Stuck in the muddle
'Don't play with fire,' Xi warned Biden on the phone, in reference to an isolated Taiwan that has dared to redefine itself with no communist input other than the threat of cultural oblivion.
It’s really about the Pacific, but Taiwan stands in the way. Art: Mark Corry.
Presidents Biden and Xi spoke for a fifth time in what was described as a “candid conversation” – reiterations of stale views, with neither side making a concession to the other.
Xi told Biden it is China’s will to safeguard its “national sovereignty and territorial integrity” over Taiwan.
Over to The Wall Street Journal (paywall):
The White House declined to specifically comment on that remark, though the senior official said Mr. Xi has used similar rhetoric in the past.
"Resolutely safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people. The public opinion cannot be defied. Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this"
We’re more than skeptical that 1.4 billion Chinese are resolutely determined to safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, if it means invading Taiwan and having to deal with counterpunches from Japan, the US and Taiwan itself, although those types do exist – and in discount rent-a-crowd numbers.
Actually, we’d be surprised if one in 10 of China’s alleged 1.4 billion people give even a passing thought in the shower or getting a foot massage or eating hotpot to the question: whither China’s territorial integrity?
Who’s got time for that?
Anyway, here’s the basic problem – in chess-like precision:
Of further merit for consideration, the phone call itself – two hours and 17 minutes?
Jojje Olson explains in a tweet:
The presidents have talked. They will talk again.
But the nations they represent are at loggerheads over who is boss in the Indo-Pacific.
What happens next will define our futures.
Not tomorrow, or next week.
But sooner than most of us would prefer it.
Back to Wuhan
A ‘blob’ – yes, that’s the collective noun – of ‘Big Whites’ makes preparations for the end of the world, which was caused by animals in a seafood market. Photo: WikiCommons.
One million people are in lockdown again in Wuhan, and Science – an august publication – and the New York Times – of which ChinaDiction has no opinion – are still pushing the story that an epizootic spillover at the Huanan Seafood Market sickened the world.
Twice actually, in two separate spillover events within a week. It’s amazing we don’t have a global pandemic every fortnight.
But this is an epidemiological study, so it doesn’t matter that we haven’t found an intermediate species, let alone a viral reservoir in Yunnan – or preferably in Laos.
In the case of SARS-1, which was identified in March 2003, by May, samples of wild animals sold in markets in Guangdong revealed that masked palm civets harbored the virus.
No such luck in Wuhan.
Some 2-1/2 years on, we have no idea how SARS-CoV-2 jumped to human beings, so fully adapted to us it was able to infect humans globally, unlike SARS-1, which infected just 8,096 people.
All we have is a cluster of early cases close to a seafood market in Wuhan – and very close to a laboratory that was conducting tests on coronavirus-carrying bats.
China itself has rejected the Huanan Seafood Market spillover hypothesis and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) hypothesis.
According to state-run, English-language tabloid, The Global Times, we should blame a US lab in North Carolina.
A Chinese petition urging the WHO to probe the US' Fort Detrick biolab garnered 25 million signatures of support in three weeks.
Time has since made clear that there are cracks in the shield created by both natural and vaccine-induced immunity: Reinfection rates are rising with the emergence of the more infectious Omicron variant, with some people even reporting their third or fourth infection. Studies have also shown that the Omicron subvariants are more capable of evading previous immunity.
Meanwhile, it remains very important for us to know how this virus emerged – market, lab or otherwise – because ideally we nip these global catastrophes in the bud before they start killing our family members.
And that’s whether China welcomes independent studies or it doesn’t.
Less roads, zero covid
There ain’t no virus on this highway. Photo: Matthew Summerton, Creative Commons
Barron’s reports that China’s top leadership signaled last week that it would not be unrolling a big stimulus to jolt start its economy and reaffirmed its commitment to zero covid.
Amid an unexpected drop in the official purchasing managers’ index (PMI), The South China Morning Post reports:
In a commentary published on Sunday, state news agency Xinhua warned the country to be ‘soberly aware that at present, the foundation of China’s economic recovery is still not sound, and it will take painstaking efforts to consolidate the momentum of improvement.
‘Due to the impact of factors beyond expectation such as the complex and severe international environment and the shock of the domestic epidemic situation, China’s economic operation still faces many risks and challenges.’
In a separate report, The South China Morning Post writes that China’s leadership is leaning toward a consumption-driven recovery “by rolling back restrictions on car and property sales and offering tax breaks and subsidies for environmentally friendly products.”
As Michael Pettis, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment, notes in a tweet:
Hit the road, Jack
The good old days. Photo WikiCommons.
Billionaire Jack Ma plans to relinquish control of Ant Group Co., Dow Jones reported, citing people familiar with the matter, part of the fintech giant’s effort to appease regulators following a lengthy crackdown.
Remember when the Ant IPO was slated to be the biggest IPO in history? A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. The IPO, many observers maintain, has to go ahead because so much money is at stake.
But the authorities will have to push to make it happen because Ma is essentially out of the picture, even though he retains most of his equity stake.
Mr. Ma previously held back from giving up control of Ant because he didn’t want to delay the company’s plans for an initial public offering, some of the people familiar with the matter said. The scuttling of those plans—after Mr. Ma laid into financial regulators in a speech—removed that obstacle and created a fresh opportunity for Mr. Ma to resolve the matter, those people said.
A change in control could mean that Ant will have to wait a while longer before it tries going public again.
Roblox was ready for anything in China
A screenshot of an internal Roblox presentation. Image: Via Vice courtesy of Motherboard.
Then it launched its product – LuoBuLeSi – in China.
