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China’s Communist Party Congress: What It Means for Business

The DealBook newsletter delves into a single topic or theme every weekend, providing reporting and analysis that offer a better understanding of an important issue in business. If you don’t already receive the daily newsletter, sign up here.

At a Communist Party congress starting in Beijing on Oct. 16, Xi Jinping is expected to be named to a third five-year term as the country’s top leader, paving the way for him to consolidate power to an extent not seen in decades.

Under Mr. Xi, China has become the world’s dominant manufacturer of everything from cement to solar panels, as well as the main trading partner and dominant lender for most of the developing world. It has built the world’s largest navy, developed some of the world’s most advanced ballistic missiles and constructed air bases on artificial islands strewn across the South China Sea.

in a tailspin. Its property market, which over the last ten years contributed about a quarter of the country’s economic output, is melting down. Foreign investment has faltered. And widespread lockdowns and mass quarantines, part of China’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19, have hurt consumer demand and stalled businesses.

At the same time, Mr. Xi has worked to turn China into a more state-led society that often puts national security and ideology before economic growth. He has cracked down on Chinese companies and limited their executives’ power. Some of China’s best-known entrepreneurs have left the country and others, such as Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, have largely disappeared from public view.

All of this has hurt China’s economy, which was just 0.4 percent larger from April through June than during the same period last year. The growth was far below the government’s initial target for growth of about 5.5 percent this year. For the first year since the 1990s, China’s economic growth is expected to fall below the rest of Asia’s.

at the start of the last party congress, in 2017, lasted more than three hours. But buried in that jargon are likely to be some important messages. Here’s what finance leaders and corporate executives around the world want to know.

One of Mr. Xi’s favorite economic policy initiatives in recent months has a simple, innocuous-sounding name: “common prosperity.” The big question lies in what it means.

Common prosperity, a longtime goal of the Communist Party, has been defined by Mr. Xi as reining in private capital and narrowing China’s huge disparities in wealth. Regulators and tax investigators cracked down last year on tech giants and wealthy celebrities. Beijing demanded that tycoons give back to society. And Mr. Xi has strongly discouraged speculation in housing, pushing instead for government subsidies for the construction of more rental apartments.

A regulatory crackdown on tech companies and after-school education companies contributed to a wave of layoffs that left one in five young Chinese city dwellers unemployed by August. Lending limits on China’s highly inflated housing sector have triggered a nosedive in the number of fresh construction projects being started and a wave of insolvencies among real estate developers. Many Western hedge funds that bet heavily on the real estate developers’ overseas bond issues incurred considerable losses.

The term “common prosperity” was seldom used by top officials last spring during those setbacks. But Mr. Xi conspicuously revived it during a tour of northeastern China in mid-August. The Politburo subsequently mentioned common prosperity when it announced on Aug. 30 the starting date and agenda for the party congress.

first put forward in May 2020, is a theory of what he calls “dual circulation.” The concept involves relying primarily on domestic demand and innovation to propel the Chinese economy, while maintaining foreign markets and investors as a backup engine for growth.

Mr. Xi has pushed ahead with lavish subsidies to develop Chinese manufacturers, especially of semiconductors. But the slogan has attracted considerable skepticism from foreign investors in China and from foreign governments. They worry that the policy is a recipe for replacing imports with Chinese-made goods.

China’s imports have indeed stagnated this year while its exports have soared, producing the largest trade surpluses the world has ever seen. Those surpluses, not domestic demand, have sustained China’s economic growth this year.

Chinese officials deny that they are trying to discourage imports, and contend that China remains eager to welcome foreign companies and products. When the Politburo scheduled the party congress for Oct. 16, it did not mention dual circulation, so the term might be left aside. If it goes unmentioned, that could be a conciliatory gesture as foreign investment in China is already weakening, mainly because of the country’s draconian pandemic policies.

