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SOCIETY & CULTURE

By Teng Jing Xuan / Sep 19, 2019 02:53 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The trial of a journalist accused of fabricating stories has raised concerns over local governments stretching the definition of criminal “disorderly conduct” to silence dissent.

Li Xiaogen, also known as Li Gen, has been accused of offenses including disorderly conduct and “provoking trouble” for articles he wrote for the Hunan Contemporary Business Daily in 2018.

Li published stories about the seizure of a village-owned coal mine based on documents provided by villagers in Northwest China’s Shaanxi province.

Those documents were forged, but Li claims he didn’t know this when he published his stories.

Prosecutors argue he caused damage to the government’s reputation and online “chaos,” during a trial that took place between the end of August and early September this year at a court in Shenmu, a county-level city under the administration of Yulin, Shaanxi.

A judgment has yet to be reached, but Li and other defendants involved in this case argue that they were themselves victims of fraud, while a prominent academic says Li’s actions aren’t severe enough to constitute a criminal offense.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact editor Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

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SOCIETY & CULTURE

By Zhao Runhua / Sep 16, 2019 02:25 PM / Society & Culture

China’s annual national internet safety week has kicked off with a report on the lamentable state of data protection in the country.

According to the National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center (CVERC), China’s official agency for anti-virus internet security, several apps, including some backed by the country’s internet giants, are collecting user data without authorization, state broadcaster CCTV reported Sunday.

Iciba, one of the country’s most-downloaded digital dictionaries; iWan, Tencent’s gaming service app; Moji Weather, a popular forecasting app; and Fenqibao, an online micro-lending and paid-in-installments shopping app, all fail to specify the terms of data collection terms in their user agreements, CVERC said.

Meanwhile, dating app Momo, Bytedance-owned news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, e-commerce giant JD.com’s financial services app, and a UnionPay-backed mobile payment app are all suspected of harvesting user information beyond that specified in their user agreements, according to CVERC.

Other apps and software development kits may also be charging illegal service fees, damaging smartphone operating systems, or harboring severe vulnerabilities, CVERC said.

In August, the Chinese government published a draft regulation aiming to standardize data collection amid increasing public concern about online data leakage. A report published later the same month showed that many mobile apps continued to illegally acquire user information.  

Contact reporter Zhao Runhua (runhuazhao@caixin.com)

Related: ‘Deepfake’ App That Puts Your Face in the Movies Sparks Privacy Concerns

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By Han Wei and Matthew Walsh / Sep 16, 2019 09:50 AM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

In six weeks on the big screen through Sept. 10, the animated film “Ne Zha” generated 4.8 billion yuan ($6.8 billion) in box-office sales, making it the second-highest grossing film in China so far and marking an impressive milestone for China’s home-grown animated films.

But to most Chinese, the rebellious, fearsome boy depicted in the movie isn’t exactly the protection deity they would expect based on the well-known folk hero on which he is based. But that hasn’t stopped the unconventionally adapted movie from becoming a booming success.

Off the big screen, Chinese audiences’ enthusiasm for domestic animated series has also heated up following the launch on major internet platforms of several popular shows such as “Mo Dao Zu Shi,” an animated fantasy.

The wave of successful productions led by “Ne Zha” is fueling expectations that the long-awaited takeoff of China’s domestic animation industry is approaching. Investors and market players have been betting on a boom since 2015 as private equity investment funds poured into the animation sector.

Read the full story on Caixin Global.

Contact editor Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Smash Hit ‘Nezha’ Poised to Break Record for Animated Films

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By Zhao Runhua / Sep 04, 2019 11:17 AM / Society & Culture

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

After public outcry, dating app Momo’s face-swapping video app Zao apologized on Tuesday for concerns it had caused regarding controversial user privacy terms and data safety.

Zao said in a statement on its official Weibo account that the app will not store any of the users’ facial information. Backed by machine-learning techniques, Zao allows users to upload their photos and overlay them onto the faces of characters in movies or TV shows.

Zao said the edited faces in the new clips will not be valid in real-world situations and cannot meet existing facial recognition technologies’ standards — therefore, Zao’s clips or technologies won’t be able to be used for online payment purposes, the statement said.

