Virus origin; Japan making a "shift away from China" policy?; Open letters

My guess for the Q1 GDP number coming out tomorrow is -8%. The real number is probably negative double digits but it would be shocking, and refreshing, if they were willing to announce such a decline. I will have an open thread tomorrow morning so we can discuss the official number then.

The hypothesis that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab is gaining steam here in the US as there have been multiple media reports in the last week discussing the possibility, including a new one yesterday by Fox News.

It is interesting that there is new momentum for this story in the US. Perhaps the timing has to do with the broader rollout of the “blame China” reelection strategy, but I am leaning towards believing it is more than that.

President Trump’s response to a Fox News question Wednesday about the hypothesis was noteworthy:

“Well, I don’t want to say that John, but I will tell you more and more we’re hearing the story.”

Secretary of State Pompeo has also been alluding to the possibility in recent media appearances.

The claim is that it was a natural virus under research, not some sort of a bioweapon, and that was some kind of accident or mistake that allowed it to escape into Wuhan.

I have been hearing this hypothesis from people inside the administration for a while, from some who believe it and some who have found the evidence unconvincing. There have also been plenty of reports on the Internet claiming to have found proof (please do not forward me any, I can guarantee you I have looked at all of them and none provide dispositive evidence).

The stakes involved are astronomical. This “devil” virus as Xi so accurately called it has caused a pandemic, a near depression and is destroying millions of lives. If it escaped into Wuhan due to an accident then Xi and the PRC would face excruciating pressures from around the world, and perhaps from within China, to be held accountable, which could lead to all sorts of unpredictable domestic and international outcomes.

If US officials want to convince the world the virus leaked from a Wuhan Lab they are going to have to do a much better job of proving the claims, and they will also need to have allies on board. Those allies I expect will demand a very high standard of proof given the fixed intelligence that helped lead the US and several key allies into the disastrous 2003 Iraq invasion. From what I am hearing, and from media reports, the intelligence community has not yet found dispositive evidence.

Meanwhile, China makes it easier to believe the circumstantial evidence. Zhao Lijian and the disinformation attack suggesting the US Army created the virus could be viewed as a kind of prophylactic propaganda against future revelations the leadership is very worried about.

A few weeks ago there was talk of some sort of split inside the system over Zhao Lijian and his conspiracy theories. In the March 23 newsletter I expressed my skepticism:

I am skeptical of claims of a meaningful split. One is certainly possible, and no doubt there are people inside the system who understand the damage Zhao is causing, but the evidence is not yet sufficient to support something more significant. Zhao appears popular among much of the Chinese public, and he has clearly answered Xi’s earlier call for more “fighting spirit” from PRC diplomats.

Inside China the Ministry of Propaganda does not appear to be pushing back on the spread of the virus origin and anti-American rumors by Zhao or others in official media and on social media. Would Wang Huning and his propaganda system allow this garbage to remain uncensored if Xi were against it?

Yesterday I found via Twitter a CGTN Arabic video from 4 weeks ago pushing the same conspiracy theory. It has English subtitles:

The host, “Ms. V”, advertises her Facebook, Instagram and Youtube accounts at the end of the video. The USSR would have loved to be able to use American social media platforms, had they existed then, to prosecute its global information war against the US.

CGTN is part of the propaganda system, not the Foreign Affairs system. Zhao looks less like an outlier and more like an implementer of a policy set from above.

Thanks for reading, hope to see you tomorrow in the open thread.

The Essential Eight

1. Virus origins

Sources believe coronavirus originated in Wuhan lab as part of China's efforts to compete with US | Fox News

There is increasing confidence that COVID-19 likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory not as a bioweapon, but as part of China's effort to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details of early actions by China's government and seen relevant materials tell Fox News.

This may be the "costliest government coverup of all time," one of the sources said.

The sources believe the initial transmission of the virus was bat-to-human, and that "patient zero" worked at the laboratory, then went into the population in Wuhan.

The “increasing confidence” comes from classified and open-source documents and evidence, the sources said. Fox News has requested to see the evidence directly...

Documents detail early efforts by doctors at the lab and early efforts at containment. The Wuhan wet market initially identified as a possible point of origin never sold bats, and the sources tell Fox News that blaming the wet market was an effort by China to deflect blame from the laboratory, along with the country's propaganda efforts targeting the U.S. and Italy.

Trump fans flames of Chinese lab coronavirus theory during daily briefing | The Guardian

The US president’s TV network of choice, Fox News, has reported that “multiple sources” in the American government believe initial transmission of the virus was bat-to-human in a virology lab in Wuhan. Due to weak safety protocols, an infected lab worker then went to a wet market where the virus spread.

When Fox News reporter John Roberts put this to Trump at a press briefing on Wednesday, he replied: “Well, I don’t want to say that John, but I will tell you more and more we’re hearing the story.”

