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Lisa LANE

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Photo of people wearing masks in a Hong Kong mall
Coronavirus

Hong Kong's Strict COVID Rules  Are Sparking An Exodus Of Foreigners

Enduring COVID restrictions are the final straw for many expats in Hong Kong. They're leaving by the thousands, threatening the city's reputation as a financial hub.

HONG KONG — “It's not the policy itself, but the lack of any rationale behind it that's made me choose to leave...” Steven (not his real name), an American senior executive of a strategic consulting firm who had been working in Hong Kong for seven years until April of this year.

More than two years on since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hong Kong administration has been closely following mainland China's “Dynamic Clearing Policy”. The particularly strict social restrictions, vaccination policy and business operation limits, as well as the two to three weeks of quarantine imposed on arrival in the city, have pushed both local and international business circles to request the Hong Kong government to review the intangible and tangible economic costs behind the COVID-zero strategy.

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Photo of a Japanese car manufacturer in Japan assembling parts
Economy

Why Japan's Auto Industry Can't Keep Pace With The Electric Vehicle Revolution

The "Made in Japan" label used to be a mark of progress, but Japanese manufacturing has declined rapidly. Now, the automobile industry, the last bastion of the country's technology, has fallen behind in the transition to electric vehicles.

TOKYO — From semiconductors, TVs, and computers to mobile phones, Japan was once the world’s leading manufacturer, and it swept the world with all these products. But since entering the twenty-first century, “Made in Japan has declined so fast that certain Japanese brands have simply disappeared.

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​Screenshot from video of chained mother-of-eight in China
Society

Video Of Chained Woman Shines Light On China's Treatment Of Mental Illness

A recent video of a chained woman has raised the alarm of the poor treatment of the mentally ill in China. It's worse for women in rural areas, where the stigma around mental illness is high.

Just before Chinese New Year ended recently, a video went viral on China’s web. In a shabby space attached to a house in Feng County in Jiangsu Province, a woman, named Yang Mouxia, is seen wearing a thin top in the chilly weather. She has an iron chain and a lock around her neck.

The woman has a mental disorder. She is the mother of eight children and the wife of Dong Moumin. Since the exposure of Yang’s living conditions, several people online asked if she is the same person, who went by the name of Li Ying, who'd disappeared from Sichuan Province 26 years ago at the age of twelve.

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China Can't Just Throw Money At Its Fertility Crisis
Society

China Can't Just Throw Money At Its Fertility Crisis

As China grapples with an aging population and falling fertility rate, the government has tried different measures to encourage people to have children. But the suggestion by one of the country's top economists to print money to kickstart a baby boom did not go down well with the Chinese public — raising children isn't just a question of money.

-Analysis-

BEIJING — Earlier this month, Ren Zeping, a Chinese economist, suggested that the country’s central bank should set up a two trillion yuan ($315 billion) maternity benefit fund so to encourage a baby boom of 50 million extra children within the next 10 years.

Zeping reckons that we should seize this opportunity while the generation of women born between 1975 and 1985 are still fertile, and not put too much hope in the generation born after 1990. This is due to the fact that the older generation still have the idea that happiness is to be found in having more children, whereas those born after 1990 often reject the idea of having more than one child and even reject the idea of marriage.

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Photo of new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishidaposing for a portrait in Tokyo on Sept. 29
Geopolitics

A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

-Analysis-

TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.

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Taiwan To Hong Kong To L.A., Birth Of Bubble Tea Culture
food / travel

Taiwan To Hong Kong To L.A., Birth Of Bubble Tea Culture

Originating in Taiwan, bubble tea was one of many products hard hit by the pandemic. But the internationally-beloved, tapioca-based drink isn't just any import any longer — it's an entire culture.

TAIPEI — In mid-April, a report entitled "Another Unlikely Pandemic Shortage: Boba Tea" appeared inThe New York Times. This rang alarm bells for fans of the great Taiwanese delicacy, also called bubble tea, milk tea or Zhenzhu Naicha in Mandarin Chinese. The bad news came just as the weather was warming up, the tensions brought about by COVID-19 were easing, and the food and beverage industry was hoping for a pick-up in business.