China’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19 has prevented a lot of deaths and long-term infections, but at a high and growing cost to the economy. The question now lies in when Mr. Xi will shift to a less restrictive stance toward controlling the virus.

in Tiananmen Square, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, when he reiterated China’s claim to Taiwan, a self-ruled island democracy. President Biden has mentioned four times that the United States is prepared to help Taiwan resist aggression. Each time his aides have walked back his comments somewhat, however, emphasizing that the United States retains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding its support for the island.

Even a vague mention by Mr. Xi at the party congress of a timeline for trying to bring Taiwan under the mainland’s political control could damage financial confidence in both Taiwan and the mainland.

The most important task of the ruling elite at the congress is to confirm the party’s leadership.

Particularly important to business is who in the lineup will become the new premier. The premier leads the cabinet but not the military, which is directly under Mr. Xi. The position oversees the finance ministry, commerce ministry and other government agencies that make many crucial decisions affecting banks, insurers and other businesses. Whoever is chosen will not be announced until a separate session of the National People’s Congress next March, but the day after the congress formally ends, members of the new Politburo Standing Committee — the highest body of political power in China — will walk on a stage in order of rank. The order in which the new leadership team walks may make clear who will become premier next year.

a leading hub of entrepreneurship and foreign investment in China. Neither has given many clues about their economic thinking since taking posts in Beijing. Mr. Wang had more of a reputation for pursuing free-market policies while in Guangdong.

Mr. Hu is seen as having a stronger political base than Mr. Wang because he is still young enough, 59, to be a potential successor to Mr. Xi. That political strength could give him the clout to push back a little against Mr. Xi’s recent tendency to lean in favor of greater government and Communist Party control of the private sector.

Precisely because Mr. Hu is young enough to be a possible successor, however, many businesspeople and experts think Mr. Xi is more likely to choose Mr. Wang or a dark horse candidate who poses no potential political threat to him.

In any case, the power of the premier has diminished as Mr. Xi has created a series of Communist Party commissions to draft policies for ministries, including a commission that dictates many financial policies.

What do you think? Let us know: dealbook@nytimes.com.

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Elton John Performs At The White House

The White House has always had musical guests come and perform, but what is the history and strategy behind these visits?

From Wembley Stadium in London to Madison Square Garden in New York City, Sir Elton John has performed on some of the biggest stages in the world. Friday, he performed for a relatively smaller crowd: an audience of 2,000 people at the White House.  

Over the past decade, the White House has hosted a slew of musical guests.  

Artists like Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson and Lin Manuel-Miranda have performed at the White House as part of the Obama administration’s celebrations of American music.  

Singer Kid Rock attended the Trump administration’s signing ceremony for the Music Modernization Act.  

And performers like Olivia Rodrigo and the K-Pop boy band BTS have spoken at the White House to advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine and to address the issue of anti-Asian hate crimes. 

David Jackson is a professor of political science at Bowling Green State University.  

“The demographics that each of the artists bring with them are demographics that the party is trying to persuade,” said Jackson.

Jackson has been researching the political influence of celebrity endorsements for the past two decades, and he’s noted that since President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, the administration’s choices for musical guests and performances can be seen as “an attempt to bring together generations.” 

Some of the performers during the 2020 Democratic National Convention included Gen Z pop star Billie Eilish, folk rock musician Stephen Stills and Broadway singer Billy Porter.  

“A celebrity endorsement’s a great thing. It gives energy, enthusiasm, helps raise money, helps persuade people, but it’s a lot more complicated than that,” he said.  

He noted that celebrity endorsements are only effective if the celebrities are familiar, likable, and credible in the eyes of fans.  

Elton John has long been an advocate for LGBTQ rights and a major activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  

The British icon’s performance at the White House has been dubbed “a night when hope and history rhyme,” and honorees in attendance include “everyday history-makers” like teachers, health care professionals and LGBTQ advocates. 

Source: newsy.com

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Pop Quiz: Can You Fall In Love With A Fictional Character?

In this segment of “Pop Quiz,” Newsy’s “In The Loop” dives into whether or not you can fall in love with a fictional character.

In 1955, a woman by the pseudonym of “Miss A” wrote in asking for advice about a crush. 

