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By Ding Yi / Mar 24, 2020 12:37 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: Shen Fan/Caixinc

Photo: Shen Fan/Caixinc

Chinese internet behemoth Tencent is partnering with local disease control and prevention departments to launch a health tracking system tailored specifically to students preparing to return to school as education facilities across the country get ready to reopen for the first time in weeks.

Students can obtain a “return-to-school code” through a mini-program embedded in the multi-purpose app WeChat, allowing them to report body temperature and other health readings daily. The mini-program then gives them a color-based QR code on their smartphones that shows how healthy they are, Tencent said in a Friday statement.

The health information will be shared with WeChat Work, a business communication and office collaboration platform, which education officials and school teachers can then use to track the health status of their students, the statement said.

The return-to-school code resembles Tencent’s health code system, which was rolled out last month and allows users to obtain a log of their physical status by scanning QR codes embedded in WeChat. The service, which covers more than 300 Chinese cities and counties, has attracted 8 billion visits since early February, according to Tencent’s president Martin Lau. Alibaba’s Alipay also has a similar health code service.

The Chinese government ordered schools to shut at the end of January when the epidemic spread rapidly across the country. While some schools in less-affected provinces like Qinghai reopened to students in early March, big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have yet to announce their schools’ reopening dates.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Virus Outbreak Sparked WeChat Traffic Surge, Tencent President Says


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SOCIETY & CULTURE

By Ding Yi / Mar 23, 2020 12:45 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Hundreds of Chinese cinemas have reopened as new coronavirus cases across the mainland edge closer to zero.

As of March 21, a total of 507 cinemas across China had reopened to moviegoers, representing 4.5% of the total cinemas operating in the country, according to statistics released by ticketing agency Maoyan. The reopened cinemas currently have a temporary plan of just screening previous box-office hits.

The initial movies chosen include the 2017 action film “Wolf Warrior 2”; the 2019 sci-fi title “The Wandering Earth”; “Wolf Totem,” a 2015 drama film based on a 2004 Chinese semi-autobiographical novel of the same name; “American Dreams in China,” a 2013 Chinese movie that was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival; and “Capernaum,” a 2018 Lebanese drama film that won the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

On March 21, some 29 reopened cinemas in Xinjiang sold 25,100 yuan ($3,523) worth of tickets, accounting for about 80% of the country’s total box office revenue that day. That was followed by Inner Mongolia with 2,746 yuan worth of ticket sales, Sichuan with 2,108 yuan, Qinghai with 938 yuan and Guangdong with 55 yuan, Maoyan said.

Other provinces where cinemas have reopened include Henan and Fujian, Maoyan said.

According to a survey of the general public by Maoyan, nearly 70% of respondents considered going to the cinema as their top choice for entertainment once the epidemic ends, while about 30% said that they would return to cinemas as soon as they restart businesses.

China has suspended cinema operations to avoid public gatherings since the end of January as part of nationwide efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

However, the shutdowns have helped create a new trend of watching films online. “Lost in Russia,” which was set for theatrical release on the first day of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 25, was instead streamed over ByteDance-owned platforms the same day and was made free to audiences, proving to be a big hit. The decision to premiere the film online drew criticism from Chinese movie companies, with some claiming that it harmed the Chinese cinema industry’s interests.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Movies Premiere Online as Coronavirus Shuts Theaters


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By Isabelle Li and Ye Zhanqi / Mar 12, 2020 03:35 PM / Society & Culture

When human capacities fall short, can robots take the strain?

The Covid-19 outbreak has provided an unexpected chance to explore that question. Hundreds of hospitals and makeshift quarantine stations in Hubei, Guangdong and Beijing have deployed robots in various tasks — delivering meals and pills to isolated patients, testing their temperatures, disinfecting rooms, or even cooking dishes for medics after an exhausting shift.

