Meituan's mess; Political inspections for universities; Zhao Lijian goes after Japan

Today’s Essential Eight

  1. Meituan’s mess

  2. Universities targeted in new round of CCDI inspections

  3. US pushing back on cold-chain hypothesis for Covid

  4. Vaccine disinformation

  5. Zhao Lijian working his Twitter magic with Japan

  6. New plan to fight human trafficking

  7. Ideological and systems contest

  8. Disgraced actor Zheng Shuang now in tax trouble

Thanks for reading.

Correction: I had a bad typo in section 7 on the People’s Daily article by Li Jie. What I meant to write was “This is another reminder that Xi and his CCP see themselves in a systemic and ideological competition with the West” not “This is another reminder that Xi and his CCP do not see themselves in a systemic and ideological competition with the West.”

Apologies, I hate when a typo really changes the meaning, and once the email is sent I can only change it on the web version.

The Essential Eight

1. Meituan’s mess

Meituan vows to improve work condition for deliverymen after official’s undercover work - Global Times

The swift response from Meituan came after a viral video showed a field investigation by Wang Lin, an official of Beijing Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, who volunteered to work as a Meituan deliveryman for a day. During his 12-hour-working shift, Wang completed five orders and earned only 41 yuan ($6.32) in total.

Wang said that the delivery fee is too difficult to earn based on the platforms' order allocation mechanism. "I had questions about why deliveryman always receive so may orders, now I realize they have to complete orders as many as possible if they want to get enough income," said Wang.

Following Wnag's experience, many on social media have called on Meituan to focus on improving deliverymen's wages and insurance policies.

北京一处级干部体验做外卖小哥,12小时赚41元:“我觉得很委屈” |累瘫_网易新闻

The video of the Beijing official's experience as a Meituan delivery driver. He worked 12 hours and netted 41 RMB, less than $7 USD

Comment: During his inspection tour in Guangxi earlier this week Xi called for "the protection of the legitimate interests of truck drivers, couriers and food delivery riders." (Xi stresses advancing high-quality development in border ethnic regions - Xinhua)

If I were a Meituan executive or shareholder I would be nervous about this investigation and would be careful about assuming the fine will be comparable to or lower than Alibaba's. After the Alibaba fine companies were told they had 30 days to self-correct, and yet this Meituan investigation was announced before the end of that 30 day period. And then you have Xi specifically mentioning "food delivery riders". Meituan looks to have missed some key signals over the last few months, and now they may pay the price.

China: Leader of Delivery Riders Alliance Detained, Solidarity Movement Repressed | Labor Notes

On February 25 “Mengzhu,” a well-known food delivery worker activist, was detained by Beijing police in a raid on the group apartment where he lives with other delivery workers. Four of them were also detained.

While two workers were released after questioning at the police station, Mengzhu—whose real name is Chen Guojiang—and two of his close friends are still detained. He has been charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a catch-all category often used against activists in China...

Chen’s pseudonym “Menghzu” (盟主) is short for “Leader of the Delivery Riders Alliance” (外送江湖骑士联盟盟主). He established the Alliance with a friend in Beijing in 2019. He published short videos about delivery workers’ daily work experiences, calling for them to build solidarity and fight unjust conditions.

Comment: This case, Xi's comments and the Beijing official's "research" are not contradictory, but look more like pages from the playbook. The problems are real, someone stands up to protest them, the authorities arrest that person but realize there is a broader stability threat and so start taking steps to address the underlying issue in a controlled manner. And in this case Meituan is an easy and rich target which has repeatedly engaged in bad behavior and not self-corrected in spite of warnings.

Xinhua approves of Wang Lin’s actions, per this short commentary. Meituan has become a negative political example -人社局副处长送外卖一小时挣不到三块钱:领导干部体验民生不易,方能换位思考-新华网

Recently, Wang Lin, deputy director of the Labor Relations Department of Beijing Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security, experienced a video of one-day delivery, which caused heated discussion on the Internet. In the video, Wang Lin delivered 5 meals in 12 hours, and got the express fee of 41 yuan. He lamented that the money was too hard to earn...

In fact, the wind of going deep into the masses and carrying out investigation and research is the unchanging background of the Communist Party of China in the past century. Wang Lin's guest appearance as a "deliver brother" is a new form of going deep into the masses and investigating the real situation of people's livelihood, which is worthy of recognition.

It can be said that experiencing grassroots life is a compulsory course for leading cadres. The more you experience it personally, the more profound you are; The more the gap is strong, the more you can think in perspective. As the saying goes, if you think deeply about the people, you will be careful at the beginning. We commend the leading cadres who have experienced people's livelihood at the grass-roots level, and hope to see more cadres appear around those who work hard to understand their thoughts and expectations, so as to accurately reflect the people's demands in decision-making and make the flesh-and-blood ties between the party and the people closer.

Meituan faces a big fine for antitrust violation, just like Alibaba, analysts say | South China Morning Post

Meituan, the country’s largest on-demand delivery service provider, is facing a likely fine of billions of yuan as a result of an antitrust probe from Beijing regulators, a fate similar to what befell Alibaba Group Holding after the recent conclusion of another investigation, according to analysts...

Comment: I think the people quoted in this article are underestimating the size of the possible fine for Meituan.

2. Universities targeted in new round of CCDI inspections

The list of targets in the new round of inspections - 十九届中央第七轮巡视将对教育部和31所中管高校党组织开展常规巡视—中央纪委国家监委网站

With the approval of the CPC Central Committee, The seventh round of the 19 th Central Committee will visit the Ministry of Education, Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Beijing Normal University, Fudan University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Xi' an Jiaotong University, University of Science and Technology of China, China Agricultural University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing Aerospace University, Northwestern Polytechnical University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University, Nanjing University, Sichuan University, Nankai University, Tianjin University, Wuhan University, Sun Yat-sen University, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry Party organizations in 32 units including Jilin University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Shandong University, Southeast University, Xiamen University, Tongji University, Central South University, Dalian University of Technology, Chongqing University and Lanzhou University conducted regular inspections.


