Politburo meeting and the "6 ensures"; Hong Kong crackdown; Wuhan Lab; South China Sea

China officially announced Friday that Q1 GDP was -6.8% year-on-year.

The Politburo met on Friday, the readout again said epidemic prevention work and the economy were the main items on the agenda. From the language about the economy it seems increasingly clear the leadership is very worried.

For the first time Politburo introduced the concept of the “six ensures 六保”, in addition to stressing the “six stabilities” as they have over the last year or so. The six ensures give us a good idea of what worries them the most:

  1. ensure employment 保居民就业;

  2. ensure basic livelihood 保基本民生;

  3. ensure market entities 保市场主体;

  4. ensure food and energy security 保粮食能源安全;

  5. ensure stability of the supply chain 保产业链供应链稳定;

  6. ensure functioning of grassroots institutions 保基层运转 (确保基层政府保基本民生、保工资、保运转)

Xi has gone an inspection tour of Shaanxi Province. The full propaganda rollout has not begun so do we not know all of his destinations, but his choice of Shaanxi makes me wonder if the thinking is that in a time of great stress it makes sense to return to the Party’s roots? What comes out of this inspection tour could be interesting.

Here is one of the official photos so far:

Thanks for reading.

The Essential Eight

1. GDP. a Politburo meeting and a rate cut

Coronavirus Blows a Hole in China’s Three-Decade Growth Streak - Caixin

China’s economy shrank 6.8% year-on-year in the first three months of 2020…

The last time China reported a drop in GDP was in 1976, before quarterly data began, when the economy contracted 1.6% for the full year…

“Covid-19 has been a public health emergency, and the outbreak has been the fastest-spreading and most contagious and required the most severe prevention and control measures since the founding of the People’s Republic of China,” Mao Shengyong, spokesman of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said at a briefingto discuss the GDP data Friday. The measures the government needed to take to control the epidemic “inevitably meant that there was an economic price to pay in the short term,” he said.

Monthly economic data show that after plunging in January and February, retail sales, industrial output and fixed-asset investment all showed signs of recovery in March as businesses were allowed to reopen and people returned to work…

Retail sales, which include spending by governments, businesses and households, dropped 15.8% year-on-year (link in Chinese) in March, easing from a 20.5% decline in the first two months.

Xi chairs leadership meeting on regular epidemic control, economic work - Xinhua

Friday's meeting pointed out that while the positive momentum in China's epidemic response is being consolidated, the task remains formidable, requiring control measures on a regular basis and strengthened efforts to guard against both imported infections and domestic rebounds...

The epidemic prevention and control work in Beijing should be further strengthened, while targeted measures should be taken across the country to guard against rebounds in cases, according to the meeting.

The meeting also called for building a stronger defense at border cities against the virus, stressing better allocating medical resources and improving quarantine and testing capacities in these cities.

中共中央政治局召开会议 分析国内外新冠肺炎疫情防控形势 研究部署抓紧抓实抓细常态化疫情防控工作 分析研究当前经济形势和经济工作 中共中央总书记习近平主持会议_CCTV

"会议强调,当前经济发展面临的挑战前所未有,必须充分估计困难、风险和不确定性,切实增强紧迫感,抓实经济社会发展各项工作"...会议指出,要以更大的宏观政策力度对冲疫情影响。. 积极的财政政策要更加积极有为,提高赤字率,发行抗疫特别国债,增加地方政府专项债券,提高资金使用效率,真正发挥稳定经济的关键作用。稳健的货币政策要更加灵活适度,运用降准、降息、再贷款等手段,保持流动性合理充裕,引导贷款市场利率下行,把资金用到支持实体经济特别是中小微企业上。

"The meeting stressed that the challenges facing economic development are unprecedented. It is imperative to fully assess the difficulties, risks and uncertainties, increase the sense of urgency and focus on all aspects of economic and social development." v stressed..

The meeting pointed to greater macro - policy efforts to hedge the impact of the outbreak. We will adopt a proactive fiscal policy, increase the deficit to GDP ratio, issue special government bonds to combat the epidemic, increase the number of local government bonds

and use funds more efficiently so as to truly play a key role in stabilizing the economy. We will adopt a prudent monetary policy that is more flexible and appropriate. We will use measures such as reserve requirement ratio cuts, interest rate cuts and re-lending

to maintain reasonably sufficient liquidity, guide interest rates in the lending market to fall, and use funds to support the real economy, especially small, medium and micro businesses."...

稳中求进 砥砺前行——从“六稳”到“六保”发出的信号-新华网

The Politburo for the first time called for the “six ensures”:

ensure employment 保居民就业;
ensure basic livelihood 保基本民生;
ensure market entities 保市场主体;
ensure food and energy security 保粮食能源安全;
ensure stability of the supply chain 、保产业链供应链稳定
ensure functioning of grassroots institutions 保基层运转 确保基层政府保基本民生、保工资、保运转, so sounds like worried grassroots institutions may run out o money...

These are in addition to continuing to call for the “six stabilities” (employment, finance, trade, foreign investment, investment and confidence)

Yicai - China Lowers Benchmark Rate for Second Time This Year, May Cut Again This Quarter

The National Interbank Funding Center, an institute under the central bank, cut the one-year loan prime rate by 20 basis points to 3.85 percent and the five-year LPR, the yardstick used for home mortgages, by 10 bips to 4.65 percent at the monthly fixing today...

The different reductions in the one-year and five-year LPR rates show that China has not relaxed curbs on the real estate market, industry experts pointed out.

Local Governments to Sell Extra $141 Billion in Bonds as Fiscal Revenue Plunges-Caixin

China’s Ministry of Finance said it would make another early allocation of 2020 special-purpose bond (SPB) quotas worth 1 trillion yuan ($141.4 billion) to local governments, according to a briefing on Monday. This will be in addition to the 1.29 trillion yuan of such debt in two tranches previously approved.

“We are now instructing localities to find the right projects (for the 1-trillion-yuan SPBs) as soon as possible, prepare for bond issuance and try to complete it by the end of May,” finance ministry official Wang Kebing told the briefing...

With disruption to economic activity squeezing government revenue, which is being used for bailout and stimulus packages, policymakers have decided to tolerate more debt in order to generate more firepower for a recovery...

In March, China’s fiscal revenue fell 26.1% year-on-year, steeper than the 21.4% decline in February, and the steepest slump in available data going back to 1996, official data showed.

Final year students eyeing uncertain future - China Daily

Delays to graduation projects, uncertainties about further education at home and abroad, and a challenging job market amid economic concerns mean every step for 8.74 million senior students-a rise of 400,000 from last year-seems harder than before.

Weak exports will not stall China's manufacturing recovery | PIIE - Nicholas R. Lardy and Tianlei Huang

Pessimists, however, forecast that the emerging sharp break in global growth will reduce export orders for China's manufacturers, thus aborting manufacturing recovery. But this argument fails to recognize that China is not the export-dependent economy it once was. As shown in figure 2, merchandise exports as a share of GDP in 2019 were about half the level of 2008 on the eve of the last global financial crisis. In the wake of that crisis,  global trade slowed compared with the prior decade, but China's economic growth continued to be relatively robust. So naturally the trade ratio fell.

China's fiscal revenue down 14.3 pct in Q1 - Xinhua

China's fiscal revenue went down 14.3 percent year on year to 4.6 trillion yuan (about 650.4 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter, official data showed Monday...

The MOF attributed the decline in fiscal revenue to COVID-19 and other factors such as the country's massive tax and fee cuts.

China’s GDP falls at a double-digit rate | American Enterprise Institute - Derek Scissors

Bank loans accelerated in March, supporting broad money stock M2. Beijing can just decree spending, but it can’t make spending effective (except on paper). In the short term, narrow money M1 didn’t accelerate — additional funds are not yet being used. There will be more stimulus in the long term, but at least some senior officials understand what many foreign commentators don’t: The 2009 monetary explosion in response to the financial crisis was a failure. It led to a huge run-up in debt and contributed to premature decline in growth performance. If China opts for a repeat, it would only prove that “-6.8 percent” is cover for a far scarier result.

Coronavirus: China’s slow economic reboot continues but power surge suggests light at the end of tunnel | South China Morning Post

Power generation climbed 1.2 per cent in the first 15 days of April, compared to a 4.6 per cent decline in March and a 6.8 per cent slump over the first quarter, during which the Chinese government reported the first official quarterly contraction since records began in 1992.