US explores possibility that coronavirus spread started in Chinese lab, not a market - CNN

An intelligence official familiar with the government analysis said a theory US intelligence officials are investigating is that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and was accidentally released to the public. Other sources told CNN that US intelligence hasn't been able to corroborate the theory but is trying to discern whether someone was infected in the lab through an accident or poor handling of materials and may have then infected others.

U.S. intel community examining whether coronavirus emerged accidentally from a Chinese lab - NBC News

The U.S. intelligence community is examining whether the coronavirus that caused the global pandemic emerged accidentally from a Chinese research lab studying diseases in bats, current and former U.S. intelligence officials tell NBC News.

Spy agencies have ruled out that the coronavirus was man-made, the officials say. But scientists at a military and a civilian lab in Wuhan, where the virus originated, are known to have conducted ongoing research on coronaviruses, officials say. They say intelligence agencies have gathered and are weighing evidence that an employee of one of the labs could have become accidentally infected and left the facility with the virus.

"It's a possibility, though not the most likely possibility," one official said.

Bret Baier: Sources 'Confident' Coronavirus Started in Wuhan Lab - Mediaite

Fox News anchor Bret Baier detailed on Hannity new reporting that “multiple sources” believe the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab before accidentally escaping and infecting the population.

“This is from multiple sources who have been briefed at the beginning part of the origins of China and the beginning of the virus. They’ve also seen documents, open source and classified,” Baier said of his reporting on Hannity Wednesday night. “We’ve asked to see those documents directly, but they are saying that it is increasingly likely, that there is increasing confidence that the virus — Covid-19 — started in a Wuhan lab.”

Hannity - Pompeo urges Chinese government to cooperate, provide accurate data - YouTube

Pompeo rips China in response to Wuhan lab report: Beijing 'needs to come clean and needs to be accountable' | Fox News

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated his call Wednesday for the Chinese government to "open up" and share the full story of how the coronavirus pandemic began in the city of Wuhan.

"What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China," Pompeo told "The Story". "We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There is still lots to learn. The United States government is working diligently to figure it out."

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Martha MacCallum of Fox News - United States Department of State

ECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Martha, thanks for having me on the show tonight. The mere fact that John had to ask the question, the mere fact that we don’t know the answers, that China hasn’t shared the answers, I think is very, very telling. To your point, the President said that there are multiple sources. What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There’s still lots to learn. You should know that the United States Government is working diligently to figure this out.

But what we really need, Martha, we really need the Chinese Government to open up. They say they want to cooperate. One of the best ways they could find to cooperate would be to let the world in, to let the world’s scientists know exactly how this came to be, exactly how this virus began to spread.

Today you saw further evidence that there were days – days that went by – from when the Chinese Communist Party, the leadership there, knew about this virus before they told the public writ large. That’s dangerous. A lot of cases, a lot of movement, a lot of travel around the world before the Chinese Communist Party came clean about what really transpired there.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on April 16, 2020

RIA Novosti: Fox News reported citing multiple sources that the novel coronavirus was leaked from a lab. I wonder what is China's comment on this publication?

Zhao Lijian: China's position with regard to the origin and transmission routes of the novel coronavirus is clear. It is a matter of science on which we should only rely on the findings of scientists and medical experts.

I'd like to remind you that the WHO has repeatedly stated that there is no evidence showing the virus was made in a lab. Many renowned medical specialists in the world have also debunked the "lab leakage" theory as not science-based at all.

Infectious diseases are common enemies to human beings. The international community can only defeat them with concerted efforts. China will continue to stand in solidarity and render mutual assistance with other countries to jointly overcome the pandemic.

A podcast I joined last week - The Open Mind, Hosted by Alexander Heffner - A Pandemic’s Origins and Viral Geopolitics

2. The outbreak

46 New Confirmed Covid-19 Cases Reported on Chinese Mainland - Yicai

Chinese health authority said today that it received reports of 46 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on the mainland yesterday, of which 34 were imported.

The other 12 new cases were domestically transmitted, the National Health Commission said in a daily report, noting that five cases were reported in Guangdong province, four in Heilongjiang province and three in Beijing.

2 markets in Moscow tied to Suifenhe cases - China Daily

Most of the confirmed imported novel coronavirus cases in Suifenhe, a border city with Russia, worked in two large markets in Moscow, according to an epidemiological investigation by the Heilongjiang health commission.

The small city in Heilongjiang province has become a hot spot for imported cases after many people who recently returned to China via Suifenhe were confirmed with COVID-19.

Hubei sends anti-virus supplies to Heilongjiang - China Daily

Hubei provincial authorities on Wednesday mobilized medical supplies and protective gear valued at 30 million yuan ($4.3 million) and delivered them to Heilongjiang province, which has been stricken by the novel coronavirus outbreak, to help it fight the epidemic.

The first batch of the materials was delivered to the city of Suifenhe


After Harbin reported 38 new cases (15 asymptomatic) in the past two weeks, Heilongjiang governor had a meeting with the city’s top officials and “severely criticized” them for not allowing this happened. The governor demanded the officials to examine their mistake and report back their plans to rectify. Caixin report said the latest outbreak started with a woman who traveled back from the United States on March 19, and back then the city has not imposed rules to quarantine tourists from United States.