CCTV Evening News report on Zhao Leji's comments at the announcement of the targets for the 7th round of inspection tours. - 赵乐际出席全国巡视工作会议暨十九届中央第七轮巡视动员部署会_CCTV

Zhao Leji, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and leader of the Central Inspection Work Leading Group, attended the National Inspection Work Conference and the Seventh Round of Inspection Mobilization Deployment Meeting of the 19th Central Committee on the 28th and delivered a speech. The meeting conveyed and studied the important instructions of General Secretary Xi Jinping on inspection work, studied and deployed this year's inspection work, made arrangements for the centralized inspections of the party organizations in centrally managed universities…

Zhao Leji pointed out that inspection is a political inspection and an important political work. It is necessary to continuously understand and implement Xi Jinping's socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, strengthen "four consciousnesses", strengthen "four self-confidences" and achieve "two upholds", and be aware of the "the big national priority 国之大者心", the inspection orientation, policy, key points, methods, etc., and the responsibilities, missions, status and functions of the party organizations being inspected. Combined with the study and education of party history, we should thoroughly summarize the historical experience of using the party's inspection system, especially the valuable experience of exploration and creation since the 18th National Congress. At present, it is necessary to focus on the implementation of major decision-making arrangements made by General Secretary Xi Jinping and the CPC Central Committee on grasping the new development stage, implementing the new development concept, and building a new development pattern, so as to effectively guarantee a good start and a good step in the 14th Five-Year Plan.



Comment: I believe this is the first time that "the big national priority 国之大者心" has appeared in instructions around these inspection tours.

It is likely not a coincidence that the the revised regulations on the work rules for the Party's primary-level organizations in universities came out just days before this round of inspections. Those revised regulations were discussed in the April 22 newsletter.

3. US pushing back on cold-chain hypothesis for Covid

U.S. Aims to Shape New Phase of WHO-Led Probe Into Origin of Covid-19 - WSJ $$

Experts from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of State, the Agriculture Department and five other federal agencies are developing recommendations to be submitted to the WHO for its planned second phase of the inquiry into how the new coronavirus started spreading, State Department officials said.

The U.S. is expected to push back on a hypothesis promoted by China that the virus could have spread via frozen-food products, according to people familiar with the work. Instead, the experts are expected to urge the release of more data as well as more testing of animals and humans for early evidence of the new coronavirus, including in parts of southern China where related viruses were previously found...

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for a deeper investigation into the lab accident hypothesis. But the U.S. doesn’t currently intend to press for that, the U.S. official said. Government experts believe it would take a whistleblower at this point—nearly a year and a half after the outbreak began—to produce evidence of a lab accident, the official said.

US 'recommendations' to WHO pushing back on frozen food hypothesis a political farce: Chinese FM - Global Times

The US' planned recommendations to the WHO urging more testing and pushing back on the idea that cold chain could spread coronavirus are a political farce with a preset outcome whose purpose is nothing more than to smear and suppress China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The so-called recommendations by the US are neither scientific nor serious, as they completely ignore the previous research results of global scientists, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at Wednesday's media briefing...

Meanwhile, the outside world has lots of questions for the US, which reported some cases earlier than its first reported case and an unknown respiratory disease dating back to July 2019, Zhao said. He asked if the US will show openness and transparency and disclose detailed information about these cases as soon as possible.

"If the US is fair, why doesn't it open Fort Detrick to international experts for investigation or research?" Zhao continued.

China Expert Chris Johnson on the Biden Administration's Approach to Beijing

In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with Chris Johnson, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a leading expert on China, about the Biden Administration's rhetoric about and actions toward China. Johnson outlines the leading challenges facing the new administration and the views from both Washington and Beijing. He explains how diplomacy has been complicated by some of the scorched earth policies of the Trump administration and domestic considerations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson and Morell also discuss the overall trajectory of U.S.-China relations in the coming years and decades.

4. Vaccine disinformation

Russia, China sow disinformation to undermine trust in Western vaccines, EU report says | Reuters

Russian and Chinese media are systematically seeking to sow mistrust in Western COVID-19 vaccines in their latest disinformation campaigns aimed at dividing the West, a European Union report said on Wednesday.

From December to April, the two countries' state media outlets pushed fake news online in multiple languages sensationalising vaccine safety concerns, making unfounded links between jabs and deaths in Europe and promoting Russian and Chinese vaccines as superior, the EU study said.

EEAS SPECIAL REPORT UPDATE: Short Assessment of Narratives and Disinformation Around the COVID-19 Pandemic (UPDATE DECEMBER 2020 - APRIL 2021) - EU vs DISINFORMATION

The general message spread by Chinese state-controlled media is that Western countries politicise the vaccines and contribute to a “vaccine divide”[xxx], thus stressing the difference between the Chinese and Western approaches. This overall narrative is punctuated by negative reports on the EU’s vaccination process, accusations of hoarding vaccines at the expense of poorer countries and mishandling of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. [xxxi] In Chinese state media, there is an ongoing attempt to blame “Western media” for alleged double standards[xxxii] and lack of professionalism[xxxiii] when it comes to covering Chinese vaccines. Chinese media and officials accuse any critical voices of “anti-China spirit”, “spreading rumours” and “lies”[xxxiv]. Even the use of expressions such as “China’s vaccine diplomacy” has been qualified as “disinformation”[xxxv] by Chinese officials and media.

Brazil Covid-19 Variant Spreads Across South America in Warning to World - WSJ

As in Chile, which delivered a high percentage of vaccines to its people, Uruguay’s success until recently in dealing with the pandemic encouraged people to grow complacent just as P.1 hit, researchers said. A problem for both countries is that the CoronaVac vaccine they are administering is one of the world’s least effective. It has a 16% efficacy rate after the first dose, according to a recent Chilean study.

Ms. Lefebre, who lost her mother this month, said her father developed a much milder case of Covid-19 after a second dose of CoronaVac.