Like other Western gaming companies that have entered the lucrative but heavily regulated Chinese market, it had to partner with a Chinese company, Tencent, who would operate the game in the country, and Roblox had to host user data on local servers, as required by law.
But newly released internal documents reveal that Roblox assumed and prepared for the possibility that any Chinese partner it worked with could try to hack Roblox. On top of that, Roblox expected Tencent to copy the game and create its own version of it.
Except that’s not what happened. Rather, Roblox ran up against the headwinds of a dizzying array of rules and regulations covering everything from maps and religion to “mistreating corpses” and being able to verify the real identities of everyone playing their game.
LuoBuLeSi launched in July 2021 and was out of action by December of the same year. Roblox went in eyes wide open – as the above leak reveals – and were internally candid in ways no company doing business in China can be publicly, but it still wasn’t enough.
Behind your virtual idol may be an overworked, underpaid human being
Over the past decade, entertainment companies in China and Japan have increasingly invested in developing virtual talent: pop stars that appear on stage via hologram, animated personalities who livestream themselves playing games and chatting with fans, brand influencers powered by teams of computer scientists and voice actors. Last year, the value of business driven by virtual idols was $16 billion in China alone, according to research from iiMedia.
In China, real influencers are pulled from their platforms every year over controversial statements, said Fung, so virtual influencers can seem like a safer bet than their human counterparts. Virtual stars aren’t supposed to age, get angry, bring up taboo topics, cheat on their partners, or get arrested for tax evasion – that’s the theory, anyway. But virtual influencers are ultimately still reliant on real human performances to bring them to life.
In a social media/mainstream media like China’s, where almost anything is potentially taboo, virtual stars would appear to be a no-brainer.
But there’s a catch:
At their core, virtual idols typically rely on a single human: an actor or actress wearing a motion capture suit who lends their voice, movements, and facial expressions to bring them to life in real time … And when they go off-script to complain about exhaustion, overwork, or low pay, that’s a real person complaining about their actual working conditions …
"‘If the actors and actresses are the soul of these animated superstars, why don’t they get paid as much as human pop stars?’ said Yijun Luo, doctoral researcher at Hong Kong Baptist University who studies China’s virtual idol industry.
Put that in your soup and eat it, China. Photo: Garry Tucker, USFWS, WikiCommons.
Sixth Tone warns that that the tables are being turned on China by an unlikely wave of invaders: turtles.
They’re famed for their longevity, so eating them has to be good, right?
Infallible logic in old-school, unreconstructed Chinese tradition.
Enter large adult snapping turtles – native to the United States – which grow into:
80-kilogram brutes, with long claws, beaked snouts, and shells bristling with sharp ridges. If threatened, they go on the offensive, hissing and snapping at everything in sight. Their bite can easily remove a finger.
Why they’d stop at one finger amid a group of hungry diners in Guangzhou, ChinaDiction doesn’t know.
But that’s not the point. China’s insatiable appetite for our shelled evolutionary cousins has led to an invasion of monsters that are toothed and clawed and ready to fight back.
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The Greater Sinosphere
Taiwan counters drone with flares
Dongyin Island visitor center. The island is less than 50km east of China’s Fujian Province. Photo: Chen Huang, Creative Commons.
It’s been back-to-back air-raid drills and military training in Taiwan ahead of a possible Nancy Pelosi visit
But, then again, Taiwan is under constant threat of invasion, Pelosi or no Pelosi.
Reuters reports that amid all the dashing to safety in urban Taiwan and firing of ordinances etc, Taiwan’s military fired flares to warn away a drone that:
glanced by the air space of Dongyin island, part of the Matsu archipelago off the coast of China's Fujian province and controlled by Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
A senior official familiar with the security planning in the region told Reuters that it was a Chinese drone, likely one of the country's new CSC-005 drones.
Miracle story, migrant worker lottery winner
Happy lottery winner. Photo: CNA
Having long believed that nobody wins Taiwan’s receipt lottery, regardless of how many receipts they collect and how long they spend checking them, ChinaDiction is happy to report, via Focus Taiwan, that not only did someone win NT$2 million (US$66,000), but it was migrant worker.
‘I didn't believe that I had won, only now I'm here (at the bank) today do I actually believe it,’ Y told CNA. ‘This is the first time I won such a big prize.’
She plans to use the money to buy land in Indonesia so her family can grow agricultural produce, Y said.
Howl’s Moving Castle, AKA ‘the White Hovel’
ChinaDiction was intrigued by the suggestion in the above tweet of a “fairly sad and touching story” behind a house in Taitung so dilapidated and still standing that it’s become a tourist attraction.
We Googled it.
First off Howl’s Moving Castle is a 2004 Japanese animated fantasy film that’s loosely based on the 1986 novel by English author Diana Wynne Jones.
Interesting; neither sad nor touching.
The four-story house – which ChinaDiction thinks is a generous three (see picture below) – was built by a man who went by the surname of Lee.
He was known locally as A-bo (阿伯) – one of countless Nationalist military refugees from Communist China.
He built his Taitung home over 30 years with flotsam and jetsam – abandoned, unwanted things, detritus.
In July 2016, calamity struck. The house was buffeted to within an inch of toppling into a pile of flotsam and jetsam, abandoned things and detritus by Typhoon Nepartak.
A-bo passed away in January of the following year, 2017.
In short, a long labor of love was terminated by a typhoon and a death.
This photo by Fupo (below) provides a better perspective on Taitung’s famous hovel. It could do with a lick of paint and some repairs – but even that won’t make it a castle.
A lifetime’s work. It makes you wonder if anything is worth it, really
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