Plenty of policy room in China to cushion coronavirus impact, says state planner - Reuters

To counter the downturn caused by the pandemic, authorities will roll out more forceful, targeted fiscal, financial, pro-consumption and employment polices with relevant departments, NDRC officials said.

“The focus is on a more proactive fiscal policy and a more flexible and appropriate monetary policy to hedge the impact of the epidemic and prevent short-term shocks from becoming a trend,” said Yan...

Yan said the government was pledging to do “everything it can” to help struggling small firms by further reducing their taxes and fees, rent, and funding costs, and increasing fiscal subsidies on their loan interest payments.

Grasp the new opportunities of economic development from the dialectics of "crisis" and "opportunity" - 从“危”与“机”的辩证法中把握经济发展新机遇--理论-人民网

2. The outbreak

Wuhan Adds 1,300 ‘Missed’ Deaths to Official Coronavirus Toll - Caixin Global

Authorities in the city of 11 million people, where the virus was first detected late last year, added 1,290 deaths, bringing the total to 3,869. The Hubei province city also adjusted the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases upward by 325, bringing the total to 50,333 as of the end of Thursday, according to a notice from Wuhan’s disease-control task force published on the website of the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The notice said the revisions were made to include many people who died at home during the start of the outbreak as Wuhan’s overwhelmed hospitals were unable to treat everyone presenting with symptoms. High pressure on the city’s medical workers to rescue sick patients at the peak of the epidemic also led to many cases being missed, filed late, or misreported.

The official announcement - 关于武汉市新冠肺炎确诊病例数确诊病例死亡数订正情况的通报


Harbin outbreak threatens China’s coronavirus recovery | Financial Times $$

On Saturday, 18 Harbin officials were given a political demerit, a black mark in Communist party personnel files that can impact career prospects, and accused of “wishful thinking” for failing to prevent the new outbreak.

Heilongjiang’s hospitals have been further stretched by hundreds of imported cases from Chinese citizens who entered the country from Siberia via the bordern town of Suifenhe, which now has more than 400 confirmed cases.

The influx has made Russia — which has reported a week of record rises in infections and now has more than 35,000 in total — China’s largest source of imported cases.

热点丨哈尔滨第二医院20日起全面停诊 18名被感染者有该院行动轨迹_腾讯新闻

Hospital in Harbin stops taking patients after 18 cases found to have visited the hospital

Beijing's Chaoyang District classified as COVID-19 'high-risk' area - CGTN

Beijing's Chaoyang District has been classified as a high-risk area for the COVID-19 pandemic after the recent occurrence of a novel coronavirus cluster, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said on Monday at a news conference held by the Beijing municipal government.

According to Pang, an area is defined as "high-risk" for the pandemic if the total number of confirmed cases exceeds 50 or a novel coronavirus cluster occurs there in a period of 14 days.

北京市连续4天无新增确诊病例 多措恢复生产生活秩序-千龙网·中国首都网

Beijing Health Commission on Monday saids there had been 0 confirmed imported or local cases for the 4th day in a row


China Raises Easing Coronavirus Border Controls With Other Countries - WSJ $$

With China signalling initial success in containing its domestic contagion, its officials have in recent weeks proposed efforts to facilitate essential travel with foreign counterparts from more than a dozen countries across the Asia-Pacific region, diplomats familiar with the matter said.

More dates announced for students' return - SHINE News

Eighth and 11th graders will return to schools on May 6, while fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and 10th graders will return on May 18, the Shanghai Education Commission announced on Monday.

Previously, the commission said ninth and 12th graders, or the middle and high school graduating students, would return to campuses on April 27.

Schools and parents prepare for campus reopening - SHINE News

At the Chunshen Campus of Xinsong Middle School in Minhang District, a drill has been carried out to test its primary plan for reopening, which was also attended and observed by officials from other schools that are making similar plans. Over 100 faculty members from the schools and 10 parent volunteers participated in the event.

“Please wear masks, keep 1 meter from each other and go through the infrared thermographic camera one by one,” a loudspeaker at the gate of the school repeated again and again as “students,” played by faculty from the schools, lined up on the sidewalk in front of the gate.

All junior, senior high schools in Xi'an resume class as students in first, second years return to school - Xinhua

Hubei Province to hold Gaokao on July 7-8 - CGTN

Hubei, the Chinese province hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, will hold this year's national college entrance exam, or Gaokao, on July 7 and 8, according to authorities.

Ambassador to Russia criticizes illegal returnees to China - CGTN

"I want to stress two aspects. First, the passenger inspection of the land port between China and Russia will never be opened again until the final win against the virus, and second, Chinese citizens in Russia should arrange well their quarantine life there," Zhang said.

Talking about situation in Russia, Zhang pointed out that it is getting tense as large numbers of Russian tourists and expatriates visiting Europe where has severe infection have been back to Russia, which greatly increases the risk here.

China strengthens border control to prevent imported COVID-19 risk - Xinhua

Stressing the efforts to minimize cross-border travel, Liu said the NIA has also mobilized police to reinforce the fight against criminal activities, including illegal entry and exit, smuggling and drug trafficking, in cooperation with local authorities.

The police also improved management on inbound travelers and foreign residents in China, Liu said, calling for strengthened check and registration of cross-border travelers and vehicles.

Vice premier stresses treatment, care for every COVID-19 patient in Wuhan - Xinhua

Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan Monday told medical experts in Wuhan in the central Chinese province of Hubei to make all-out efforts to save and treat every COVID-19 patient.

Sun made the remarks at a symposium attended by intensive care experts who stayed in Wuhan to wrap up the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus mutations affect deadliness of strains, Chinese study finds | South China Morning Post

A new study by one of China’s top scientists has found the ability of the new coronavirus to mutate has been vastly underestimated and different strains may account for different impacts of the disease in various parts of the world.

Beijing requires nucleic acid tests for eight groups of people - Xinhua

Gao Xiaojun, spokesman of the municipal health commission, said the nucleic acid tests will be required on COVID-19 patients and those who have a history of close contacts with the patients, fever clinic patients, patients in urgent need of hospitalization, inbound visitors through Beijing's entry customs, people who recently returned from Wuhan, government employees who had trips outside Beijing, visitors in Beijing's hotels and guesthouses, students in graduating classes in junior and senior high schools upon returning to Beijing.

Beijing recognizes health status of neighboring region- Xinhua

Beijing rolled out a mini-program showing health status and travel records for better epidemic management in early March. Only those without travel records outside the national capital can show "no sign of abnormality" on the app.

The city will allow commuters from the neighboring regions of Hebei Province and Tianjin Municipality to apply for the health status of "no sign of abnormality" to facilitate their commute, said Li Sufang, deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform.

China’s Restaurants Cautiously Reopen. Here’s How the Strategies Are Working. - Barron's

In big cities such as Beijing, guests are often required to sit far apart, have their temperatures measured and wear masks when not eating or drinking. Yet this reporter visited the southwestern city of Chengdu — population 16 million—over the weekend and found that nearly all restaurants had reopened—many with sanitary restrictions but a striking change from Barron’s last visit in February.

3. Hong Kong

Amid Pandemic, Hong Kong Arrests Major Pro-Democracy Figures - The New York Times

Fifteen activists between 24 and 81 years old were rounded up on suspicion of organizing, publicizing or taking part in several unauthorized assemblies between August and October and will face prosecution, the police said on Saturday without disclosing their names, following protocol.

The arrested democratic heavyweights included the veteran lawyers Martin Lee and Margaret Ng, the media tycoon Jimmy Lai and the former opposition legislators Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung, political parties and aides said.

Liaison Office 'not subject to Article 22' - RTHK

Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong declared on Friday that it is not subject to Basic Law restrictions that bar central government departments from interfering in local affairs – saying it has the responsibility and the right to comment as it wishes on Hong Kong matters.

In a press release using a question-and-answer format, the office addressed the controversy surrounding its earlier trenchant criticism of the pan-democrats in Hong Kong, whom they had accused of paralysing the Legislative Council by preventing its House Committee from electing a chairman for more than six months.

