While the offending comments were disrespectful, they weren’t widely circulated and carried little real risk of reputation damage.
But under President Xi Jinping, Chinese authorities have become increasingly intolerant of any voices that criticize national heroes — or question the narrative about them. And in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party’s centenary, on July 1, that’s only escalated.
Yuan devoted his life to developing rice strains that yield higher harvests after the Great Chinese Famine that killed tens of millions between 1959 and 1961. His variants helped alleviate famine in developing countries across Asia and Africa.
In 2019, Yuan was awarded the Medal of the Republic, China’s highest official honor, by Chinese President Xi Jinping. On social media this weekend, some questioned why he had never won a Nobel prize.
“Sometimes you say the wrong things because you don’t understand politics,” he said.
During China’s Cultural Revolution, Yuan learned that the hard way when previous comments he’d made opened him up to attacks.
Luckily, his research on rice published that year in a scientific journal drew the attention from senior Chinese officials in time to protect him from repercussions. “It saved my life,” he said.
He couldn’t have known then that decades later, up on his death, people would be detained for making “insulting remarks” about him.
The business of China: Jack Ma expelled from school
Jack Ma is reportedly stepping down as the president of an elite business school he founded, a sign that China is continuing to expand its efforts to keep tech companies in check.
Citing anonymous sources, the Financial Times reported Monday that Ma will no longer serve as the president of Hupan University, which he created in 2015 to cultivate a new generation of entrepreneurs.
Hupan and Jack Ma’s personal foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.
The report comes several months after Beijing began reining in the Chinese internet sector, with Ma at the center of those efforts. Regulators pulled a highly anticipated IPO for his company Ant Group, the financial affiliate of Alibaba, last year. Ant Group has since been forced to overhaul its operations, as other tech firms are also squeezed over concerns about monopolistic behavior and other consumer rights issues.
When Ma opened Hupan several years ago, he said he hoped to turn it into a “300-year enterprise.” The school is famously difficult to get into: Each applicant must have more than three years of entrepreneurial experience, with requirements for how large their company is and how much revenue it rakes in every year. Its admission rate is a lowly 2.16%, making it harder to get into than Harvard and Stanford.
Ma’s reported departure also comes as other major tech figures in China step back from high-profile posts. ByteDance CEO and founder Zhang Yiming announced last week that he would resign and transition to a new role at the company to “focus on long-term strategy.” He’s 38 years old. And in March, Colin Huang the 41-year-old founder of Pinduoduo, said he would step down as chairman to pursue other goals, including his childhood dream of becoming a scientist or researcher.
The coronavirus story Beijing wishes would die
Scientists may roll their eyes to see the claim back in the news, but that will be nothing like the reaction from Beijing, which has vehemently denied the possibility of the virus having come from a lab. At the time of writing, Chinese officials have not commented on the latest report or replied to CNN’s request for comment.
China’s leaders have struggled to shift the narrative on the coronavirus from its beginnings in Wuhan to the country’s great success in containing it — even as the pandemic caused disaster across the world.
We will never know how much the virus could have been stopped if Wuhan officials had acted quicker. But the mere suggestion that the virus might have come from a government-sponsored lab.
That such a suggestion is coming directly from the US government, in this case, will likely further drive tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Quoted and noted
“Lithuania is a small country, whose population is less than a district of one of China’s first-tier cities.”