Shanxi province has reported 61 cases in the past two weeks. Most of them are passengers who flew from Moscow to Beijing but transited in Taiyuan, Shanxi. This is because started in late March, China demanded all international fights heading to Beijing must land first in a separate province so the passengers can take tests before they fly to Beijing.

Comment: Is Russia now the biggest source of imported cases for China?

Military medics leave Wuhan after completing aid mission - Xinhua

Following the instructions of Xi, the Chinese military has sent more than 4,000 medical personnel to help fight COVID-19 in the hardest-hit city of Wuhan since Jan. 24.

During their mission, three hospitals supported by the military medics provided 2,856 beds and admitted 7,198 COVID-19 patients.

While successfully completing their treatment mission, none of the medics were infected by the disease.

Comment: Remarkable, some might say unbelievable, that no one in the PLA, and especially the thousands of medics who went to Wuhan, caught the virus…

Student returning from US causes infection of 3 family members in Beijing - Global Times

Beijing reported three COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, who were all related to a student returning from the US, a Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention official revealed on Thursday.

The Chinese student was confirmed with the infection two days after leaving the centralized quarantine center in Beijing.

财新:解药|瑞德西韦中国试验全部停止 研究结果何时公布?

Citing website Clinical Trial, Caixin reported that the two trials in China of Remdesivir, possible cure for the coronavirus, have been suspended for the lack of patients. Doctor Cao Bin, who led the trials in China, said earlier that he couldn’t find enough candidates for the trials because other medicines, which are less likely to be the cure, were also asking for clinical trials. Also, the bar for candidates in these Remdesivir trials is much higher than other tests.


Yunnan government said it is facing “extremely high risk” of importing coronavirus cases from its porous border with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. It said a total of 25 border counties are now ready to build or activate their reserved hospitals if there is a large outbreak, and 20 CDCs on the border counties have be upgraded to monitor the virus. They will be able to conduct virus tests for more than 10,000 people a day.

Wuhan Starts Testing to Determine Level of Immunity From Coronavirus - WSJ $$

Wuhan’s Zhongnan Hospital found that 2.4% of its employees and 2% to 3% of recent patients and other visitors, including people tested before returning to work, had developed antibodies, according to senior doctors there.

“This is a long way from herd immunity,” said Wang Xinghuan, the head of Zhongnan hospital, one of the city’s largest. “So a vaccine may be our last hope.”


“He Yin” in People’s Daily boasted about China’s efforts to combat coronavirus and said this shows Chinese government is the most responsible in protecting their citizens’ human rights, which entails the right to live. It said the Wuhan lockdown and the aids for Wuhan from different provinces all demonstrates that, “this is no doubt the most valuable human rights protection in this special time.”

3. Japan decoupling?

Xi fears Japan-led manufacturing exodus from China - Nikkei Asian Review 

In Zhongnanhai, the area in central Beijing where leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and the state government have their offices, "there are now serious concerns over foreign companies withdrawing from China," a Chinese economic source said. "What has particularly been talked about is the clause in Japan's emergency economic package that encourages (and funds) the re-establishment of supply chains."…

Signals of Abe's new policy were visible as early as March 5…

On that date, coincidentally the same day the postponement of Xi's Japan visit was announced, the Japanese government held a meeting of the Council on Investments for the Future. Abe, who chairs the council, said he wanted high value-added product manufacturing bases to come home to Japan.

At the table were influential business leaders such as Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, the country's biggest business lobby better known as Keidanren…

Abe's remarks were clear. They came as disruptions hit the procurement of auto parts and other products for which Japan relies on China, seriously impacting corporate Japan's activities.

And they asked for something more than the traditional "China plus one" concept, in which companies add a non-China location to diversify production.

Abe was forming a "shift away from China" policy.

With the nation transfixed by coronavirus coverage, the proposal failed to generate big headlines in Japan.

4. US-China

Possible Chinese Nuclear Testing Stirs U.S. Concern - WSJ $$

China might be secretly conducting nuclear tests with very low explosive power despite Beijing’s assertions that it is strictly adhering to an international accord banning all nuclear tests, according to a new arms-control report to be made public by the State Department.

The coming report doesn’t present proof that China is violating its promise to uphold the agreement, but it cites an array of activities that “raise concerns” that Beijing might not be complying with the “zero-yield” nuclear-weapons testing ban.

China says U.S. accusations in arms control report "not worth refuting" - Xinhua

Positioning itself as a judge and model, the United States has kept concocting the so-called annual "arms control compliance report" in recent years, in which it sticks its nose into other countries' arms control and non-proliferation policies and measures, Zhao told a press briefing.

"This is confounding white with black. The guilty party is shifting the blame onto the innocent," he said.

