China’s Burned Out Tech Workers are Fighting Back Against Long Hours

1The draining 996 work schedule—named for the expectation that employees work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week—has persisted in Chinese companies for years despite ongoing public outcry. Even Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma once called it a “huge blessing.”

In early October this year, it seemed the tide might have been turning. After hopeful signs of increased government scrutiny in August, four aspiring tech workers initiated a social media project designed to expose the problem with the nation’s working culture. A publicly editable database of company practices, it soon went viral, revealing working conditions at many companies in the tech sector and helping bring 996 to the center of the public’s attention. It managed to garner 1 million views within its first week.

But the project—first dubbed Worker Lives Matter and then Working Time—was gone almost as quickly as it appeared. The database and the GitHub repository page have been deleted, and online discussions about the work have been censored by Chinese social networking platforms.  The short life of Working Time highlights how difficult it is to make progress against overtime practices that, while technically illegal in China, are still thriving.

But some suspect it won’t be the last anonymous project to take on 996. “I believe there will be more and more attempts and initiatives like this,” says programmer Suji Yan, who has worked on another anti-996 project. With better approaches to avoiding censorship, he says, they could bring even more attention to the problem.

Tracking hours

Working Time started with a spreadsheet shared on Tencent Docs, China’s version of Google Docs. Shortly after it was posted, it was populated with entries attributed to companies such as Alibaba, the Chinese-language internet search provider Baidu, and e-commerce company JD.com.  “9 a.m., 10:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m., six days a week, managers usually go home after midnight,” read one entry linked with tech giant Huawei. “10 a.m., 9 p.m. (off-work time 9 p.m., but our group stays until 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. because of involution,” noted another entry (“involution” is Chinese internet slang for irrational competition).

Within three days, more than 1,000 entries had been added. A few days later, it became the top trending topic on China’s Quora-like online forum Zhihu.  As the spreadsheet grew and got more public attention, one organizer, with the user name 秃头才能变强 (“Only Being Bald Can Make You Strong”), came out on Zhihu to share the story behind the burgeoning project. “Four of us are fresh college and master’s degree graduates who were born between 1996 and 2001,” the organizer said.genesis3-1-1

Initially, the spreadsheet was just for information sharing, to help job hunters like themselves, they said. But as it got popular, the organizers decided to push from information gathering to activism. “It is not simply about sharing anymore, as we bear some social responsibility,”

The spreadsheet filled a gap in China, where there is a lack of company rating sites such as Glassdoor and limited ways for people to learn about benefits, office culture, and salary information. Some job seekers depend on word of mouth, while others reach out to workers randomly on the professional networking app Maimai or piece together information from job listings.  “I have heard about 996, but I was not aware it is that common.

Now I see the tables made by others, I feel quite shocked,” Lane Sun, a university student from Nanjing, said when the project was still public. Against 996 According to China’s labor laws, a typical work schedule is eight hours a day, with a maximum of 44 hours a week. Extra hours beyond that require overtime pay, and monthly overtime totals are capped at 36 hours.125x125-1-1-1

But for a long time, China’s tech companies and startups have skirted overtime caps and become notorious for endorsing, glamorizing, and in some cases mandating long hours in the name of hard work and competitive advantage.  In a joint survey by China’s online job site Boss Zhipin and the microblogging platform Weibo in 2019, only 10.6% of workers surveyed said they rarely worked overtime, while 24.7% worked overtime every day.

 Long work hours can benefit workers, Jack Ma explained in 2019. “Since you are here, instead of making yourself miserable, you should do 996,” Ma said in a speech at an internal Alibaba meeting that was later shared online. “Your 10-year working experience will be the same as others’ 20 years.” But the tech community had already started to fight back. Earlier that year, a user created the domain 996.icu.

A repository of the same name was launched on GitHub a few days later. The name means that “by following the 996 work schedule, you are risking yourself getting into the ICU (intensive care unit),” explains the GitHub page, which includes regulations on working hours under China’s labor law and a list of more than 200 companies that practice 996.  Within three days, the repository got over 100,000 stars, or bookmarks, becoming the top trending project on GitHub at that time. It was blocked not long after by Chinese browsers including QQ and 360, ultimately disappearing entirely from the Chinese internet (it is still available through VPNs).

