BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
COVID-19 is a force majeure — gas deals canceled
China’s top LNG buyer refuses cargoes amid virus outbreak / Oil Price
China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the country’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has declared force majeure on deliveries of LNG cargoes and will not be honoring some of the deliveries because of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, Bloomberg reported (porous paywall) on Thursday, quoting a notice that the Chinese firm had sent to suppliers.
CNOOC has declared force majeure on prompt LNG supplies from at least three sellers for purchases this month and next, sources told Reuters.
A week ago, the China Council for The Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) announced that it would issue force majeure certificates to Chinese companies that have difficulties in meeting contract obligations with overseas partners amid the coronavirus outbreak and its fallout on the Chinese industrial activity and economy.
Xiaomi boss urges industry to return to work
China’s phone industry urged to ‘get back to work’ / BBC
The founder of Chinese tech giant Xiaomi has urged the country’s smartphone industry to return to work.
Analysts predict smartphone shipments within China will drop by around 40% in the first quarter as the coronavirus disrupts the country’s supply chain.
Drop in car sales likely to continue
China’s autoparts supply chain will be disrupted by coronavirus, industry association says / CNN
Major automakers sold fewer than 2 million cars in the country last month, an 18% plunge from a year earlier, according to China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The group compiles its monthly tally by collecting data from carmakers in China.
COVID-19 highlights vulnerability of small businesses
In depth: Epidemic poses existential threat to small businesses / Caixin (paywall)
As the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc on China’s economy, small and midsized businesses that are the backbone of the nation’s private sector and major employers are quickly emerging as one of the biggest casualties.
Local governments must ensure job stability — Xi
Coronavirus: China’s fear of mass job losses looms large as COVID-19 takes toll on economy / SCMP
- With the outbreak wreaking havoc on economic activities, firms are faced with tough decision whether to reduce staff levels and wages to be able to survive.
- President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 said this week that local governments must work hard to ‘ensure the general stability of the job market.’
Taiwan prepares stimulus package
Taiwan plans $2 billion package to soften coronavirus hit to economy / Reuters
“Taiwan plans to spend T$60 billion ($2 billion) to help cushion the impact of the new coronavirus on its export-reliant economy, offering loans to small businesses and even vouchers to spend on food at night markets.”
Global tourism industry takes a hit
Coronavirus hits global tourism industry as Chinese stay home / FT (paywall)
Chinese visitors accounted for 150 million overseas trips in 2019, according to official figures, while Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018, up 13% from the previous year, China Tourism Academy found… China’s ministry of transport said that 73% fewer trips were taken by Chinese tourists over the lunar new year holiday in 2020 compared with 2019.
Youku and BBC strike a deal
Alibaba-owned video-streaming service Youku signs drama deal with BBC studios / Caixin
Alibaba-owned online video platform Youku has clinched a drama content deal with BBC Studios, making it the largest library of British drama shows in China, according to a press release.
Hydrogen fuel cell industry
2019 China hydrogen market review: Investment & production / Energy Iceberg
- Fuel cell vehicles production number reached an all-time high but fell short from market expectation…
- There is a looming policy risk, as MoF [Ministry of Finance] signals to limit national subsidy…
- China’s hydrogen deals in 2019 registered a total 100 billion yuan (14.33) investment (based only on public announced deals).
Self-driving container transport
Lidar startup Innoviz partners with Chinese truck maker on port loaders / TechNode
Israeli startup Innoviz is teaming up with a large Chinese truck maker [Shaanxi Heavy Duty Automobile, known outside of China as Shacman Trucks] on self-driving container transport on ports, as the country pushes industrial upgrades for freight deliveries using driverless technologies.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Beijing pollution soars as plan to raise air quality announced
China economic shutdown hasn’t brought blue skies to Beijing / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China is in the midst of an unprecedented economic shutdown, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the gray skies in Beijing.
Pollution in the capital has soared to the highest level in three years, and will likely worsen [in Chinese] Thursday before starting to improve on Friday, according to the National Meteorological Center…
So what’s the cause? Experts pointed to several possibilities, including residue from natural gas burned at power plants and home heaters, the emissions from what little activity remains at nearby steel mills and industrial facilities, and perhaps the most ordinary of all reasons: the weather.
Beijing will cut smog levels further this year by putting more new energy vehicles (NEV) on its roads, reducing diesel-fuelled truck numbers and tightening its supervision of vehicle emissions and refined oil products, the city said on Thursday.
The Beijing Municipality government also said it will aim to cut emissions in the petrochemical industry.
Calls for cheaper health insurance
China pushes for cheaper health insurance products to battle virus: sources / Reuters
China is nudging insurers to work on cheaper medical cover linked to the coronavirus and is assuring them of fast-track approval for these new products, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The move will mark a shift in the Chinese insurance market where the bulk of existing products are essentially investment schemes and pure healthcare coverage accounts for only about a fifth of the total life insurance premium.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Harassment of Uyghurs in Turkey
How China spies on Uyghurs in Turkey / Coda Story
WhatsApp and WeChat are used to intimidate and surveil Uyghurs…
The messages kept coming every few days, and soon their tone changed. “You are a smart man,” one said. “You need to think about your family. You are there, but they are here, and if you refuse to do this, you could put them in a very dangerous situation.”