How to read the 4/18 mass arrests in Hong Kong — Jerome A. Cohen | 孔傑榮(柯恩)

This week’s actions may well be an attempt by Beijing to provoke a broad popular reaction that will then provide an excuse not only to finally bulldoze success passing controversial national security legislation in HK under Basic Law Article 23, but also to call off the crucial September election scheduled for HK’s Legislative Council. Indeed, another Art. 23 campaign is sure to elicit an even stronger reaction than we saw last year in response to PRC efforts to pass legislation authorizing extradition/rendition of alleged criminal suspects for “justice” on the Mainland.

Hong Kong officials ‘may not grasp’ how Beijing bodies overseeing the city work | South China Morning Post

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said on Monday the central government’s liaison office and the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) were not regarded as departments set up by Beijing in the city as defined under Article 22 of the Basic Law, which guarantees non-interference.

But he emphasised that both institutions still had to follow Hong Kong laws.

“It shows that the Hong Kong government may not have an accurate grasp of the structures and situation of the mainland [government], and I think [Hong Kong] is now trying to clarify the offices’ roles,” Tam told a radio programme.

Xie Feng, commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong - The international community needs a full and accurate understanding of the Basic Law | South China Morning Post

The exercise of Chinese state power in Hong Kong is fully legal and should not be distorted to mean interference

Any action, whether local or foreign, based on a misunderstanding of the Basic Law risks crossing Beijing’s red line. No attempt to endanger national sovereignty will be tolerated...

Article 23 requires that Hong Kong “shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central people’s government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in the region, and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the region from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies”...

Only when the Basic Law is fully and faithfully implemented, and the systems and mechanisms related to the implementation of the constitution and the Basic Law in Hong Kong are improved to keep abreast of the times, can we ensure “one country, two systems” is applied without being bent or distorted, and will achieve greater success in the future

Even the central govt is bound by Basic Law: HKBA - RTHK

The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) warned on Monday that recent statements by the SAR government and Beijing's liaison office regarding whether the latter must abide by Article 22 of the Basic Law have caused "deep public unease", and are "plainly inconsistent" with previous assertions.

The liaison office on Friday insisted that it is not covered by Article 22, which states that no departments of the central government can interfere in Hong Kong affairs.

The SAR government subsequently issued three statements of its own in a matter of hours, apparently contradicting the liaison office's claim at first, before finally agreeing with it.

But the Bar Association said even the Central People's Government itself is bound by the provisions of the Basic Law, being as it is a national law of the People's Republic of China, and said this includes Article 22.

Martin Lee: “International community has the moral obligation to speak up for Hong Kong People”

Hong Kong police launched a mass-arrest against 15 prominent pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong on April 18, and 81-year-old barrister Martin Lee was one of them. In an interview on Sunday, he said Beijing has completely changed its position on Deng Xiao-Ping’s One Country, Two Systems’ promise and the international community has the moral responsibility to support Hong Kong people.

Hong Kong government’s flip-flopping in Beijing power row labelled ‘betrayal’ by opposition lawmakers, with mass protest planned | South China Morning Post

In an escalation of the controversy over the reach of the liaison office and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration said the work of the former was not limited by the city's mini-constitution in this area, reversing a statement released just hours earlier that partly contradicted the mainland’s position....

In its latest version, the city government said the liaison office was not regarded as an office set up by Beijing in Hong Kong as defined under Article 22 of the Basic Law, which guarantees non-interference. Its first statement said the liaison office was one of three organisations established by the central government in Hong Kong in accordance with those provisions.

HKU Legal Scholarship Blog: A Strained Interpretation of the Basic Law - Johannes Chan Comments on Article 22 and Non-Intervention in Hong Kong Affairs

the mere fact that the HKSAR Government has to change its public statements three times to eventually agree with the position of the Liaison Office may serve the best testimony of an interference. The argument at this level may still be contained. Yet to argue that the Liaison Office is above the Basic Law and is not subject to the restriction of Art 22 of the Basic Law, and to assert that it has a new and vague role of supervising the implementation of the Basic Law in Hong Kong are to open a Pandora box which would create more problems than it could solve. Unfortunately, neither the Liaison Office nor the HKSAR Government has the political wisdom to avoid stepping right into a minefield.



India foreign investment rules aimed at China to include Hong Kong - sources - Reuters

New Indian rules to ensure scrutiny of investments from companies based in neighbouring countries, especially during the coronavirus outbreak, will also apply to Hong Kong, two senior government sources told Reuters on Monday.

4. US-China

A Key G.O.P. Strategy: Blame China. But Trump Goes Off Message. - The New York Times

Republican senators locked in difficult races are preparing commercials condemning China. Conservatives with future presidential ambitions of their own, like Senators Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley, are competing to see who can talk tougher toward the country where the virus first emerged. Party officials are publicly and privately brandishing polling data in hopes Mr. Trump will confront Beijing...

Eager to continue trade talks, uneasy about further rattling the markets and hungry to protect his relationship with President Xi Jinping at a moment when the United States is relying on China’s manufacturers for lifesaving medical supplies, Mr. Trump has repeatedly muddied Republican efforts to fault China.

Comment: The smartest thing for Beijing to do right now if it wants to keep the relationship with the US from collapsing completely would be to overdeliver on its promised purchases under the Phase 1 trade deal, and specifically from groups and regions the President is most worried about in the upcoming election

Trump campaign concludes there is more to be gained by attacking Biden than trying to promote president’s pandemic response - The Washington Post

President Trump’s campaign is preparing to launch a broad effort aimed at linking Joe Biden to China, after concluding that it would be more politically effective than defending or promoting Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision by top campaign advisers, which has met pushback from some White House officials and donors, reflects polling showing a declining approval rating for Trump among key groups and growing openness to supporting Biden in recent weeks, according to officials familiar with the data who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The shift represents a remarkable acknowledgment by aides to a self-described a “wartime president,” leading during what might have been a rally-around-the-flag moment, to ­effectively decide it is better to go on the attack than focus on his own achievements. Campaign polling found more than three-quarters of voters blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak, underscoring the potential benefits of tying the presumptive Democratic nominee to ­Beijing.

Democrats find their response to Trump on China - Axios

The DNC's War Room writes in the memo that it's an understatement to call Trump weak on China and that he "rolled over in a way that has been catastrophic for our country" and "put himself and his political fortunes first."

Biden campaign launches counterattack on Trump over coronavirus and China - CNNPolitics

"The uncomfortable truth is that this president left America exposed and vulnerable to this pandemic," former vice president Joe Biden said in one of the videos. "He ignored the warnings of health experts and intelligence agencies, and put his trust in China's leaders instead."

In a separate video, Tony Blinken, former deputy secretary of state and a foreign policy adviser to Biden, said, "President Trump went soft on China when it mattered most. Joe Biden will insist that China live up to its responsibilities."

Why China is losing the coronavirus narrative | Financial Times $$

Wang Jisi, a legendary scholar at Peking University, says the virus fallout has pushed Sino-US relations to their worst level since formal ties were established in the 1970s. He describes bilateral economic and technological decoupling as “already irreversible”.

GOP lawmakers ask Barr, Pompeo to bring case against China to the International Court of Justice | Fox News

Indiana GOP Rep. Jim Banks has sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr urging them to bring a case against China to the International Court of Justice (ICIJ) for the country’s actions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Panel Seeks Scrutiny of China Telecom Companies After It Sees Lax U.S. Oversight - WSJ $$

In a forthcoming report, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will level sharp criticism at a group of telecom regulators for failing to scrutinize the Chinese companies and the way they handle data going back nearly two decades. Senate investigators who briefed The Wall Street Journal on their findings said that without proper oversight the Chinese companies “present an unacceptable amount of risk.”..

“The time for silently watching Chinese state enterprises get a trusted toehold in our critical telecommunications infrastructure has ended,” said Adam S. Hickey, a Justice Department official involved in Team Telecom. “We need the private sector, which controls so much of that critical infrastructure, to make similar decisions.”

Lawsuit worth $6 trillion seeks reparations from China for 'cover-up' of coronavirus pandemic

The class action suit brought by the Berman Law Group in Florida against the Chinese Communist Party has so far signed up 10,000 people, including grieving family members of those who have died after contracting COVID-19 and healthcare workers who have suffered as a result of a lack of personal protective equipment.