Coronavirus: Brazil health regulator rejects Russia's Sputnik vaccine | Reuters

The Brazilian health regulator Anvisa on Monday rejected importing the Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine requested by state governors battling a deadly second wave of the virus that is battering Latin America's largest nation.

Anvisa's five-strong board voted unanimously not to approve the Russian vaccine after technical staff had highlighted "inherent risks" and "serious" defects, citing a lack of information guaranteeing its safety, quality and effectiveness.

China, Russia resist increased scrutiny of pandemic response – POLITICO

In a draft resolution on WHO reform obtained on Tuesday by POLITICO, both China and Russia call for several deletions and amendments relating to how countries share information during health emergencies and what evidence should be used in a report on the pandemic response. The move comes as China continues to face accusations of withholding data from the WHO’s investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

5. Zhao Lijian working his Twitter magic with Japan

Chinese FM spokesperson pins tweet critical of Fukushima water dumping plan atop, after Japan demands apology - Global Times

The adapted painting of "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" reflects legitimate public opinion and the voice of justice; it is the Japanese government that needs to reverse its wrong decision and apologize, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, rejecting opposition from the Japanese foreign minister over his tweet backing Chinese illustrators who recreated the famous Japanese painting...

Zhao had pinned his original post at the top of his Twitter account, replacing his previous one that featured an illustration of Australian atrocities in Afghanistan by Chinese artist Wuheqilin.

Comment: Japan in for a bit of a drubbing in the wake of the Biden-Suga meeting

The tweet

China, Japan trade acrimonious barbs over Fukushima tweet | Reuters

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, when asked about the tweet at a news conference on Tuesday, said he would not comment on every tweet "by someone at the press secretary level".

But he said Japan was lodging a "forceful protest" and seeking the tweet's removal through diplomatic channels...

On Wednesday, when asked again about the tweet by an opposition lawmaker in Japan's parliament, Motegi said that "such heartless tweets should not be allowed", according to Kyodo News.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on April 28, 2021

FujiTV: On your Tweet about Japan's disposal of nuclear wastewater, the Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Japan has lodged solemn representations and asked for the deletion of the Tweet. Do you have a comment? Will you delete it?

Zhao Lijian: The recreation, to my knowledge, is by a young Chinese illustrator. It shows that the original by Mr. Katsushika Hokusai is quite well-known in China and the Chinese people understand much about the Japanese culture.

The recreated picture reflects public concern and outcry in China over the unilateral Japanese decision to dispose of Fukushima nuclear contaminated water by releasing it into the sea. As a matter of fact, China was not alone. Many governments, international organizations, over 300 environmental groups and people in various countries including Japan have raised strong objection and grave concern.

As we've repeatedly stated, the contaminated water is highly hazardous as it contains a lot of harmful substances. The US journal Science, a German marine scientific research institute and scholars from Russia, the ROK and many other countries all believe that the wastewater, even after meticulous treatment, would still contain high levels of radioactive isotopes. Carbon-14, for example, has a 5,730 year half-life. From the day of discharge, the contaminated water would affect all Pacific-rim countries for decades and the radioactive materials would harm the global marine environment for several thousand years.

It is extremely irresponsible of Japan to opt for sea discharge to cut expenses. It made the wrong decision first and we only protested afterwards. How come it is brazen enough to do the wrong thing, but won't stand others' criticism? The world has long been protesting its decision, but Japanese officials just keep playing dumb. Why, then, are they so miffed by a mere illustration? They should listen to protesters all over the world. The Japanese side should realize its responsibility, fulfill its international obligations, and revoke its wrong decision.

You asked whether I will delete the post and apologize. Well, as you may have noticed, I've pinned it on top. The illustration reflects legitimate public opinion and a call for justice. It is the Japanese government that needs to revoke its wrong decision and apologize.



China's Liaoning aircraft carrier group crosses Miyako Strait, patrols Diaoyu Islands, 'warning to Japan' - Global Times

The Liaoning aircraft carrier task group of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy reportedly crossed the Miyako Strait again on Monday and sent an aircraft near the Diaoyu Islands on Tuesday, which Chinese experts said sends a warning to Japan amid the country's recent, repeated wrong statements on China's Diaoyu Islands. Similar PLA activities will likely become routine depending on China-Japan relations, experts said.

6. New plan to fight human trafficking

China issues action plan to fight human trafficking - Xinhua

A 10-year action plan to combat human trafficking, aiming to better protect people's rights, maintain social harmony and stability, and safeguard national security, has been released by the General Office of China's State Council.

The action plan calls for improving community-based network for preventing human trafficking, and establishing a working system featuring inter-department coordination and extensive participation by the public.

Stressing a severe crackdown on human trafficking using the internet, the action plan urges carrying out a sustained national campaign targeting such crime.

It also requires investigation methods to be modernized and upgraded, calling for improving the information release system and the national DNA database for missing children.

The full plan - 国务院办公厅关于印发中国反对拐卖人口行动计划(2021—2030年)的通知(国办发〔2021〕13号)_政府信息公开专栏

(two) the overall goal.

Adhere to and improve the long-term mechanism of anti-trafficking work that integrates prevention, combat, rescue, resettlement and rehabilitation, improve the coordination, cooperation and guarantee mechanism of anti-trafficking work, promote the working mode of anti-trafficking by law, coordination, science and technology, and anti-trafficking by the whole people, and continuously improve the level of anti-trafficking work ruled by law, coordinated, scientific and technological, and socialized, so as to form an anti-trafficking work pattern that adapts to social development. Purify the Internet ecological space, effectively prevent and severely crack down on new crimes such as human trafficking through the Internet. Detailed implementation of various action measures, effectively prevent and resolutely crack down on human trafficking crimes, ensure that victims of trafficking receive timely assistance, rehabilitation and proper placement, and help victims of trafficking smoothly return to their families and society.