The 996.icu project was quickly followed by the Anti-996 License. Devised by Yan and Katt Gu, who has a legal background, the software license allows developers to restrict the use of their code to those entities that comply with labor laws. In total, the Anti-996 License has been adopted by more than 2,000 projects, Yan says. Today, 996 is facing increasing public scrutiny from both Chinese authorities and the general public.

After a former employee at the agriculture-focused tech firm Pinduoduo died in December 2020, allegedly because of overwork, China’s state-run press agency Xinhua called out overtime culture and advocated for shorter hours.This company delivers packages faster than Amazon, but workers pay the priceSouth Korean e-commerce giant Coupang uses AI to promise almost-instant delivery. But speed comes with troubling labor issues—including worker deaths.

And on August 26, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Supreme People’s Court jointly published guidelines and examples of court cases on overtime, sending reminders to companies and individuals to be aware of labor laws. But even though authorities and state media seem to be taking a tougher stand, it is unclear when or if the rules that make 996 illegal will be fully enforced. Some companies are making changes.quintex-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-2-2-1-1-1

Anthony Cai, a current employee of Baidu, says working six days a week is quite rare in big companies nowadays. This year, several tech companies including and ByteDance, the developer of TikTok, canceled “big/small weeks,” an emerging term in China that refers to working a six-day schedule every other week. “Working on Saturday is not that popular anymore,” Cai says. “However, staying late at the office is still very common, which is not usually counted as overtime hours.” 

 Source: https://www.technologyreview.com

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Alibaba Stock Keeps Falling, Sending Jack Ma’s Net Worth Down $30 Billion In A Year

Shares of tech giant Alibaba continued to fall on Friday, adding to the stock’s massive selloff after the company said earlier this week that it expects weaker revenue growth amid China’s slowing economy and Beijing’s ongoing regulatory crackdown.

Key Facts

The tech and e-commerce giant reported disappointing quarterly earnings late on Wednesday and slashed its revenue forecasts for the year ahead.

Alibaba shares plunged over 11% on Thursday following the report—one of the stock’s largest single-day declines on record—and is down more than 2% so far on Friday.

The stock’s downward trajectory has shaved billions off of the net worth of Alibaba founder and chairman, Jack Ma, who was once China’s richest person.

Ma’s fortune fell by another $350 million on Friday, bringing his net worth to $38.6 billion, according to Forbes’ estimates.

The billionaire’s wealth is down dramatically from its peak: Ma was worth as much as $66.6 billion when Alibaba’s stock price hit a record high of around $317 per share on October 27, 2020.

It has been a difficult year for the Chinese billionaire, who is also the cofounder of fintech giant Ant Group: Ma has largely kept a low public profile since Beijing’s regulatory crackdown heated up last year.

Key Background:

Since last year, the Chinese government has ramped up its regulatory scrutiny of major tech giants in the country—including Alibaba and its peers Tencent, Baidu and TikTok owner ByteDance, accusing them of anticompetitive practices and gathering large amounts of private user data. Billionaire Jack Ma briefly disappeared from public view after Chinese regulators shut down his fintech company Ant Group’s planned $35 billion IPO in November 2020.

Government regulators then fined Alibaba $2.8 billion in April 2021—the highest-ever antitrust penalty imposed in China—for acting like a monopoly. Shares of Alibaba are down nearly 40% so far this year.

What To Watch For:

In its earnings release, the tech giant warned of a “regulatory environment that [could] affect Alibaba’s business operations” as well as “privacy and data protection regulations and concerns.”

Crucial Quote:

Chinese president Xi Jinping “has not backed down” when it comes to the regulatory crackdown, John Freeman, vice president of equity research at CFRA, recently told Yahoo Finance. “There’s actually a delisting risk” when it comes to Alibaba shares, he warns.