The U.S. Tried to Teach China a Lesson About the Media. It Backfired. - The New York Times - Ben Smith

A senior administration official, who explained the policy on the condition of anonymity after I reached out to the State Department, told me that the U.S. move had been on the wish list of American counterintelligence officials and China hawks, and was pursued “on a totally different track from coronavirus.” The official argued that even in early March, the virus was “not the all-consuming epidemic that it was now.”..

The Chinese government “is going to discover the cost of not having a significant presence of reporters on the ground,” said Mr. Buckley, an Australian New York Times reporter who has also been told to leave China after his visa expired when he was in quarantine in Wuhan. “The China story as a whole becomes even more hostage to these lurid representations and misrepresentations of the country that you would think the Chinese government would have some interests in allowing people to rebut.”

Meanwhile, a Chinese journalist in Washington told me that China Global Television Network already has a plan to replace the staff it sent home: They’ll hire some American journalists on contract to help with the propaganda broadcasts.

Pompeo On Moving 2022 Winter Olympic Games From Beijing: "We'll Have To Take A Look At That" | Video | RealClearPolitics

I’ve been in lots of conversations over the past, oh, three weeks or four weeks with colleagues all around the world, the President, too. He was on a call with all of these G-7 nations yesterday. There is enormous frustration, and not just with this incident, but with the growing challenges presented by a Chinese Communist Party that appears intent on failing to live up to its international obligations. I don’t know precisely what that response will be. But the time for accountability will come.

China oil titan warns of gathering ‘black swan’ risks for Beijing after pandemic | South China Morning Post

The world is set to become more hostile for China after the coronavirus as the risk of “black swan” events gathers for Beijing, a heavyweight in China’s state oil industry has warned, reflecting growing wariness about the geopolitical environment among political and business elites.

Fu Chengyu, the former chairman of both China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Sinopec Group, painted an ominous picture of increasing antagonism from the United States and damaging unforeseen events, known as black swans, like Covid-19 at an online symposium organised by business magazine Caijing.

The US would “mercilessly” suppress China in the fields of economics, trade, finance and technology, and Washington was set on taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to “forge a less favourable international environment for” the nation, Fu said this week.

U.S.'s Pompeo: Nations should rethink use of China's Huawei amid coronavirus - Reuters

Asked about use of Huawei and 5G, Pompeo told Fox Business Network in an interview: “I am very confident that this moment — this moment where the Chinese Communist Party failed to be transparent and open and handle data in an appropriate way — will cause many, many countries rethink what they were doing with respect to their telecom architecture.”

5. More on the Wuhan Lab hypothesis

Trump warns China could face consequences for virus outbreak - Reuters

“If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, I mean, then sure there should be consequences,” Trump said. He did not elaborate on what actions the United States might take.

Tucker Carlson: Blame America Or China? China Is Waging a Coronavirus Distraction Campaign | Video | RealClearPolitics

Carlson has a direct line to trump, no matter you think of the context/host it is worth watching. Buckle up

As of today, says someone in a position to know, there is quote, “almost unanimous” agreement in American intelligence-gathering agencies that the virus currently destroying much of the world originally emerged from a lab in Wuhan.

Comment: "Almost unanimous" I believe is a significant exaggeration given my own conversations.

Government officials in this country have believed that for some time. They’ve been unable to interest our media in writing about it. In recent weeks, analysts from the CIA, NSA and others have briefed staff at the New York Times about the origins of this virus. The newspaper has still not reported their findings. At the same time, and this may be directly related, China has been waging an unremitting propaganda war on the subject. Chinese officials have tried to squelch all conversations about who’s responsible for this pandemic by inflaming the political sensitivities and race guilt of American elites.

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Maria Bartiromo of Mornings with Maria on Fox Business Network - United States Department of State

It’s very clear now that the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization didn’t put that information out into the international space as they’re required to do in a timely fashion, and the result of that is that we now have this global pandemic.  We are still, Maria, suffering that today.  We are still asking the Chinese Communist Party to allow experts to get in to that virology lab so that we can determine precisely where this virus began.  It’s not political.  This is about science and epidemiology.  We need to understand what has taken place so that we can reduce risk to Americans in the days and weeks and months ahead and get the global economy back on track.  It’s very important.

‘Biological Chernobyl’: How China’s secrecy fueled coronavirus suspicions - POLITICO

America’s intelligence agencies aren’t dismissing the idea outright; they’ve been examining the theory for months, said people briefed on the intelligence, and the congressional intelligence committees have been asking various agencies if hard evidence exists to support it. So far, there is none, multiple sources familiar with the matter told POLITICO. “There’s no consensus,” an administration official said. A former senior intelligence official said his understanding is that the intelligence on the Wuhan lab being the origin of the virus “is not at all conclusive.”

The search for the virus’ origin has been made even more difficult by the fact that even Beijing doesn’t know the truth, one of the people briefed said, and doesn’t seem to be looking for it. Without an ironclad, high-confidence finding as to the virus’ origin, the intelligence community is unlikely to completely discount the possibility that it spread after a lab experiment gone wrong.

U.S. explores theory virus spread started in Chinese lab - Friday CBS Evening NewsNews

Although Chinese authorities claim the coronavirus surfaced at a wet market in Wuhan, independent Chinese researchers say the first known patient had no exposure to it. There is now growing speculation that the virus may have been accidentally leaked from a lab nearby the wet market. Margaret Brennan reports.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on April 20, 2020

CNN: US president Trump said on Sunday that the US still wants investigators to go to China to investigate the coronavirus outbreak and the two sides are discussing this. He also said on Saturday that China could face consequences if it was "knowingly responsible" for the coronavirus pandemic. Last Friday, two US lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow Americans and local governments to sue the government of China for misleading WHO and causing the global spread of COVID-19. What is your response?..

Did anyone ask the US to offer compensations for the 2009 H1N1 flu, which was first diagnosed before breaking out on a large scale in the US and then spread to 214 countries and regions, killing nearly 200,000 people? AIDS was first reported in the US in the 1980s and then swept across the world, causing untold sufferings to countless victims. Did anyone come forward and ask the US to be held accountable? In addition, Kishore Mahbubani, a professor at the National University of Singapore, said in an interview the other day that the financial turmoil in the US triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 turned into a global financial crisis. Did anyone ask the US to take the consequences?

The US must understand that their enemy is the virus, not China. The international community can only defeat the virus by pulling together. Attacking and discrediting other countries will not save the time and lives lost. We hope that those on the US side will respect facts, science, and international consensus, stop attacking and blaming China for nothing, stop making irresponsible remarks, and focus instead on fighting the epidemic at home and promoting international cooperation.

Enquête sur le P4 de Wuhan, ce laboratoire qui suscite tant de fantasmes, construit avec l’aide de la France

article on the history of the Wuhan lab and the connections with France, raises concerns about sloppy security, says some French suppliers got anxious about standards and one refused to certify it on completion.

France says no evidence COVID-19 linked to Wuhan research lab - Reuters

“We would like to make it clear that there is to this day no factual evidence corroborating the information recently circulating in the United States press that establishes a link between the origins of COVID-19 and the work of the P4 laboratory of Wuhan, China,” an official at President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.

Laboratory in Wuhan breaks silence to deny claims that the coronavirus originated there

Yuan Zhiming, vice director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, that this was a "conspiracy theory" designed to "confuse" people. He also denied the virus was manmade.

The interview - Institute of Virology: Man-made coronavirus beyond human intelligence

Parroting US attacks on China over COVID-19 shows Aussie politicians' bigotry: Chinese embassy - Global Times

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton also demanded China provide Australians "clarity" about the origins of the coronavirus during an interview with Nine Network on Friday...

As to Dutton's remarks, a spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Australia told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that Dutton abruptly became interested in "transparency" recently, which is curious. After an investigation, we found that he received some so-called information from Washington as some US personnel told him that they had obtained documents concerning the coronavirus' origin.

But what's strange is that Dutton said he did not see these documents. If so, why did he so urgently ask China to be "more transparent?" He must have received some orders from Washington requiring him to cooperate in the US' propaganda war against China, said the spokesperson.

