Facebook-backed cryptocurrency Libra became the No. 2 trending topic on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo after the CEO of the company behind it testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.
During the hearing, David Marcus, CEO of Calibra, the Facebook subsidiary tasked with developing Libra, told the committee that Libra will compete with Alipay and WeChat Pay, China’s two ubiquitous mobile payment platforms, each boasting roughly 1 billion active users.
Some Chinese netizens reacted to Marcus’ remarks with skepticism. “Can it (Libra) compete? How will they push for competition when we can’t even use Facebook?” one Weibo user commented under a related media post, referring to the social platform being inaccessible on the Chinese mainland. Other netizens, meanwhile, saw Libra as a boon to the country’s mobile payment industry, which they reason would only be improved with greater competition.
Since the release of the Libra White Paper on June 18, a storm of debate has surrounded the idea of a Facebook-sponsored digital currency, in particular because it would allow for the flow of financial resources across international borders — an act the Chinese authorities would prefer to keep strictly regulated.
The People’s Bank of China has been researching cryptocurrencies since 2014, driving speculation that it may be aiming to develop its own digital coin. As of last December, the central bank’s software developers had registered over 70 cryptocurrency patents in the country. (Image: IC)
The Beijing Municipal Health Commission said Friday that it hopes to eradicate mother-to-child infections — including HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B — by the end of 2020, The Beijing News reported.
According to a detailed plan published earlier this month, the Chinese capital will aim to lower mother-to-child transmission rates for HIV and hepatitis B to below 2% and reduce the incidence of congenital syphilis to fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 live births. The health authority also plans to increase screenings and detection rates of sexually transmitted infections during prenatal checkups by at least 95%.
Last year, mother-to-child transmission accounted for 1.1% of the 36,628 new HIV infection cases reported nationwide, according to Beijing’s center for disease control and prevention. Government figures indicate that an estimated 820,756 people were living with HIV/AIDS in the country by the end of June 2018, and that the rate of mother-to-child transmission had declined from 7.1% in 2012 to 4.9% in 2017. (Image: VCG)
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)
China’s two-child policy has been effective in raising national birth rates, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.
In a comprehensive report released Thursday, the bureau said China’s population is growing steadily, and the success of the two-child policy since it was enacted in 2016 has been “remarkable.” The report cited figures from 2016 and 2017 — which saw 17.86 million and 17.23 million new births, respectively — and said these totals were “significantly higher” compared with the 16.44 million new births recorded on average between 2011 and 2015.
However, the bureau had announced in January that last year saw just 15.23 million new births — the lowest annual total since 1961, the final year of a catastrophic famine that killed up to 45 million people.
With the population of China approaching 1 billion in the late 1970s, the Communist Party imposed the one-child policy with an official letter in September 1980. After the country began to see the effects of an aging society, however, the policy was relaxed in 2014 and revised to allow two children in 2016. Nonetheless, couples have shown a reluctance to procreate for a number of reasons, many of them financial. In 2016, a study published in British medical journal The Lancet forecast that China would not see a significant population increase from the two-child policy in the short term. (Image: VCG)
While some have criticized the Chinese people who seem to flock to Ikea for power naps in air-conditioned showrooms, the company’s president of China operations certainly doesn’t mind.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Anna Pawlak-Kuliga said Ikea welcomes Chinese consumers to visit the Swedish company’s brick-and-mortar stores for interior decorating inspiration — and even for a quick snooze, should all the walking around become too taxing. “We are very happy to welcome many customers in our stores, for using our stores to sleep as well,” she said.
Chinese people sleeping on Ikea’s beds and couches have long been a source of amusement to both domestic and international audiences. In 2015, a Beijing store instituted a ban on in-store naps, but staff members reportedly found it too difficult to keep people from plopping down on the inviting beds and mattresses.
Ikea announced Thursday that it will invest 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) into the Chinese market in 2020, which would mark company’s annual largest investment in the country to date. Since its first China location opened in Shanghai in 1998, Ikea has expanded to 27 stores, two “experience centers,” and 11 distribution hubs in 21 cities on the Chinese mainland, according to its website. (Image: VCG)
Sexual harassment will soon have a clear legal definition in China, a top official said Wednesday.
Zang Tiewei, the newly appointed spokesman for the legal affairs committee of the National People’s Congress, said that the Chinese public has specifically called for sexual harassment to be defined by law. According to Zang, research shows that workplace harassment occurs when people in high positions abuse their authority to commit inappropriate acts — and that such cases are not limited to the office.
According to The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, Zang’s comments pertain to a current draft regulation on personality rights, for which the National People’s Congress collected nearly 32,000 comments from some 20,000 citizens earlier this year.