Further Reading:

Alibaba Founder Jack Ma Reportedly Resurfaces In Hong Kong (Forbes)

Here’s Why Investors Should Take Another Look At China, According To This Asset Manager (Forbes)

Here’s What Investors Are Most Worried About—Including Meme Stocks And China Real Estate—According To Fed Report (Forbes)

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I am a New York-based reporter covering billionaires and their wealth for Forbes. Previously, I worked on the breaking news team at Forbes covering money and markets.

Source: Alibaba Stock Keeps Falling, Sending Jack Ma’s Net Worth Down $30 Billion In A Year

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China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

Beijing is building a system to ensure that the automated processes of Internet platforms are fair, transparent and in line with the ideology of the Communist Party

Regulators called for the algorithms to be fair and transparent, following the ideology of the Communist Party of China.

The campaign puts China one step ahead in policing tech forums, as governments around the world grapple with how to respond to automated technologies that reshape business, social interactions and politics.

Earlier this year, the European Union proposed restricting certain uses of artificial intelligence to reduce potential harm. In the US, lawmakers are investigating Facebook’s influence Inc. NS

Algorithm-driven content on users, after Businesshala reported that the company’s Instagram app has a negative impact on children’s mental health.

China has targeted algorithms more aggressively under the close watch of its domestic tech sector. Draft guidelines released this summer would require algorithms to protect the rights of workers and consumers, and restrict the use of algorithms to manipulate user accounts, online traffic or search results.

“We don’t necessarily see China as a regulatory innovator, but in this case they are,” said Rogier Creamers, an assistant professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, which focuses on Chinese technical policy.

Under a three-year plan released last week, Chinese regulators outlined steps to monitor algorithms, including a registration process and the establishment of a technical team to evaluate the mechanisms and risks of an algorithm.

The latest campaign builds on a broad regulatory push in China’s tech sector that has prompted investigations into some of the country’s biggest companies, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding. Ltd.

The push is partly directed at business practices that regulators deem harmful so workers or consumers.

Companies such as Meituan and Didi have faced heat over the working conditions of drivers, as well as calls for creating algorithms that schedule workers’ tasks and pay more transparently. Officials have also warned tech companies this year against exploiting personal data and using algorithms to charge discriminatory prices from customers.

China’s Cyberspace Administration, Alibaba and Didi did not respond to requests for comment. China is currently celebrating its National Day holiday.

Meituan declined to comment. The company previously published an explanation of its delivery algorithm and said it is making changes to give delivery drivers more flexibility.

Experts said it would be a challenge for regulators to tighten controls on algorithms without hindering development or innovation in one of China’s most successful sectors. Internet companies rely on complex mathematical instructions for tasks ranging from analysis of social-media behavior to mapping optimal distribution routes.

While algorithms have contributed to technological advancement and societal development, the CAC said in last week’s announcement, they have also brought “challenges to ideological security, a fair and equal society, and the protection of the legal rights of Internet users.”

Beijing-based partner at law firm Bird & Bird, James Gong, said tighter regulatory oversight of algorithms is likely to impact China’s internet industry.

Mr. Gong said of the country’s Internet companies, “Almost all of them use algorithms and automated decision-making and profiling to ensure that their marketing is more accurate and to improve business efficiency and increase profits.” Is.”

A senior manager at ByteDance Ltd said the requirement to register the algorithm would only add a step, restricting the learning of user behavior and recommendation services, as well as requiring disclosure of proprietary technology that could hurt the company’s business. .

ByteDance, which owns social-media sensation TikTok and its Chinese sister app Douyin, is known for its powerful algorithms that drive user recommendations and content.

“The regulatory environment is clear, and we need to start thinking about how to adjust accordingly,” the ByteDance manager said. He said that since most of the new regulation is still under debate, it is difficult to say what the immediate commercial impact will be.

ByteDance did not respond to a request for comment.

Sam Sachs, senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, said China’s approach could appeal to other countries that want a thriving digital economy while maintaining a firm grip on political and social discourse. However, she said there is still a lot of uncertainty over the details and enforcement of these new rules.

“I think they understand that this is an impossible task that they have set for themselves,” Ms Sachs said. “I would also say that three years can be ambitious.”