Some people on the US side including some senior officials have been spreading information targeting China to smear and scapegoat China, said the spokesperson, noting that the move is neither moral nor helpful to solve the US' domestic problem

6. Foreign Work

Xi: China, Zimbabwe to step up pandemic fight - China Daily

China and Zimbabwe have vowed to strengthen cooperation and join forces to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as it spreads on the African continent.

President Xi Jinping and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa reached the consensus during their recent exchange of congratulatory messages on the 40th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations on Saturday.

G77, China voice support for WHO in COVID-19 fight: statement - Xinhua

The statement includes a call on the international community "to maintain and, where possible, increase their support for the WHO, which, by the mandate given to it by member states, has a critical and central role to play in supporting developing countries to confront a crisis of epic scale that threatens to erase the gains made over the past decades."

Third batch of Chinese aid arrives in Baghdad to assist COVID-19 fight - Xinhua

"The new batch of medical supplies are provided by the China International Development Cooperation Agency, which mainly include masks, protective clothing, goggles and nucleic acid testing kits," Chinese Ambassador to Iraq Zhang Tao told Xinhua at Baghdad International Airport.

"The medical facilities in Iraq are relatively weak under years of war and conflicts, and the Chinese government attaches great importance to cooperation with Iraq to contain the outbreak," Zhang said.

China’s Aggressive Diplomacy Weakens Xi Jinping’s Global Standing - The New York Times

In the past week officials in France, Britain and nearly two dozen African nations have rebuked actions or statements by the Chinese government.

You are endangering the world: BILD editor-in-chief answers Xi Jinping- Bild Editor in Chief

3. You, your government and your scientists had to know long ago that Corona is highly infectious, but you left the world in the dark about it. Your top experts didn't respond when Western researchers asked to know what was going on in Wuhan.

You were too proud and too nationalistic to tell the truth, which you felt was a national disgrace.

4. The "Washington Post" reports that your laboratories in Wuhan have been researching corona viruses in bats, butwithout maintaining the highest safety standards. Why are your toxic laboratories not as secure as your prisons for political prisoners?

Would you like to explain this to the grieving widows, daughters, sons, husbands, parents of Corona victims all over the world?..

You plan to strengthen China through a plague that you exported. You will not succeed. Corona will be your political end, sooner or later.

China says Australia's questions on its COVID-19 handling groundless - Reuters

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing that Beijing had grave concerns about the remarks made by Australian foreign minister Marise Payne, who called for an international investigation into the origins of the virus and how it spread.

China criticizes Czech Republic for accepting Taiwainese medical aid - Prague, Czech Republic

The Chinese deputy ambassador to Prague several times addressed the Czech government to criticize Czech representatives for accepting medical aid provided by Taiwan, the weekly Respekt writes in its latest issue.

Taiwan donated tens of thousands of face masks and 25 medical ventilators to the Czech Republic.

Johnson Huawei Plan at Risk; U.K. Set to Rethink China Ties - Bloomberg

China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has triggered calls from prominent Tories for a rethink of the U.K.’s push for closer ties to China after former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping promised a “golden era” in 2015. Even Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said at a televised press conference on Thursday it can’t be “business as usual” with China once the pandemic is over.

Illinois spent $17 million on masks from China that are now being recalled in other states | WGN-TV

An alert from the Illinois Department of Public Health followed, saying the KN95 masks may not meet performance standards and counterfeit masks are “flooding the marketplace.”

The department recommends agencies remove any KN95 masks that have already been received.

7. China-Africa

"Chinese racism" row reignites - Daily Maverick

Two video clips of Africans apparently being denied entry into Chinese shopping areas went viral over the weekend, reigniting the row over accusations of racism in Guangzhou amid fears by local authorities over the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic there.

The videos come barely a week after Chinese authorities promised to look into claims that Africans were being evicted from their residences in Guangdong province and being forced to go into quarantine even if they haven’t tested positive for the coronavirus...

Meanwhile, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama on Saturday promised that arrangements would be made to bring Nigerian nationals home from China. After tweeting images of his second meeting in a week with the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, he said “98% of the issues have been resolved”, but blamed China for not keeping its part of the deal.

China, Africa join hands fighting epidemic, Western smear campaigns - Global Times

But Western media are using the spread of COVID-19 in Africa as a chance to instigate a rupture China-Africa ties with claims of "Africans being discriminated in China," or "China's diplomatic crisis," in an attempt to stir up negative attitudes toward China among Africans.

However, based on Global Times reporters' interviews in several African countries, many people in Africa believe that China's measures in preventing virus are to contain the virus, and not to discriminate. "The virus is the common enemy of China and Africa. Only by being rational and tolerant and overcoming difficulties together can we overcome the epidemic," said a professor in Liberia.

After Guangzhou, 3 things will shape China-Africa “brotherhood” – Panda Paw Dragon Claw

The impact of the incident, on the hearts and minds of the African public and on the long-term prospect of China’s presence on the continent, will likely be long-lasting regardless of the intention of political elites on both sides...

Even though Chinese internet users inhabit a cyberspace separated from the rest of the world by the Great Firewall, the Guangzhou incident shows that what’s being said inside the wall can still penetrate the double barriers of language and technology and cause outcry outside of China’s borders. Over the last few weeks, a great number of African social media users (many of whom speak and read Chinese after studying or working in China) screenshotted and translated Weibo utterances of racism on Weibo and posted them on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

As Africa Groans Under Debt, It Casts Wary Eye at China - WSJ $$

Wealthy countries from the U.S. to Japan—watching their own economies lurch toward recession—are loath to forgive African debt if they think the money will indirectly support Chinese creditors, including the government, banks and contractors. At the same time, Beijing is worried about setting a precedent for widespread forgiveness.

8. Don’t forget about the South China Sea

Malaysia: Chinese Survey Ship Is in Our Waters - RFA

The Hai Yang Di Zhi 8 left China’s Hainan Island last week, and was spotted earlier this week moving through Vietnam’s waters, before arriving Thursday off the coast Malaysia’s Sarawak state and Brunei. Its deployment is the latest sign of Beijing’s expansive reach across the contested South China Sea.

“It is in Malaysian waters and our duty is to remain in the area and monitor its movement,” Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Director-General Mohd Zubil Mat Som said.

Names of islands,reefs in South China Sea released - Global Times

Chinese authorities released on Sunday standard names for 25 islands and reefs as well as 55 undersea geographic entities in the South China Sea in a move that Chinese experts praised for reaffirming China's sovereignty in the region.

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Natural Resources released the names, longitudes and latitudes of these places.

Listed islands included Sanzhizai, an islet north of Yongxing Island in Sansha city, South China's Hainan Province.

Qian Feng, a senior fellow at the Taihe Institute and director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the Global Times Sunday that the standardization reflected China's sovereignty over these listed islands in the South China Sea and their surrounding waters, which was not only a consistent policy of China but accorded with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

The announcement - ​自然资源部 民政部关于公布我国南海部分岛礁和海底地理实体标准名称的公告

Sansha city establishes two districts for better management - Global Times

The city of Sansha was established on July 24, 2012 to manage the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands, isles and waters. It is the city located at the most southern point of China with the smallest land area and population, but has the largest territory of any Chinese city. Sansha city has more than 280 islands, isles, submerged reefs and waters. Its land and water area is about 2 million square kilometers.

"Eight years after China set Sansha as a city-level administrative unit, it is now time to subdivide it with different districts to further fulfill the responsibility of safeguarding our national sovereignty," Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the People's Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times.

Interesting Twitter thread from Dr. Bill Hayton. I did not know that the Zhongsha are not above water

Same as It Ever Was: China’s Pandemic Opportunism on Its Periphery - War on the Rocks

Are these incidents merely a coincidence? Are they a sign that Beijing is distracted by COVID-19 and the resulting historic economic slowdown, and aggressive local commanders are pushing the envelope of their own accord? Or is this merely the result of China fielding more ships and more aircraft, leading to a predictable increase in incidents and exercises? While these explanations are all plausible, a more likely driver of China’s actions is, in fact, continuity.

These incidents are not unprecedented and likely do not indicate a new, post-pandemic Chinese strategy. Rather, these incidents are consistent with a Chinese approach to foreign affairs under CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s leadership that even before the outbreak of COVID-19 demonstrated flexibility, assertiveness, and a singular desire to exploit opportunities of external weakness and distraction in order to advance China’s interests.

