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2019-08-23 10:39:33

Out of the 3,200 drugs most commonly used to treat illnesses in China, 30% have seen their prices go up over the past four-plus years, top health officials said at a press conference Thursday.

To combat this problem, health authorities have vowed to crack down on companies with monopolies or near-monopolies on essential drug ingredients, after such companies were accused last year of altering their prices to manipulate the domestic drug market. Those that fail to make the rectifications demanded of them will be exposed and punished by having their social credit ratings lowered.

Since June 2015, the Chinese government has allowed the free market to determine prices of pharmaceuticals, apart from anesthetics and psychotropic drugs. Although the prices of around 70% of the country’s most common drugs have remained stable in the years since, some 200-plus medications — mostly ones that are in short supply or used mainly in emergencies — have become significantly more expensive. (Image: VCG)

22 hours

A conference-call app that has seen a surge in usage as China’s schools opt for distance learning to cope with the coronavirus epidemic has issued a heartfelt plea to its juvenile users: Please stop leaving one-star reviews.

Earlier this month, the Alibaba-owned app DingTalk had debuted a special feature called Zaijia Shangke, or “Homeschooling,” in response to governments and schools across the country announcing delays to resuming normal classes. But students who presumably don’t enjoy studying at home have review-bombed the app with one-star ratings and caustic comments like “Give a five-star rating in five installments.”

On Tuesday, DingTalk’s rating on Apple’s App Store was down to 2.6 out of 5. In a video the platform posted Sunday on microblogging platform Weibo, a tearful cartoon bird sings a catchy plea:

                         Please spare my life, young heroes,
                         you guys are my papas.
                         Please give five stars in one installment.
                         Can you do that, please? I beg you guys.

With the novel coronavirus being more easily transmitted in crowded spaces like classrooms, online teaching has become a widely adopted fallback plan. According to Alibaba, 50 million students in more than 300 Chinese cities are now using Zaijia Shangke for distance learning. (GIF: @钉钉 on Weibo)

2020-01-22 10:24:01

The Payment & Clearing Association of China on Tuesday issued a landmark guideline for strengthening the regulation of facial-recognition payment options available at some brick-and-mortar retailers.

The document claims to be the first regulation aimed at protecting users’ privacy when it comes to collecting, storing, and using facial data. According to the new guideline, users’ facial data must be encrypted, and merchants must provide additional payment methods so that users who opt to pay through facial recognition are consenting to doing so.

Merchants and any third parties involved in the payment process — such as WeChat or Alipay, China’s two dominant mobile payment platforms — are prohibited from storing users’ facial or other personal data, the guideline said.

As facial-recognition technology sees a widening range of applications in China, the public has become increasingly concerned with privacy and data security. Last year, the briefly popular “deepfake” app Zao came under fire for reserving the right to sell its users’ data. Afterward, Alipay — which has facial-recognition payment devices in over 100 cities — had to reassure users that its system could not be hacked using such face-swapping technology. (Image: Tuchong)

2020-01-22 07:58:26

Shanghai’s mayor is urging city officials to behave like “shop assistants” when serving foreign companies in a bid to improve the city’s business environment.

At a press conference Monday, Mayor Ying Yong said government departments should be serving enterprises like sales associates so that more companies — both foreign and domestic — will consider setting up operations in the country’s financial capital. Domestic media quoted him as saying that officials can do this by “not being arrogant, but rather responsive to all requests in order to fully activate the vitality of the market.”

The mayor’s remarks follow Chinese President Xi Jinping vowing to continue improving the country’s business environment at the opening ceremony of the second China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November. Last year, the World Bank’s annual Doing Business report ranked China 31st out of 190 economies, up from 46th place in 2018 and 78th in 2017, and named the country among its “top 10 improvers.” (Image: The Paper)

2020-01-21 10:03:03

Authorities in the eastern Anhui province have come to the conclusion that wearing pajamas in public isn’t a fashion faux pas — or uncivilized, for that matter.

In a statement Monday, the city administration bureau of Suzhou said it had “withdrawn” an article that shamed seven pajama-wearing people for “uncivilized behavior,” along with their photos and personal information. The bureau said the article posted on its social media platform was published after an “inadequate review process.”

In August 2019, the bureau had announced it was soliciting photographs of so-called uncivilized behaviors from the public, with each approved photo awarded 10 yuan ($1.50).

In recent years, local officials have increased their efforts to police citizens’ behavior and improve their cities’ images. In July of last year, authorities in the eastern city of Jinan issued a guideline against the “Beijing bikini,” barring men from rolling up their shirts and baring their midriffs in public.

A month later, Beijing issued a survey asking residents to select 10 out of 20 uncivilized behaviors — which included spitting in public, petty vandalism, and cutting in line — that they would want to see punished. (Image: @宿州城管服务超市 on WeChat)

2020-01-21 09:30:48

A hospital in eastern China’s Zhejiang province has angered some online by installing urinals in women’s toilets.

The Hangzhou First People’s Hospital had intended for the urinals to be a convenience for mothers of young boys, local media outlet Qianjiang Evening News reported Sunday. A hospital staff member told domestic outlet Red Star News that the urinals have actually been in use since 2015.

Years-old or not, the urinals have gone viral this week on Chinese social media. Some have supported the initiative for aiming to make mothers’ lives easier, while others have expressed concerns about privacy and children’s gender awareness, suggesting unisex bathrooms as an alternative.