Recent months have given the robotics industry and its latest technologies an unprecedented opportunity to showcase recent advances. As shortages of medical workers became apparent in certain virus-hit areas and direct human contact needed to be limited, machine intelligence filled in, taking over relatively fixed and repetitive tasks. The use of robots in these tasks also helped save protective gears.

Robots were not able to avoid quarantine issues completely however as robot makers found themselves constrained by local quarantine policies in many cities after they sent staffers over to hospitals to help plan how to best use the robots. Also there are issues around the factories producing the robots. Due to the virus they have experienced problems of resuming production capacity to meet demand due to difficulties in the workforce resumption, component supply, and logistics.

As China witnesses the epidemic waning at home but growing abroad, robotics companies realize that the new virus may create long term markets and have set their eyes on the opportunities created by the crisis for future business.

Read the in-depth story in full on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Isabelle Li (liyi@caixi.com)


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By Ding Yi / Mar 09, 2020 03:36 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The founders of two of China’s biggest unicorns were among the world’s top three young billionaires in 2019, according to a report which measured the wealth of 53 billionaires aged 40 and under from nine countries.

Huang Zheng, the 40-year-old founder of e-commerce upstart Pinduoduo, grew his fortune by 20% to $18 billion in 2019, claiming the second spot on the list. Zhang Yiming, the 37-year-old founder of TikTok owner ByteDance, came in third with a net worth of $13.8 billion, though his wealth was down by 1% from the previous year, according to Hurun Global 40 & Under Self-Made Billionaires 2020, which was published Monday. The wealth calculations were as of Jan. 31.

However, Huang and Zhang lagged far behind Facebook’s 35-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, who took the crown with $84 billion, up $4 billion from a year ago, the report said.

Zhang Bangxin, 39, founder of New York-listed education service provider TAL, climbed five places to become the world’s sixth richest young entrepreneur with a net worth of $10.4 billion, as the Covid-19 outbreak drove demand for online education. Shenzhen-based commercial drone maker DJI’s 40-year-old founder, Wang Tao, ranked ninth with a fortune of $6.8 billion, according to the report.

The list saw18 new faces, eight of whom were from China including Kuaishou’s Cheng Yixiao, Meituan-Dianping’s Mu Rongjun and OKCoin’s Xu Mingxing. That was three times the number the United States had.

According to the report, the e-commerce industry produced the highest number with eight billionaires, followed by the social media sector with seven billionaires.

Overall, a total of 19 young Chinese billionaires made it onto the list, one less than the United States. Others were scattered across India, Australia, Singapore, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and Russia.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (dingyi@caixin.com)

Related: China Has More Billionaires Than U.S. And India Combined: Hurun Report


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By Ding Yi / Feb 18, 2020 01:37 PM / Society & Culture

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Alibaba-owned payment platform Alipay will launch a national health code system this week to assess people’s physical status amid government calls for tech firms to contribute to the battle against the Covid-19 epidemic in China, the company said in a WeChat post.

The system was initially rolled out last week in Hangzhou, the capital of eastern China’s Zhejiang province, where residents are now asked to fill out an online form reporting their ID number, travel history and various health conditions before getting a color-based code.

People with a red code are subject to a 14-day quarantine and should provide regular check-in via DingTalk, a workplace chat app also developed by Alibaba, while those with a yellow code are quarantined for a week. A green code means people can move freely around the city.

Currently, Hangzhou residents need to have their health status scanned via a QR code when entering public places including residential communities, office buildings, supermarkets and travel checkpoints. As of Monday, Hangzhou has issued more than 7.25 million health codes including 6.7 million green codes.

Tencent has also developed a similar QR code tracking platform, which the tech giant said is currently being used in the southern city of Shenzhen and will soon be deployed in more cities in Guangdong province.

During a press conference last week, Chen Yueliang, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, encouraged Chinese tech giants including Alibaba and Tencent to develop software to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus within residential communities.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Genome Giant BGI Gets Regulator Approval to Sell Coronavirus Test Kits


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By Dave Yin / Feb 08, 2020 03:40 AM / Society & Culture

The pangolin, a scaly mammalian anteater, is the latest animal to be identified as an intermediate host of the novel coronavirus that has sickened more than 31,000 people worldwide.