The global pandemic caused a major shortage in the supply chain of tapioca pearls, bubble tea's most important ingredient that sets it apart from other beverages. More than 90 % of tapioca starch comes from Taiwan, as the three partners of Boba Guys, a franchise chain, explained to their clients in an Instagram post.

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Photo of the 58-meter tall Statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou Park, China
Society

Why Chinese Cities Waste Millions On Vanity Building Projects

The so-called "White Elephants," or massive building projects that go unused, keep going up across China as local officials mix vanity and a misdirected attempt to attract business and tourists. A perfect example the 58-meter, $230 million statue of Guan Yu, a beloved military figure from the Third Century, that nobody seems interested in visiting.

BEIJING — The Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently ordered the relocation of a giant statue in Jingzhou, in the central province of Hubei. The 58-meter, 1,200-ton statue depicts Guan Yu, a widely worshipped military figure from the Eastern Han Dynasty in the Third century A.D.

The government said it ordered the removal because the towering presence "ruins the character and culture of Jingzhou as a historic city," and is "vain and wasteful." The relocation project wound up costing the taxpayers approximately ¥300 million ($46 million).

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The three-child policy represents a major readjustment of China’s birth control principle.
Geopolitics

China: The Public's Right To Speak Up On Family Planning Policy

The CCP is not used to sharing the decision-making role with the public, but that may be exactly what all sides need to try to encourage more Chinese people to have babies.

-Analysis-

BEIJING — On May 31st, China announced its new so-called "three-child policy" that allows couples to have three children. The policy was announced just 20 days after the release of the results of the Seventh National Population Census. They show the country's trend of an aging population is worsening, with only 12 million new births recorded in 2020, the lowest since 1960. This isn't a coincidence.

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A tank deployed during the National Army Lunar New Year's Military Drill, in Taiwan.
Geopolitics

Strait Talk: China Invading Taiwan Is Mostly Just A Matter Of Time

Though Beijing is not likely to launch any overt operation right away, experts predict it's most likely to try to force Taiwan's reunification between 2025 and 2030. This would almost certainly prompt a U.S. response.

-Analysis-

TAIPEI — There has been no shortage of recent warnings about China trying to take over Taiwan by force. The May 1 cover story of The Economist called Taiwan: "The most dangerous place on earth."

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Protests against the Tokyo Olympics earlier this month
Japan

Hosting Tokyo Olympics During COVID Is Like Gyokusai Suicide

With infections surging, and only 1% of the population fully vaccinated, many say that devoting so many resources to hosting the Summer Games is a recipe for disaster.

-Analysis-

TOKYO — A doctor friend of mine is a member of the Medical Services team for the Tokyo Olympic Games, but right now his attention if focused on New Delhi. "If the current situation continues, Japan will become like India," he told me last week. "We'll be totally unable to fight against the new Indian variant of Covid-19. When the medical system collapses as we fear, hosting the Olympics will be but a wishful dream."

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A dog rescued in Hong Kong, in August 2020.
Hong Kong

Abandoned Pets Crisis Amid Hong Kong's Emigration Wave

As a growing number of people pack up and leave the former British colony, the question arises: What to do about the family dog?

HONG KONG — Sesame, an 11-year-old poodle, has gone to the kennel twice now, and it's clear she didn't appreciate the experience. She came home both times with tummy trouble, throwing up and with a loss of appetite.

The animal's owner, Florence, organized the kennel visits as a kind of "training" experience, a way to prepare Sesame for an upcoming trip to Taiwan, where the family plans to emigrate. She'll have to travel alone in a plane's cargo hold. That, plus a quarantine upon arrival, will take at least seven days.

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Single people without children made up 65.2% of the population who kept a pet in 2017.
China

China's 'One-Child' Generation Chooses Cats Over Babies

BEIJING — Menglin's boyfriend accompanied her to the clinic. It took less than 10 minutes for the doctor to place the contraceptive implant in Menglin's upper left arm. It's now very unlikely she'll get pregnant in the next three years. She is 31, a good age to give birth, but she is reluctant to start trying.

Young people with the same mindset as Menglin are a fast growing phenomenon. China started loosening its family planning policy in 2011 and lifted the one-child only control in 2016, but the country's fertility rate hasn't simultaneously gone up. In 2019, its total fertility rate was less than 1.52, the lowest since 1949. This is a number far lower than most developing countries. It's even lower than most developed countries.

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