The week in China news
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SupChina Weekly Briefing
Monday, July 19, 2021

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1. Pakistan bus bomb kills nine Chinese nationals

Mobile phone photo showing the wreck of a bus plunged into a ravine following a blast in Pakistan’s northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on July 14, 2021. Xinhua.

 

A blast on a bus killed 13 people on July 14 in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

  • Nine of the dead were Chinese nationals, some of whom were engineers working at a rural hydroelectric project, the other four were Pakistan citizens.
  • Beijing called the explosion a bomb attack, and urged Pakistan to “severely punish” the perpetrators.
  • Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry initially said the bus had fallen into the ravine “after a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast,” but the country’s Minister for Information and Broadcasting later tweeted: “Initial investigations…have now confirmed traces of explosives.”
  • On Saturday, Chinese investigators and their Pakistani counterparts visited the site of the attack.

Previous attacks on Chinese interests in Pakistan

China’s Afghan fears

The deadly blast came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 was touring Central Asia, partly with an uneasy eye on Pakistan’s neighbor Afghanistan, from where the U.S. has nearly completed its troop withdrawal.

  • At a press conference with his Tajik counterpart, Sirojiddin Muhriddin in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, last week, Wang urged “Afghanistan to…pursue a solid Muslim policy, resolutely combat all terrorism and extremist ideologies, and be committed to friendly relations with all neighboring countries,” and the Taliban to “make a clean break with all terrorist forces.”

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2. It’s not just the U.S. — Chinese people are debating mandated vaccines and freedom, too

Citizens line up at a vaccination site of Guangdong Second Provincial Central Hospital for a dose of the recombinant COVID-19 vaccine in Guangzhou City, south China’s Guangdong Province, 24 May 2021. Image from Reuters.

 

Several Chinese cities in Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces began requiring proof of vaccination for access to some public places, including medical institutions, educational facilities, libraries, hotels, and banks.

The vaccine mandates sparked a debate about freedom and vaccination inequality on Chinese social media last week. One Weibo user wrote (in Chinese):

On what grounds does the government have the right to discriminate against the unvaccinated? They are not COVID positive. They just don’t want to get vaccinated. Stop abusing government power. This is an insult to people and trampling on the law.

But COVID-19 vaccinations are supposed to be voluntary, according to a statement (in Chinese) released last Friday by China’s National Health Commission. The statement said, without mentioning any specific cities, that “one-size-fits-all vaccination policies that have appeared in individual places…must be resolutely corrected.”


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3. China launches world’s largest carbon market

The Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange, where trading on China’s new national carbon market will take place. Image from Oriental Image via Reuters Connect.

 

China’s national carbon market, set to become the largest of its kind in the world, finally began online trading on Friday. Announced in 2018, the market encountered a series of delays and missed a previous June 30 deadline to launch.

The carbon market is part of Xí Jìnpíng’s 习近平 stated ambition to hit peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.

  • The system covers more than 2,200 power generators responsible for more than 40% of the country’s and 14% of the world’s energy-generation-related emissions.
  • The idea of the system, Caixin explains, is to “set quotas for the amount of greenhouse gases that a company can emit during a certain period,” and allow those who overperform in emissions reduction to sell carbon credits to those companies that exceed their allotments.
  • Prices are expected to rise over time, and seven additional high-emissions industries — petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, non-ferrous metals, papermaking, steel, and aviation — are targeted to be added to the system.

The results so far have been underwhelming: Today, a metric tonne of carbon dioxide emitted was valued at 52.30 yuan ($8.06/mt). That, according to Reuters columnist Katrina Hamlin, “is far below the minimum of $50 or around 324 yuan the IMF estimates is needed to …stay on track to meet Paris Agreement goals.”

  • But, says Hamlin, “it would be a mistake for big polluters to underestimate Xi’s blue-sky thinking.”

Click through to SupChina for more on China and climate change.


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4. Chinese influencer’s death after liposuction highlights dangers of plastic surgery

A doctor performs a cosmetic surgery on the eyes of a female young university graduate at a plastic surgery hospital in Shenyang city, northeast China’s Liaoning province, 11 June 2018. Wang Luhao / Reuters

 

Last week, in news that ignited the Chinese internet with horror, a beauty influencer died from complications following a liposuction procedure performed at a private clinic in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.

  • The 33-year-old woman had the surgery, which included fat extraction from several parts of her body and breast augmentation, on May 2, according to Jiemian News (in Chinese).
  • She died last Tuesday after multiple organ failures caused by a postoperative infection.

Cosmetic surgery is a big business in China: According to a report released by consulting firm Deloitte, the Chinese “medical-aesthetics” industry, which includes surgery, injections, and skin treatments, generated about $27 billion in revenue in 2019, around one-fifth of the global total.

But the influencer’s death has sparked an online discussion about the poor regulation of the industry, and also about the body image issues that are behind it.

For details on this story, please click through to SupChina.


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5. Cashier-less store chain Convenience Bee has huge plans

Illustration by Alex Santafe

 

Founded in 2016, Convenience Bee (便利蜂 biànlì fēng) “looks just like a fancier 7-Eleven from outside, but it’s…trying to revolutionize the traditional convenience store business using mobile payments, big data, and advanced retail technologies,” says Jerry Wang, the CEO of Haitou Global, a technology-based investment firm.

Convenience Bee stores are cashier-less: Cameras and sensors detect what customers buy and electronic price tags update prices based on supply and demand in real time.

  • Tech staff make up 60% of the company’s workforce, and founding CEO Zhuāng Chénchāo 庄辰超 is the former CEO of Qunar.com, a travel-booking site similar to TripAdvisor.

In China, a mob of startups opened cashier-less stores starting in 2017.

  • By the end of that year, there were a total of 200 such stores nationwide. But most have since closed down, unable to survive on the thin margins of the industry.

Yet Convenience Bee not only survived the boom and bust, it seems to have thrived.

  • According to 36Kr (in Chinese), the company is already profitable, and its revenues are already comparable with the top three foreign convenience store brands in China: FamilyMart, Lawson, and 7-Eleven.
  • With around 2,000 stores in China, the company wants to double that number in 2021 and reach 10,000 outlets by 2023.

For more on Convenience Bee and how it will get the generous funding it will need to continue its breakneck growth, please click through to SupChina.


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