Feds Investigate Theft of Intellectual Property by Chinese Nationals

(p. A10) BOSTON — Zaosong Zheng was preparing to board Hainan Airlines Flight 482, nonstop from Boston to Beijing, when customs officers pulled him aside.

Inside his checked luggage, wrapped in a plastic bag and then inserted into a sock, the officers found what they were looking for: 21 vials of brown liquid — cancer cells — that the authorities say Mr. Zheng, 29, a cancer researcher, took from a laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Under questioning, court documents say, Mr. Zheng acknowledged that he had stolen eight of the samples and had replicated 11 more based on a colleague’s research. When he returned to China, he said, he would take the samples to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital and turbocharge his career by publishing the results in China, under his own name.

. . .

Mr. Zheng’s case is the first to unfold in the laboratories clustered around Harvard University, but it is not likely to be the last. Federal officials are investigating hundreds of cases involving the potential theft of intellectual property by visiting scientists, nearly all of them Chinese nationals.

For the full story, see:

Ellen Barry. “Chinese Man Is Accused Of Smuggling Lab Samples.” The New York Times (Wednesday, January 1, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 31, 2019, and has the title “Stolen Research: Chinese Scientist Is Accused of Smuggling Lab Samples.”)

Chinese Growth Closer to 3% than to Reported 6%

(p. A1) In the second quarter of this year, official Chinese data showed economic growth of 6.2%, close to Beijing’s target and within a percentage point of what it has reported every quarter for the past 4½ years.

A few months earlier, satellites monitoring Chinese industrial hubs suggested parts of the world’s largest trading economy were contracting. An index of Chinese industrial production created by a multinational manufacturer was pointing to lower growth than official figures. And a web-search index used to gauge how many workers return to their jobs after the Lunar New Year holidays was down sharply from a year earlier.

Beneath China’s stable headline economic numbers, there is a growing belief among economists, companies and investors around the world that the real picture is worse than the official data. That has analysts and researchers crunching an array of alternative data—from energy consumption to photos taken from space—for a more accurate reading.

Their conclusion: China’s economy isn’t tanking, but it is almost certainly weaker than advertised. Some economists who have dissected China’s GDP numbers say more accurate figures could be up to 3 percentage points lower, based on their analysis of corporate profits, tax revenue, rail freight, property sales and other measures of activity that they believe are harder for the gov-(p. A10)ernment to fudge.

For the full story, see:

Mike Bird and Lucy Craymer. “Private Data Show Sharper China Slowdown.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Sept. 9, 2019): A1 & A10.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 8, 2019, and has the title “China Says Growth Is Fine. Private Data Show a Sharper Slowdown.” )

Anonymous Message Apps Enable Protesters to Act at “Hyperspeed”

(p. A7) In June [2019], hundreds of thousands of young protesters connected by messaging apps took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest the encroachment of China’s central authorities on life in their city.

Four months on, antigovernment demonstrations have swept more than a dozen countries. From Chile and Bolivia to Lebanon and Spain, millions have taken to the streets—sometimes peacefully, often not.

. . .

Propelling the action on the streets to a kind of hyperspeed is a new generation of encrypted-messaging software such as WhatsApp and Telegram that enable large groups of protesters who have never met each other to communicate anonymously.

Whereas platforms like Twitter and Facebook were great for broadcasting ideas, the newer technology allows any would-be activist connected to the group to build consensus for large-scale actions in real time—without fear of being identified.

Meanwhile, the internet’s global reach has helped activists learn by watching and connecting with peers in other countries.

For the full story, see:

John Lyons in Hong Kong, Nazih Osseiran in Beirut and Margherita Stancati in Barcelona. “A Wave of Protest Rattles Governments.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 23, 2019): A7.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 22, 2019, and has the title “Global Wave of Protests Rattles Governments.” The penultimate sentence quoted above, appears in the online, but not in the print, version of the article.)

Berliners Vote to Name Baby Panda Twins “Hong” and “Kong”

(p. A4) BERLIN — When a Berlin newspaper asked its readers to help name two pandas born at the Berlin zoo last week, the contest quickly became weighted with political symbolism and risked the ire of Beijing, which has long treated the animals as surrogate envoys to friendly countries.

The most-suggested names by readers, according to the Tagesspiegel newspaper, were Hong and Kong, an apparent nod to solidarity with the pro-democracy protests that have been roiling Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997.

. . .

“The political symbolism is there, and it’s clear that the government and also the leadership of the Berlin Zoo would not allow it,” Prof. Eberhard Sandschneider, who studies Chinese politics at the Free University in Berlin, said of the panda contest on Friday.

“The last thing they would accept in Beijing, when the pandas are eventually brought back,” he added, “are the names Hong and Kong.”

For the full story, see:

Schuetze, Christopher F. “Clamor to Name Twin Pandas at Berlin Zoo ‘Hong’ and ‘Kong’ Could Irk Beijing.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 7, 2019): A4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 6, 2019, and has the title “At Berlin Zoo, a Clamor to Name Twin Pandas ‘Hong’ and ‘Kong’.”)

Local Chinese Governments, Buried in Debt, Ask Citizens for Loans

(p. B1) RUZHOU, China — When the call came for local doctors and nurses to step up for their troubled community, the emergency wasn’t medical. It was financial.

Ruzhou, a city of one million people in central China, urgently needed a new hospital, their bosses said. To pay for it, the administrators were asking health care workers for loans. If employees didn’t have the money, they were pointed to banks where they could borrow it and then turn it over to the hospital.

China’s doctors and nurses are paid a small fraction of what medical professionals make in the United States. On message boards online and in the local media, many complained that they felt pressured to pony up thousands of dollars they could not afford to give.