The company also said once a user decides to uninstall Zao or delete their account, the app will remove related information as regulations require, and will “ensure the safety of personal information and data in every possible way.”

The concerns started over the weekend when people noticed the user agreement said the app has the right to use any image or video created on the platform globally for free. The panic even had leading cashless payment platform Alipay clarify that Zao’s technology won’t threaten facial-recognition payments or other scenarios.

Zao later amended the user agreement under pressure.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said it had talked to Momo to demand it to strictly perform inspection for privacy concerns users expressed.

Related: ‘Deepfake’ App That Puts Your Face in the Movies Sparks Privacy Concerns

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By Liu Yanfei, Wen Simin and Zhao Runhua / Sep 02, 2019 05:34 PM / Society & Culture

Ma Xuezheng. Photo: IC Photo

Ma Xuezheng. Photo: IC Photo

Ma Xuezheng, also known as Mary Ma, co-founder and partner at China’s well-known investment fund Boyu Capital, died Monday at the age of 66, multiple sources close to the matter told Caixin.

The cause of death provided was pancreatic cancer.

Ma was an interpreter to high-level government officials, including Deng Xiaoping, and in 1990 joined Lenovo, gradually becoming one of the company’s leading executives and orchestrating its 2005 acquisition of IBM’s personal computer business. In 2007, Ma joined private equity firm TPC and around 2011 co-founded Boyu.

Boyu is active in China’s private equity sector and has invested in companies including Alibaba and Megvii.

Ma also served as independent nonexecutive director at a few companies, including the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. She was previously selected as one of the world’s most powerful businesswomen by Forbes and Fortune magazines.

Related: Senior Party Official at Shanghai Futures Exchange Dies

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By Liu Denghui, Wang Lijun and Tang Ziyi / Aug 21, 2019 04:00 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China on Tuesday added 148 drugs to a list of medicines eligible for reimbursement under government-backed insurance plans, its latest move to ease the financial burden on Chinese patients.

The updated catalog, released by the National Healthcare Security Administration, includes 47 foreign drugs and 101 traditional Chinese medicines. Notable additions involve global names such as AstraZeneca’s Kombiglyze and Merck & Co’s Janumet, both treatments for diabetes.

Five of the medicines are for rare diseases, 36 for chronic diseases such as diabetes, and 38 for pediatric use.

At the same time, the authority removed 150 drugs from the reimbursable list, ones that have relatively lower clinical value or can be substituted with better alternatives, said Xiong Xianjun, director of the Medical Service Department at the insurance administration.

Read the full report on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (ziyitang@caixin.com)

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By Tanner Brown / Aug 19, 2019 09:51 AM / Society & Culture

Photo: Caixin

Photo: Caixin

At the foot of a mountain covered in green and surrounded by farmland, Dashuidong village in central China’s Hunan province has long been known for longevity endowed by nature. But nowadays, simply staying healthy has become a distant dream for many in the village.

Dashuidong, in Fuqiushan county, has been haunted by the highly contagious Hepatitis C virus (HCV) over the past decade. Along with two neighboring towns — Huangheqiao and Tanshanqian — the mountain villages are now notorious as Hepatitis C villages, keeping people away.

There are no accurate statistics on villagers infected by the virus because of people’s lack of awareness of early symptoms and unwillingness to report and because of frequent outflows of young people seeking urban jobs. Several villagers in Dashuidong told Caixin they think 30% to 40% of the 3,000 people there have been infected with HCV. A local disease control official said the actual figure couldn’t be that high, but he said about 2.8% of the 55,000 people in Fuqiudong county have been diagnosed with HCV infection, nearly triple the national average of 1%.

Read the full story here

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By Zhao Runhua / Aug 16, 2019 04:22 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

It’s already the most successful Chinese animated movie off all time, raking in more than 3.8 billion yuan ($539.86 million) since its release on July 26.

Now, “Nezha” — the tale of an anti-authority hero from Chinese mythology — is hoping to wow audiences abroad like it has at home.