The response was: “I don’t know what you learned in college, but you are flunking the course of common sense. You have fallen for a piece of celluloid as unreal as a picture on the wall.” 

One year later, that advice column was published again in an academic paper that coined the phrase “parasocial relationship,” which was defined as a “seeming face-to-face relationship between spectator and performer.”  

Parasocial relationships have also been characterized as one-sided and basically imaginary, but they feel real, because as an audience member or a reader, we’re spending a lot of time with them. 

They have since been the focus of around 250 empirical studies over the past seven decades, and most of them analyze audience relationships with real life media figures: like TV personalities, actors, musicians, or, in more recent years, social media influencers. And some studies have looked specifically at fans of celebrities like Justin Bieber or Elvis Presley. Fun fact: there are still more than 600 active fan clubs dedicated to Elvis Presley.  

On a neurological level, we do know that the human brain is pretty good at experiencing imagined stimuli as if they were real. One study found that the auditory cortex in the brain can light up both when hearing a sound and when imagining that sound. 

So, it’s not a huge leap to suggest these fictional or “imagined” parasocial crushes might feel like the real thing. 

Fewer studies have been conducted on parasocial relationships with fictional characters; but the ones that exist have looked at anime characters, sitcoms like “Modern Family,”  readers of the “Twilight” series and, specifically, everyone who had a crush on the fictional vampire Edward Cullen.  

In a survey of around 240 women, 44% said the series had no real influence on them, and that it was all just fantasy. But 31% said the series showed them “the type of true love and strong commitment they would like to have in their own romantic relationship.”

Researchers have described parasocial relationships as identity-forming, allowing “adolescents to crystallize their beliefs, preferences and expectations.” 

Many researchers do note that parasocial relationships can lead to unrealistic expectations for real-life relationships, but others also saw them as “placeholders” for actual relationships that allowed people to romantically experiment.  

Another real-world example of a parasocial relationship is when a man named Akihiko Kondo held an unofficial wedding ceremony to marry the holographic pop star Hatsune Miku. The marriage is not actually legally recognized, but it’s one of many around the world.  

Skeptics can look at this as an example of something keeping him from making real-life relationships. In an interview with the New York Times, Kondo says he’s aware of how strange people think his attraction is. And while he knows that Hatsune Miku isn’t real, his feelings are — and he says he was able to pull himself out of depression and find a sense of love and solace because of it.  

All of that goes to show that parasocial relationships with fictional characters can, and do have real-world impacts. 

Companies have long capitalized on the appeal of parasocial relationships. And video games take this one step further, especially when you look at the entire genre of dating Sims, where players can virtually date fictional characters. 

Dating Sims have made an estimated $570 million across several platforms. “Stardew Valley” is one of the most popular ones, letting players date and marry from a pool of 12 fictional characters. And as of this spring, the game has sold over 20 million copies. 

The fandoms surrounding these games really confirm a lot of the past studies done on parasocial relationships. Players have described them as venues for escapism that provide a sense of autonomy and emotional safety, and that is especially true for queer gamers.  

One person told Huffpost: “I get to live through the experience of not being seen as weird or an outcast for being ‘different’ in my gender identity and sexuality.” 

It seems that our emotional attachments to fiction and pop culture are very real and can even have a purpose from giving us ways to form our emotional identities, providing venues for emotional escapism, as well as a way to explore and feel a real sense of love. 

Source: newsy.com

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Organizations Race To Register Eligible Voters Ahead Of Midterms

National Voter Registration Day was first recognized in 2012, and has helped over 4.7 million people register to vote over the past decade.

One of the safest bets in politics is that young people don’t show up. That’s especially true in the midterms, when participation among younger voters trails significantly behind older generations. 

“We have to start saying every election is important. And that’s why we do the work that we do because we want folks to understand that it’s each and every election, not just the general, not just the midterms, it’s every election,” said Stephanie Young, executive director of When We All Vote.  

So, what does it take to get young voters to fill out a ballot? Stephanie Young from When We All Vote says it’s as simple as asking.  