According to local media reports, an analysis of genome sequences of viruses isolated from pangolins were a 99% match with those of 2019-nCoV, as the coronavirus behind the epidemic is known. Pangolins are a trafficked, critically endangered species whose scales are believed by some to have medicinal properties.

Scientists at the South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, Guangdong province in southern China, reported findings Friday from research conducted jointly with the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Science in Beijing and the research department of the Guangdong Zoo.

“This has major significance for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus,” South China Agricultural said in a statement, though it did not elaborate on the research.

While there is general consensus among scientists that the new strain of coronavirus spread from bats to another host before making the jump to humans, previous research pointing to snakes as the culprit has been disputed.

Contact reporter Dave Yin (davidyin@caixin.com)

Related: Scientists Dispute Whether Snakes Are Source of Wuhan Coronavirus In Humans

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By Denise Jia / Jan 24, 2020 06:56 AM / Society & Culture

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A quickly spreading coronavirus in China that has sickened hundreds of people and caused 17 deaths has not yet reached a level that would make it a global public health emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.

The Emergency Committee of the United Nations’ WHO announced the decision after a two-day teleconference of members and advisers in Geneva. Committee members agreed on the urgency of the situation and suggested another meeting within days to examine the situation further.

"Make no mistake, this is an emergency in China," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "But it is not yet a global health emergency."

Didier Houssin, the chair of the emergency advisory committee, said the panel was split "almost 50-50" over whether the outbreak of the coronavirus in China amounted to a global public health emergency.

The decision was made based on several critical elements, including that the source of the virus is still unknown and that the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear, the committee said.

The UN health agency said it’s expected that more cases may appear in any country, but for the moment, the WHO does not recommend any broader restrictions on travel or trade.

Cases of the illness have been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

The WHO defines a global emergency as an "extraordinary event" that poses a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. Previous global emergencies have been declared for the Zika outbreak in the Americas in 2015 and the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

Follow Caixin Global’s latest updates on the Wuhan coronavirus here.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com)

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By Jia Tianqiong, Bao Zhiming, Bai Yujie and Denise Jia / Jan 24, 2020 06:01 AM / Society & Culture

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China’s airline regulator expanded its free cancellation policy to include all domestic flights, not limited to those into and out of Wuhan, where a quickly spreading pneumonia-causing virus has killed 17 and led to quarantine of the city.

At 9:30 p.m. Thursday local time, the Civil Aviation Administration of China issued a notice instructing airlines and ticket agents to offer passengers who have booked any domestic flights free cancellations if requested. Previously the free cancellation policy applied only to flights departing, arriving and transferring at Wuhan.

The Wuhan airport shut down all departing runways as of 10 a.m. Thursday as part of the quarantine that has closed the city’s train stations and public transportation. Multiple airlines have canceled flights into and out of Wuhan as far out as Feb. 29.

The airport closure, announced at 2 a.m. Thursday, has caused challenges to carriers that operate flights transferring at Wuhan, leaving them a very short time to adjust schedules. Some airlines changed transferring flights to direct flights to final destinations.

China Eastern Airlines canceled the second part of a Thursday flight from Huai’an in Jiangsu province transferring at Wuhan to Chengdu in Sichuan after the airplane landed in Wuhan, leaving 23 passengers stranded. The airline eventually put the passengers on another flight to Chongqing, a city about 200 miles from Chengdu.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday, Air China canceled 28 Wuhan-related flights, China Eastern Airlines 78 and China Southern Airlines 108. Spring Airlines canceled all flights between Wuhan and Osaka till Jan. 28; Shenzhen Airlines, all Wuhan-related flights until Feb. 10; and Cathay Dragon airline, all Wuhan-related flights till Feb. 29.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com)

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By Dave Yin / Jan 23, 2020 06:30 PM / Society & Culture

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Scientists affiliated with UK-based universities have disputed a widely-circulated study pointing to snakes as the source of China’s deadly new coronavirus, saying that bats are more likely to be the real culprit.