New Zealand: Huawei not out of the running yet
NZ security chief keeps door open for China vendors / Mobile World Live
The head of New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) reiterated the country had not imposed bans on any telecoms vendors, noting it makes an independent assessment of network security risks on a case-by-case basis…
In November 2018, the government turned down operator Spark’s bid to deploy Huawei 5G infrastructure, citing significant national security risks.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in February 2019 raised the possibility Huawei could still play a role in building a next-generation mobile network in the country, after stating it would independently evaluate the risk of using the vendor’s gear.
China continues to deny Equifax data hack
With harsh words, China’s military denies it hacked Equifax / NYT (porous paywall)
“The People’s Liberation Army said U.S. indictments accusing four of its members of stealing information from the credit data company amounted to ‘legal bullying.’”
Arrest warrant issued for ex-China Development Bank chairman
Prosecutors sign off on arrest of former boss of policy bank CDB / Caixin
An arrest warrant has been issued for Hú Huáibāng 胡怀邦, a former chief of policy lender China Development Bank (CDB), who is under suspicion for taking bribes, the country’s top prosecutor said (link in Chinese) Thursday.
The arrest order comes half a year after the veteran banker was placed under investigation in one of the most notable anti-corruption cases in China’s financial sector in recent years.
Hu, 64, retired from his position as CDB chairman in September 2018 after working there for over five years. During his tenure, Hu used his position to help two former highflying giants — CEFC China Energy Co. Ltd. and HNA Group Co. Ltd. — obtain billions of dollars in dubious credit that helped fuel their meteoric rises, Caixin previously reported.
Harvard, Yale under investigation
Education Department investigating Harvard, Yale over foreign funding / WSJ (paywall)
The Education Department opened investigations into Harvard and Yale as part of a continuing review that it says has found U.S. universities failed to report at least $6.5 billion in foreign funding from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia, according to department materials reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Will the U.S. be able to deliver on its end of the trade deal?
Big oil warned Trump team China trade deal was unrealistic / Bloomberg via Yahoo
Industry leaders privately warned the Trump administration that the U.S. will struggle to produce the oil, gas and other energy products that China has committed to buy in a new trade deal, raising additional questions about one of the president’s signature economic achievements.
China seeks to control Indo-Pacific “way of life” — U.S. commander
China threatens Pacific stability, U.S. commander warns, citing ‘military intimidation and outright corruption’ / SCMP
- Admiral Philip Davidson said Communist Party ‘seeks to control the flow of trade, finance, communications, politics and the way of life in the Indo-Pacific.’
- Davidson made his remarks while visiting Australia, which has launched a U.S.$2 billion fund to offer Pacific countries grants and cheap loans for infrastructure.
Calls to reverse Peace Corps’ China withdrawal
Peace Corps’ sudden decision to leave China stirs blowback / The Hill
The Peace Corps’ abrupt decision to end its program in China has spurred confusion, including from lawmakers who question whether the agency is caving to political pressure from Florida’s two Republican senators.
Congress was informed of the decision on January 16, when the agency sent a note to the appropriations committees that it would be withdrawing from China, ending a program where volunteers teach English to university students in some of the nation’s poorest interior provinces…
Steve Hess, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in China from 2006 to 2008 and is now a political science professor at Transylvania University, is leading a Change.org petition pushing the Peace Corps to reverse its decision.
Second Mar-a-Lago intruder cleared of trespassing
Chinese woman Lu Jing found not guilty of trespassing at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort / SCMP
“Lu, the second Chinese national charged with illicitly entering the Florida club in 2019, has been in custody since incident because of expired U.S. visa.”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Sanitary product drive for Hubei medical staff
Hygiene product donation drive puts frontline females first / Sixth Tone
As millions of people are finding different ways to help the frontline medical workers battling COVID-19, a new campaign is solely focused on delivering something that’s been largely missing: feminine hygiene products.
The campaign, Coronavirus Sister Support, collected over 2 million yuan ($280,000) in under 24 hours after launching Tuesday, according to its founder…The money will be used to provide period panties and sanitary pads for female frontline doctors and nurses in Hubei province, the center of the COVID-19 outbreak that has so far killed over 1,300 people in China and infected more than 60,000 globally.
COVID-19 continues to fuel international racism…
‘You deserve the coronavirus’: Chinese people in U.K. abused over outbreak / Sky
Chinese people in the UK say they are facing increasing levels of racist abuse — and some have had “coronavirus” shouted at them in the street.
…While Hubei natives are stigmatized within China
Chinese shun people from center of coronavirus outbreak / FT (paywall)
Zhou Xuefeng has a serious problem — he is from Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, and now no one wants to employ him.
The fact he has been working without incident in the city of Suzhou near Shanghai and not been back home for years does not matter.
Cruise liner reverses travel ban
Royal Caribbean Cruises reverses ban on Chinese passport holders imposed amid coronavirus fears / ABC (Australia)
Last week, the US-based Royal Caribbean Cruises issued a statement saying: “Any guests holding a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport, regardless of when they were there last, will not be allowed to board our ships.”
The company has now reversed its policy, which it said was made because of “governments around the world restricting travel for Chinese passport holders.”