenges.
Hong Kong and Macao
Hong Kong Police Get to Decide When to Take Data From Arrestees' Phones - RFA Hong Kong's High Court ruled on Thursday that warrantless searches of arrestees' cell phones could go ahead, as long as a full account of the search was made.
Manhunt under way as Best Mart 360 becomes latest target in string of Hong Kong firebombings | South China Morning Post A citywide manhunt is under way for two black-clad suspects after five petrol bombs were hurled into a store in a New Territories shopping centre in the early hours of Thursday – the latest in a string of firebomb attacks in Hong Kong. Emergency personnel were called to the Best Mart 360 outlet on the ground floor of the Shan King Shopping Centre in Tuen Mun shortly when the attack occurred shortly after 2.30am.
Tech and Media
How a YouTube Star Helped Make TikTok a Global Hit — The Information $$ One of those compilations came from PewDiePie, the controversial videogamer and YouTube superstar, who broadcast it on his YouTube channel. “I don’t even understand what TikTok is, and I spent hours watching the videos,” PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, told his 100 million followers. “I still don’t know what you do at TikTok.”..Last week, TikTok was the top downloaded app on iOS, beating the popular videoconferencing service Zoom, according to App Annie. Even the World Health Organization is jumping on the bandwagon, with plans to live-stream updates about the virus from its TikTok account
Outbreak Can’t Dent Livestreaming E-Commerce in China, but Regulators Are Nervous - Caixin Luo Yonghao, founder of Smartisan Technology Co. Ltd., announced in late March that the company would try out livestreaming e-commerce, the latest trend in the country’s robust online retail industry, as a way to generate sales and help repay his more than 100 million yuan ($14.1 million) in personal debts. His first try on ByteDance Inc.’s Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, received 48 million viewers in three hours, resulting in 110 million yuan in sales, according to Douyin.
Headlines from China: Bona's ‘Battle of Chosin Reservoir’ Is Projected a 150 Million Yuan Loss Due to Production Halt | China Film Insider Based on the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, the new title is a “main-melody” war epic film directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Andrew Lau.
From Isolated to Island-Hopping: China Embraces Animal Crossing - Sixth Tone While sales figures for China aren’t available, tens of thousands of Animal Crossing: New Horizons game cartridges have been sold on e-commerce platform Taobao, and many more have undoubtedly been purchased from the Nintendo Game Store and downloaded directly onto Switch consoles. On Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, an Animal Crossing: New Horizons hashtag has been viewed over 820 million times, with many young people lamenting that they feel like the last ones on Earth who haven’t bought the game.
Society, Arts, Sports, Culture and History
Chinese football should lessen dependence on foreign coaches, says Chinese club coach - Xinhua "The ideal situation is that the Chinese coaches account for more than half of the CSL coaching positions," said the 45-year-old former Aachen player, who was appointed as head coach of Nantong Zhiyun on Tuesday. Of all 16 CSL managers who are preparing for the postponed 2020 campaign, four are Chinese
Prosecutors: Ex-official to plead guilty in admissions case - AP A former University of Southern California admissions worker who offered to get unqualified students from China into the school agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to wire fraud, prosecutors said. Hiu Kit David Chong, 36, of Arcadia was an assistant director in USC’s Office of Graduate Admissions.
Rural and Agricultural Issues
Pigs fly in as China replenishes world's biggest hog herd - Reuters Six planes carrying more than 4,000 high-quality French breeding pigs have arrived in China so far this year, the first of an expected dozens of plane-loads as the world’s top pork producer rebuilds its decimated hog herd.
China reports new African swine fever cases in Gansu province - Reuters One outbreak occurred in a co-operative that had bought piglets from another province, while the second case was detected in a truck transporting piglets from elsewhere.
Yicai Global - China to Bring in Bumper Grain Harvest Independent of Int'l Market, Ministry Says China produced 664 million tons of staple grains and legumes last year -- up 0.9 percent from in 2018 -- for a record bounty. China's bonanza harvest has been ongoing for 16 straight years, and abundant stocks have now piled up to keep prices stable. "The International market has little impact upon China's supply of staples," Wang noted. // Comment: Are officials trying to preempt concerns of food supply issues if the pandemic gets really bad in food exporting countries?