Hang out the flags
General Secretary Xi Jinping is off all week for the National Day holidays, so ChinaDiction fully intended to have a semi-holiday too, but one thing led to another ... Next issue on Friday
National Day in Beijing. Photo: Photo: Xiao Yong. Dreamstime.com.
It is the 1st of October; it is the 10th of October.
One country (according to China); two national days.
China all for one big combined bash; Taiwan leaning towards the status quo; the US playing both sides – Hey, Taiwan’s national day is as yet unresolved.
The National Day of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is celebrated annually on 1 October, commemorating the establishment of the PRC on 1 October 1949, after winning the Chinese Civil War and mostly driving the Kuomintang (KMT) to Taiwan – apart from holdouts in Guangdong, Sichuan, Yunnan and Hainan that were to fall in the weeks and months ahead.
The National Day of the Republic of China – AKA Double Ten Day, or Taiwan National Day – is celebrated on 10 October, and was also celebrated in China during the Nationalist period before 1949.
It commemorates the 10 October 1911 Wuchang Uprising that ultimately led to the collapse of the imperial Qing dynasty.
In short, Taiwan’s national day has nothing to do with Taiwan, and China’s national day is based on the assumption that the victory of the CPC over all China – and in quick order East Turkestan (now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) and Tibet (now the Tibetan Autonomous Region) – is something to celebrate.
No wonder foreigners get confused.
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The Vatican’s shame
Adoring crowds preferable to support for a cardinal with a conscience in Hong Kong. Photo: Ágatha Depiné, Upsplash.
The Nation discusses the pope and the church’s position on its Hong Kong representative Cardinal Zen, who has long warned that the PRC is not to be trusted, and the outcome of that is …
The background to zero support from the Vatican for 90-year-old Cardinal Zen’s current brushes with law is the plan to renew a deal with Beijing in October that the Vatican signed in 2018.
That agreement, which has never been made public, is believed to give the Chinese government the power to choose bishops and the Vatican the ability to veto them.
Human Rights Watch and many others, including from within the Roman Catholic Church, have repeatedly criticized those arrangements. Even when the agreement was first signed, it was clear that China under President Xi Jinping was highly repressive, including toward religious freedom. In Xinjiang, the government has detained as many as a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, surveilled the entire population, and tried to erase swaths minority culture, including razing thousands of mosques. On August 31, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a damning report substantiating these abuses, concluding that the Chinese government may have committed crimes against humanity.
The Hong Kong cardinal’s trial continues to drag on. The Federalist reports that the case involves protests against an anti-extradition bill protest held in 2019.
The bill sought to extradite ‘criminals’ to mainland China, which would erode Hong Kong’s judicial independence and harm Chinese dissidents in the city. Millions of Hong Kongers took to the street to protest …
Zen and other civil leaders set up the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund in 2019 to provide ‘humanitarian and relevant financial support to persons injured, arrested, attacked or threatened with violence’ during the protests.
The fund was dissolved in 2021, but Zen and three other trustees are charged with “colluding with foreign forces” and “threatening national security” by failing to register the fund appropriately.
A troubling alliance: NIH, EcoHealth and the WIV
Handle that bat with care. Photo: US. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen; Public domain.
The Intercept reports on collaboration between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and EcoHealth Alliance, “a US-based non-governmental organization with a stated mission of protecting people, animals, and the environment from emerging infectious diseases [Wikipedia]”
Emails show that NIH officials allowed EcoHealth to craft oversight language governing its own gain-of-function research.
At issue was an official response to the emergence of SARS-2 in China.
Key virologists in the US were initially skeptical that a novel pathogen could have naturally evolved to the point it was capable of becoming a global threat overnight.
All the same, in March 2020, a paper – “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2” – published in Nature had an immeasurable effect in consigning all alternatives to the “zoonotic spillover/wet market theory” to the marginalized media twilight zone.
The US Right to Know, a website, points out:
It took 15 months and a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to reveal that each of the five authors [of the Nature paper] had expressed private concerns about engineering or the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) store of novel coronaviruses.
The timeline of events, summarized below by Right to Know, is now all publicly available information.