The CAC guidelines also state that algorithms used by Chinese companies must uphold core socialist values ​​and promote “positive energy” in content provided to users.

China is taking more control of online content and communities. In recent months, it has severely restricted online-videogame time for players under the age of 18, banned pop-idol rankings and criticized online male personalities for being too sacrilegious. are visible.

“It’s almost taking online censorship up a notch,” Ms Sachs said. “It is saying that you have an obligation to ensure that any content that is algorithmically driven that you feed into the online space is to shape socialist values.”

By: Stephanie Yang, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Source: China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

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U.S.-Listed Chinese Stocks Have Lost Another $150 Billion In Market Value This Week As Beijing Targets ‘Excessive’ Wealth

Shares of Chinese tech giants trading in the United States struggled to pare losses Friday amid intensifying concerns over China’s efforts to impose sweeping new regulations on its publicly traded companies over the next several years, yielding market value losses of more than $150 billion for the 10 largest U.S.-listed Chinese stocks this week alone.

Key Facts

As of 2:45 p.m. EDT, shares of e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba, the largest Chinese company listed in the U.S., were among the hardest hit, down more than 15% on the New York Stock Exchange over the past week to $157, deflating its market capitalization to $424 billion.

Fellow online retailers JD.com and Pinduoduo, posted similarly staggering losses, wiping out about $20 billion and $10 billion in market value this week, respectively, despite ticking up about 2% Friday.

“China remains a huge source of global concern,” market analyst Adam Crisafulli of Vital Knowledge Media wrote in a Friday email, pointing to the nation’s strengthening regulatory campaign against corporations and actions that last month included demanding online education companies end their for-profit business models.

This week, shares of Chinese stocks have crashed steadily since Tuesday, when President Xi Jinping vowed to redistribute wealth in the nation by regulating “excessively high incomes”—spurring a sell-off that crushed shares of European luxury companies that do big business in China, like LVMH and Gucci-parent Kering.

U.S.-listed shares of online-gaming company NetEase, electric carmaker NIO and Internet firm Baidu plunged 11%, 10% and 10%, respectively, this week.

All told, the 10 largest Chinese companies trading in the United States have lost about $153 billion in market value since last week—more than 15% of their combined market value of roughly $940 billion.

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Key Background

In a matter of weeks, China has introduced harsh regulations targeting wide swaths of its economy and showing investors how risky investing in its market can be, Tom Essaye, author of the Sevens Report, wrote in a recent note. “Yes, there’s a huge market and lots of growth potential, but obviously there are regulatory risks that seem to be growing larger with every passing month,” said Essaye.

Last week, officials released a sweeping five-year blueprint for the crackdown, covering virtually every sector in its market. Then on Wednesday, China’s market regulators published a long list of draft rules targeting tech companies, barring them from using data to influence consumer choices and “traffic hijacking activities,” among other things.

Crucial Quote

“This is all a stark reminder that the current regulatory crackdown from Beijing is not going to let up,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a Thursday note, forecasting U.S. tech stocks, which are outperforming the broader market Friday, should benefit from the tech-focused crackdown in China over the next year. “The fear with more regulation in China around the corner is a major worry that is hard for investors to digest, and it will ultimately cause more of a rotation from the China tech sector to U.S. tech.”

Surprising Fact

The Nasdaq Golden Dragon China index, which tracks Chinese businesses trading in the United States, is down 9% this week and has crashed 51% from a February all-time high.

Further Reading

U.S., European Investment Banks May Have Lost Some $12 Billion As Chinese Education Firms Crashed (Forbes)

China’s Internet Tycoons Suffer $13.6 Billion Wealth Drop As Regulatory Crackdown Triggers Market Sell-Off (Forbes)

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I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism

Source: U.S.-Listed Chinese Stocks Have Lost Another $150 Billion In Market Value This Week As Beijing Targets ‘Excessive’ Wealth