(二)总体目标。 坚持和完善集预防、打击、救助、安置、康复于一体的反拐工作长效机制,健全反拐工作协调、配合、保障机制,推进法治反拐、协同反拐、科技反拐、全民反拐的工作模式,不断提高反拐工作法治化、协同化、科技化、社会化水平,形成与社会发展相适应的反拐工作格局。净化网络生态空间,有效防范和严厉打击利用网络拐卖人口等新型犯罪。细化落实各项行动措施,有效预防、坚决打击拐卖人口犯罪,确保被拐卖受害人及时得到救助康复和妥善安置,帮助被拐卖受害人顺利回归家庭和社会。

The plan also says it will crack down on surrogacy:

严厉打击代孕等违法行为 Severely crack down on illegal activities such as surrogacy.

Living with Dead Hearts on Vimeo

Documentary from 8 years ago about human trafficking in China

7. Ideological and systems contest

Li Jie, the former head of Qiushi Magazine, the leading theoretical journal of the CCP, has quite the paean to Xi Jinping on page 9 of the Wednesday's People's Daily. This kind of praise is not new, but among the ideas that stand out is that:

"The road of socialism with Chinese characteristics has become wider and wider, which has increased the number of people in the world who face up to and believe in Marxism and socialism, and made the historical evolution and contest of two ideologies and two social systems in the world undergo profound changes in favor of Marxism and socialism."

This is another reminder that Xi and his CCP see themselves in a systemic and ideological competition with the West. I know there are plenty of Western experts who dismiss this talk of ideological competition, but what matters is what Xi think and believes, and everything observable about him has me convinced he is old school.

Li Jie's themes in this People's Daily article tie together nicely with the discussion of Xi's speech at Boao in the April 20 newsletter "Xi's new world order for the New Era".

I used to joke Xi is "Mao without the crazy" but that is not so funny.


Deeply understand the theoretical character of the latest achievements of the party's innovation theory (deeply study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era) ...

Because of his all-round original contribution to the contemporary development of Marxism, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era has become contemporary Chinese Marxism and Marxism in the 21st century. ...

The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core held high the banner of multilateralism, put forward the idea of building a community of human destiny, and actively advocated the joint construction of the "the belt and road initiative", which provided new directions, new solutions and new choices for solving a series of major problems such as world economy, international security and global governance. China's international influence is mainly achieved by its own peaceful development. The influence and attraction of China's development philosophy, development path and development model have been significantly enhanced. China is increasingly playing an important role as a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of international order, and is increasingly approaching the center of the world stage. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era was founded and continuously enriched in the process of grasping the general trend of world development, coping with global common challenges and safeguarding the common interests of mankind ...

Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core has led the whole party and the whole people to promote the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and made great achievements that attract worldwide attention, demonstrating the vigorous vitality of scientific socialism with irrefutable facts. The road of socialism with Chinese characteristics has become wider and wider, which has increased the number of people in the world who face up to and believe in Marxism and socialism, and made the historical evolution and contest of two ideologies and two social systems in the world undergo profound changes in favor of Marxism and socialism.





Meanwhile, Qiushi has become all about Xi -The CCP’s Official Journal Falls in Line with Xi Jinping’s Cult of Personality - Jamestown - 2020 - John Dotson

As the journal of the party leadership, Qiushi has always reflected the CCP’s official ideological trends of the moment, and it has hardly been an outlet for the free exchange of ideas. However, under the tenure of current CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, the journal—like virtually every other state publication and media outlet—has become more and more a vehicle for promoting Xi’s steadily growing cult of personality. In its present form, Qiushi has become virtually a “call-and-response” publication, devoted to parroting praise for Xi and the ideological formulations promoted under his name. Each issue is now centered on a designated propaganda theme and semi-standard format: first, a leading article published under Xi’s name; and then, articles attributed to subordinate party organs and officials that repeat and reinforce the official message (nominally) authored by the supreme leader.

8. Disgraced actor Zheng Shuang now in tax trouble

Surrogacy disputed Chinese actress sees another bomb drop: alleged extravagant salary, tax fraud and dog abandonment - Global Times

Chinese actress Zheng Shuang who was being involved into a surrogacy dispute scandal is once again under the spotlight on Chinese social media after her husband alleged Zheng’s controversial behaviors including tax evasion for her super high remuneration for a television role -160 million yuan ($ 24.62 million) and abandoning her sick pet dog.

Many Chinese netizens strongly condemned Zheng discarded her pet dog, calling her “inhumane.”According to text message records that Zheng’s husband Zhang Heng posted on his Sina Weibo account on Monday afternoon, Zheng wrote that she did not want to spend money to cure her sick teddy dog, so she discarded the dog in a shoes box.

China actress Zheng Shuang in new scandal for alleged pay of US$24.6 million for a TV show, renewing debate on inequality | South China Morning Post

High-profile actress Zheng Shuang is at the centre of a new controversy after it was revealed she was allegedly paid 160 million yuan (US$24.6 million) for one TV show, renewing fierce debate on wealth inequality in China.

Her former partner Zhang Heng posted a video on Weibo on Monday that included screenshots of alleged chats between him, Zheng and her parents, where they discussed Zheng’s payment from the upcoming drama A Chinese Ghost Story.

He also accused Zheng in the post of trying to get rid of her pet dog when it became sick because treatment would cost 2,000 yuan (US$308) and eating snacks in a supermarket without paying...

The Shanghai Municipal Tax Service and Beijing Municipal Radio and Television Bureau declared today that they are investigating Zheng’s case as well as fraudulent contracts, according to state broadcaster CCTV, saying that they will strictly control production cost for TV dramas and payment for actors.

CCTV weighs in on the case. Zheng will be lucky to not go to jail, though I expect she will. The fact that the industry went through a big tax cheating scandal that took down Fan Binbgbing and it is still happening means the punishment will likely be much harsher this time - 央视评郑爽涉嫌签订阴阳合同被调查:谁偷逃税谁就得凉凉_腾讯新闻

Court upholds ruling in actress's 20m yuan claim - SHINE News

A city court upheld a ruling on Wednesday that Zhang Heng should return 20 million yuan (US$3 million) to his former girlfriend — Chinese actress Zheng Shuang. The pair are also involved in an ongoing case involving children born to surrogate mothers in the United States.

