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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Beijing Municipal Health Commission just released a set of draft regulations for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a huge industry of mass-produced, over-the-counter remedies based on herbal ingredients.

But buried in those draft regulations is a surprising rule: Article 54 states that "denigrating and defaming traditional Chinese medicine" will be "punished by public security organs according to law."

  • The eagle-eyed Chen Du, a journalist with Chinese news outlet PingWest, flagged the draft rule on Twitter.

Why it matters: The Chinese government has increasingly sought to promote TCM internationally as a form of Chinese soft power.

  • In 2019, at China's urging, the World Health Organization included a chapter on TCM in its influential diagnostic compendium for the first time.
  • But TCM methods and remedies have undergone relatively little scientific study, and their efficacy and side effects are largely unproven, though widely consumed in China.

With that background, it's not hard to imagine why local Chinese authorities might want to suppress criticism of something as seemingly apolitical as a package of foul-smelling pills.

Go deeper

Chinese hacking group moves on from targeting COVID intelligence

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A Chinese government-associated hacking group that shifted its focus this spring toward collecting intelligence involving coronavirus response has again reoriented its work, this time to target Tibetan dissidents, according to security firm Proofpoint.

Between the lines: China’s intelligence services may now feel that, with the initial COVID-19 crisis in both Europe and China now receding, they can return to older, core priorities.

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.