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The AI Girlfriend Seducing China’s Lonely MenXiaoice was first developed by a group of researchers inside Microsoft Asia-Pacific in 2014, before the American firm spun off the bot as an independent business — also named Xiaoice — in July. In many ways, she resembles AI-driven software like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, with users able to chat with her for free via voice or text message on a range of apps and smart devices. The reality, however, is more like the movie “Her.” Unlike regular virtual assistants, Xiaoice is designed to set her users’ hearts aflutter. Appearing as an 18-year-old who likes to wear Japanese-style school uniforms, she flirts, jokes, and even sexts with her human partners, as her algorithm tries to work out how to become their perfect companion. When users send her a picture of a cat, Xiaoice won’t identify the breed, but comment: “No one can resist their innocent eyes.” If she sees a photo of a tourist pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, she’ll ask: “Do you want me to hold it for you?”
Cai Xia: An Insider Breaks with the Chinese Communist PartyBut shortly after Xi’s ascension, I started to have my doubts. A December 2012 speech he gave suggested a reformist and progressive mentality, but other statements hinted at a throwback to the pre-reform era. Was Xi headed left or right? I had just retired from the Central Party School, but I still kept in touch with my former colleagues. Once when I was talking to some of them about Xi’s plans, one of them said, “It’s not a question of whether Xi is going left or right but rather that he lacks basic judgment and speaks illogically.” Everyone fell silent. A chill ran down my spine. With deficiencies like these, how could we expect him to lead a struggle for political reform?
Cai Xia: An Insider Breaks with the Chinese Communist PartyWhy was the Organization Department so territorial about publishing? It all came down to money. Many departments have slush funds, which are used for the lavish enjoyment of senior officials and divided among personnel as “welfare subsidies.” The easiest way to replenish those funds is to publish books. At that time, the CCP had more than 3.6 million grassroots organizations, each of which was expected to buy a copy of a new publication. If the book was priced at ten yuan per copy, that meant a minimum of 36 million yuan in sales revenue—equivalent to more than $5 million today. Since that money was coming from the budgets of the party branches, the scheme was essentially an exercise in forcing one public entity to transfer money to another. No wonder the Organization Department promoted a new political education topic every year. And no wonder almost every institution within the CCP had a publishing arm. With nearly every unit inventing new ways to make money, venality has permeated the regime.
Cai Xia: An Insider Breaks with the Chinese Communist PartyThe People’s Liberation Army assigned me to a military medical school. My job was to manage its library, which happened to carry Chinese translations of “reactionary” works, mostly Western literature and political philosophy. Distinguished by their gray covers, these books were restricted to regime insiders for the purpose of familiarizing themselves with China’s ideological opponents, but in secret, I read them, too. I was most impressed by The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by the American journalist William Shirer, and a collection of Soviet fiction. There was a world of ideas outside of the Marxist classics, I realized. But I still believed that Marxism was the only truth.
Pollution Data Shows China’s Uneven Economic Virus Recovery - BloombergAt least three cities there have given local factories power-consumption targets because they’re using the data to show a resurgence in production, according to people familiar with the matter. That’s prompted some businesses to run machinery even as their plants remain empty, the people said.
Rare Release of Xi’s Speech on Virus Puzzles Top China Watchers - Bloomberg“For Xi to authorize the speech’s publication at this juncture seemed strongly defensive, as though he needed to make clear that he didn’t bear any of the blame for the slow initial response to the discovery of the virus in Wuhan,” said Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute and author of “The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers.” “In fact, it does the opposite, by seemingly putting him on par with the top officials in Hubei, in Wuhan, in being late to recognize the gravity of the public health criss as it was unfolding.”
23andMe vs. China's 23Mofang Review: What Do DNA Tests Tell You? - BloombergWhen my reports came back, 23Mofang’s analysis was much more ambitious than its American peer. Its results gauged how long I will live, diagnosed a high propensity for saggy skin (recommending I use products including Olay and Estee Lauder creams) and gave me — an optimist not prone to mood swings — a higher-than-average risk of developing bipolar disorder. 23andMe doesn’t assess mental illness, which Gil McVean, a geneticist at Oxford University, says is highly influenced by both environmental and genetic factors.
Lejoyeux points to the “Florence syndrome,” described by French novelist Stendhal in the 19th century after he was overwhelmed by the beauty of Michelangelo’s David. The “Jerusalem syndrome” refers to “mystical” events and hallucinations experienced by some visitors to the holy city. “Traveler’s syndrome is an old story,” he said. The Paris syndrome is different in that it stems from the reality falling short of romanticized expectations. The visitors have to contend with unfriendly locals and tourism professionals who aren’t always welcoming, Zhou said. “Waiters are impatient, they don’t speak English,” he said. “Our clients tell us: Parisians are mean.”
The existence of this surplus labor, in turn, has two effects. First, for a while such countries can invest heavily in new factories, construction, and so on without running into diminishing returns, because they can keep drawing in new labor from the countryside. Second, competition from this reserve army of surplus labor keeps wages low even as the economy grows richer. Indeed, the main thing holding down Chinese consumption seems to be that Chinese families never see much of the income being generated by the country’s economic growth. Some of that income flows to a politically connected elite; but much of it simply stays bottled up in businesses, many of them state-owned enterprises. It’s all very peculiar by our standards, but it worked for several decades. Now, however, China has hit the “Lewis point” — to put it crudely, it’s running out of surplus peasants. That should be a good thing. Wages are rising; finally, ordinary Chinese are starting to share in the fruits of growth. But it also means that the Chinese economy is suddenly faced with the need for drastic “rebalancing” — the jargon phrase of the moment. Investment is now running into sharply diminishing returns and is going to drop drastically no matter what the government does; consumer spending must rise dramatically to take its place. The question is whether this can happen fast enough to avoid a nasty slump.