China's We Chat "shadow-bans" messages with forbidden keywords, but only for China-based accounts

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The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab (previously) continues its excellent work, this time with a deep investigative piece on a sneaky form of censorship in China's popular We Chat service, where messages posted to group chats that contain words on a government blacklist are made invisible to other participants in the chat, while the original poster still sees it, giving the illusion that everyone's read the controverial message but no one found it worth commenting upon. Read the rest

Did China's flagmaking hub predict the 2016 election?

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Maybe next presidential election, it would behoove pollsters to check in with flagmakers of Yiwu, China's main manufacturing center for flags exported to America. One manufacturer told a Chinese video site he knew Trump would win because they were exporting so many more Trump flags. Read the rest

Your user data is secretly sent to China through a backdoor on some U.S. Android phones

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Included for free with some Android phones: “a backdoor that sends all your text messages to China every 72 hours.”

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A history of Chinese science fiction, from 475 BC to Cixin Liu

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At the 2016 Hugos, a Chinese book in translation made history by winning for Best Novel: Cixin Liu's "Three Body Problem". Read the rest

Hong Kong erupts after Beijing refuses to allow dissident lawmakers to re-take oath

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Elected representatives of Hong Kong's Youngspiration party deliberately mangled their oaths of office, refusing to swear loyalty to China (instead swearing to Hong Kong) and pronouncing China as "Shina," a term dating from the Japanese occupation of China (they also held up a banner that said "Hong Kong is not China"). Read the rest

A toddler is run over by an SUV while mom checks smartphone. Now, China grieves and rages online.

[Graphic content warning] This video that shows an SUV crushing a baby girl while her mom checks her smartphone has sparked mourning and outrage on Chinese social media, as people shame the mom for distraction and warn others of “the perils of overusing smartphones.”

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Typical English village mystified by its cult status among Chinese tourists

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Kidlington is a village of 13,723 people in Oxfordshire where nothing much happens. Read the rest

Donald Trump's super PAC promised a Chinese millionaire access, influence in exchange for a secret $2 million donation

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Reporters posing as representatives of a Chinese tycoon approached Trump and Clinton PACs and offered them $2 million; only the Giuliani and Trump, Junior-backed Great America PAC agreed, and moreover, assured the fake Chinese benefactor that the origin of the contribution would be covered up and that he would have influence with Trump after the election. Read the rest

Ikea Shanghai to elderly, lonely Chinese people: buy something or get out

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Turns out that when your giant, tax-dodging global furniture enterprise pitches itself as a kind of flat-pack-on-tap public utility, it gets treated like one. Read the rest

Chabuduo: China's culture of "it's fine"

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Explosive growth and change in China means many things must be built. They are not built well, writes British ex-pat James Palmer.

The apartment is five years old. By Chinese standards, it’s far better than the average. Our toilet works, while in many of my friends’ houses, flushing the loo is a hydraulic operation akin to controlling the Nile floods. The sockets do not flash blue sparks when plugged in, and all but two work. None of the lightbulbs have ever exploded; and the mirror merely broke away, rather than falling spontaneously from the frame. The shower is not placed next to the apartment’s central wiring and protected by nothing more than rotting drywall.

It's so brutal—"My time in China has taught me the pleasure and value of craftsmanship, simply because it’s so rare"—I can't help but wonder if it's really that bad! The word Chabuduo is offered as the cultural gravity point at hand. Meaning "close enough," it is depicted here as a powerful and useful concept in earlier times (think: improvisation, effectiveness, ingenuity) that has become dangerous in the context of modern life (think: slapdash, jobsworth, irritable.)

Yet chabuduo is also the casual dismissal of problems. Oh, your door doesn’t fit the frame? Chabuduo, you’ll get used to kicking it open. We sent you a shirt two sizes too big? Chabuduo, what are you complaining about?

At my old compound, the entrance to the underground parking lot was covered by a 20-metre-long half-cylinder of heavy blue plastic. Nobody had noticed that this made a highly effective wind trap, and it had been only crudely nailed to the brick foundations.

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July: Vancouver imposes a 15% tax on foreign real estate speculators; September: home sales drop by a third

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Vancouver has been wracked by a white-hot property bubble driven primarily by offshore speculators, mostly Chinese, who have driven up the price of housing beyond the means of working Vancouverites, crippling the city's daily life as workers, students and families struggle to find somewhere -- anywhere -- to live. Read the rest

Company suspected of blame in Office of Personnel Management breach will help run new clearance agency

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In 2014, the US Office of Personnel Management was hacked (presumably by Chinese spies), and leaked 22,000,000+ records of Americans who'd applied for security clearance, handing over the most intimate, compromising details of their lives (the clearance process involves disclosing anything that could be used to blackmail you in the future). This didn't come to light until 2015. Read the rest

Chinese real estate bubble is "biggest in history"

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Wang Jianlin made billions speculating on Chinese real-estate; now that he's diversified into buying Hollywood movie studios and chains of movie theaters, the richest man in China is prepared to say what many have known: the Chinese property market is a huge, deadly bubble that's ripe to burst. Read the rest

China's elites appear to be exfiltrating billions while on holidays

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China has a massive "tourism deficit" -- the difference between the money that tourists spend in China and the money that Chinese people spend abroad: $206B from June 2015-June 2016, up from $77B in 2013. The missing money is hard to explain, since China doesn't export that many tourists. Read the rest

A powerful attacker is systematically calibrating an internet-killing tool

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Someone -- possibly the government of China -- has launched a series of probing attacks on the internet's most critical infrastructure, using carefully titrated doses of denial-of-service to precisely calibrate a tool for shutting down the whole net. Read the rest

How Hong Kong's vulnerable, reviled refugee community saved Edward Snowden

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When Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong with thumb-drives full of damning US government documents, he assumed his freedom was forfeit: he didn't even make an escape plan. Read the rest

Pro-democracy reformers win big in Hong Kong's elections

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19 of the 35 seats up for grabs in Hong Kong's legislative election went to pro-democracy candidates who have vowed to continue the fight for autonomy from Beijing and its program of censorship, surveillance, and autocratic authoritarianism. Read the rest

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