Biggest Trump super PAC test drives #BeijingBiden campaign - Axios

The ads, previewed by Axios, are slightly different for each state, to target different audiences. They attack Biden for "his weakness" on China and globalist ideals, which the group charges led to "hundreds of thousands of jobs" being sent overseas.

Each ad shows a clip of Biden speaking at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, in 2011: “I believed in 1979 . . . and I believe now that a rising China is a positive development," he said.

A spokesperson for America First Action tells Axios that the PAC has already poll-tested these themes, and as the ads air will continue monitoring their performance.

The group is simultaneously unveiling a new website, "," carrying opposition research that highlight's Biden's ties to China and China's failures in addressing the pandemic

The ad:

And there is this from one of the President’s sons, I am not looking forward to the campaign rhetoric over the next several months:

Kicked Out of China - The New York Times The Daily Podcast

Interview with Paul Mozur

China’s Export Restrictions Strand Medical Goods U.S. Needs to Fight Coronavirus, State Department Says - WSJ $$

A Shanghai vice mayor told Minnesota-based conglomerate 3M Co. MMM -3.32% that the city “relies on 3M’s locally produced N-95 respirators for its Covid-19 prevention efforts and lacks viable alternatives,” a second memo said. The official “signaled that lifting restrictions on distribution of the company’s masks would require instructions from Beijing,” the memo said.

PerkinElmer said it is working with the Chinese government to clear the test kits. 3M said it has received shipments from China and is working to coordinate more, though fewer planes are available than usual.

5. Foreign work

Xi Jinping has a phone call with Vladimir Putin - CGTN

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday that politicizing and labeling the pandemic are not conducive to international cooperation and called on China and Russia to work together to maintain global public health security...

Noting that some people's attempts to discredit China on the source of the virus are unacceptable, Putin said Russia is willing to continue to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with China in various fields and within the framework of the United Nations and other international organizations.

Chinese readout of Xi-Putin call - 习近平同俄罗斯总统普京通电话--时政--人民网


Qiushi Journal Publishes Article by General Secretary Xi Jinping Entitled "Solidarity and Cooperation Are the Most Powerful Weapons for the International Community to Defeat COVID-19"

China's response to the outbreak is swift, decisive and effective. It has made enormous sacrifice in battling the virus. The Chinese strength, spirit and efficiency demonstrated by the Chinese people and China's role as a responsible major country have been highly commended by the international community. It is a widely shared view that while taking comprehensive and forceful measures to control the outbreak at home, China has actively engaged in cooperation and information-sharing with WHO and the world, speedily shared the complete genome sequences of certain virus strains, and developed fast testing kits. This represents not only China's commitment to the safety and health of its own people but also a contribution to the cause of global public health.


CCTV commentary on the Wednesday evening news praising Xi Jining’s efforts to promote international cooperation and urge the world to follow Xi’s call to do more together.

Wang Yi's essay in the latest Qiushi - Following Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy to Build a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind Through International Cooperation Against COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has dragged the whole human race into a fierce war with a highly infectious disease on a global scale. Facing the sudden and unprecedented attack of a virus unknown before, the Chinese people are pulling together with the whole world. Looking out for each other in these trying times, mankind have written a new chapter of building a global community with a shared future. On both fronts, domestic response and international cooperation, we have followed the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, fully brought to bear the strengths of our system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and acted as a responsible major country. This has won high recognition from the international community...

There will be a day when the outbreak is over and mankind prevail. We are confident that under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China will be the first to win a full victory against COVID-19. We are convinced that with solidarity and cooperation among countries, mankind will stand the test of this outbreak.

We believe that when the outbreak is over, China's friendship with the world will grow stronger. China's cooperation with the world will become more solidly based. The notion that China shares the same future with the world will win the heart of the people. And countries will take bigger and more solid steps toward a community with a shared future for mankind!

China donates COVID-19 test kits to Syria - Xinhua

China on Wednesday donated 2,016 COVID-19 test kits to the Syria to help its fight against the novel coronavirus.

Chinese embassy refutes alleged "pandemic debt" from German tabloid - Xinhua

The Chinese Embassy in Germany on Thursday published an open letter refuting an article carried by local tabloid BILD claiming China owes a "debt" to Germany due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter said BILD' report was in a bad style as "it held one country responsible for a pandemic affecting the whole world" and even presented an explicit account of alleged Chinese debts to Germany.

China donates testing kits, thermometers to help Lebanon fight COVID-19 - Xinhua

China on Thursday donated 3,000 PCR testing kits and 200 manual thermometers to Lebanon to help the country fight against COVID-19.

Chinese doctors to help Kyrgyzstan fight COVID-19 - Xinhua

The Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan told Xinhua that the Chinese side will send a medical team of 10 people. The time and details for the arrival remain under consideration.


People’s Daily WeChat account Xiakedao wrote that Chinese audiences should be careful in reading fake news meant to feed nationalism. The article said, though China should be proud of its achievement in containing the virus spread, it should also realize that there are people still accusing China for early cover up and “at this moment, we should do solid work and say things honestly. We should respond when we should and ignore those that should be ignored. The last thing we should do is to fabricate things and boast our achievement blindly ---- our nation’s confidence can never be built on boasts or rumors.”