“Especially with young people, they say, ‘Oh I didn’t vote because nobody asked me to,'” said Young. 

Former First Lady Michelle Obama started When We All Vote in 2018, with the goal of trying to meet voters where they are, and make the voting process less intimidating.  

“Sometimes we look to Mrs. Obama or big celebrities or other voices and think, ‘Okay, well, you know, if they can’t get people to move, then I can’t.’ And actually, that’s the wrong thought. You are the best influencer for the people that are in your life, the people that you work with, go to church with, go to school with, go to synagogue, mosque, whoever. You influence them,” said Young. 

That idea of meeting voters where they are can lead to unexpected partnerships. This year, When We All Vote is working with BLK — a dating app for black singles that’s popular with people age 18-24.   

“It was really those young voters, those first-time voters where we can actually help them, encourage them to at least get education and information about voting to really like shift the culture and make a positive impact on the community,” said Jonathan Kirkland, the head of brand and marketing at BLK.  

National Voter Registration Day was first recognized in 2012, and has helped over 4.7 million people register to vote over the past decade.  

Source: newsy.com

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Will Smith’s ‘Emancipation’: What Will Apple Do?

Apple has a Will Smith problem.

Mr. Smith is the star of “Emancipation,” a film set during the Civil War era that Apple envisioned as a surefire Oscar contender when it wrapped filming earlier this year. But that was before Mr. Smith strode onto the stage at the Academy Awards in March and slapped the comedian Chris Rock, who had made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Mr. Smith, who also won best actor that night, has since surrendered his membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and has been banned from attending any Academy-related events, including the Oscar telecast, for the next decade.

Now Apple finds itself left with a $120 million unreleased awards-style movie featuring a star no longer welcome at the biggest award show of them all, and a big question: Can the film, even if it succeeds artistically, overcome the baggage that now accompanies Mr. Smith?

Variety reported in May, however, that the film’s release would be pushed into 2023.

rushed the stage and slapped Mr. Rock. Later in the show, Mr. Smith won the best actor award for his work in “King Richard.”

video on his YouTube channel in which he said he was “deeply remorseful” for his behavior and apologized directly to Mr. Rock and his family.

provided to Variety. When his appeal was measured again in July, (before he released his video apology) it dropped to a 24 from a 39, what Henry Schafer, executive vice president of the Q Scores Company, called a “precipitous decline.”

Apple has delayed films before. In 2019, the company pushed back the release of one of its first feature films, “The Banker,” starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson, after a daughter of one of the men whose life served as a basis of the film raised allegations of sexual abuse involving her family. The film was ultimately released in March 2020 after Apple said it reviewed “the information available to us, including the filmmakers’ research.”

Many in Hollywood are drawn to Apple for its willingness to spend handsomely to acquire prominent projects connected with established talent. But the company has also been criticized for its unwillingness to spend much to market those same projects. Two people who have worked with the company, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss dealings with Apple, said it usually created just one trailer for a film — a frustrating approach for those who are accustomed to the traditional Hollywood way of producing multiple trailers aimed at different audiences. Apple prefers to rely on its Apple TV+ app and in-store marketing to attract audiences.

Yet those familiar with Apple’s thinking believe that even if it chooses to release “Emancipation” this year, it will not feature the film in its retail outlets like it did for “CODA,” which in March became the first movie from a streaming service to win best picture. That achievement, of course, was overshadowed by the controversy involving Mr. Smith.

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TikTok’s CEO Navigates the Limits of His Power

TikTok recently tried to tamp down concerns from U.S. lawmakers that it poses a national security threat because it is owned by the Chinese internet company ByteDance. The viral video app insisted it had an arm’s-length relationship with ByteDance and that its own executive was in charge.

“TikTok is led by its own global C.E.O., Shou Zi Chew, a Singaporean based in Singapore,” TikTok wrote in a June letter to U.S. lawmakers.

But in fact, Mr. Chew’s decision-making power over TikTok is limited, according to 12 former TikTok and ByteDance employees and executives.