The pair’s relationship was made public in 2018 and they had opened a company together. When they broke up a year later, Zheng sued for the return of money she said she had lent him.

Comment: Was this the trigger for Zhang's post about her alleged tax evasion?

Tashi’s reaction after I told him she had abandoned her dog:

Business, Economy and Trade

China's population to decline 'as early as 2022,' experts say, refuting FT report - Global TimesChina's population is likely to start to decline as early as 2022, ending a five-decade trend of growth, and China may adopt major policy adjustments such as fully lifting birth restrictions and encouraging more births at that point, Chinese demographers said, ahead of the release of results from the once-a-decade national census. Their comments refuted a story published in the Financial Times (FT) on Tuesday, which claimed that China's population census is expected to show the country's first population decline since 1949.

China expects May Day travel boom with anti-epidemic measures in place | On online travel booking platform Ctrip, orders for flight tickets, accommodation, admission tickets, and car rentals rose 23 percent, 43 percent, 114 percent and 126 percent from the same period of 2019 as of mid-April. The number of travelers over the period is expected to reach 200 million and surpass the pre-pandemic level, according to Ctrip's projections. // Comment: All domestic since international travel still basically off limits

China scraps tariffs on some steel products to curb iron ore prices - Global Times Wang Jianfu, assistant to the general manager at Shanghai-based consulting firm Steelhome, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the moves signaled the Chinese government's intent to shore up steel imports and curb steel exports with the aim of ensuring the domestic supply of iron ore. The import tariffs were formerly set at 1 percent so the effect will be small but "given time, the policy, in combination with other policies, will effectively rein in runaway iron ore prices in the second half of 2021," Wang said.

生态环境部:将加大对钢铁行业等重点行业帮扶力度 _ 经济参考网 _ 新华社《经济参考报》官方网站 Cao Liping, an official tasked with pollution mitigation at China’s environmental watchdog, told reporters this week that the steel sector would be a “supervisory focus” because it remained a main polluter. While promising strict inspection, he also said the ministry would step up support 帮扶力度 for the industry, though he did not explain what that support entailed. 生态环境部将进一步加大对钢铁行业在内的重点行业帮扶力度,组织专业力量开展专项执法检查。

广州房贷利率4月28日起再度上调 年内已经上调三次_经济_宏观频道首页_财经网 - CAIJING.COM.CN On April 28, mortgage rates in Guangzhou increased for a third time this year for new home purchases, as banks in the city attempted to squeeze credit for buying property.

Developer China Fortune’s Woes Worsen as Profit Plunges - Caixin China Fortune’s financial strains began to appear last year. In November, it asked Ping An to lend the company some money so it could repay its debt, sources with knowledge of the matter told Caixin previously. China Fortune later asked North China’s Hebei government to reduce the fees and taxes the company has to pay. It also asked the government to repay some of its debt to the company, but the government didn’t agree to any of it, the sources said.

国内首个地方政府债券蓝皮书发布 全景式研究地方债_中证网 the first ever blue paper on China’s local government bonds released this week offered a deep dive into the role of the economic tool in the broader economy. The issuing of local government debts, the paper said, played an important role in stabilizing the economy. Still, it warned of a slew of challenges including a lack of “marketization” and growing risks.

Huawei Quarterly Sales Slump as Sanctions Hit Phone Business - Bloomberg Huawei reported a 17% decline in sales to 152.2 billion yuan ($23 billion) in the first three months of this year, the company said in a statement. That follows a 11% decline in revenue for the three months ended December. Its profit margin rose 3.8 percentage points to 11.1%, which translates into net income of 16.9 billion yuan, as the company trimmed costs and received a $600 million patent license fee.

China Is Probing Ant’s Speedy Listing Process After Halting IPO - Bloomberg The investigation, being carried out by officials from multiple agencies, has for several months inquired into the process by which China’s securities regulator approved the public offering, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing a sensitive matter. Among questions being explored by the probe are why Ant’s IPO was fast-tracked, if the company made sufficient disclosures and whether it received preferential treatment in the allocation of its stock code, they said. The Wall Street Journal, which reported the probe earlier, said Beijing was also looking into what support local officials provided Ant and into big state-owned firms that stood to gain from a listing of Jack Ma’s financial technology giant.

Yicai - Walmart, Wumart Rebuff Report of USD3 Billion China Store Sale Deal Walmart and Wumart Stores have denied a report that said the US retail giant will sell 130 of its stores in China to Wumart for USD3 billion. Walmart told Yicai Global that the report was just baseless rumor and there was no need to comment on rumor. Beijing-based Wumart also said the report was not true, according to a National Business Daily report

【独家】沃尔玛或向物美出售约130家门店,初步定价30亿美元|界面新闻 The original Walmart-Wumei report

Yicai - Sending Parcels Near Is More Pricy Than to Other Cities for First Time in China Amid Fierce Rivalry Express delivery in China has become more expensive when sending parcels within the same city rather than between different cities for the first time amid intensifying competition.

Yicai - Kweichow Moutai Dips as Chinese Distiller Posts Lowest First-Quarter Profit Growth in Six Years Taxes have risen, hence the dwindling profit margin, Xiao Zhuqing, an analyst for the liquor sector, told Yicai Global. Rice wine producers used to pay consumption tax based on their net income, with expenses deducted, but duties are now being levied on their gross income. The Zunyi, southwestern Guizhou province-based firm paid CNY3.8 billion (USD590.2 million) in taxes in the first quarter, a huge hike of 56.38 percent from the same period last year, it said in the report.

