Your Thursday Briefing

The congress scheduled for May 22 will provide the ruling party with a platform to project confidence following criticism of its handling of the coronavirus crisis. It will likely focus on ending rural poverty, a commitment crucial to President Xi Jinping’s legacy.

“This is a symbolic event, showing China has won the war,” said one Beijing expert in Hong Kong.

History: The decision in February to delay the meeting came as a shock to many in China. Even during the SARS outbreak in 2003, the session went ahead. In past years, the meeting has drawn nearly 3,000 delegates from every province.

Officials are investigating a blaze at a construction site southeast of Seoul that killed 38 people and injured 10 others on Wednesday afternoon. It is one of the deadliest fires to hit South Korea in recent years.

Eight people remained in serious condition from the blaze at a four-story warehouse under construction in Icheon.

President Moon Jae-in has struggled to deliver on his promise to improve safety since a 2014 ferry sinking killed more than 300 people. Many South Koreans grew cold toward Mr. Moon’s predecessor, Park Geun-hye, over her handling of the Sewol ferry disaster.

Details: Investigators suspect the blaze was caused by an explosion in an underground level of the building, where some workers used urethane, a combustible chemical used for insulation work.

The celebrated Indian actor who became a crossover star in Hollywood died on Wednesday at 53.

Mr. Khan had cancer and was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai for a colon infection last week. His death was confirmed by a statement from his spokesman.

He found international success with roles in “Life of Pi,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and the blockbuster “Jurassic World.” In India, he was best known for his performances in films like “Piku,” “The Lunchbox” and “Hindi Medium.”

Smartphone apps help to track the coronavirus, but they also provide an enticing cache of information for hackers or governments. Our technology writers looked at how China, Singapore, India, Norway and some U.S. states took different approaches to designing and rolling out apps.

In China, for instance, a health code app automatically sends location data to the government from smartphones. In Singapore, pictured above, that information is shared only if the person tests positive and agrees to share the data with contact tracers.

Britain: Two days after returning to work following a bout of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancée, Carrie Symonds, announced the birth of their son.

What we’re reading: This profile of Marie Kondo in Fast Company magazine. “There’s a lot more to her than just tidying up,” says Carole Landry, on the Briefings team.

Cook: The easiest roast chicken and easier stock is part of a productive kitchen’s ecosystem. Master this and you can be one of those cooks who always has it on hand.

Raymond Zhong, a Times technology reporter, is part of a group of American journalists who were recently expelled from China. He wrote about his two years reporting in the country. Below is a condensed version of his Times Insider article.

Access to regular people in China might be the part of foreign correspondents’ jobs there that the Chinese authorities find hardest to control, though they certainly try. With a dose of charm and persistence from a reporter, people do open up, despite the country’s rigid curbs on speech and thought.

Even face to face with people in China, it could be tough to have real conversations. People ended interviews when they started to seem hazardous — too personal, too political. This is how the authoritarian system keeps a lid on criticism: It gives everyone reason to think that personal matters are political, that they can get in trouble just for talking about their own lives and opinions.

Often enough, though, I found people in China who were relieved that someone was finally listening.

Hog farmers pleading for aid from the local government after their herds were devastated by an incurable plague. Truckers whose incomes had been gutted by new, Uber-like apps that brought Silicon Valley efficiency to their happily inefficient industry.

I’m leaving China more convinced than ever of how much ordinary people can teach us about a place — which might be one reason the government was so eager for us to leave.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about stay-at-home restrictions in the U.S. and the debate over public health and economic survival.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Shape of a toilet seat (four letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• Kara Swisher, who became a Times contributor in 2018, will start producing a twice-weekly podcast show that will make its debut in the fall.

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