The film will debut in cinemas in Australia and New Zealand on Aug. 23 and Aug. 29, respectively, while North American moviegoers will also be able to watch it at an unspecified future date, according to official announcements on Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

“Nezha” has topped China’s daily box-office revenue list for 21 straight days since its release, making it the country’s fourth-highest grossing movie of all time, according to data by industry tracker Maoyan data.

Contact reporter Zhao Runhua (runhuazhao@caixin.com)

Related: Smash Hit ‘Nezha’ Poised to Break Record for Animated Films

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By Liu Shuangshuang and Tang Ziyi / Aug 14, 2019 02:18 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s latest big-budget sci-fi movie has bombed at the box office, bringing those dubbing the country an emerging sci-fi powerhouse firmly back down to earth.

“Shanghai Fortress” took in 74 million yuan ($10.5 million) during its opening day at China’s box office on Friday, charting at No. 2., according to online ticketing platform Maoyan.

But the movie’s ticket sales soon plummeted amid withering online reviews. As of Tuesday, “Shanghai Fortress,” which was made on a budget of 360 million yuan, had only earned 115 million yuan over five days.

Those ticket sales lag far behind recent box office hit “Nezha,” which debuted on July 26 and raked in 1.1 billion yuan during its first five days. It had earned 3.7 billion yuan as of Tuesday.

In the longer term, investors in “Shanghai Fortress” might end up wishing they’d got out before the drawbridge was raised. Maoyan predicts the film will make just 125 million yuan by the end of its run, far less than the 950 million yuan needed to recoup investors’ costs after splitting the sales with theaters.

Read the full story on Caixin Global today.

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (ziyitang@caixin.com)

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By Huang Shulun and Teng Jing Xuan / Aug 12, 2019 12:37 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Typhoon Lekima has killed at least 32 people in East China’s densely populated Zhejiang province after making landfall on Saturday, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Wenzhou, a city in southeastern Zhejiang, suffered the most casualties, with 23 people killed after heavy rains caused a landslide on the outskirts of the city, CCTV confirmed Sunday. At least 16 people are still unaccounted for across the province. One person was also killed in neighboring Anhui province, according to CCTV.

Lekima, which has also caused transport disruptions in Shanghai, moved northward on Sunday, hitting Shandong province and causing major damage to farmland and homes along the coast.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (jingxuanteng@caixin.com)


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By Qian Tong, Qu Yunxu, Qin Min, and Teng Jing Xuan / Aug 05, 2019 11:34 AM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

An intergenerational rivalry between two pop stars in July drew public attention to the vast network of fake traffic generators that underpins much of the Chinese internet.

It started with a comment on Douban, an entertainment review platform. “Why is it so hard to buy tickets for Jay Chou’s concerts even though his online numbers are so bad?” one commenter wrote.

That angered many of Taiwan-based singer Chou’s fans, who tend to be older millennials born in the 1980s and 1990s. The fans rallied together to publish posts and share content related to Chou on the Twitter-like Weibo social media platform. They eventually succeeded on July 21 in putting their 40-year-old idol at the top of Weibo’s popularity charts and pushing out previous chart topper Cai Xukun, a 21-year-old boy band leader.

But by July 22, an administrator for Chou’s community page was saying that many of the posts relating to Chou did not appear to be genuine and that posting on Chou’s page would now be restricted for some users. What started out as a show of enthusiasm by diehard fans had now been hijacked by fake online-traffic producers.

Just about every part of the Chinese internet that relies on mass engagement has developed a shadow ecosystem of fake engagement vendors and buyers. The motivation is simple: money. Numbers of clicks, followers, buyers, and sellers drive vast amounts of advertising revenue as well as investment.

Read the full story on Caixin Global.

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By Shi Rui and Tianyu M. Fang / Aug 01, 2019 01:47 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Things have been looking up for China’s game studios in the last few months, after the government lifted a lengthy suspension on video game licensing and domestic sales finally returned to double-digit growth.

But the crackdown isn’t over yet.

On Thursday, Guo Yiqiang, the head of the publishing bureau of the Communist Party’s Publicity Department, said at the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference in Shanghai that the government will seek to strengthen supervision of video games that are already approved and online.

