China is on the red planet

The China Letter: May 19, 2021

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The emergence of a new powerhouse digital company coincides with another one losing billions because its CEO shared an ancient poem about freedom, there’s more clarity about the census and the treatment of Uighur Muslims, and China has now landed on Mars. All that and more in the weekly digest of news you can easily share:

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Two business case studies

Taking over from Amazon as the most downloaded shopping app in America is a milestone for Shein, which first clicked internationally with young women looking to buy fast fashion online. It’s attained the status of “The TikTok of Ecommerce” with its enigmatic history—and susceptible to scrutiny that comes with being from China.

CEO Wang Xing’s late-night social media posting of an ancient poem viewed as a veiled criticism of China’s government led to bad press for the popular food app called Meituan. While his personal fortune declined by about $2 billion, the company itself lost $16 billion of value, due to the reaction to stanzas that condemned book burning.


What the real numbers say

Government data showed China’s population growth falling closer to zero, based on the census conducted late last year, which stands to bring new challenges to Beijing. While the government previously claimed the number of people grew in 2020, one harsh reality is that the 1.41 billion includes nearly 35 million more single men than women.


New light in dark corners

China continues to say its so-called “re-education” programme in Xinjiang is to stamp out extremism among the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, even in the face of research that shows otherwise. Meanwhile, public celebrations of the end of Ramadan portrayed a level of religious freedom that there’s mounting evidence to contradict:


Mars has a new occupant

Zhurong is the rover named after a god of fire in Chinese mythology, which recently touched down on the surface of Mars. While suspicion surrounded the lack of images to confirm this landing, the delay seems to relate to the fact that they’re new at this. The landing location finds scientists excited to look at features such as a mud volcano.


The last words, for now

Chinese state media reported on a group of university students given prison sentences of up to two-and-a-half years for fraud, but this story had nothing to do with pro-democracy protests. Rather, they discovered a glitch in KFC’s ordering platform and placed orders for free fried chicken, only to be punished for exploiting those errors:


The China Letter is produced by the Canadian Freedom Institute, a think tank based in Canada. We produce the China Letter every week to keep you informed and to press the ideas of free markets and free people not only in China but around the world. Please consider donating to keep this newsletter running!

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