The names cited – with the exception of Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – are the authors of the “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2:” Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes and Robert F. Garry.
January 27, 2020: Fauci learned he funds the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
January 29, 2020: Andersen discovered a paper describing gain-of-function techniques with coronaviruses involving the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
January 31, 2020: Fauci and Andersen spoke privately. Four virologists, including three authors of the article — Andersen, Holmes and Garry — found the virus to be “inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”
February 1, 2020: Farrar organized a secret teleconference between the virologists and NIH. Separately, Fauci sought to learn more about which projects NIAID funded at the lab.
February 2, 2020: The virologists exchanged thoughts. Several leaned toward a lab origin. Garry said he cannot understand how SARS-CoV-2 could have emerged naturally after comparing it to RaTG13.
February 4, 2020: A draft was circulated. Holmes, ‘60-40 lab,’ said the draft ‘does not mention other anomalies as that will make us look like loons.’ Andersen derided the idea of an engineered virus as ‘crackpot’ and promoted the phrase ‘consistent with natural evolution’ to scientists outside of the confab.
March 6, 2020: Andersen thanked Farrar, Collins and Fauci for their ‘advice and leadership.’
April 17, 2020: Fauci told reporters COVID-19 is ‘totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human,’ citing the paper [“The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2”].
In other words, we don’t know the origin of SARS-CoV-2, but we have evidence of a coverup of something.
Your opioid crisis? Don’t blame it on us!
Photo: © Tashatuvango | Dreamstime.com.
The South China Morning Post reports that China’s ambassador to the United States has pooh-poohed the idea that the PRC is partly responsible for America’s opioid crisis.
Beijing suspended cooperation with the US in a number of areas – including the fight against climate change and drug trafficking – following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.
But [ambassador] Qin Gang told Newsweek in an interview published on Thursday: ‘Blaming China is not a constructive way to address the fentanyl crisis.’
‘The fentanyl crisis in the United States was not created by China,’ he said.
‘Some Americans’ and the US media had made ‘false and misleading claims’ that ‘China is the primary source of fentanyl in the US’ or that it was shipping drugs as a ‘payback for the opium wars.’
Who would imagine such a thing? Why did the Chinese ambassador feel the need to even speak out on it?
Beijing to banks – prop up real estate
If you’ve ever wondered whether China has private banks, take a look at the Bloomberg story that claims Beijing “wants” China’s banks to provide $85 billion to the beleaguered real estate sector.
Despite regulators’ pleas, banks have remained cautious about lending to cash-strapped developers, while demand for mortgages has sagged alongside homebuyer confidence.
A mortgage boycott has widened among angry homebuyers waiting for stalled apartment buildings to be completed. High-frequency data suggest the housing market remained weak in the first half of September, UBS Group AG said in a recent note.
As for the banks, they can hardly be blamed for holding back on effectively printing money. They can create it, sure, but will they be able to balance the books without assistance from the government asking them to print it.
Then again, that’s a question for economists; not for a National Day holiday-week newsletter.
Also Beijing to banks – no talking politics ahead of the Congress
According to the Wall Street Journal, China’s securities regulator has told investment banks “to avoid publishing politically sensitive research ahead of a twice-in-a-decade meeting of the Communist Party … [in less than two weeks], according to people familiar with the matter.”
The China Securities Regulatory Commission recently sent an advisory to multiple securities houses, including the domestic units of large international banks, the people said. The mainland China businesses of Goldman Sachs Group … and JPMorgan Chase were among those contacted by the regulator, the people added.
Chinese mRNA vaccine finally approved – in Indonesia
Indonesia President Joko Widodo receiving a shot of Sinovac in January 2021. Now, China’s homegrown mRNA has been approved Indonesia. Photo: BPMI Setpres/Muchlis Jr; open source.
A Chinese-developed vaccine based on mRNA technology has received government approval in Indonesia, reports the New York Times.
The shot, developed by Walvax Biotechnology, Suzhou Abogen Biosciences and the Chinese military, was cleared this week by Indonesia for emergency use, handing China a long-sought victory in the development of a homegrown vaccine using mRNA at a politically sensitive moment for the ruling Communist Party.