“Supervisory authorities will strengthen the regulation of games both during and after (the approval stage), strengthen the dynamic monitoring of online games, and strictly manage those that arbitrarily increase harmful content and behavior during their operations,” Guo said, adding that the government will encourage and support products with the “correct value orientations.” He also cited the government’s previous record of clamping down on games that involve illegal gambling.

With more than 600 million gamers, China is the world’s largest video games market. Many smaller game studios struggled when the government stopped issuing game licenses for several months last year, with some eventually folding completely.

Related: Is Winter Finally Over for China’s Indie Game Creators?

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By Tang Ziyi / Jul 31, 2019 04:21 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

China’s internet may be tightly controlled, but it still has its fair share of trolls.

Over the years, armies of the country’s netizens have singled out various social groups for online vitriol, from Muslims — who have been blamed for isolated terrorist incidents — to Japanese people, who have been attacked for the brutal deeds of their nation’s invading armies during World War II.

But it’s not fair to lambast entire groups of people for the actions of a minority, says Lan Fang, co-founder of online education platform C Plan. “Does it mean all Muslims or all Japanese people must bear responsibility for events they personally played no part in?” she says in an opinion piece for Caixin Weekly.

For Lan, China’s online trolls lack two crucial skills: empathy and critical thinking. Cultivating these abilities can convince netizens not to interpret disagreements with members of other social groups as affronts to their personal values and dignity, and help to tackle the causes of the country’s trolling problem.

Read Lan’s deep-dive into the roots of Chinese trolling culture on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (ziyitang@caixin.com)

Related: China Considers Blacklist for Online Rumormongers

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By Zhao Runhua / Jul 29, 2019 05:07 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Amid an ongoing battle against Hollywood blockbusters and a period of weak domestic profits, an acclaimed new animation has the Chinese film industry glimpsing a return to critical and commercial success.

“Nezha,” an ancient myth spruced up for modern filmgoers, broke the single-day box office record for an animation Saturday as it pulled in 200 million yuan ($29 million). On Monday — four days after its release — its takings hit 800 million yuan, according to box-office data monitoring platform Maoyan. Those soaring figures put it in the running to become one of the most successful Chinese animated films ever made.

The film, which tells how the son of a deity defies his fate of being born of evil to instead become a hero and defender of the innocent, may prove that winning over modern audiences with the richness of China’s storytelling literary history is no fantasy after all.

Contact reporter Zhao Runhua (runhuazhao@caixin.com)

Related: The Case for an Artistic Revival of Rural China

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By Teng Jing Xuan / Jul 23, 2019 03:01 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

Government funding for foreign students in China grew more than 20% last year, according to new data published by the Ministry of Education in the wake of recent outrage over male international students at Shandong University allegedly being assigned local female “buddies.”

Money allocated for scholarships for foreign students more than doubled between 2012 and 2019, jumping from 1.55 billion yuan ($225 million) to 3.92 billion yuan this year. In 2018, 63,000 international students received Chinese government scholarships, accounting for 12.8% of the total number of foreign students in China, the ministry said, adding that the “quality” of foreign students at some institutions needed improvement.

Earlier this month, media reports about Shandong University’s practice of assigning multiple local female “buddies” to male international students prompted ire on Chinese social media over what some people saw as favoritism toward foreigners. The university apologized on July 12 for a “lack of strict checks” and “inappropriate options” on its sign-up form for students participating in the buddy program.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (jingxuanteng@caixin.com)

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By Fang Zuwang and Tang Ziyi / Jul 22, 2019 05:49 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Hong Kong actor Simon Yam Tat-wah is recovering from surgery after being stabbed Saturday at a promotional event in Guangdong province.

A viral video online showed a man suddenly rush toward Yam on stage. The man then wielded a knife and repeatedly stabbed Yam.

Yam suffered non-life-threatening injuries to the abdomen, internal organs and four fingers on his right hand, according to his management company, Emperor Entertainment Group. He is now in a stable condition, the company said.

Local police detained a suspect at the scene of the event, which took place in the city of Zhongshan. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, local police announced at a press conference Saturday evening.

Yam, 64, has starred in more than 150 movies and 40 television series. In 2013, the veteran made his Hollywood debut in the film “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.”

