“We’re realizing that the Congo is to [electric vehicles] what Saudi Arabia is to the internal combustion engine,” said a chief executive of a mineral exploration company to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). That’s because cobalt — of which the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the world’s biggest producer — is an essential ingredient in rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries that power phones, laptops, drones, and electric cars.
- “There is a world-wide race to lock up the supply chain for cobalt,” says the WSJ, and this is set to intensify as electric cars are popularized.
- Chinese imports of cobalt from Congo totaled $1.2 billion in the first nine months of 2017, compared with only $3.2 million by India, the number two importer.
- Child labor is a serious ethical problem plaguing the cobalt supply chain.
In other news related to China’s demand for electric vehicle batteries, Bloomberg says that “China’s government is leaning toward allowing provinces continue with local subsidies for electric vehicles to sustain the rising demand for new-energy automobiles,” a reversal of an earlier decision to cancel such incentives.
- Cryptocurrency regulation and high jinks
Chinese traders’ key link to cryptocurrency market in trouble / Nikkei Asian Review (paywall)
“In yet another blow to the cryptocurrency market, Tether, a token often used by Chinese investors to circumvent strict restrictions on trading, has come under official scrutiny [by the U.S.’s Commodities Futures Trading Commission]… The CFTC is believed to be investigating whether Tether has enough assets to back its claim that its namesake currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar.”
Chinese boy band TFBoys has its own cryptocurrency / Radii China
- Employment policies for educated young Chinese
China in push to lure overseas tech talent back home / FT (paywall)
“Private and state-backed investors in China have set up venture capital funds to target executives and senior researchers at companies such as Google, Apple, Airbnb and Facebook, betting on the rapid development of the domestic tech sector to produce high returns on the investments.”
China pledges ‘employment first’ policies to create millions of new jobs / Reuters
- Natural gas
China signs first long-term deal for U.S. natural gas / WSJ (paywall)
“Cheniere Energy Inc., which has already exported LNG [liquid natural gas] to China, said Friday that it had signed two purchase agreements with China National Petroleum Corp. to export LNG from the U.S. Gulf Coast to China. Under the deal, China National Petroleum will receive 1.2 million tons of LNG a year through 2043.”
- Ocean drones
China starts work on world’s biggest test site for drone ships at gateway to South China Sea / SCMP
- Alibaba and Disney
Disney can stream its movies in China again, thanks to Alibaba / CNN
“It’s not the first digital partnership between the two companies. DisneyLife, an earlier streaming venture with Alibaba, was shut down after just five months in early 2016. It’s not clear why the service was taken down…”
- Business culture
China’s tech leaders have a thing for strange stage props / TechNode