Zhang Yiming, ByteDance’s founder, as well as by a top ByteDance strategy executive and the head of TikTok’s research and development team, said the people, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals. TikTok’s growth and strategy, which are led by ByteDance teams, report not to Mr. Chew but to ByteDance’s office in Beijing, they said.

increasingly questioned TikTok’s data practices, reigniting a debate over how the United States should treat business relationships with foreign companies.

On Wednesday, TikTok’s chief operating officer testified in Congress and downplayed the app’s China connections. On Thursday, President Biden signed an executive order to sharpen the federal government’s powers to block Chinese investment in tech in the United States and to limit its access to private data on citizens.

a March interview with the billionaire investor David Rubenstein, whose firm, the Carlyle Group, has a stake in the Chinese giant. Mr. Chew added that he had become familiar with TikTok as a “creator” and amassed “185,000 followers.” (He appeared to be referring to a corporate account that posted videos of him while he was an executive at Xiaomi, one of China’s largest phone manufacturers.)

Jinri Toutiao. The two built a rapport, and an investment vehicle associated with Mr. Milner led a $10 million financing in Mr. Zhang’s company that same year, three people with knowledge of the deal said.

The news aggregator eventually became ByteDance — now valued at around $360 billion, according to PitchBook — and owns TikTok; its Chinese sister app, Douyin; and various education and enterprise software ventures.

By 2015, Mr. Chew had joined Xiaomi as chief financial officer. He spearheaded the device maker’s 2018 initial public offering, led its international efforts and became an English-speaking face for the brand.

“Shou grew up with both American and Chinese language and culture surrounding him,” said Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who worked with Mr. Chew at Xiaomi. “He is objectively better positioned than anyone I’ve ever met in the China business world to be this incredible dual-edged executive in a Chinese company that wants to become a global powerhouse.”

In March 2021, Mr. Chew announced that he was joining ByteDance as chief financial officer, fueling speculation that the company would go public. (It remains privately held.)

appointed Mr. Chew as chief executive, with Mr. Zhang praising his “deep knowledge of the company and industry.” Late last year, Mr. Chew stepped down from his ByteDance role to focus on TikTok.

Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, left after the Trump administration’s effort to sunder the app from its Chinese parent. China was also cracking down on its domestic internet giants, with Mr. Zhang resigning from his official roles at ByteDance last year. Mr. Zhang remains involved in decision making, people with knowledge of ByteDance said.

Mr. Chew moved to establish himself as TikTok’s new head during visits to the app’s Los Angeles office in mid-2021. At a dinner with TikTok executives, he sought to build camaraderie by keeping a Culver City, Calif., restaurant open past closing time, three people with knowledge of the event said. He asked attendees if he should buy the establishment to keep it open longer, they said.

a TikTok NFT project involving the musical artists Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch. He reprimanded TikTok’s global head of marketing on a video call with Beijing-based leaders for ByteDance after some celebrities dropped out of the project, four people familiar with the meeting said. It showed that Mr. Chew answered to higher powers, they said.

Mr. Chew also ended a half-developed TikTok store off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, three people familiar with the initiative said. TikTok briefly explored obtaining the naming rights of the Los Angeles stadium formerly known as the Staples Center, they said.

He has also overseen layoffs of American managers, two people familiar with the decisions said, while building up teams related to trust and safety. In its U.S. marketing, the app has shifted its emphasis from a brand that starts trends and conversations toward its utility as a place where people can go to learn.

In May, Mr. Chew flew to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, speaking with European regulators and ministers from Saudi Arabia to discuss digital strategy.

June letter to U.S. lawmakers, he noted that ByteDance employees in China could gain access to the data of Americans when “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls.” But he said TikTok was in the process of separating and securing its U.S. user data under an initiative known as Project Texas, which has the app working with the American software giant Oracle.

“We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms,” Mr. Chew wrote.

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What Makes Nutrition Advice Confusing?

Newsy’s Heath and Science correspondent Lindsey Theis looks into whether nutrition advice is helpful or confusing.

The first lesson in diet and nutrition 101 is to forget everything you think you know about diet and nutrition.  