Chinese and Malaysian ships in South China Sea standoff: sources - Reuters

On Friday, it was close to the Petronas-operated West Capella, according to the security sources, who did not want to be identified because they were not authorised to talk to the media. One of the sources said a Vietnamese vessel was also tagging the West Capella.

The area is close to waters claimed by both Vietnam and Malaysia as well by China

Beijing moves to strengthen grip over disputed South China Sea - South China Morning Post

Using the Chinese names for the Paracel and Spratly Islands respectively, the Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on Saturday: “The State Council has recently approved the establishment of the Xisha and Nansha districts under Sansha city.”

According to the notice, the Xisha administration will be based in Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island. Meanwhile, the Nansha administration will be placed in the Fiery Cross Reef, referred to as Yongshu Reef in Chinese.

Vietnam protests Beijing's expansion in disputed South China Sea - Reuters

On Saturday it said it had established an administrative district on the Paracel islands and another on the Spratly islands. The two districts are under the control of China's Sansha city, according to China Global Television Network.

"The establishment of the so-called Sansha City and related activities seriously violated Vietnam's sovereignty," Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.

Business, Economy and Trade

China News: Firewall for China: New rules cover foreign indirect investment as well - The Economic Times The government’s move to screen foreign direct investment (FDI) from China will also cover overseas transactions in other nations that involve the country. For instance, if a Chinese company invests in an entity overseas that has in turn invested in India, this will need to be approved as per the government press note issued on Saturday.

China Says India’s New Investment Rules Violate WTO Principles - Bloomberg The new curbs will allow an existing foreign investor from any country that shares a land border with India to invest only after approval by the Indian government. Such restrictions were so far applied only to FDI from Bangladesh and Pakistan. India shares its land border with seven countries, including China. As of December 2019, China’s cumulative investment in India’s industries including mobile phones, electrical appliances, infrastructure and automobiles exceeded $8 billion, according to the statement.

China Mobile Lost Almost 4 Million Subscribers in First Quarter - Bloomberg China Mobile Ltd.’s wireless user base shrank in the first quarter as the spread of the new coronavirus shut down China’s economy and prompted millions to cancel services at the country’s largest mobile carrier.

Foreign investors pile into Chinese onshore debt markets in search of yields as coronavirus pandemic worsens | South China Morning Post At the end of March, global investment funds and overseas investors held 2.26 trillion yuan (US$319 billion) in Chinese onshore debt, according to Bond Connect Company, the operator of the three-year-old Bond Connect programme, which allows qualified foreign investors to buy Chinese bonds without setting up an onshore business. That was a slight decrease from a record 2.28 trillion yuan at the end of February. Overseas investments in Chinese debt rose 28 per cent in the first quarter on a year-on-year basis. Foreign investors, however, remain a small percentage of the US$14 trillion onshore bond market in China.

Looking Back at China's 2019 Balance of Payments Data | Council on Foreign Relations China was under a lot of stress in 2019 from the trade war. But its balance of payments stayed in relatively good shape. Much better shape than in 2015 or 2016. Reserves only fell a tiny bit, and by my calculation the total foreign assets of China’s state sector (PBOC, state banks, state investment funds) rose just a bit over the course of 2019. China stands to lose from the general contraction of global trade. But it is also the single biggest winner from lower commodity prices—and, how should I put it, less tourism also means many fewer opportunities for Chinese residents to move funds abroad.

Yicai - China’s SOEs Post 58.5% Dive in First-Quarter Profit After Virus Shut Economy Total net profit at the 97 companies directly controlled by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission was CNY130.4 billion (USD18.4 billion) in the three months ended March, it said today. Operating revenue fell 11.8 percent to CNY6 trillion (USD847.9 billion), with more than 80 percent of the SOEs suffering a decline, SASAC General-Secretary Peng Huagang said at a press conference today.

Tongcheng-Elong’s Parent Denies Mass Layoffs as It Merges Airline, Travel Agency Businesses Rumors have been circulating that some online travel agencies were planning to shed over 90 percent of their staff, including senior managers, and close brick-and-mortar stores. But Trip.Com, Tuniu, Lvmama and Qunar have all refuted claims of mass layoffs to Yicai Global, with Tuniu revealing that it will cut some of its management salaries to 40 percent.

In Effort to Boost Exports, China Moves Canton Fair Online- PingWest Show goers will be able to attend the Canton Fair via around-the-clock live streaming provided by cloud services from Alibaba and Tencent. Exhibitors and attendees are expected to conduct regular business like discussions, negotiations, placing orders like normal.

Debt-Stricken Hanergy Defaults on Millions in Patent Application Fees - Caixin Debt-ridden solar firm Hanergy has defaulted yet again, this time on the fees it has racked up as it has pursued an ever-greater number of patent applications.

Financial Giant Anbang to Sell Rural Bank Back to Local Government - Caixin Two local state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Chengdu, the capital city of Southwest China’s Sichuan province, will purchase a combined 20.5% stake in Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank Co. Ltd., the lender said in a Friday

Luckin Boss Sells Down Stake in Rental Car Company - Caixin A new share purchase could make U.S. private equity giant Warburg Pincus the largest stakeholder in a car rental specialist controlled by the founder of scandal-tainted Luckin Coffee, in the latest signal of financial pressure on the business empire of Lu Zhengyao.

Bank Of China Says Digital Yuan Will Not Cause Inflation - Cointelegraph A bank representative confirmed on the China Central Television on April 19 that the new digital currency (also referred to as DC/EP, for “digital currency/electronic payment”) pilot test has been carried out in the cities of Shenzhen, Suzhou, Xiongan new area, Chengdu, and the future site of the winter Olympics. However the researcher stressed that these current tests do not imply that the digital Yuan has been officially issued for public use. The representative added: “The current closed test of digital Yuan will not affect the commercial operation of listed institutions, nor will it affect the RMB issuance and circulation system, financial market and social economy outside the test environment.” // 什么是中国版数字货币?央行权威回应 不会引通胀_新闻频道_央视网(cctv.com)

Chinese Central Bank Issues Public Statement on Internal Testing of Statutory Digital Currency – China Banking News Ac­cord­ing to PBOC the test­ing process does not at all sig­nify that the dig­i­tal ren­minbi has of­fi­cially been re­leased, while closed test­ing will not im­pact the op­er­a­tion of com­mer­cial banks, or ex­ter­nal fi­nan­cial mar­kets and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

China’s digital currency takes shape as trials begin with travel subsidies and Communist Party fees | South China Morning Post The first look at the planned digital currency emerged on Wednesday when a screen shot of a test version developed by the Agricultural Bank of China was leaked. The following day the National Business Daily reported that the Xiangcheng district of Suzhou was expected to put the currency to use in May by paying half the travel subsidies given to public sector workers in digital form. The 21st Century Business Herald also reported that one unnamed state bank, which is testing the official digital currency, has allowed some of its Communist Party members to pay their membership fees.

Fresh Blow for Boeing as China Leasing Firm Scraps Max Order - Bloomberg China Development Bank Financial Leasing Co. canceled an order for 29 Boeing Co. 737 Max planes, worth at least $2.9 billion based on list prices, joining a growing list of customers scaling back plans for buying the grounded jet.

China’s Fledgling Car Rebound Faces Risks of Parts Shortage - Bloomberg The virus is now causing production disruptions in Europe, North America and Japan, which supply crucial components to automakers in China, the industry’s biggest market. Those at risk range from global players such as Tesla Inc. and BMW AG to local contenders including Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., all of whom could face disruptions if the pandemic drags on.

Luckin Coffee’s Accounting Scandal Thwarts Backer’s $2.5 Billion Fund - WSJ $$ Centurium Capital, a three-year-old Chinese private-equity firm that has a sizable investment in Luckin, has put on hold plans to raise a second fund with a target size of $2.5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. Its decision comes after the coffee chain’s revelation that employees fabricated much of its 2019 sales...Centurium Capital was founded and is run by David Li, a former head of Asia at global private-equity firm Warburg Pincus and a former Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley investment banker.

Bank of China on Track to Achieve QR Code Compatibility with both Alipay and WeChat Pay – China Banking News On 16 April Bank of China (BOC) an­nounced that it had en­tered co­op­er­a­tion with China Union­Pay and Ali­pay to achieve QR code com­pat­i­bil­ity.  BOC cus­tomers will be able to use the BOC mo­bile app to scan Ali­pay codes for on­line pay­ments with a se­lect group of trial ven­dors.

