No. 51 | 22.05.2021

Photo taken by “Zhurong” Mars rover [Xinhua]

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Dear reader,

In this week’s News on China: Out of this World, Tings Chak and Marco Fernandes speak with Daniel Dumbrill about China’s historic Mars mission, the implications of the national census and Russian pranksters exposing the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) at their meeting.

Watch the show here or listen to it on all major podcast platforms.

—Dongsheng editorial collective

Science and Technology

China becomes the third country in history to land a spacecraft on Mars after seven-month journey

Zhurong (god of fire) rover will collect data about the planet’s soil and atmosphere over next three months in the latest mission of the Chinese space program, which launched first part of new space station earlier this month


Rising global demand for chips drives Taiwanese investment (US $330 million) in Mainland China, despite escalating political tensions

Q1 saw a 29.9% year-on-year surge in investment, 1,195 new Taiwanese-funded companies established, and TSMC chipmaker announce expansion (US $2.87 billion) of its Nanjing plant, aiming to double its production capacity

Most African mega construction projects (60%, 2019) go to Chinese companies, offering low-cost, high-quality alternative

Chinese get ⅓ of their overseas income in Africa, with majority funding from the World Bank (35%, 2000-20) and the Africa Development Bank (27.9%, 2013-18), from which the Chinese receive four times more funding than French companies

National Politics

China spent US $33 billion (2020) in subsidies for high-tech industry, mainly in strategic sectors such as chips, defense and pharmaceuticals

Spending grew 14% year-on-year, including for chips (US $1.65 billion), military aircraft, navigation systems and vaccine production; tech competition grows between China and US, which is considering its own subsidy program

China launches private pension pilot as state pension (⅔ of total) deficit could reach US $1.6 trillion in a decade

Proportion of people aged 15-65 and 65+ was 10:1 (2000), fell to 5:1 (2020) when country recorded first social insurance deficit, and expected to reach 2:1 (2050)

Divorce rates dropped by 71% year-on-year in Q1 (296,000 couples) since implementation of 30-day “cool-off period” policy

Policy aims to prevent impulsive separation and address declining birth rate, but sparks public debate on limiting couple’s ability to divorce and putting victims of domestic violence at risk


Between January-April, fixed-asset investment (US $2.23 trillion) grew 19.9% year-on-year, with real estate (US $624 billion) up 21.6%

Residential development investment (US $469 billion) grew 24.4% and prices in major cities rose 4.4% (April), despite government efforts to contain its rise in major cities (Guangzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, etc.)

Agriculture and Environment

Heilongjiang province produced over 75 million tonnes of grain last year (11% of national total), mainly corn, rice, and soybeans

With a cultivation area of 23 million hectares, China’s “grain barn” applies advanced technology to develop high-quality grain seeds; yearly grain seed output exceeds 1.4 million tonnes

People’s Life and Culture

China remembers 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan, which claimed 87,000 lives and left five million homeless

On 13th anniversary, film “108” (“Wonder in the Temple”) tells the story of the 108 children born in Luohan Temple, which took in survivors and became a makeshift maternity ward after the earthquake

Small trading town of Yiwu grew to be the world’s largest commodities market after economic reform period

Revived during Deng Xiaoping-era, Zhejiang’s 18th century trading town became an international market attracting 200,000 daily visitors, 13,000 international residents (traders, consultants, teachers) and 380,000+ registered businesses with US $31 billion exports (2018)

Rescued as a 20-year-old during 2008 earthquake, Jiang Yuhang later became a firefighter, Guizhou [China Daily]

Rescued as a 20-year-old during 2008 earthquake, Jiang Yuhang later became a firefighter, Guizhou [China Daily]