First developed and approved in the West, mRNA vaccines have been embraced by countries all over the world, including Indonesia, and are considered among the most effective vaccines that the world has to offer. But more than two years into the pandemic, they are not yet available in China, which has relied on an increasingly draconian “zero Covid” approach to keep cases and deaths from the virus low.
In somewhat related news, the Financial Times reported on Saturday that negotiations between Moderna and Beijing had broken down over Moderna’s IP for its mRNA vaccine, which it refused to hand over to China.
The Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company turned down Beijing’s request to hand over the recipe for its messenger RNA vaccine because of commercial and safety concerns, said two people involved in negotiations that took place between 2020 and 2021. The vaccine maker says it is still ‘eager’ to sell the product to China.
Chinese? Gay? Get married in Utah via Zoom
Rest of the World reports that the US state of Utah is the only place that allows international couples to register their marriages online, making it “a wedding haven for same-sex couples who are not able to officially marry in their own countries.”
As sexual minorities in China face suppression at home, Utah County is allowing them to officially marry and celebrate their love — all for around $100. Although the marriages aren’t recognized in China, some 200 same-sex couples from mainland China and Hong Kong have gotten married via the county’s digital marriage license system since 2021, wedding planners and county staff told Rest of World.
A Chinese queer rights activist, who goes by the name Qiubai, got married in January over Zoom, so that her partner in China could join her in the United Kingdom by applying for a spousal visa. They had been separated for more than a year when Qiubai learned about Utah County’s remote-marriage system. ‘It was like seeing a beam of light when we felt so hopeless,’ the 28-year-old told Rest of World.
Another couple – two men in China – went to the trouble of a practice run so that everything went to schedule.
Ahead of their wedding in July, the couple organized a very different sort of wedding rehearsal: one to test whether all of the guests were able to log into Zoom smoothly. On the night itself, more than 60 family and friends showed up for the midnight ceremony, including one who joined them in the living room as an interpreter.
One of the two making their vows said he looked forward to doing it again: next time in a more liberal China.
Google translate goes offline
Back to basics? Well, no, Google translate has no shortage of rivals, but it also has a solid fan base in China. Photo: PixaBay; Pexels.
Reports the South China Morning Post: Google translate has not been working in China since Saturday.
The app has been inaccessible to mainland Chinese users since Saturday. They have been redirected to a generic search bar, with a notice asking users to bookmark the service’s Hong Kong webpage, which is also inaccessible on the mainland.
The built-in translation function on Google’s Chrome browser has also become unavailable in the country, according to various user posts on Chinese social media.
Of course, China has homegrown apps that can handle translation, but Google translate has a certain prestige and will undoubtedly be missed. At the very least, it’s another step in the “great decoupling” between China and the outside world.
The best of the worst
ChinaDiction owes this entry to banter between Alec Ash (@alecash) and Paul French (@chinarhyming) on Twitter, occasioned by a Financial Times report on the heartbreak of leaving Hong Kong – featured below in our Greater Sinosphere section:
The Anthill’s bad China takes has legendary status, even if many of us had forgotten its existence. The listicle of 10 builds up to Bronze, Silver and Gold rankings:
Bronze: I Accidentally Blew $400 On Lunch In Beijing And It May Have Been A Scam
Business Insider reporter in town on a visit goes out ‘to see the ‘real China’. Has lunch, pays a lot for it, writes blog post. Contains the poetic photo caption ‘Beijing from the window of my cab’, which pretty much sums it up.
Silver: A Poet's Guide to Beijing
Painful, endless recollections of a year in Beijing by an aspiring poet who has trouble with basic grammar. Mistakes include 'Wudaokoa', an invented subway stop called Sanxi, portable hutongs (huh?) and ... Sampler: ‘The Mandarin slang for foreigner is lawoi – ghost.’
Gold: Business Flight Across China Leaves Man Stranded (Sadly, the original has disappeared from the internet, but an interview with the hapless business traveler lives on)
Maybe it's the Dan Brown prose. Maybe it's the presentation of Shanxi as the heart of darkness (‘literally 200 miles south of the Mongolian border’). But we love to hate this whiny douchebag who accidentally booked a flight to Taiyuan instead of Taiwan.
