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Weekly #3: China reopens 🛫, staff shortage👩🏻💼, tech for good 🦾, nepo babies in China 👶🏻 | Following the yuan
With light at the end of the tunnel, there's still daily annoyances to bear with for people and businesses in China. How relevant is the country's reopening to your life?
I opened my phone yesterday morning at the breakfast table, and was gobsmacked by the reopening directive from China’s State Council.
This is it, after 3 years, the draconian zero-Covid policy — which started as an effective measure that had political legacy potential and ended up costing lives, slowing down the economy and dragging down the whole society — is over.
This will be one of those flashbulb memories we carry.
This week, many in China/doing things related to China are thinking about how Covid has changed their lives, the realization comes much later than those in other countries, and the day may come even later if it wasn’t for the protestors. Some of them, like 28-year-old Chen below, still haven’t returned home, according to social media accounts.
1. Outbound travel boom soon to take off 🛫
Skedaddle: Under the Covid wave, universities across China have issued early holidays and switched to online classes. Some students chose to go to the scenic Dali in southwestern Yunnan province to take remote exams before heading home for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
Hainan, a tropical island that saw many tourists’ holiday nightmare this summer under zero-Covid (including SCMP’s ex-editor Wang Xiangwei’s), suddenly becomes appealing without Covid restrictions. It has been swarmed by people who got hit by the first wave and cannot wait to live their lives again.
Looking ahead: As the State Council issued the country to prepare for the downgrade of Covid to category B management from January 8, all quarantine measures are lifted.
Notably, there are more details to inbound traveling at this point than outbound traveling: all travelers to China only need to show a negative test within 48 hours before boarding and the visa application procedure is expected to be more smooth. The directive hasn’t given many details to outbound travellers.
The travel and tourism industry is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Staff shortage in luxury and across industries👩🏻💼
What happened: Meanwhile, we still need to deal with disturbances from the easing of zero-Covid: the retail and service industry has been facing staff shortage amid Covid surge.
In delivery, the Shanghai E-Purchasing Chamber of Commerce encouraged residents “who are not working or have free time" to become delivery workers, attaching recruitment ads of 10 platforms including Ele.me, JD.com and Meituan.
Not here to stay: Nearly 37 million people could’ve been infected a day last week, according to Bloomberg, citing estimates from China’s top health authority.
The shortage in delivery staff is for sure more concerning than that in brick-and-mortar. Potential customers are probably too ill to go to physical stores but they’d still want to order foods and medicines with a few clicks on their phones.
3. Tech for good amid Covid wave 🦾
What’s wrong: Amid the Covid surge, patients across China struggle to access basic meds including Ibuprofen and Tylenol.
How can tech do good? Tech giant Tencent launched a mini program that’s accessible through super app WeChat to help people share Covid medicine resources. More than a million users had visited the page within two days of launch.
The mutual-aid platform is divided into two sections: seeking medicine and giving away extras. Users can participate by filling in their locations, contact information, and completing real-name authentication. Pseudo numbers are displayed when making and receiving calls to protect privacy.
Rooted in people: Big Techs have increasingly stepped up in shouldering social responsibilities and many efforts, I’d say, are inspired by its users.
Last summer, as central Henan province saw unprecedented torrential rainfall, Shanghai college student Li Rui sprang into action by creating a cloud-based spreadsheet on Tencent Docs and mobilized her classmates to verify requests.
Around the same time, WiFi drones and apps to aid people With disabilities also emerged as good practices.
4. Nio’s data leak 🌐
What happened: I don’t usually pay attention to car news and sorry if you noticed that I’ve been featuring Nio two weeks in a row. This week, it padded itself on the back for reacting “promptly” to a data leak.
On Dec. 20, a Nio app user demanded ransom of US$2.25 million worth of bitcoin in exchange for the electric vehicle company’s internal data, which, with the anonymous nature of the digital asset, would leave the hacker untraceable.
The hacker packaged 22,800 pieces of employee data at 0.15 bitcoin (~ US$2530), and 39,900 pieces of car owner ID data at 0.25 bitcoin. All included would be 1 bitcoin. Nio confirmed the data theft and said that the stolen data included some users' basic information and vehicle sales information before August 2021.
Not the first time: It's not uncommon in recent years for the auto industry to fall victim of the hackers.
User info from auto companies including Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Chinese state-owned automobile manufacturer Chang’an have all been leaked on dark web platforms in recent years, according to previous media reports.
5. Nepo babies in China 👶🏻
The buzzy New York Magazine cover story (below), which I devoured in one sitting, made me wonder the China equivalent for nepo babies.
Chinese people have always loved watching nepo babies, but instead of reflecting on our unhealthy obsession or its societal consequences, we make shows about them!
The reality show “Where Are We Going, Dad?”《爸爸去哪儿》(2013-2018) literally featured male celebrities and their toddlers going on adventures, it was so successful that there was also a 2014 movie under the same theme that was rated 4/10 on IMDB.
Speaking of my favorite nepo babies, one that sprang to mind is singer-songwriter Leah Dou 窦靖童, the daughter of rockstar Dou Wei 窦唯 and legendary singer/actress Faye Wong 王菲, stepdaughter of actor Li Yapeng 李亚鹏.
Even before attending Berkelee College of Music — she dropped out after 2 years to couchsurf in LA, as she told The Cut in 2019 — she was touring in the UK, being described as the “Chinese pop royalty” and headlined for pop band Bastille and gave them an Erhu to play with. I’m obsessed!
I’m similarly obsessed with the truly talented filmmaker Chloé Zhao 赵婷, who directed “Nomadland” (2020) and “Eternals” (2021), and is comedian Song Dandan 宋丹丹’s step daughter.
Nepo babies I’m less of a fan of: actress Fan Bingbing 范冰冰’s younger brother Fan Chengcheng 范丞丞, who’s considered one of China’s hottest fresh meat idols. You know what, I can’t think of others at this point.
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