A study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Virology had compared the novel virus’ genes to that of other pathogens from various geographic locations and host species. It concluded that while the virus, dubbed “2019-nCoV” by the World Health Organization, was a combination of coronaviruses found in bats and other “unknown” origins, it resided in snakes prior to making the jump to humans.

“Results derived from our evolutionary analysis suggest for the first time that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV,” wrote the study’s authors, hailing from Peking University, Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine, Ningbo University and the Wuhan University of Bioengineering.

However, scientists at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) and the Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University disputed the findings.

Citing recombination analysis, which create visual depictions of similarities between various genetic sequences, the researchers argued in a Thursday post on a medical discussion forum that 2019-nCoV is most closely related to several viruses originating from bats.

“There is no evidence of snakes being involved, although, given the propensity of coronaviruses to switch hosts, involvement of another species cannot be discounted,” wrote David L Robertson, head of CVR bioinformatics. “There is also a very good chance that a non-bat intermediate species is responsible for the beginning of the current outbreak in Wuhan.”

Coronaviruses are a category of pathogens that caused the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that emerged in 2002 and also include far less lethal viruses such as some forms of the common cold.

The study identifying snakes as the possible source also noted that those who were first infected with the 2019-nCoV virus were exposed to wildlife animals at a now-shuttered wholesale market in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei province, where seafood, poultry, snake, bats, and farm animals were sold.

On Wednesday, Chinese biology and conservation experts called on (link in Chinese) law enforcement agencies in charge of wildlife protection to step up their duties in preventing the trade and consumption of wild game.

As of Thursday, Chinese officials said (link in Chinese) 617 people had fallen sick from the virus while 17 had died. Wuhan has imposed a massive quarantine of the entire city of 11 million, suspending all bus, subway, ferry and long-distance transport systems as of 10 a.m., and have asked residents to remain in the city.

Since its discovery in December, the disease, akin to pneumonia, has spread to regions including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., and Singapore. Doctors at several major local hospitals in Wuhan told Caixin that it is estimated that the number of people infected with the epidemic may exceed 6,000.

Follow Caixin Global’s latest updates on the Wuhan coronavirus here.

Contact reporter Dave Yin (davidyin@caixin.com)

Related: Wuhan Suspends Public Transit System Amid Virus Fears


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By Matthew Walsh and Han Wei / Jan 21, 2020 09:48 AM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

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China has confirmed that the mysterious SARS-linked virus that has infected hundreds of people across the country can spread via human-to-human transmission.

Zhong Nanshan, a prominent Chinese epidemiologist who is heading the National Health Commission’s investigation into the outbreak, told state broadcaster CCTV in an interview Monday evening that the previously unknown coronavirus “definitely spreads between people.”

Human-to-human transmission has been identified in the central city of Wuhan, which remains at the heart of the investigation, and the southern province of Guangdong, which announced 14 cases of infection yesterday, Zhong said.

Fifteen medical workers in Wuhan have been diagnosed with the virus and one further case is suspected, the city’s health commission has said.

The commission also confirmed Tuesday that another person had died from illness caused by the virus. The patient, an 89-year-old man surnamed Chen, had a number of underlying health issues, the commission said.

As of Monday night, China had recorded 217 cases of the virus. Chen is the fourth person to die from the pneumonia-like disease since the outbreak erupted in December.

Follow Caixin Global’s latest updates on the Wuhan coronavirus here.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

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By Matthew Walsh / Jan 09, 2020 12:35 PM / Society & Culture

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The cause of a mysterious lung disease that since December has afflicted more than 50 people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan seems to be a virus in the same family as those that caused the deadly SARS and MERS outbreaks, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported Thursday, citing official preliminary test results.