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The Greater Sinosphere
Farewell Hong Kong, and thanks for all the fish
The best way for an expat to view Hong Kong, from The Peak, the wind tugging at your hair, far from the torrid, perspiring, push-and-shove crowds – and the horrid smell of teargas. Photo: Jack Hunter; Unsplash.
There has been no evidence of embarrassment from the Financial Times on a “tone deaf” semi-travel, semi-nostalgic “I spent two years in Hong Kong at the height of a lockdown pandemic and would probably stay if I wasn’t leaving like all the other fun-loving expats” story that produced gasps of astonishment on Twitter late last week.
Correspondent Tabby Kinder’s reflections on the “dizzying contradictions” of her time in the city veer on comic – she underwent quarantine and PCR tests (unlike the rest of the world) before making her peace with her temporary new home from on high – at the Peak, to be precise, the former apex of Hong Kong’s lick-spittle crawl to the top of the colonial pile:
At the top of the Peak, the wind whipped my hair, the closeness of the air at sea level had evaporated, and I relished every cool, fragrant gust, looking down for the first time at the forest of skyscrapers and the hazy blue harbour I had seen only a sliver of through a locked window for the past 21 days.
It’s hardly moving stuff, but in fairness to the Financial Times, they usually engage in sensible reporting on China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
And even Tabby Kinder herself evinces a hint of hesitancy – a haunting sense of self-doubt that runs through her prose, suggesting she’s unsure whether perhaps she’s meandered into indulgent marginalia that might be better off locked away in a drawer somewhere – forever:
If this sounds tone deaf in a city going through a transformational period, where Chinese anti-protest laws have stifled citizens’ human rights and the authors of ‘seditious’ children’s books and peaceful protesters are sent to jail, then that’s because it is. Life as a western expat in Hong Kong has so far been entirely cocooned from the political turmoil.
Possibly true, if you can afford to live in Mid-Levels and your next posting is San Francisco.
Be happy, it’s National Day
The Twitterati have noted that Chief Executive John Lee was looking less than full of beans – “doleful” even – on his first National Day appearance.
Hong Kong Free Press reported that, according to local Chinese-language press, the police were deploying 7,000-8,000 police in key locations around the city, presumably to ensure revelry did not get out of hand.
US-Pacific Partnership announced
In a surprising turnaround – for the moment – in a long-running saga, the Solomon Islands appears to have turned its back on China, reports Newsweek.
According to the US-Pacific Partnership, the governments of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and the United States of America have made a number of wide-ranging commitments to work together on climate change and security issues.
The BBC reports that the US has put US$810 million in financial support on the table “and said it would recognize Niue and Cook Islands as sovereign states.”
If the agreement holds, it’s a somewhat miraculous close on a deal that just months ago looked like China’s to make.
That said, China will not give up and these latest developments are best seen as an early victory in what will be a long-term face off over who controls the Pacific.
Will China give Taiwan a break for Golden Week?
Unlikely. What’s a golden week if Taiwan isn’t included in the festivities with at least threats and jet incursions?
The latest activity for yesterday (Sunday):
Legacy military reps in schools set to be replaced
The story by Taiwan Plus – a government-financed media outlet run by CNA that aims to give Taiwan an international voice – speaks for itself.
Taiwan may need to professionalize its military in the face of escalating threats and airspace and naval incursions by China, but the Taiwan public would like to see the military removed from institutions in which they’re perceived to have no place.
The school system is one of those.
Twins born in first tailless sperm conception
Photo: Taipei Veteran’s Hospital, via Taipei Times.
No, we had no idea what tailless sperm are either, but apparently artificial insemination with tailless sperm is very challenging.
Doctors performing such a procedure face three challenges, [Dr] Huang [Chih-hsien, Huáng Zhìxián, 黃志賢] said.
First is effectively screening the sperm cells under a microscope, which requires sharp eyes and rich experience, he said.