Beijing Puts Strings on Approval for Nvidia’s $6.9 Billion Deal for Isreali Tech Firm - Caixin The SAMR has demanded that Nvidia Corp. and Mellanox Technologies Ltd. refrain from “forced selling” or putting any unreasonable conditions on deals with their customers in the Chinese market, according to the announcement. Two of the seven conditions were confidential.

Shanghai Office Rents Slide as Investment Falls 78% in Q1 - Mingtiandi Grade A office rents in the city’s central business district slipped 0.9 percent compared with the previous quarter according to JLL, while rents in decentralised areas, where there is greater vacancy, fell 2.4 percent.

Covid-19 Crushes Beijing Office and Retail Space Markets in First Quarter - Caixin A survey by U.S. property services giant JLL said the vacancy rate for top-grade office space in Beijing stood at 11.3% during the first three months of the year, unchanged from last year’s fourth quarter and a decade high. Global peer Savills said the average vacancy rate rose 0.5 percentage points to 13.2% quarter-on-quarter, marking the highest level since 2010.

Politics and Law

UNSW graduate, Chinese minister Sun Lijun investigated for 'severe violations od discipline' after key role in Wuhan China's Vice Minister of Public Security, UNSW graduate Sun Lijun, is being investigated for "severe violations of discipline and law" a month after playing a key role in the Chinese Communist Party's response to the coronavirus crisis. The allegations include a failure to adhere to political discipline, follow rules and "wanton behaviours", according to minutes of a meeting of the Ministry of Public Security. Sun led ceremonies for police officers in Wuhan, the centre of China's coronavirus outbreak, as recently as March...graduated with a Master of Public Health from UNSW, Sydney's second largest university, according to China's Ministry of Public Security. In a statement, UNSW said it was able to confirm an individual with the same name graduated with a Master of Public Health in 2002. // One feature of the CCP system is that it regularly eats its own

China’s deputy public security minister faces corruption probe for ‘serious violations of discipline and the law’ | South China Morning Post The ministry said Sun “had ignored the party’s political discipline and political rules for a long time” but did not provide details. In the future, it said, China’s police apparatus will improve their mindset of “being loyal to the core, supporting the core, following the core and defending the core” – a reference to Xi. Three sources familiar with the matter said Sun had once been the secretary to Meng Jianzhu, who was the secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission between 2012 and 2017.

Report on Zhao Kezhi's comments to the MPS on the Sun investigation - 赵克志主持召开公安部党委会议坚决拥护对孙力军涉嫌严重违纪违法进行纪律审查和监察调查 会议强调,要对党绝对忠诚。旗帜鲜明讲政治是对公安机关的第一要求,坚持党的全面领导、绝对领导是公安机关安身立命的根本所在。坚持党的全面领导、绝对领导,最关键的是做到“两个维护”,坚决维护习近平总书记党中央的核心、全党的核心地位,坚决维护党中央权威和集中统一领导,始终在政治立场、政治方向、政治原则、政治道路上同以习近平同志为核心的党中央保持高度一致。要切实增强“四个意识”、坚定“四个自信”、做到“两个维护”,不断增强忠诚核心、拥护核心、跟随核心、捍卫核心的思想自觉、政治自觉、行动自觉,不折不扣地把坚决做到“两个维护”体现在工作中、落实到行动上。要严守党的政治纪律和政治规矩,做到“五个必须”,严防“七个有之”,对党忠诚老实,决不允许口是心非、阳奉阴违,决不允许有令不行、有禁不止,决不允许做“两面人”、搞“两面派”,切实做到党中央提倡的坚决响应、党中央决定的坚决执行、党中央禁止的坚决不做,确保公安队伍绝对忠诚、绝对纯洁、绝对可靠。

不支持以劳动者是新冠肺炎确诊患者为由解约--法制网 Supreme People's Court says it does not support companies firing workers who have contracted the virus

U.S. calls on Beijing to grant freedom of movement to Chinese rights lawyer - Reuters The United States on Monday called on China to allow freedom of movement to prominent rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, whom it said has been released after five years of unjust detention, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Chaguan - A diarist in Wuhan faces fury for sharing her story with the West | Chaguan | The Economist China’s tightly censored internet is unusually exhausting just now, filled with the din of performative patriotism, and rows about who has a right to be heard. A self-declared ex-fan of Fang Fang’s, claiming to be a surgeon from Hubei, the province of which Wuhan is the capital, fumed that she had handed a sword to China’s enemies. The surgeon said history, as written by the Chinese people, would judge her harshly. His post earned more than 118,000 likes. Various conspiracy theories have cast the diarist as a mercenary. Her links to the China Writers Association, a semi-official body, have led to accusations that she is betraying her country while on the public payroll. The Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper, cited an unnamed “whistleblower” who alleges that she owns five villas. Fang Fang denies any illicit wealth, and says she will sue her accusers. State media have noted netizens’ suspicions that her work was translated so quickly that, in their view, foreigners surely commissioned her to write an anti-China screed

Coronavirus lockdown: woman charged with organising protests against overpriced food, bad management | South China Morning Post ‘Brother Zeng’ was detained in March for rallying about 100 residents of the Sea Mountain community in Yingcheng, but is now facing the more serious charge of picking quarrels and provoking trouble Social media users say the 45-year-old is being made a scapegoat for the city’s mishandling of the weeks-long lockdown

Xi Jinping inspects northwest China's Shaanxi Province - CGTN Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, on Monday inspected northwest China's Shaanxi Province. Xi went to Niubeiliang National Nature Reserve in the county of Zhashui, Shangluo City, to inspect ecological preservation of the Qinling Mountains. He then went to the village of Jinmi in Xiaoling Township to learn about poverty alleviation efforts. // 习近平在陕西考察秦岭生态保护情况--时政--人民网

NPCSC Session Watch: COVID-19 Responses, Copyright, Armed Police Reform & Silence on 2020 NPC – NPC Observer The Council of Chairpersons decided on Friday, April 17 to convene the 17th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from April 26 to 29. Contrary to what we have expected, this upcoming session seems to be a regular bi-monthly session, where the NPCSC will review seven legislative bills...On April 29, the last day of its upcoming session, the NPCSC could still decide on a new date for the NPC. It is not uncommon for the NPCSC to add new bills to its agenda at the last minute. But even were this to occur, the earliest the NPC can meet now seems mid-May, if not later.

Lessons from China: Ensuring no one goes hungry during coronavirus lockdowns The success of online food markets in China wouldn’t have been possible without the long-term implementation of the state’s urban food security policy known as the “vegetable basket program.” Proposed in 1988, the program mandates that city mayors are responsible for the provisioning, affordability and safety of non-grain foods, particularly fresh produce and meat. Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, was among 35 other major cities assessed directly by the central government once every two years for its performance in implementing the program.

TIBET AFTER CORONA | Rukor The corona virus crisis is not over in Tibet, or anywhere else. Yet already we can tell what a post corona Tibet will be like. When things return to normal; it’s a new normal. In the name of normality the state is already asserting itself, advancing its agendas. At prefectural level, the reboot of schooling, in Amdo Ngawa, means a sudden switch to Putonghua standard Chinese as the medium of instruction in all subjects outside of Tibetan language classes. The official policy of “bilingual education” in reality has narrowed its meaning to transitioning Tibetan children, earlier and earlier, from mother tongue to the official tongue of the Han Chinese race. At national level the new normal means elaborate instructions on fulfilling the goal of total poverty alleviation by supply side solutions making use of what poor areas are best at producing, to be fed into China’s national market.

China Reveals Probe of Another Top Law-Enforcement Official - WSJ $$ Just months ago Mr. Sun was assigned to a Communist Party task force overseeing the front-line pandemic response in China’s central Hubei province and its capital of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected.

Foreign and Defense Affairs

China hones carrier fighter jet skill amid epidemic - China Military J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter jets recently conducted a buddy refueling exercise in the Bohai Bay, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday. Buddy refueling means that a J-15 equipped with a refueling pod, instead of a dedicated aerial tanker that cannot operate on an aircraft carrier, feeds other J-15s, enabling them to extend endurance in the air and carry more weapons and less fuel when taking off from the carrier, which is an often-used method also by foreign navies.