“It’s like adding insult to injury,” a message posted to an online government forum said. Others, speaking to state and local media, asked why money from lowly employees was needed to build big-ticket government projects.

Ruzhou is a city with a borrowing problem — and an emblem of the trillions of dollars in debt threatening the Chinese economy.

Local governments borrowed for years to create jobs and keep factories humming. Now China’s economy is slowing to its weakest pace in nearly three decades, but Beijing has kept the lending spigots tight to quell its debt problems.

For the full story, see:

Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li. “China’s Complex Debt Problem.” The New York Times (Monday, November 11, 2019): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 10, 2019, and has the title “How Bad Is China’s Debt? A City Hospital Is Asking Nurses for Loans.”)

Lack of Property Rights in Land Keep Chinese Farmers Poor

(p. A6) XIAOXIHE, China — Every year, the message is the same: the government will fix China’s left-behind countryside through a raft of reforms. This year was no different, with measures meant to help farmers move to cities, educate their children, and invest in improving their land.

But every year, the gap between village and city remains stubbornly wide. Many blame this on the fact that farmers are not allowed to own land, a policy that goes back to one of the founding decisions of the Communist revolution.

In Xiaoxihe, a rolling eastern Chinese region of rice paddies and fishponds, farmers speak of land ownership as something so improbable that it defies imagination.

Dai Jialiang, a 69-year-old farmer, grows rice and vegetables on a small plot of land his family leases from the government. That means that Dai’s family has made a modest living off toiling the land but their gains are limited.

“Ownership is not possible in China,” Mr. Dai said. “Socialism doesn’t allow that.”

. . .

The party has long argued that one of traditional China’s main problems was that land was concentrated in the hands of landlords. After taking power in 1949 it introduced a violent campaign that killed up to two million farmers labeled “landlords.” State ownership of land became a nonnegotiable policy and farmers had to work in state-run collectives.

What farmers in this area came up with in the late 1970s was a plan to break the collectives back into the old family plots of land. Ownership stayed with the state but farmers were allowed to farm their plots as they saw fit as long as they paid a tax, usually in grain, to the government. Anything else they produced was theirs.

Suddenly motivated, farmers set records in grain production, while opening up orchards, vegetable plots and fishponds. Starvation, always a risk during the Communists’ first 30 years in power, disappeared.

National leaders endorsed this system but made sure that land stayed in the state’s hands. Farmers eventually got 30-year contracts over their land. When that ran out about a decade ago, they were extended another 30 years.

. . .

According to popular accounts of Chinese economic history, the nearby village of Xiaogang is where the household-contract system began in 1978. There, a large museum features dioramas showing how farmers almost starved to death under the Communists until they secretly subverted their policies — the unwitting implication being that only civil disobedience can effect change.

For the full story, see:

Ian Johnson. “Barred From Owning Land, Chinese Farmers Miss Spoils of Growth.” The New York Times (Friday, September 27, 2019): A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on September 28 [sic], 2019, and has the title “Barred From Owning Land, Rural Chinese Miss Spoils of Country’s Success.”)

Chinese Communist One-Child Policy Caused “Intense Suffering of Ordinary People”

(p. B12) Kay Ann Johnson, an Asian studies scholar whose adoption of an infant girl from China led her to spend years researching the impact of the country’s one-child policy on rural families, died on Aug. 14 [2019] at a hospital in Hyannis, Mass.

. . .

For more than 20 years, Professor Johnson focused her research on Chinese villages where birth parents found themselves in a lopsided clash with a state bent on controlling population. The policy was also applied in cities, but villagers were usually more daring about trying to resist it. Professor Johnson presented her research in often painful case studies based on interviews with birth parents who described facing the ruthless policy.

One of those parents, Jiang Lifeng, already had a son when she became pregnant. She planned to keep the child and hoped to have a daughter. She avoided detection (and possibly forced sterilization) during pregnancy tests imposed by the authorities by using a friend’s urine. She delivered a girl, Shengshi. But nine months later the infant was taken from her bedroom by seven men, presumably government representatives, and driven away in a van.

Ms. Jiang recalled that “she ‘felt the sky fall down’ on her as she staggered after them, shocked and aghast at what had just happened,” Professor Johnson wrote. Ms. Jiang somehow caught up to the van and rode with the men and Shengshi to a local birth planning office, where she and her husband, Xu Guangwen, pleaded for the girl’s return. Officials refused.

The couple were told that they could adopt her after she had been taken to an orphanage. But that, Professor Johnson said, was a lie.

“The government had taken their baby, stripped them of their parental rights, and left them heartbroken and powerless to do anything about it,” she wrote. “It had been nothing short of a kidnapping by the government, leaving them no recourse.”

In his review of “China’s Hidden Children” in Foreign Affairs magazine, Andrew J. Nathan, a professor of political science at Columbia University, praised Professor Johnson for debunking the myth that Chinese parents did not value girls, and for outlining the often terrible consequences of the one-child policy.

“Johnson’s extraordinary book conveys the intense suffering of ordinary people struggling to build families against the will of an implacable bureaucracy,” Mr. Nathan wrote.

Kay Ann Johnson was born on Jan. 21, 1946, in Chicago. Her father, D. Gale Johnson, was an agricultural economist and the chairman of the economics department at the University of Chicago.

For the full obituary, see:

Richard Sandomir. “Kay Ann Johnson, 73, Who Studied China’s Painful One-Child Policy, Dies.” The New York Times (Friday, August 30, 2019): B12.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Aug. 29, 2019, and has title “Kay Ann Johnson, 73, Who Studied China’s One-Child Policy, Dies.”)

Johnson’s book, mentioned above, is:

Johnson, Kay Ann. China’s Hidden Children: Abandonment, Adoption, and the Human Costs of the One-Child Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.