Because chances are as soon as you’ve got it down, more advice or another diet pops up.  

Take cholesterol and fats, for example: until 2015, the USDA recommended no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily.  

For some perspective, a single egg has 186 milligrams. 

But the government removed the limit in 2015. 

Officials couldn’t prove the link between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol in the blood.  

You may remember the food pyramid from your grade school days.

It suggested a diet of six to 11 servings of breads, cereal, rice and pasta, three to five servings of vegetables and even fewer servings of meat, dairy, fruit and fats.  

The USDA scrapped that dietary guide over a decade ago and replaced it with “My Plate” showing a new way of how to section and balance your meals. 

Your food choices add up, and they all matter. So where do you start? 

The USDA recommends fruits and vegetables should now make up half of your plate with less protein, dairy and grains. 

But this year over half of Americans said they’d never seen “My Plate” before, or knew little about it. 

Then there’s calorie confusion: how many calories should we put on our plates?   

“Calories are important outside of weight loss for overall health, especially for longevity. So we want to take care of our body with really good quality calories,”said Grey.  

Some food-tracking apps like “My Fitness Pal” are based on a minimum 1,200 calorie daily diet for the quickest weight loss results. 

Historians trace this number back to one of the first modern diet books ever released in 1918.  

At the time the author Lulu Hunt Peters suggested 1,200 calories a day would keep someone’s weight controlled. It was also unpatriotic to “be fat” while thousands were starving during the WWI era. 

Certified Nutritionist Liana Warner Grey is among a chorus of food experts who say eating 1,200 calories a day is not only unhealthy, it’s the amount a toddler should eat.  

“The 1,200 calories a day is definitely a myth. We need need more fuel, more clean calories to get us through the day,” said Grey. 

Current USDA guidelines say adult women need between 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day, depending on their height, weight and activity level. 

Adult men need 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day.  

And one approach doesn’t fit all.  

A 2019 study found even identical twins don’t react to food the same way, suggesting no single diet exists that works for everyone. 

Doctors say there are many other lesser-known factors like stress. 

“The more stress people that people were experiencing, the more weight they were gaining,” said Dr. Arthur Evans, the CEO of the American Psychological Association.

Out-of-whack hormones like cortisol or leptin also contribute to weight gain.  

Even what type of sugar we eat.  

“The brain responds differently to different sugars. So corn syrup hits very differently in the body than what monk fruit or honey will do because those sugars actually provide nutritional value,” said Grey.  

Researchers say celebrity influence also plays a major role in what we eat.  

A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association this year looked at some of the most followed celebrity accounts on Instagram.   

They found an overwhelming number of posts about food and drinks that were unhealthy by U.S. nutritional standards. 

One of the studies authors says celebrities and social media have the kind of influence that can help sustain eating trends and set norms. 

“This can really contribute to followers’ perception of what is common what is valued in society right now,” said Bradley Turnwald, a behavioral scientist at The University of Chicago.

On TikTok, videos tagged “nutrition” have amassed nearly eight billion views, and posts about diet hit over 20 billion views.  

Many contradict one another .  

Dr. Idrees Mughal told the New York Times viewers tag him in 100 to 200 videos every day for help. 

The British doctor, who has a Master’s in nutrition, dedicates his entire TikTok to scientifically debunking hundreds of claims.  

For example someone said on TikTok, “eggs are one of the worst foods you can eat, full of fat and cholesterol.” 

Mughal says “eggs are one of the most nutrient rich foods we could eat, as well as being a well high quality protein and digestible amino acids. Eggs are top of the list.”

TikTok says it has measures to address harmful diet and nutrition advice.  

The company says it removes creators who violate their disordered eating policies and flags potentially harmful searches. 

But even research that experts cite isn’t always cut and dried. And variables or research blindspots can get lost in a catchy headline. 

Nutritionists say the perfect diet study is unachievable. 

They emphasize a “healthy” diet isn’t one size fits everybody. 

And that drowning out the noise and listening your own body is best.

Source: newsy.com

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