Second, the sperm must be specially treated to give it the ability to activate the egg, he said, adding that round sperm are prone to chromosomal abnormalities that affect embryonic development and implantation, which is the third challenge to a successful procedure.
Including Chung [the father] and his wife, the hospital has treated 33 couples with difficulties conceiving, ranging in age from 29 to 44, with three couples successfully conceiving, he said.
The hospital’s success rate of 9% is higher than the world average of 3.7%.
Chung, said he never believed he would have children of his own – let alone twins.
The return of Mulas, the Formosan black bear
Unsighted for more than a year, Mulas is back. Photo courtesy of the Taitung Forestry Department, via CNA.
Most readers would be forgiven for not knowing Taiwan had a missing bear, but the story goes as so.
Two years ago, give or take, after a rescue from aggressive feral dogs by villagers in Taitung County, the Taitung Forest Management Office of the Forestry Bureau and the villagers cared for a female black bear – judged to be less than one-year old at the time – and set her loose after 10 months with a tracking collar.
The bear was named Mulas – which means perseverance and hard-working spirit – after the local female Bunon village chief.
The radio collar fell off in October 2021, and researchers could no longer track her movements.
The Formosan Black Bear is increasingly seen as Taiwan’s national animal. Endangered, shy, and seldom sighted, there may be as few as 200 or so roaming Taiwan’s remote Central Mountain Range.
Small surprise then that considerable excitement ensued last week when the forestry department released pictures of Mulas near Haiduan in eastern Taitung County, which is largely inhabited by the Indigenous Bunon people.
Taken with an infrared camera, the new pictures of Mulas show that she has gained weight and has a glossy pelt. She was also seen falling down while trying to scratch her back against a tree.
But best of all, she seems to have found company in the form of another black bear, leading to much conjecture she’s found a male friend, though Formosan black bear experts have so far declined to comment on the sex of her partner.
To get a sense of just how big the Mulas story has been in Taiwan, check out the YouTube video on saving Mulas (Chinese subtitles only unfortunately).
Michael Fahey in Taipei and Chris Taylor in Bangkok
Lhasa reels under lockdown
The usually teeming streets of Lhasa’s holy downtown district surrounding the Jokhang Temple are empty as the city approaches 50 days of lockdown. Photo: Dall-E.
Bloomberg reports that Lhasa is near its 50th day under lockdown, “even as cases ease.
The Tibet region reported 72 local cases Friday, down from a peak of 900 in mid-August.
At least five Tibetans in and around Lhasa have jumped to their deaths from either mass quarantine sites or residential buildings under lockdown, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said in a report, citing on-the-ground sources.
‘China’s mismanagement of Covid in Tibet reveals the extreme human costs when authoritarian police states prioritize censorship and social control over the wellbeing of the people,’ ICT said. ‘The Covid outbreak in Tibet has resulted in the expansion of already invasive and suffocating living conditions.’
The Dalai Lama announces he will live to 113
Tibet’s spiritual leader in exile. Photo: Yancho Sabev, Crve Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.
His Holiness added that he may not reincarnate, however, because he believes the traditional Tibetan Buddhist tradition will be politicized by China if he does so, reports Bitter Winter.
See “The Vatican’s shame” above, which contrasts how two spiritual leaders deal with irreligious China, where faith is not just suppressed, but punished.
Convenience store loses court battle over tea eggs
Normal, adequately watered tea eggs on sale in Taiwan. Photo: WikiCommons.
The Taiwan News reports how all hell broke loose when a regular customer at a convenience store in Kaohsiung noted that the tea eggs were running dry and tried to do the right thing by adding some hot water with his own mug.
No self-respecting Taiwanese leaves home without a mug.
The store clerk caught him at it, told him to desist and reported the action to the store manger who – get this:
Filed a lawsuit against Li demanding NT$1 million (US$31,000) in damages. The manager claimed that Li’s actions had damaged the reputation and business of the store, reports UDN.
In a clear-cut example of the Taiwanese justice system at its best, the court ruled against the store manager, while maintaining that “the clerk had responded appropriately.”
Li was told to reimburse the store NT$600 for the batch of thrown-away tea eggs.
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