Also during Wednesday’s press conference, Zang drew critical attention by effectively ruling out legalization of same-sex marriage on the Chinese mainland. (Image: VCG)
A university in the southwestern Sichuan province has temporarily suspended one of its professors after he disparaged some of China’s proudest innovations, known as the “four great inventions,” domestic media reported Thursday.
Zheng Wenfeng, an assistant professor at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, had said to his students in June that the country’s four ancient advances — printing, papermaking, the compass, and gunpowder — were not “substantial innovations.” After Zheng sent the messages in a chat group on social app QQ, he reportedly began removing students who questioned his views.
One student claiming to have been in the chat group posted screenshots of the texts on Q&A platform Zhihu. Last month, the university announced that Zheng had “lost the professional ethics of a teacher” and would be suspended for two years.
Zheng told the domestic media outlet that he feels no need to clarify or defend his views, and agrees with the school’s decision. “I want to focus on my research,” he said. “This issue is over.” (Image: IC)
Same-sex weddings will not be legally recognized on the Chinese mainland, in accordance with the country’s conservative views on marriage, a top Chinese official said Wednesday.
Responding to a journalist’s question about marriage equality, Zang Tiewei, a spokesman for the legal affairs committee of China’s top legislative body, said during a press conference that marriage is defined by Chinese law as a union between a man and a woman. He further called this view of marriage “consistent with our country’s national circumstances, history, and culture.”
“As far as I know, most countries in the world do not legally recognize same-sex marriage,” Zang said.
China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from an official list of mental disorders in 2001. Despite legal and social challenges, the country’s LGBT community has become more visible and vocal in recent years. Earlier this month, Beijing legally recognized its first mutual guardianship agreement between two people of the same sex, in a historic first for the city. (Image: IC)
For many Chinese children, after-school schools are a fact of life. According to a recent survey of 14,000 families, nearly 60% said they send their school-age children to private training centers — also called cram schools — for 6.6 hours per week on average.
Jointly published Tuesday by the China National Children’s Center and the Social Sciences Academic Press, the 2019 China Children’s Development Report is a stark reminder of the pressure children in the country face to stand out academically. The families surveyed — who hail from 10 cities and villages not named in the report — said their children do 1.5 hours of homework on average per weekday and, of the 6.6 hours they spend at training schools each week, around two-thirds of this time is allocated to subjects they’re already studying at school. Finally, families who send their children to extracurricular classes spend an average of 9,211 yuan ($1,300) per month, or over 12% of their income, to do so.
In recent years, China’s central government has taken measures to alleviate the academic burden on children — and, by proxy, their parents. But the country’s so-called happy education policy aimed at reducing homework has created new problems, with many parents viewing a diminished school workload as a chance to cram in even more after-school classes. (Image: VCG)
A private traditional Chinese medicine hospital in Zhengzhou, the capital of central China’s Henan province, is being investigated for allegedly requiring its staff to recruit new patients, The Beijing News reported Monday.
Administrators at Zhengzhou West Area Hospital of TCM reportedly ordered each staff member to bring in five additional patients to be hospitalized, and said those who failed to meet the quota would have their salaries docked by 200 yuan ($28). One staff member told a local TV station last week that she had even brought her father in to be “treated.”
According to a code of conduct published by the Ministry of Health in 2012, medical workers are required to “safeguard patients’ legitimate rights and interests” and are forbidden from exploiting their positions for personal gain.
Song Zhigang, the hospital’s vice president, has been suspended from his duties for “problematic management,” and a larger, public hospital that entered into a partnership with Zhengzhou West in late May has ordered its sister institution to make the necessary rectifications or see the cooperation agreement terminated. An administrator at the public hospital told The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, that his staff are being mobilized to investigate Zhengzhou West.
Public hospitals have long dominated China’s health care sector, but they’ve also earned a reputation for being resource-strapped and overburdened. Following a series of major health reforms in 2017, the central government has begun encouraging the development of the private health care industry to ease the burden on both public hospitals and welfare funds. (Image: 郑州楼市 on WeChat)
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or UIUC, on Monday announced a financial aid program to honor Zhang Yingying, a visiting scholar at the school who was abducted and murdered in June 2017.
The university will use Yingying’s Fund — founded with the support of Zhang’s family — to help international students and their families “during times of hardship,” according to the campaign’s official crowdfunding page. The more than $58,000 donated so far can be allocated toward international students at UIUC who find themselves “in urgent need of access to funds.”
Zhang was 26 when security footage showed her get into a car at a bus stop in June 2017, just two months into her studies at the university. It was the last time she was seen alive. On July 18, an Illinois court convicted Brendt Christensen of murdering Zhang and sentenced him to life in prison. (Image: From the Yingying’s Fund crowdfunding page)