China will have to answer hard questions on coronavirus outbreak: UK foreign minister - Reuters

China will have to answer hard questions on how the coronavirus outbreak happened and on whether it could have been prevented, British foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday.

“There absolutely needs to be a very very deep dive after-the-event review of the lessons, including on the outbreak of the virus... it needs to be driven by the science,”

6. Wolf warrior diplomacy

West feels challenged by China’s new ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy - Global Times

In some Westerners' eyes, Chinese diplomats are using "Wolf Warrior" style diplomacy, named after the 2015 patriotic action film and its 2017 sequel. This seemingly has made the West feel challenged.

Those Western people said the tone of Chinese diplomats has become increasingly more strident and combative. China's foreign ministry spokespersons Zhao Lijian and Hua Chunying have taken to Twitter to defend China and hit back against unwarranted criticisms from the US-led West, especially amid the current global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese ambassadors in various countries have also spoken up against groundless accusations launched by the West..

Moreover, as Chinese diplomacy increasingly reflects the interests of its people, they have become more astute in diplomatic affairs. They are no longer satisfied with a flaccid diplomatic tone.

Some claim that China is abandoning its principle of "hiding its ability and biding its time" which it stuck to over the past 30 years. The "Wolf Warrior" style of diplomacy doesn't contradict this principle, it's just less subtle. The reasoning behind this principle was to dilute ideological conflicts and concentrate on development, and China's national policy has always prioritized economic development. China embraces globalization and multilateral cooperation. The growing influence of China worldwide can be largely attributed to internationalization and the force of markets. 

Perhaps the West is wary of China's "Wolf Warrior" style of diplomacy because it's not afraid to expose the true face of the West.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Wang Wenwen based on an interview with Chu Yin, a professor at the University of International Relations.


Professor Shi Zhan of Foreign Affairs University discussed US-China decoupling in an interview with WeChat account Zhenghedao. Shi argued that the decoupling will mostly happen in security related industries and China should try its best to soften this impact and to clear mistrusts in the world, instead of pursuing the wolf warrior diplomacy, which will only further isolate itself from others. 


7. Growing Xenophobia in China?

Hearing lots of anecdotes, hard to quantify. But I always felt it was never too far below the surface, and perhaps in the current stress it is become more apparent?

As Coronavirus Fades in China, Nationalism and Xenophobia Flare - The New York Times

Last month, China barred virtually all foreigners from entering, even though it had criticized other countries for closing their borders. Officials emphasize that most of China’s new cases are now imported — often without mentioning that many are Chinese citizens returning home...

Jörg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, recently said that the scope of limitations on foreigners in China was “much deeper” than in other countries and “excludes us from a lot of public spaces.” The chamber has called China’s restrictions on arriving foreigners an “unprecedented challenge” for corporations.

Who is behind the fake news of ‘discrimination’ against Africans in China? - Global Times

Who is behind the fragmented video clips and partial stories of discrimination that have suddenly surfaced on overseas social media, especially on Twitter?

By digging into a large number of accounts that hype up the current tensions between China and African countries, the Global Times found that some African media, having been deeply influenced by biased reports from Western media, only chose to tell one-sided stories when reporting on China. Anti-government politicians in some African countries are stirring up discord over Chinese cities' anti-epidemic management; overseas anti-China groups and Hong Kong separatists are zealously leading discussions toward criticism of the Chinese government, and many zombie accounts have been created to spread fake videos to fuel the idea of "China's discrimination" against Africans.

COVID-19: FG blames alleged ill-treatment of Nigerians in China on poor communication - Businessday NG

Following the controversy that emerged that Chinese authorities in Guangzhou in the Guangdong province have allegedly maltreated Nigerians and other Africans in their quest to enforce measures against COVID-19, the Federal Government has attributed the alleged ill-treatment on poor communication between the Chinese authorities and African consulates in Guangzhou, China.

China Police Censor Tales of Post-Coronavirus Renewal - The New York Times - Paul Mozur's last story before he was expelled

Having a quick meal at a half-filled McDonald’s before heading for the train station, my colleague and I were quietly talking when a young man wearing a bright yellow hoodie approached. He pointed at me. “You foreign trash,” he said. “Foreign trash! What are you doing in my country? And you, with him, you bitch.”

He hovered over us menacingly for a few minutes before moving on. His tirade, and the fact that no one in the restaurant said a word, felt bleakly appropriate.

As sad as I am to leave, people like him aren’t sad to see me go.

8. Open letters

Open Letter: Foreign policy experts call for end to hate crimes against Asian American community - USA Today

We, the undersigned, are alarmed by the severity of such hate crimes and race-based harassment against people of Asian descent in the United States — assaults that endanger the safety, well-being, dignity and livelihoods of all those targeted. We are not alone. On March 20, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights expressed concern over violent attacks against people of Asian descent. Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders and organizations have condemned such bigotry and mobilized important resources and initiatives to counter racism and xenophobia...