Politics and Law

For new mayor of China’s hi-tech hub, soaring property prices may be first item on agenda | South China Morning Post Former vice-governor of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong Qin Weizhong has been named as mayor of Shenzhen, China’s hi-tech hub. Qin, a former energy industry worker, was likely to focus on curbing the city’s soaring property prices and land shortages, analysts said. The 49-year-old was appointed to the role in an acting capacity by the standing committee of the Shenzhen People’s Congress on Sunday, the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reported...Other reshuffles announced by the committee included the city’s top judge, prosecutor and head of the supervision department. // Comment: That seems like a lot of changes at once

【央视快评】让人民生活幸福是“国之大者”General Secretary Xi Jinping asked all comrades in the Party to always be mindful of the "big national priority". This important instruction of the General Secretary profoundly demonstrates the people-centered development thought. To implement the idea of making people live happily, it requires the majority of party members and leading cadres to take the initiative to take responsibility, ask for the people's consideration and needs, and focus on solving the most direct and realistic interests that the people care about most. In particular, we should focus on key areas such as education, medical care, old-age care, and employment, strengthen responsibilities, refine measures, and improve methods, so that the people can realize the basic interests of the overwhelming majority of the people. 习近平总书记要求全党同志始终心怀“国之大者”。总书记的这一重要指示,深刻彰显了以人民为中心的发展思想。落实让人民生活幸福这个“国之大者”,需要广大党员领导干部主动担当作为,问计于民,问需于民,着力解决人民群众最关心最直接最现实的利益问题。特别要聚焦教育、医疗、养老、就业等重点领域,强化责任、细化措施、改进方法,让人民实现幼有所育、学有所教、劳有所得、病有所医、老有所养、住有所居、弱有所扶,千方百计实现好、维护好、发展好最广大人民的根本利益。

China to punish data exports to overseas courts as Beijing beefs up defence against US long arm | South China Morning Post A clause has been added to China’s draft data security law that will punish Chinese companies for handing over domestically stored data to foreign police, courts and investigators without Beijing’s consent, a move that will make it harder for overseas law enforcement agencies to get data out of China.

The CMP Dictionary – China Media Project Your go-to resource for those puzzling buzzwords and fustian phrases that have shaped media and politics in China.

China’s Top Court Ups Compensation to Record for Man Wrongfully Jailed for More Than 15 Years - Caixin The Supreme People’s Court Compensation Committee on Friday ruled Wu Chunhong, from Central China’s Henan province who had spent more than 15 years in prison before his guilty verdict was overturned for lack of evidence, should be granted an additional 520,000 yuan for his suffering on top of the 680,000 yuan he has already been pledged, according to the court’s decision seen by Caixin.

One Dead, 17 Injured in Guangxi Kindergarten Knife Attack | What's on Weibo The incident occurred on the afternoon of April 28, when a man stormed into the school with a knife and started stabbing the pupils and teaching staff. The man attacked at least 16 children and 2 teachers. Blurred videos of the scene showed injured children in the playground area, some sitting up and some lying on the floor. The 25-year-old man from Guangxi’s Guannan village was arrested shortly after the attack and his motives remain unknown at this time. One video on Weibo shows the man being taken away by police. Some online rumors (unconfirmed) suggested the man was going through a divorce and that his wife works at the kindergarten.

汪洋在上海、浙江调研_CCTV Wang Yang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, recently conducted an investigation and research tour in Shanghai and Zhejiang on the topic of "building a high-quality education system and strengthening the country's strategic scientific and technological strength". He emphasized that building a high-quality education system and strengthening the country's strategic scientific and technological strength are related to the overall strategic situation of building a socialist modernized country in an all-round way. It is necessary to thoroughly study and implement General Secretary Xi Jinping's important expositions on education and scientific and technological work, firmly grasp the core position of innovation in the overall situation of China's modernization drive, persist in taking the high-quality development of education and self-reliance of science and technology as the strategic support of national development, thoroughly implement the strategies of rejuvenating the country through science and education, strengthening the country through talents and driving development through innovation, strengthen confidence, aim at the bull's-eye, build a powerful country through education and science and technology, and turn the grand blueprint of the 14th Five-Year Plan into a beautiful reality step by step. 中共中央政治局常委、全国政协主席汪洋近日在上海、浙江就“建设高质量教育体系、强化国家战略科技力量”协商专题开展调研。他强调,建设高质量教育体系、强化国家战略科技力量,事关全面建设社会主义现代化国家战略全局。要深入学习贯彻习近平总书记关于教育和科技工作的重要论述,牢牢把握创新在我国现代化建设全局中的核心地位,坚持把教育高质量发展和科技自立自强作为国家发展的战略支撑,深入实施科教兴国战略、人才强国战略、创新驱动发展战略,坚定信心、瞄准靶心,建设教育强国、科技强国,把“十四五”规划的宏伟蓝图一步一步变为美好现实。 // Comment: He visited the Westlake Institute for Advanced Study 浙江西湖高等研究院 at Xihu University

Foreign and Defense Affairs

Germany’s Angela Merkel asks China to resume human rights dialogue | South China Morning Post German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a human rights dialogue while Chinese Premier Li Keqiang asked for more cooperation over differences, as the two leaders held virtual talks on Wednesday. Merkel said the two nations’ regular consultations were a good tradition that had over the years covered areas of disagreement such as human rights and Hong Kong, and she wanted a human rights dialogue with China to resume.

China-Germany govt consultations set ties straight ahead of Berlin power reshuffle, stabilize China-EU relations - Global Times Premier Li and Merkel's meeting stressed cooperation to deal with shared challenges and will also set an example for Merkel's successor in strengthening communication and sticking to the pattern of practical cooperation rather than being disturbed by ideological differences or human rights issues, Dong Yifan, a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Wednesday.. Dong noted that considering the pressure from the US, there may be some friction and difficulties for China-EU ties, "but in the long run, those stuck in ideological mindsets will be forced to reconsider China-EU ties," Dong said.

“Correct choice” on strategic autonomy: What China wants from the EU | Merics Chinese experts tend to characterize Europe’s goal of strategic autonomy as preventing the “state of total dependence on the United States” (对美国的全面依赖状态). The United States, in turn, is seen as “overtly and covertly trying to prevent the EU from achieving the goal of strategic autonomy” (或明或暗将尽力阻止欧盟实现战略自主的目标). Merkel’s and Macron’s comments about the absence of full alignment between European and US interests are frequently cited as proof that the EU is pursuing “the third way” (第三条道路) amid US-China tensions.     According to this logic, maintaining cooperation with China as a counterbalance to the United States is a necessity for the EU.