The report comes after the World Health Organization said Wednesday that Chinese authorities suspected the spate of pneumonia cases could be due to an emerging type of coronavirus — a family of viruses that cause a number of respiratory ailments of varying severity — but that more information was required before the cause could be confirmed.

The pneumonia outbreak, which began in Wuhan last month and had infected 59 people as of Sunday morning, had triggered fears of an epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) akin to the one that killed hundreds of people in China in 2002 and 2003. Municipal health authorities investigating the current outbreak have since ruled out SARS and a number of other deadly respiratory diseases like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and bird flu.

No deaths due to the emerging form of pneumonia have so far been reported. As of Sunday, seven patients were in a serious condition and the rest were stable, the municipal health commission said. Eight people were discharged from hospital yesterday after displaying no fever or other pneumonia symptoms for several days, the CCTV report said, citing the commission.

Read the full report on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Outbreak of Mysterious Lung Disease Sparks SARS Rumors


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By Ding Yi / Jan 02, 2020 12:28 PM / Society & Culture

China’s film box office revenue rose 5.4% to 64.3 billion yuan ($9.2 billion) in 2019, a slower rate than its 9% growth during the previous year, state news agency Xinhua reported Thursday.

Domestic films garnered 41.2 billion yuan in ticket sales last year, accounting for 64% of the total box office, Xinhua said, citing data from the China Film Administration. In 2018, homegrown productions occupied 62% of the total box office.

The market share expansion of domestic films in 2019 was largely attributed to the screening of several Chinese-made blockbusters including the science-fiction film “The Wandering Earth,” the animation fantasy film “Ne Zha,” and the patriotic hit “My People, My Country,” which was shot to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

In 2019, a total of eight Chinese-made films galloped onto the annual list of the top 10 highest-grossing films in China, with “Ne Zha” raking in a record 5 billion yuan in ticket sales. 47 out of the 88 films hitting the box office mark of 100 million were homegrown movies.

China had 69,787 cinema screens nationwide by the end of 2019, an increase of 9,708 from 2018, and more than 1.7 billion film tickets were sold, a report by Communist Party-run newspaper People’s Daily said.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Patriotic Movies Break ‘Golden Week’ Box Office Records


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By Lu Yutong / Dec 30, 2019 05:24 PM / Society & Culture

A 174-kilometer high-speed railway that connects Beijing with a mountainous ski resort area to the northwest went into operation Monday, completing a key infrastructure link between the two cities that will co-host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The Beijing-Zhangjiakou line – better known as Jing-Zhang high-speed railway — is slashing the travel time between Beijing the Zhanjiakou Winter Olympics Village to just 47 minutes from a previous 3 hours.

The line into Beijing-adjacent Hebei province allows for a maximum designed speed of 350 kilometers per hour. Construction began in 2013 as part of the Beijing-Baotou railway system. It was expanded with two other lines to connect to resorts in the winter resort towns of Yanqing and Chongli in 2014 after China won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics Games. In 2016, construction of Jing-Zhang high speed railway started.

An estimated 58.41 billion yuan ($8.3 billion) was spent to build the line, according to Beijing News. China Railway Beijing Group and Beijing Infrastructure Investment Co. Ltd. contributed 27% and 25.37% of the line’s costs, respectively, alongside China Railway Development Fund and Hebei Construction Investment & Transportation Co. Ltd.

Despite its completion well in advance of 2022, the line has not been without some controversy. Construction of the Beijing section of the route faced strong pushback from local residents and officials in 2015, even though the government ultimately prevailed in the route’s construction.

Contact reporter Lu Yutong (yutonglu@caixin.com)

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By Tang Ailin and Denise Jia / Dec 28, 2019 05:14 AM / Society & Culture

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Nepali police detained 122 Chinese nationals for suspected involvement in financial crimes, law enforcement authorities said Wednesday.

Those arrested are suspected of using social media to con wealthy single or divorced Chinese women out of money, Niraj Bahadur Shahi, the chief of Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau, said at a press conference. Another police officer said the people might be involved in a Ponzi scheme.