History teaches us that injustice and divisions in the United States can be exploited by other governments for strategic purposes. These issues can play into the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda in ways that undermine U.S. unity, national interests and global leadership while weakening U.S. concerns and critiques of Beijing’s human rights abuses. There continue to be compelling reasons to examine factors that facilitated the rapid diffusion of the outbreak from its origin in China, including the Chinese government’s apparent failure to heed the early concerns of doctors, initial suppression of such warnings and subsequent disinformation about the source of the novel coronavirus.

The Communist Party’s rule by fear endangers Chinese citizens—and the world

On 2 April 2020 a group of one hundred Chinese establishment scholars wrote an open letter decrying the "many critical voices politicizing the COVID-19 pandemic". They stated that "(at) this stage of the pandemic, the exact source and origin of COVID-19 remain undetermined, but these questions are unimportant and finger pointing is demeaning and hurtful to everyone". They also argued against what they alleged is the politicizing of the epidemic.

The open letter exemplifies what the independent intellectual Professor Xu Zhangrun has called the "ridiculous 'Red Culture' and the nauseating adulation that the system heaps on itself via shameless pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn."..

The global pandemic forces us all to confront an inconvenient truth: by politicizing all aspects of life including people’s health, continued autocratic one-party rule in the People’s Republic of China has endangered everyone. Rather than trusting the CCP’s intentions and accepting establishment academics’ uncritical approval of the party-state’s policies, we should pay greater attention to the voices of what can be termed ‘unofficial’ China. These independent-minded academics, doctors, entrepreneurs, citizen journalists, public interest lawyers and young students no longer accept the CCP’s rule by fear. Neither should you.

Comment: As a policy I do not sign open letters, and in full disclosure I was invited to sign both of these

Obscure Western scholars seek eyeballs with open letter accusing Chinese system - Global Times

In the time of the unprecedented pandemic that calls for collaboration worldwide, observers noted some bottom-barrel, disqualified, self-claimed academics were peddling hate by smearing China in an attempt to steal the spotlight after the latest such attempt was unveiled in an open letter to the public on Tuesday.

The open letter entitled "The Communist Party's rule by fear endangers Chinese citizens - and the world" and signed by a so-called international group of public figures, security policy analysts and China watchers, in a response to another open letter written by 100 Chinese scholars to people of the US, published on The Diplomat on April 2.

MacKay, O’Toole add names to open letter condemning China’s coronavirus response - National |

Several prominent Conservatives have added their names to an open letter condemning China‘s efforts to conceal the spread of the coronavirus as that country’s “Chernobyl moment.”

Conservative leadership candidates Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole, Conservative defence critic James Bezan and New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson have all signed on along with more than 100 political representatives and foreign policy experts from around the world...

When the letter first went up on Tuesday, no Canadian MPs had signed on despite there being representatives from other parliamentary institutions in allied countries.

Business, Economy and Trade

刘元春:衰退对就业影响大于增长,政策目标应相机调整 Economist Liu Yuanchun of Renmin University of China said on a panel that every percentage point drop in GDP growth means three or four million people will be out of jobs. He suggested China set a GDP goal this year at 5% or 5.5% this year…Liu said China would need a 5% growth to employ eight million new labor force, and a 5.5% growth for 11 million.

China job listings tumble by 27 per cent in first quarter as economic toll of pandemic mounts | South China Morning Post The study, which tracked 23 million new job posts on Chinese recruitment site, is a fresh warning about China’s economic future, including its role in the global economy and prospects for young jobseekers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

财新:疫情致部分租户退租,北京写字楼空置率创十年新高 Caixin reported that in Beijing, the 13.2% office building vacancy rate in Q1 is the highest of the past decade. Real estate companies said right now it seems only those companies in IT or finance can afford to rent new space.

China Home Prices Resume Upward Climb as Virus Impact Abates - Bloomberg Whether the slight home-price growth in March is a precursor to a full rebound remains to be seen. State-owned newspapers have reported that the virus won’t change President Xi Jinping’s stance that homes are for living in, not for speculation.

Billionaire Who Bet Big on Cinemas Stung by Theater Shutdown - Bloomberg On Wednesday, Wanda Film reported a preliminary first-quarter loss of 550 million yuan to 650 million yuan ($92 million), compared with a profit of 400 million yuan a year earlier. It attributed the results to the shuttering of all movie theaters because of the virus. AMC furloughed employees and cut pay for top executives to conserve cash. It closed all venues indefinitely in mid-March.

China central bank will continue to support smaller firms via targeted RRR cuts - Reuters China’s central bank said on Thursday it will continue to guide credit to support the real economy, especially smaller firms, via measures including targeted cuts in banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRR) and re-lending.