EU Threatens Fines and Merger Bans for Chinese State Firms - Bloomberg The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, proposed new rules to levy fines and block deals, according to a draft obtained by Bloomberg. While China isn’t specifically mentioned in the proposal, the move follows complaints from European businesses that the Asian nation’s firms get support they can’t match.

China's top legislator stresses role of legislative bodies in state-to-state ties - Xinhua Li [Zhanshu], chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, made the remarks at a meeting of parliamentary leaders that focused on the role of legislators in consolidating peace and trust...Li called on legislative bodies to adopt a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept and oppose the emergence of a new "Cold War" and ideological confrontation in whatever form...The meeting among parliamentary leaders was hosted by Turkmenistan, and speakers or parliament leaders from Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan attended the meeting via video link

What to Make of China’s New Special Representative on Korean Peninsula Affairs | 38 North - Yun Sun On April 12, China announced the appointment of its new special representative on Korean Peninsula affairs—Ambassador Liu Xiaoming. Amb. Liu’s career has been most notable for two things: he was the Chinese Ambassador to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) when North Korea conducted its first two nuclear tests (from 2006 to 2010); and he served the longest single ambassadorial posting (from 2010 to 2021 in the United Kingdom) in the history of People’s Republic of China (PRC), skillfully navigating a turbulent ten years of China’s foreign policy. The choice for this assignment shows Beijing’s desire to entrust this delicate issue to a veteran diplomat with rich experience in Pyongyang. However, what’s more interesting is the timing and message this appointment sends, suggesting China sees renewed diplomacy on the horizon.

Tensions Between China and India | Council on Foreign Relations China-India tensions remain high. To reduce the threat of conflict, Daniel S. Markey recommends the U.S. boost aid to India and begin working with like-minded partners to develop a coordinated response strategy.

Supply Chain Initiative From Japan, India, Australia Under Way - Bloomberg Japan, India and Australia’s trade ministers have met to officially launch the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, following reports that the three nations are working together to counter China’s dominance on trade in the Indo-Pacific.

Why two heads would be better than one for China’s ‘Mighty Dragon’ fighter jet | South China Morning Post A twin-seater version of China’s most advanced fighter jet the J-20 would be able to target enemy electronic equipment and operate in tandem with swarms of drones, according to a defence industry magazine. The article, published by Chinese military magazine Ordnance Industry Science Technology, said the fifth-generation fighter would be expected to carry out more tasks as the technology evolved, and a second crew member would be needed to carry out some of those functions.

China unveils 'Terminator of Drones' that threatens to make stealth jets obsolete - Daily Star The YLC-48 radar is a portable radar tracker that its developer – the No 14 Research Institute of China’s state-owned Electronics Technology Group Corporation [CETC] – says is sensitive enough to spot even the most advanced stealth aircraft as well as small ground-hugging drones. According to CETC, their new tech makes state-of-the-art stealth aircraft such as the USA’s Lockheed Martin F-22 stealth fighter virtually obsolete.

Targeting Asia-Pacific defence, Australia to spend $580 million on military upgrades | Reuters Australia will spend A$747 million ($580 million) to upgrade four northern military bases and expand war games with the United States, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.

Xi Likes Big Boats (Coming Soon to a Reef Near You) - War on the Rocks Members of China’s maritime militia have operated in the Spratlys for over three decades. Today, they go there embedded in a brand new fleet comprising hundreds of large steel-hulled vessels — the product of a national program to modernize China’s marine fishing industry. The successful rollout of this program has enhanced the militia’s ability to perform all facets of its mission set.

No mercy for lockdown violators – luxury car or mere Camry as four arrested in Rolls-Royce for undocumented travel during blockade - Khmer Times Police stopped a Rolls Royce, driven by an army officer with three Chinese nationals were detained and brought to the police station. // Comment: what a lede

Australian politicians hyping up war threats are real troublemakers: Chinese FM spokesperson - Global Times Australia has long benefited from its cooperation with China, so Australia's ramblings about the so-called China threat are untrue and immoral. It will eventually shoot itself in the foot, Zhao added.

Republicans in key 2024 states targeted with anti-China ads - Axios A low-key group is quietly harvesting contact information for Republicans in key presidential swing states who share a distaste for the Chinese government, Axios has learned. Why it matters: The group, Stand Up to China, is run by some plugged-in Republican consultants. Its focus on states that will host early presidential nominating contests suggests an effort to elevate an issue at the top of GOP voters' minds in the 2024 race or leverage it on behalf of some yet-unknown candidate.

Hong Kong and Macao

Hong Kong exchange posts record profit on trading and IPO boom | Financial Times $$ The bourse’s first-quarter performance benefited from a series of high-profile IPOs by Chinese technology companies, including that of short video platform Kuaishou, which raised more than $5bn in February. //Comment: Another sign to the leadership in Beijing that everything is going swimmingly in Hong Kong

National identity key to 'uniting into national development' - China Daily Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Wednesday that without a proper sense of national identity and national education among the public, many favorable policies for Hong Kong to integrate into the mainland will render useless and ineffective...School education is one of the most important starting points for the government's campaign to strengthen national education, she said. For example, "the nation" will be one of the three themes of the core content of the curriculum of the Citizenship and Social Development study, a revised version of Liberal Studies to be launched in September. The other two themes of the course are "Hong Kong" and "the contemporary world".

Hong Kong Could Impose Travel Bans on Passengers From Aug. 1 — Radio Free Asia Hong Kong's government amended the city's immigration laws on Wednesday to enable security chiefs to ban passengers from taking any form of transport in or out of the city. The amended law has sparked concerns that it will be used to prevent people from leaving amid an ever-widening crackdown on public dissent and peaceful political opposition.