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (ziyitang@caixin.com)

Related: For China's Studios, Movies Have Lost Their Magic

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By Liang Zhen and Teng Jing Xuan / Jul 16, 2019 12:32 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

More than 100 rural doctors have resigned in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang province over unpaid public health subsidies and unfair treatment, Caixin has learned.

Doctors in Yilan county said in their joint resignation letter that rural doctors had to personally foot the bill for tens of thousands of yuan’s worth of medical insurance subsidies on behalf of the local authorities for villagers in 2018, and that the full sum had never been paid back. Additionally, they shouldered heavy workloads despite having lower status and fewer rights than public hospital doctors, the rural doctors said.

The resignations come after a similar wave of departures in the central Chinese province of Henan, where rural doctors said the local government had failed to provide promised healthcare subsidies.

Yilan’s county health committee told Caixin it was “unaware of the situation,” while other sources said provincial authorities have dispatched personnel to investigate the matter.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later.

Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (jingxuanteng@caixin.com)

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By Huang Shulun, Liu Zishuang, and Ren Qiuyu / Jul 12, 2019 12:56 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Almost half of migrant women interviewed in four major Chinese cities have experienced some kind of domestic violence, and many are unfamiliar with China’s three-year-old Domestic Violence Law, a new report has found. 

“Only half of the respondents who experienced some kind of domestic violence in the last 12 months attempted to break up with or divorce her partner,” said the report by Beijing Normal University and Orange Umbrella Charity, an organization focused on helping women escape domestic violence. Only a quarter sought help, and only 17.9% of those women turned to the police, with the majority turning to their families, relatives, and friends for support.

The report found many migrant women were unaware of the protections that should be offered to them through the Domestic Violence Law — which more than half of the interviewees had never heard of.

It calls for increased awareness in China of gender violence and its many manifestations, greater societal support for migrant women, and a support system for victims that links medical treatment, identification, police, legal aid, therapy, and social services.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

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By Ye Zhanqi and Tianyu M. Fang / Jul 04, 2019 04:24 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Applying to college is hard work — and doing a seemingly convenient online search for admissions websites might make things even harder, if you’re a recent Chinese high-school graduate.

Major search engines Baidu and Qihoo 360, along with a number of competitors, were summoned to a meeting with China’s Ministry of Education Wednesday for allegedly leading students to fraudulent web pages and ads instead of the college admissions sites they were searching for, the ministry said. The ministry demanded that the search engines start identifying the official websites of education and exam authorities, and prioritize them in search results.

Results from China’s national college entrance examination, the gaokao, were released in late June. This means high-school graduates are now in the process of submitting their scores to universities. Several provinces, including Shanxi, have suggested that candidates avoid using search engines and directly type out official URLs instead.

This isn’t the first time misleading search results and advertising practices have put Chinese search engines in the spotlight. In 2016, a promoted search result on Baidu led the 21-year-old cancer patient Wei Zexi to an experimental treatment program, which caused his eventual death. The incident, which provoked public outcry, put the internet company’s ethics under scrutiny and pushed the Chinese government to further regulate online advertising.

Related: Baidu Accused of Giving Self-Serving Search Results in Viral Post 


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By Zhao Runhua / Jul 03, 2019 12:02 PM / Society & Culture

Photo: Youtube

Photo: Youtube

It was meant to be a day of carefully scripted moments showcasing cutting-edge technology. But that’s not the way things began at the annual developer conference put on by search giant Baidu on Wednesday and Thursday in Beijing.

CEO and co-founder Robin Li was giving a keynote speech on smart transportation early at the event when he got doused by bottle of water poured over his head by a man who rushed onto the stage.

Looking up, Li controlled his anger and surprise and asked, “What’s your problem?” as the audience of over 1,000, looked on. The crowd, including Baidu partners, developers, investors and global media, didn’t realize until later that the act was not a stunt.

The man, whose motive was unknown, was quickly taken away by security.

Li later said there will be different things happening on Baidu’s journey to transition from its roots as a search engine to an expert in artificial intelligence (AI) development. He added that Baidu’s determination in that journey won’t change.

Related: Baidu Wins Licenses to Run China’s Most Difficult Autonomous Vehicle Road Tests


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