The police sized more than 700 cellphones, 300 computers, hundreds of SIM cards and some suspects’ passports during the raids. Those arrested were held in detention centers across the Nepali capital.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a routine press conference that the arrested individuals were suspected of engaging in cross-border cyber fraud and that the arrests resulted from an important coordinated operation by the police of China and Nepal.

Some local Chinese residents told Caixin they recently noticed that many young Chinese men appeared in Kathmandu claiming they were in e-commerce or internet businesses. One Chinese resident said he was worried that the arrests might hurt local residents’ trust of Chinese people.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com)

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By Ding Yi / Dec 27, 2019 01:58 PM / Society & Culture

Some 192 million drivers in China have officially signed up for electronic toll collection (ETC) to automatically pay motorway tolls without stopping, moving a step closer to realizing the country’s ambitious plan of building a national smart transport system to reduce chronic traffic jams, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing a senior official.

Under the system, electronic readers can communicate with linked transponders in cars when they drive past, automatically charging the drivers..

China has now completed the ambitious goal of eliminating staffed toll booths on all provincial borders, and has modified 487 physical tollgates into ones that can offer the ETC service, Li Xiaopeng, head of the Ministry of Transport, said at a working conference in Beijing on Thursday, according to the report.

The ministry will continue to study the wider application of ETC-based charging technology in order to improve customer satisfaction, Li added.

The ETC device should be installed on 90% of vehicles on expressways in China by year-end, according to the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Transport.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Automation Specialist Gets Turbocharge From Campaign to Eliminate Toll Booths


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By Matthew Walsh / Dec 23, 2019 01:57 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

A pig farm in northeastern China landed itself in trouble with the authorities after a device it ostensibly installed to ward off drones interfered with the navigation systems of planes flying overhead.

Earlier this month, the state media-affiliated magazine China Comment reported that gangs were using drones to deliberately spread African swine fever through the country’s already-decimated pig herd in a bid to force farmers to sell off pork at discounted rates. The gangs then pass off the meat as coming from healthy animals to resell it at higher prices.

The farm, located in Zhaozhou County, Heilongjiang province, and operated by Heilongjiang Dabeinong Agriculture & Pastoral Food, fitted the radio-blocking gadget to prevent criminal gangs from using drones to fly items infected with the deadly African swine fever into the area, online news outlet Thepaper.cn reported Wednesday.

The incident, which occurred at the end of October, caused a number of flights in the vicinity of Harbin airport to lose GPS signals. Some even complained of failures in the satellite navigation technology used to pinpoint the position of an aircraft.

Authorities eventually found the offending device and ordered the farm to hand it in. No further punishment was administered, Thepaper.cn reported.

Earlier this month, the state media-affiliated magazine China Comment reported that gangs were deliberately further spreading African swine fever through the country’s already-decimated pig herd in a bid to force farmers to sell off pork at discount rates. The gangs then resell the meat at higher prices.

Since last summer, China has lost millions of pigs to African swine fever and seen pork prices soar.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Grim Future Seen for China’s Small Pig Breeders After Swine Fever

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By Mo Yelin / Dec 20, 2019 02:35 PM / Society & Culture

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Photo: VCG

Touted as a way to make society safer, sophisticated facial recognition systems that can identify and track individuals are increasingly showing up in unexpected places. And Chinese residents are pushing back.

A Caixin investigation shows how building managers in Shanghai quietly installed facial recognition cameras in elevators to track residents, and how powerful systems inside shopping malls analyze individual customers’ purchasing habits. In schools, students have fought back by tampering with cameras installed in their classrooms.

Despite some public unease the systems are freely available to purchase, and their use is not regulated by specific Chinese laws.

Facial recognition technology has big backers. Aside from the government, internet giants Tencent and Alibaba have pioneered its use in payment systems that could one day replace the nation’s ubiquitous QR code mobile payments.