China to hold summit on big data application in military equipment - China Military It is learnt from the Equipment Development Department (EDD) of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) that the Chinese military is to hold the Equipment Big Data Summit 2020 in the coming September. The summit aims at further propelling application of such technological achievements as big data, cloud computing and AI in China’s military equipment development, and and upgrading the capability of modern governance system.

‘Cartels are scrambling’: Virus snarls global drug trade - AP Though some clandestine labs that make fentanyl from scratch have popped up sporadically in Mexico, cartels are still very much reliant upon Chinese companies to get the precursor drugs. Huge amounts of these mail-order components can be traced to a single, state-subsidized company in Wuhan that shut down after the outbreak earlier this year, said Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University, which monitors Chinese websites selling fentanyl.

Xi Focus: Xi honors military personnel fighting COVID-19 - Xinhua Party organizations and members at all levels in the troops undertaking the mission have played an exemplary role, and military medics have worked day and night to battle the virus, functioning as a mainstay force in the anti-virus war, the order reads. Scientific researchers in the military have raced against time in their emergency research efforts to provide strong scientific and technological support for the epidemic prevention and control. Journalists have braved hardships to tell the army's anti-virus stories, boosting the morale and confidence of China and the world, according to the order.

The Virtues of a Confrontational China Strategy - The American Interest A Japanese official criticizes aspects of the Trump Administration’s confrontational approach to China, but on balance finds it preferable in almost every way to Obama’s engagement and accommodation.

Belgian judges overturn ban on Chinese Confucius Institute professor accused of spying | South China Morning Post A Chinese professor accused of espionage has won his case against a Belgian order which barred him from the European Union’s visa-free Schengen Area for eight years. Song Xinning had just completed his tenure as head of a Confucius Institute in Brussels when he was accused last year by Belgium’s state security service of conducting espionage activities and his visa was cancelled, effectively denying him entry to 26 European countries.

China-linked ‘Electric Panda’ hackers seek U.S. targets, intel agency warns - POLITICO Nearly 40 U.S. contracting facilities with access to classified information have been targeted by a hacking group with suspected ties to the Chinese government since Feb. 1, according to a bulletin disseminated to contractors by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency on Wednesday.

North Korea defies sanctions with China's help, UN panel says | The Guardian North Korea sharply stepped up trade in coal and oil products last year in defiance of UN sanctions through the apparent help of China’s shipping industry, a UN panel has said. The annual report to the UN Security Council by sanctions experts went online on Friday and inexplicably disappeared later in the day, with the text itself noting China’s reservations about the findings

H. R. McMaster: What China Wants - The Atlantic - H. R. McMaster Our last meeting of the state visit, in the Great Hall of the People, was with Li Keqiang, the premier of the State Council and the titular head of China’s government. If anyone in the American group had any doubts about China’s view of its relationship with the United States, Li’s monologue would have removed them. He began with the observation that China, having already developed its industrial and technological base, no longer needed the United States. He dismissed U.S. concerns over unfair trade and economic practices, indicating that the U.S. role in the future global economy would merely be to provide China with raw materials, agricultural products, and energy to fuel its production of the world’s cutting-edge industrial and consumer products.


Bill passed to increase fine after reporter’s US incident - Taipei Times A plan to increase fines for Taiwanese who work for political organizations in China advanced at the legislature in Taipei yesterday, when a draft amendment to the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) passed its first reading. The draft was proposed by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Michelle Lin (林楚茵) after Chang Ching-yi (張經義) — a Taiwanese reporter who works for a Chinese state-run agency — on April 9 did not tell a White House news conference about his company, instead saying: “I am from Taiwan” during his question time with US President Donald Trump.

Cast away delusions and prepare to fight! - Youshu Cast away your illusions folks, and realize that Beijing is willing to fight a war to re-take Taiwan. This is my take-away from this past week’s semi-official call to PLA forces stationed in eastern China to be ready for war. Delivered on National Security Awareness day, the title of the missive was a shout out to a slogan of Mao Zedong: “Cast away delusions and prepare to fight!” And the piece, from the PLA Eastern Command’s Wechat account, has set onshore social media afire with speculation (alongside, of course, a huge Taobao sex scandal). Particularly when, as this detailed piece describes, there’s been a ramp up in PLA maneuvers around Taiwan.

Tech and Media

Tmall president calls for self-probe after wife’s affair accusation · TechNode Jiang Fan, the president of Tmall and Taobao, another Alibaba online marketplace, is one of the most important executives of Alibaba and was widely seen as a potential successor of Zhang Yong, the current CEO of Alibaba Group.Jiang has apologized for the “impact on the company and colleagues” because of “remarks made by one of his family members on Weibo” in a post published on Alibaba’s internal website, Beijing News reported. He is calling for the investigation because of the “bad effects” the scandal may have on the company. // A post on the affair小三+怀孕?超猛大瓜!某猫总裁夫人手撕超级网红张大E!

Who Needs Real Makeup? Megvii AI Gives Consumers Virtual Makeovers - Caixin The tool, named FaceStyle, is able to show makeup effects after scanning users’ faces, the program’s product manager Wu Lingling said during a live-streamed launch event held on Wednesday. // The intro video https://facestyle.megvii.com/live-show

Alibaba to invest $28 billion in cloud as it battles Amazon, Microsoft - CNBC Alibaba said Monday it would invest 200 billion yuan ($28.26 billion) in its cloud computing division over the next three years, focusing on infrastructure. The money will be used to invest in technologies related to operating systems, servers, chips and networks

Pinduoduo Invests in Household Appliance Retailer GOME – China Internet Watch “This strategic partnership is a win-win-win,” said Mr. David Liu, Vice President of Strategy at PDD. “Consumers win because they get a wider range of top domestic and international brands at competitive prices, GOME wins because they can broaden their access to our 585.2 million users, and PDD wins because we enhance our foothold in household appliances and electronics.”

Alibaba launches independent video conferencing app · TechNode Alibaba is launching Alibaba Cloud Conference, bringing it into direct competition with Tencent Meeting and Zoom.

Society, Arts, Sports, Culture and History

'Morally condemnable': China's ambassador to Russia scolds Chinese returnees - SupChina many in China were incensed by Zhang’s remarks and his aggressive tone — which they found irresponsible and disappointing. “At first, China did well in the fight against the coronavirus, and won the recognition of the people,” according to one popular WeChat article, published under the name Wulingke. (The original piece has been censored, but it’s archived on China Digital Times.) “But Ambassador Zhang’s remarks were really staggering. Even if there’s a high pressure of preventing imported cases on the Sino-Russian border, he shouldn’t blame his countrymen like this.”

Energy, Environment, Science and Health

The puzzle of China’s missing solar and wind finance along the Belt and Road (Part 1) – Panda Paw Dragon Claw A recent paper by Boston University Global Development Policy Center’s Kevin Gallagher and Bo Kong labeled this reality a “counterfactual puzzle” and dug into the reasons for it. Why China’s Belt and Road Initiative has not led to large scale deployment of renewables as has been seen domestically in China is a question on the lips of many on the climate community, from NGOs to government staffers. Panda Paw Dragon Claw seeks to provide some insights on that critical question by digesting a few recently published papers and reports on that topic for our readers.

Rural and Agricultural Issues

China's agriculture upgrade to accelerate in next decade: report - Xinhua The China Agricultural Outlook (2020-2029) released by the China Agricultural Outlook Conference 2020 summarized and reviewed the market situation of 18 major agricultural products in 2019, made projections on production, consumption, trade and price in the next 10 years, and analyzed existing uncertainties...The supply of food grains will be ample in China, and the trend of market-based pricing of rice and wheat will be more obvious. Feed grain supply will be tight, and corn prices are expected to rise moderately. Land-intensive products such as soybeans, cotton, sugar and vegetable oil will be in short supply, with a high import dependency and close price linkage at home and abroad, the report said.

China’s Food Security to Be Greatly Fortified Over Next Decade, Ministry Says Over the next 10 years, the accelerated transformation and modernization of China’s agricultural sector will see increased yields and a better supply of grain and other agricultural products, ensuring the country’s food security, China Central Television reported today, citing the report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.