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Market News

1h Does the US economy need another $480 billion in stimulus? – CNN Business
2h Top Wall Street analysts say these stocks are long-term buys – CNBC
22h Gold fails at $1,800, another selloff might be on its way – Kitco
1d Fed To Taper This Year – What Are the Odds? – Benzinga
1d Half a trillion dollars erased from China markets in a week – New York Post
1d US Indexes Close Higher Friday – GuruFocus
1d Taking Stock of Small-Cap Earnings – Zacks Investment Research
1d Fed’s Jackson Hole symposium to take place virtually due to Covid risk – CNBC
1d Fed’s Jackson Hole conference to take place virtually – Reuters
1d U.S. dollar net long bets slip in latest week -CFTC, Reuters data – Reuters
1d China Evergrande’s Bailout Hopes Continue to Fade – GuruFocus
1d Fed ‘actively working’ on US digital currency, official says – New York Post
1d Fed Minutes, Retail Data Weighed on Wall Street This Week – Schaeffers Research
1d Wall Street Week Ahead: Investors stick to stocks, but gear up for bumpier ride – Reuters
1d Looking to Cash In on a Stronger U.S. Dollar? – ETF Trends
1d U.S.-Listed Chinese Stocks Have Lost Another $150 Billion In Market Value This W… – Forbes
1d Biden Freezes Student Loan Interest Rates For 47,000 Service Members – Forbes
1d Read This Before Your Next Trade – Zacks Investment Research
1d Fed officials will seek to avoid a tantrum as they keep ‘taper talk’ going at Ja… – CNBC
1d ‘Flash recession’ could hit markets by the fall – Fox Business

Why Big Investors Are Quitting Chinese Stocks – Bloomberg Wealth

Chinese companies once ticked a lot of boxes for investors trying to follow the market’s old adages.

Diversify, they say. Well then, why not look beyond the world’s largest economy to its second? Maybe you’ve got Facebook, Amazon and Google in your portfolio already. Shouldn’t you also be thinking about Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu? You can buy them on Robinhood, after all.

Check your politics at the door, they say. So in an era when China is a bipartisan flashpoint, why not tune out the rhetoric and focus purely on returns?

That all sounds promising in a theoretical world. But in the practical one we inhabit, investing in China has become riskier, particularly this summer. In this excellent breakdown, Matt Levine of Bloomberg Opinion explains in terms you will actually understand how opaque it is to own U.S.-listed China stocks.

When you buy shares of a Chinese company listed outside of China, what you are actually buying is “an empty shell that has certain contractual relationships with the Chinese company,” Levine explains.

Sound tenuous? SEC Chair Gary Gensler thinks so. The commissioner worries that Americans just don’t know enough about Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges. A few weeks ago, he blocked initial public offerings of certain firms until they boost disclosures of risks posed to shareholders.

This is all coming in the context of some serious developments in China. There are mounting concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the crackdown in Hong Kong. Both have led to negative views of the country globally and pose ethical and financial dilemmas for investors increasingly thinking about the moral side of investing.

And a Chinese clampdown on capitalism has spooked investors. At its most extreme, it erased $1.5 trillion from Chinese stocks. It has hit Chinese tech companies hard. It’s prompted superstar fund manager Cathie Wood to pare her China exposure. Wood’s ARKK ETF is now sitting with no exposure to shares of companies in the world’s second-biggest economy. Other high profile investors have taken similar steps, including George Soros and Paul Marshall, co-founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds.

And it’s not just tech. In mid-June, Chinese President Xi Jinping indicated that private tutoring — a huge expense for middle-class Chinese families — should not be such a burden. The country went on to ban for-profit tutoring, a huge deal in the $100 billion education tech sector.

Yet with proof that there is an adage for almost any angle, I offer you another: Buck the consensus view. HSBC Chairman Mark Tucker says investment opportunities in China are “too big to ignore.” And while he wouldn’t recommend Chinese equities in general, one market expert in our latest “Where to Invest” series says he would recommend two ETFs that have exposure to Chinese solar and battery technology.

Where do these adages lead us? Probably to another: Trust yourself, not some old saying. — Charlie Wells

By:

Source: Chinese Stocks: Should You Invest in the World’s Second-Largest Economy? – Bloomberg

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