Earlier this year, what is believed to be the first major study of Chinese public opinion on the technology found more than 70% of survey respondents favored traditional ID methods over face scans to verify their identity. Personal information leakage was among their major concerns, which has been fuelled by cases of facial data being bought and sold online.

Read the full story later today on Caixin Global.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)


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By Matthew Walsh / Dec 12, 2019 02:23 PM / Society & Culture

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Photo: VCG

China has executed a man who 19 years ago killed three officials as they prepared to force his wife to be sterilized in accordance with the now-scrapped family-planning policy commonly known as the “one-child policy.”

Wang Changsheng, of Suixi County in the eastern province of Anhui, was put to death on Dec. 4, the Intermediate People’s Court of Huaibei City announced last week.

In 2000, four rural officials prepared to forcibly sterilize Wang's wife, surnamed Li, after the birth of their second daughter. At the time, family planning laws allowed rural couples to have a second child if their first was a daughter. 

Wang and Li were residing at Li's father's home village of Miatotai and the officials planned to bring Wang and Li back to Suixi and arrange for Li to be sterilized. But during the journey, Wang attacked them with a metal hammer, killing three of them. He then absconded from justice for 17 years, changing his name to avoid detection for the murders.

The case is a reminder that the effects of China’s decades-long one-child policy haunt the country long after its abolition. In 2016, amid concerns about a looming demographic crisis, the policy was changed to allow all Chinese couples to have two children.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

This story has been updated to correct the time of the murders and the fact that they occurred over a possible forced sterilization, not a possible forced abortion as earlier reported. 

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Why Some Rural Families Have Stopped Trying for Sons

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By Matthew Walsh / Dec 10, 2019 01:21 PM / Society & Culture

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Photo: VCG

Sexual assault allegations against another high-profile Chinese scholar have reignited a public outcry over widespread harassment on the country’s university campuses.

On Friday, a female graduate student at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE) published a lengthy social media post under the pseudonym Xiao Wen accusing 55-year-old Qian Fengsheng, an associate professor at the university’s School of Accountancy, of sexual assault.

Xiao claims that after adding her as a contact on WeChat — China’s ubiquitous social messaging service — in September, Qian sent multiple unsolicited messages seemingly confessing an attraction to her. He then physically assaulted her in his car on the evening of Nov. 16, she alleges. An audio recording, purportedly taken on Xiao’s smartphone after the incident and subsequently obtained by Caixin, includes the sounds of a woman crying and a man attempting to console her.

The case has been reported to the police, according to Xiao’s social media post. On Monday evening, SUFE said in a statement that Qian had been dismissed from his position and stripped of his professional qualifications.

Sexual harassment is thought to be rife on Chinese university campuses. A 2017 survey of 6,500 students by the Guangzhou Gender and Sexuality Education Center found that nearly 70% of respondents had experienced sexual harassment at some point.

Recent years have seen a number of senior male academics accused of sexual assault by female students, with many women speaking out publicly in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements that started in the U.S. in late 2017 and early 2018, respectively. However, few allegations in China have so far resulted in convictions.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)


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By Flynn Murphy  / Dec 06, 2019 04:40 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

In China, it often feels like you can't buy a bowl of noodles without being offered a restaurant membership running to thousands of yuan. 

Large upfront payments which offer discounts or just simple access to services are seen everywhere, from high-end fitness centers to local shoe repair shops. But so too is the phenomenon of startups going up in smoke — and operators disappearing with the money people have already paid.

Now, Beijing’s city authorities are talking about tackling the problem. But some of the proposals they released late last month in a suite of draft consultation papers have raised eyebrows. 

One, dubbed the “3-month rule,” would ban fitness centers from selling memberships which tie people into contracts longer than 3 months, or with a value of more than 3,000 yuan ($425).

And laws made in Beijing often shape those in other jurisdictions. 

Caixin talked to local business owners, as well as some of the victims of defunct startups, to get their take. 

See the full story on Caixin Global later today. 

Contact reporter Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com)


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