Coronavirus: More Than 5,000 Chinese Film, TV Firms Go Out Of Business – Variety More than 5,000 Chinese film and TV companies have cancelled or revoked their business registrations so far this year, nearly twice the tally for the entirety of 2019, a state-run media outlet said Wednesday. That is a signal of the devastating impact of the coronavirus outbreak on China’s film industry.

HNA in chaos as internal divisions erupt in public | Financial Times $$ In a letter published online on Thursday, the airline-to-insurance business criticised its own finance department for its handling of an investor meeting that prompted a suspension of trading in HNA’s debt. The statement underlined the conglomerate’s growing credit problems — which have been compounded by coronavirus — and factional rifts that have hurt its operations since the sudden death of a top executive two years ago.

China sees no large-scale foreign investment withdrawal amid coronavirus impact: MOC - Xinhua Foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Chinese mainland fell 10.8 percent year on year in the first quarter influenced by the novel coronavirus outbreak, data from the MOC showed. But the decline of FDI in March was 11.5 percentage points narrower than that in February, and foreign investment in high-tech services surged 15.5 percent year on year in the first three months.

IPO Approval Committee Gains New Members Amid Application Backlog - Caixin China’s securities regulator plans to nearly double the number of people on its IPO approval committee, in order to maintain business as usual amid a boom in applications for listings and refinancing.

Baoshang Bank Reborn as New Lender Takes Over - Caixin Mengshang Bank Co. Ltd., a new commercial bank set up to take over Baoshang’s operations in its home territory of Inner Mongolia, officially came into being on Saturday at a ceremony attended by the lender’s new chairman and president, sources with knowledge of the event told Caixin.

The jobs survey - 报告|超2300万条职位大数据解读:新冠疫情对劳动力市场、中国及全球产业链的影响

Meituan's Merchant Relations Comes to a Deadlock as Commission Rises- PingWest China’s Guangdong Restaurant Association (GRA), an industry organization representing food business owners in the province, released a negotiation letter on Weibo last week, complaining about the excessive commissions and manipulative exclusive partnership clauses enforced by Meituan-Dianping, China’s largest on-demand food delivery platform. The organization, along with 32 other similar organizations in the province, called on Meituan to cut its commissions by 5% if it is the company's plan to help out the restaurant industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic

Foxconn to Build New Chip Plant in China’s Qingdao - Yicai Hon Hai Precision Industry, the world’s largest contract electronics maker better known as Foxconn, will build a high-end semiconductor chip manufacturing and testing plant in Qingdao in China’s eastern Shandong province. The new plant will be jointly funded by Foxconn and the local government

Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Reveals 16% Profit Boost in First Post-IPO Earnings - Yicai Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway made 16 percent more in net profit at CNY11.9 billion (USD1.7 billion) last year from a year before, the Beijing-based company said in its earnings report published yesterday. The firm's revenue climbed by 6 percent to CNY32.9 billion.

Bucking the trend - The dollar’s dominance masks China’s rise in finance | Finance and economics | The Economist The yuan makes up just 2% of payments and global reserves. But three factors mean that Beijing could emerge from the current crisis with a stronger hand: the increasing allure of China’s government bonds; its role as a creditor; and its technological clout.

Coronavirus: China’s traders at famed Yiwu market turn to e-commerce, WeChat, TikTok in bid to survive | South China Morning Post “We traders in the market are facing a common challenge: few foreign customers. We have hundreds of employees including factory workers and sales force, now we may have to adjust the structure [of sales] a little bit,” she said.

Key Part of China Shadow Banking Faces Doubling of Defaults - Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance The once fast-growing pocket of shadow banking in China has 5.4 trillion yuan ($766 billion) in trust offerings coming due this year, high-yield products backed by loans that are sold to banks, institutional investors and wealthy individuals. About 300 of these products will go into default compared with last year’s record of 118, estimated Xu Zijun, a Beijing-based senior analyst at Reality Finance Research. A hint of the wider danger came last month when Anxin Trust Co., a particularly aggressive shadow lender, said the government had been involved in its rescue plan to avoid triggering “systemic financial risks.”

Politics and Law

More 40-Something Officials Appointed to Key Regional Positions - Caixin As of April 15, eight “post-70s” officials — those born in the 1970s who make up the youngest generation of the current Communist Party leadership — have won promotion this year to deputy governor or equivalent positions at either provincial or ministerial levels, bring their total number to 28.

Opinion | Does China’s Propaganda Work? - The New York Times OpEd - Maria Repnikova China’s propaganda has matured — but so have its targets. Instead of delivering diktat and defensiveness, the government now engages in selective dialogue with its audiences and their criticisms, featuring those views in its own storytelling, or its retelling of them. So far, this seems to have played to the Communist Party’s advantage, partly by forcing it to keep adapting its messaging. But the public, in China and abroad, in turn is reinterpreting the propaganda, and further testing the party’s agility.

China Holds Filmmaker Who Was Making Documentary About Xu Zhiyong - RFA Authorities in the Chinese capital are holding a documentary filmmaker who was making a film about now-detained dissident Xu Zhiyong. Chen Jiaping, who has also used the name Chen Yong, was detained in early March on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," according to multiple reports.