Hong Kong Gives Funds Tax Concession to Bolster Finance Center - Bloomberg The Hong Kong Legislative Council approved a bill on Wednesday granting tax concessions for carried interest distributed by private equity funds operating in the city. The relief also applies to related remuneration paid to employees of such firms. Passing the long-awaited bill is expected to fortify Hong Kong’s fund industry, helping the city preserve its edge as a financial center in a race against Singapore and Shanghai. Lawmakers are seeking to attract the growing number of buyout and venture capital firms -- many benefiting from China’s tech and startup boom -- and their staff and managers to settle in the city.

Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Square vigil banned on health grounds, as officials cite coronavirus pandemic | South China Morning Post Hong Kong officials on Tuesday night cited health grounds in banning an annual June vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, pointing to the Covid-19 pandemic, said the organisers’ application for the use of Victoria Park on June 4 would not be processed.


Why US will lose a war with China over Taiwan island - Global Times The author is a retired Marine Corps infantry officer who now serves as a US civil servant in the Pentagon. // Comment: Interesting that a US government worker is contributing to the Global Times

46 Taiwan residents sentenced for telecom fraud in Beijing court - China Daily A Beijing court handed down sentences to 46 Taiwan residents who were extradited from Spain for involvement in telecom fraud, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a news conference on Wednesday. They were charged with committing telecom fraud in two separate cases. They posed as police officers and prosecutors to deceive Chinese residents into transferring money to a designated account in 2016, according to the verdicts issued by Haidian People's Court in Beijing on April 16

Tech and Media

Beijing authorities remove disturbing imported animations with violent and terrifying contexts targeting youth - Global Times The disturbing videos removed during the crackdown campaign are mainly divided into two categories, reported the Guangming Online on Monday. The first is the "Cartoon Cat" series, a cartoon image created by a Canadian illustrator. The video content is mostly feline characters engaged in terrorist and violent incidents. The second category is the "Secure, Contain, Protect" series, in which abnormal creatures or mutants conceived and created by foreign netizens are made into animated videos featuring horror and terrifying contents.

Alibaba's village development program doesn't work - Protocol — The people, power and politics of tech For years, Chinese ecommerce has been heralded by government and tech companies alike as a game changer for hundreds of million of poor rural residents. In particular, "Rural Taobao," an Alibaba-backed program that has connected thousands of villages to the online market, has held itself out as a job-creation engine that makes it easier for rural farmers to sell their products further afield. But a recently published study suggests Rural Taobao's impact has been oversold. The study shows that while the program makes it easier for villagers to buy online, it has almost no effect on helping locals sell their own products.

Alibaba Frets Over Apple Privacy Policy — The Information $$ Last week, Alibaba invited half a dozen marketing industry executives to discuss a growing worry: Apple’s new privacy policy on its mobile software threatens to cut off the Chinese e-commerce giant and its advertising partners from troves of user data that fuel the company’s all-important ad business.

ChinaTalk: China's Booming Podcast Ecosystem - Lawfare Enzo Chen, author of the Substack 推播助栏The Podcast Pick, and Caiwei Chen, the host of 定向跳转 The Redirect Podcast and the superb newsletter Chaoyang Trap, discusses all things podcasting in China and Taiwan. We get into the best Chinese-language shows, what makes China's leading podcast app so special, the demographics of podcast listeners, censors efforts to control the newly popular medium and Jordan's auditory forays into classic Chinese literature.

The In-Between Space of Social Media Vlogging for Institutional Media – CMP Chen Di’s program, “Chen Di Says” (陈迪说), just five minutes in length, is one of the successful results of traditional media transformation in China, and Chen’s experiences between institutional media and social media can be regarded as a model for others working in the media today. In 2019, Chen Di was named by China’s New Weekly (新周刊) magazine as a “Knower of the Year” (年度知道分子). The magazine said of Chen: “He excels at cool analysis, his discourse refined by a range of disciplines, from political science and sociology to communication. . . . Throughout, he uses his own voice to convey a sense of goodwill and justice to the world.”

Society, Arts, Sports, Culture and History

Beijing fines stand-up comedy show for use of banned content, sparks public controversy over satire and social morality - Global Times According to the Beijing Daily on Tuesday, an administrative fine of 50,000 yuan ($7,692) was imposed to the organizers of a stand-up comedy show in a small theater for using vulgar terms on its performance which violate social morality. This is the first case in Beijing where a stand-up comedy show is punished with fines for banned content, according to the report, and it shows zero tolerance for this behavior, setting a precedent for the emerging stand-up comedy genre in China.

On a Chinese Mountaintop, a Community Just for People With Autism - SixthTone Based inside a former mountaintop elementary school, Home of the Stars is a cooperative set up in 2017 with investment from 50 families. It already houses a dozen autistic male residents, aged between 13 and 28, with several more expected to arrive soon. The venture is a radical solution to a problem plaguing Chinese society: a severe lack of care and educational resources to help people living with autism. In China, more than 10 million people have autism, with around 200,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Energy, Environment, Science and Health

China’s Coastal Sea Level Rising Faster Than Global Average, Government Says - Caixin The sea level measured on China’s coast saw an 3.9 millimeter (mm) rise in 2020, greater than the global average, according to a report by the Ministry of Natural Resources. While the report didn’t give a precise figure for the global average, scientists have estimated the average rise in sea level worldwide to be about 3.6 mm a year.

China to launch Heavenly Harmony space station core module - APChina plans to launch the core module for its first permanent space station this week in the latest big step forward for the country’s space exploration program. The Tianhe, or “Heavenly Harmony” module is set to be hurtled into space aboard a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan. The launch could come as early as Thursday night if all goes as planned. It would be the first of 11 missions to build and supply the space station for a three-person crew.

China is building its own Hubble-like space telescope with a 2.5-billion pixel camera One of the most-important characteristics of a telescope is its diameter — which limits how much light it can take in at a single time. The main mirror in Xuntian will have a diameter around two meters (six-and-a-half feet) across, roughly the size of the mirror at the heart of the Hubble Space Telescope. However, the CSST will be able to see 300 times as much sky at one time as its older compatriot.