Links for Monday, February 17, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Though it is too soon to quantify it precisely, the potential economic impact of the coronavirus is evident nearly everywhere. From the streets of Paris to the wineries of Burgundy, from the German town of Füssen near the fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein to a shopping outlet in Oxfordshire, England, the numbers of Chinese tourists have visibly dropped since Beijing banned overseas group tours on January 27…

The effects, especially on businesses catering to the ever-growing Chinese market, have been immediate. Last week, the Italian government considered allocating assistance to hard-hit tour operators.

Around 95% of caterers experienced major losses over the Lunar New Year, according to an industry association survey, with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak spoiling what would normally be an annual high point for the sector…

Besides losses over the holiday, businesses are likely to face serious cash flow issues and difficulty obtaining financing in the coming months.

  • Paper currency collected from hospitals and buses among those targeted by the People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC) in a public health push.
  • Other notes will be disinfected and stored for 14 days before going back into circulation.

China’s roads will be toll-free from Monday onward to encourage companies to resume work amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Transport announced Saturday.

The policy will be in force until the epidemic is deemed to be over, the announcement said.

Airbus is slowly restarting its assembly line in China. General Motors began limited production on Saturday. Toyota followed on Monday morning.

Fitfully and painfully — and with some worried prodding from Beijing — China is trying to reopen for business…

Chinese leaders called this past week for more emphasis on reviving the economy. But many of the factories that have reopened are operating well below capacity, say companies and experts. Quarantines, blocked roads and checkpoints are stopping millions of workers from returning to their jobs. Supply lines have been severed.

China is to begin importing live chickens from the U.S. as feed shortages due to the coronavirus force poultry farms in the world’s second-biggest economy to start culling millions of young birds.

The culling of poultry follows the mass slaughter of pigs in China due to African swine fever over the past year and threatens to worsen a protein shortage in the country that has sparked rising inflation and soaring meat prices…

Farmers have slaughtered at least 100 million young chickens because travel restrictions imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus have blocked shipments of animal feed…

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Addressing a meeting with top leadership in Beijing on Friday, President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 said China needed to accelerate the introduction of a biosecurity law to safeguard national security. He also called for sweeping improvements to China’s health emergency response system.

Mobile payment giant Alipay announced [in Chinese] on Sunday that it is providing development support for a national health code system which assesses individuals for self-quarantine based on basic health information and travel history which China is preparing to launch as soon as next week.

Soy is China’s weak link, the main food commodity it needs from the outside world. The country imports the crop, which it mostly uses to feed its pigs, and Chinese state-owned companies also invest directly in Brazil’s supply chain so the South American country can increase its own exports. This growing hunger for soy has incentivized Brazilian prospectors to keep pace by razing pristine jungle, thereby accelerating deforestation.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

The battle for technological supremacy between China and the U.S. risks damaging Cambridge’s growing reputation as a global centre for innovation, experts have warned, as British and other western universities come under increased scrutiny for their links with Beijing.

“The risk is that we find ourselves stuck between two world powers, trying to appease both,” said Alexi Drew, research associate at the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London.

  • Washington puts pressure on Berlin to ban Chinese telecoms company from its network days after accusing Huawei of intellectual property theft.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is cautious on 5G policy, but Britain has agreed to open non-sensitive parts of its network to Huawei.

The Hong Kong Police Force have defended their requests for protective equipment during the coronavirus outbreak, amid criticism that they had been granted more gear than seven other frontline government departments, including — in some cases — the health department.

On Saturday, pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki [郭家麒 Guō Jiāqí] claimed that officers had not participated in tackling the SARS-like outbreak, yet had been given large quantities of protective gear: “The coverall suits that the police need are 20 times more [in quantity] than the Department of Health,” Kwok said. 

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Filming the city at the center of the COVID-19 epidemic is a crew that found themselves stranded in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei province, when the city was placed under lockdown on January 23 to contain the virus.

  • Government agencies have embraced cute animals to tackle disinformation and ease public anxiety.
  • In contrast, authorities in mainland China are using stern slogans and waging a ‘people’s war.’
  • Also see this Facebook post [in Chinese] from Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare. 
  • China gymnastics team pulls out of World Cup
    China gymnastics team pulls out of WCup due to travel ban / Washington Post (porous paywall)
    “The Chinese gymnastics team entered into next week’s World Cup in Melbourne has withdrawn from the event due to Australian government travel restrictions put in place to limit the coronavirus outbreak, organizers said on Saturday.”