Foreign and Defense Affairs

China’s spy agency goes public with espionage and subversion plots | South China Morning Post tate broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday that three of the espionage cases highlighted by the Ministry of State Security involved researchers and engineers who worked for Chinese military contractors or institutes and had access to sensitive information about the country’s naval and aviation projects.

触目惊心!国家机关首次对外披露叛逃案-中国长安网 CCTV report on the alleged spies. This picture is of the US capitol, so I guess the couple who work in the aviation sector who left China came to the US

China starts compiling PLA's weapons & equipment history - China Military The Equipment Development Department (EDD) under China's Central Military Commission (CMC), in collaboration with the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) and the PLA Academy of Military Science, has officially launched the compilation of Weapons and Equipment History of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which is expected to be completed in 2027

Pandemic geopolitics - Is China winning? | Leaders | The Economist The 1920s showed what happens when great powers turn selfish and rush to take advantage of the troubles of others. The covid-19 outbreak has so far sparked as much jostling for advantage as far-sighted magnanimity. Mr Trump bears a lot of blame for that. For China to reinforce such bleak visions of superpower behaviour would be not a triumph but a tragedy.

West must do more to stop China buying up technology: former UK spy chief - Reuters The West needs to do more to stop China buying up strategic technology including companies such as British semiconductor chip designer Imagination Technologies, the former head of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service said on Thursday.

China Reform Holdings, whose recent plans to take over management of Imagination Technologies appears to have been thwarted, says very clearly on its site that the goal is to transfer the tech back to China. Screenshot below in case it gets removed:

澎湃新闻:微信回应"多国渴望回归中国"文: 删227篇 封号153个 WeChat said a total of 153 WeChat news accounts have been suspended for writing fake news articles that claim neighboring regions and countries such as Vietnam, Mongolia and Kazakhstan “want to return to be part of China”. 227 of such articles have been deleted, said WeChat


Taiwan Wades Into Hotly Contested Pacific With Its Own Coronavirus Diplomacy - Reuters In its own aid programme, Taiwan has donated 16 million masks to countries around the world. "We are a very small country, so it's easier for us to work with Taiwan than mainland China," Neijon Edwards, the Marshall Islands ambassador to Taiwan, told Reuters at the donation ceremony in Taipei. China has been too overbearing, she added.

As U.S. discouraged mask use for public, White House team raced to secure face coverings from Taiwan for senior staff - The Washington Post Since January, deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger had been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in Asia, aides said, and was warning White House leaders that he believed it posed a grave threat to the United States...Pottinger, who began wearing a basic surgical mask before his senior peers, was in search with members of his team of both a reliable supply of face coverings for the nation and for NSC staff and other White House personnel, according to people familiar with the situation...During a call on March 14 with an official in the Taiwanese government, he asked if the country would be willing to provide the U.S. government with some of its supply. Days later, Taiwan formally agreed to a government-to-government shipment of 500,000 masks, according to people familiar with the arrangement. The island donated surgical masks, not N95 respirators.

Tech and Media

TSMC warns chip market will stagnate in 2020 after coronavirus - Nikkei Asian Review Chairman Mark Liu confirmed the company is "actively" considering construction of a new plant in the U.S, after the Nikkei Asian Review reported in March that TSMC is weighing a U.S. facility to ease political pressure from Washington. "But as I told investors before, there's a cost gap that is hard to accept at this point. Of course, we are doing everything to reduce that cost gap," Liu said.

Panel maker BOE teams with Qualcomm despite US-China rivalry - Nikkei Asian Review Chinese display manufacturer BOE Technology Group and U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm announced a partnership Wednesday to develop panels with an advanced fingerprint recognition technology, even as tensions between Washington and Beijing make such arrangements difficult.

Drone-Maker DJI Says It Can’t Access Data Collected Abroad - Caixin “We can’t get the data; this is not our business,” a company spokesman said Monday in response to Caixin’s questions about the issue. “Some of our commercial plans include data collection, but those (data) belong to our clients.

Xiaomi Wearables Producer Huami Sees Capital Shrink as Investors Bail - Yicai Huami’s registered capital has shrunk 45 percent after a number of investors recently withdrew financial backing for the maker of Xiaomi’s wearable devices


Chinese limits on internet complicate distance education - Inside Higher Education Some foreign universities now find themselves unable to engage fully with students who have returned to mainland China during the coronavirus pandemic. Educators are scrambling to upload materials to whatever platforms they find handy and usable, and many lack experience dealing with Chinese internet restrictions, widely described as the great firewall of China.

Ministry of education canceled college standardized tests scheduled in the first half on this year. - 为落实国家关于新冠肺炎疫情防控工作部署及教育部相关通知要求,切实保障考生、考试工作人员的身体健康和生命安全,经研究决定,取消原定于2020年上半年举行的以下考试项目