The employee said the hospital might consider introducing gender-neutral bathrooms in the future to cater to people with special needs, including those with disabilities, pregnant women, or parents with children of the opposite sex. (Image: @小时视频 on Weibo)

2020-01-20 08:01:02

An institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences has suspended a researcher who made “false statements” about his supposedly self-designed programming language.

In a statement Sunday, the Institute of Computing Technology said it had suspended the researcher, Liu Lei, and launched an investigation after Liu was accused of ripping off an open-source version of the widely used Python programming language and calling his version Module Unit Language, or “Mulan.”

According to media reports, the institute had announced the release of the purportedly self-designed programming language on Jan. 15. However, the Sunday statement claimed that Mulan — a product that was allegedly “completely autonomous,” even though its development kit includes the Python open source compiler — was not developed by the institute, but rather by a company Liu founded.

“This behavior constitutes scientific misconduct (in the form of) deception and false statements,” the institute said.

A day earlier, Liu had apologized in a public letter for making “exaggerated statements” about his work. He initially said that the programming language had been independently created, and that it could help further the development of the Internet of Things — the increasingly diverse array of internet-connected devices, from phones and fridges to cars and home assistants.

The scandal reminds some people of a previous high-profile case of technological fraud. In 2003, a scientist at a Chinese university claimed to have designed a microchip he had dubbed “Hanxin,” or “the Chinese chip” — but three years later, the chip was found to have come from the United States.

And in April 2018, Chinese netizens discovered that the source files of what was supposedly the country’s first and only fully homegrown web browser appeared to have been copied from Google Chrome. (Image: CNS)

2020-01-19 07:55:07

The Palace Museum has apologized after photos surfaced online of two women posing with a Mercedes vehicle parked on the grounds of the Forbidden City, Beijing’s iconic, centuries-old tourist site.

In a statement Friday, the Palace Museum — which is located within the Forbidden City — said it was “deeply distressed,” “sincerely apologizes to the public,” and “will strengthen management to prevent such cases in the future.”

In a now-deleted post on microblogging platform Weibo that included the photos, one of the women, Gao Lu, said the incident had taken place Monday, when the Forbidden City was closed for maintenance. The post quickly went viral: A related hashtag had been viewed over 1 billion times by Sunday afternoon, with many criticizing rich elites who believe they are entitled to special treatment.

In an interview with The Beijing News, a man claiming to be the owner of the vehicle said Gao had been invited to attend an event at the tourist site.

The Forbidden City has banned vehicles from entering its grounds since 2013. However, amid the online furor over Gao’s photos, numerous reports emerged of other people driving their vehicles into the city in recent years. (Image: From @露小宝LL on Weibo)

2020-01-19 05:02:04

Local authorities in several Chinese cities will work overtime to accommodate couples hoping to get married on Feb. 2, a date some believe to be auspicious because it forms a palindrome when written out sequentially: 20200202.

Beijing’s civil affairs bureau said Friday that local marriage registration offices will be open for business on the upcoming Sunday. More than a dozen such offices in Shanghai will also remain open the same day, according to media reports.

When repeated together, the Mandarin words for “two” and “zero” sound similar to the phrase “love you.” The Sunday is also the ninth day of the lunar calendar, with “nine” being phonetically similar to “long” — leading some to believe that the date may guarantee a long-lasting marriage.

But some authorities are apparently disinclined to indulge such superstition. “A happy marriage has nothing to do with the auspicious day,” a senior official from the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Sunday. “As long as the relationship between two people is harmonious, each day is good and unique. I hope applicants will treat their wedding dates rationally.”

In 2018, China’s marriage rate fell to its lowest point in five years. On Friday, official data from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that last year’s birth rate of just 10.5 newborns per 1,000 people was the lowest in the country’s 70-year history. (Image: Tuchong)

2020-01-17 08:57:20

The People’s Republic of China has recorded its lowest birth rate since its founding over 70 years ago, according to data published Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Last year saw 10.5 births per 1,000 people. Some 14.6 million babies were born in China in 2019, down from 15.2 million in 2018. At the same time, the country’s total population eclipsed 1.4 billion for the first time at the end of last year — though the national population growth rate of 0.33% was also a record low.

Low fertility rates and an aging population have worried demographers and officials alike because of the risk these factors pose to the country’s future. Hoping to boost birth rates, China abolished the one-child policy in 2016 and proposed longer maternity leave for couples considering a second child — but so far these and other measures have achieved limited success due to changing social mentalities and the rising cost of childrearing. Meanwhile, birth restrictions continue to hang over some families’ heads, as couples who have more than two children can face harsh punishments.

2020-01-17 08:49:16

Six months after becoming the first Chinese city to implement strict trash-sorting rules, Shanghai is planning to perfect the system and increase recycling efforts in the coming years, domestic media outlet Jiemian reported Thursday.

At a political gathering, Deng Jianping, director of the Shanghai Landscaping and City Appearance Administrative Bureau, said the city had completed the renovation of over 21,000 trash-sorting stations and built over 15,000 recycling stations as of January. Shanghai also recycled 4,049 tons of trash per day in 2019, a 431.8% increase compared with the previous year.

In 2020, Shanghai should improve its current sorting system to collect over 6,000 tons of recyclable waste and sort over 9,000 tons of wet waste daily, Deng said.

Shanghai also ranked No. 1 for three consecutive quarters among 46 major cities selected for trash-sorting inspections conducted by China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the country’s housing regulatory department, according to the media report. (Image: Tuchong)

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