Links for Wednesday, February 26, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for Wednesday, February 26, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Chinese movie theaters complained when the film’s producers inked a deal with TikTok owner ByteDance, but the agreement isn’t likely to pose a threat… [M]ost public places, including movie theaters, essentially shut down for the past month and every holiday movie pulled from the schedule, some media outlets have estimated the industry’s overall losses for February alone could be as much as 13 billion yuan — or more than 20% of last year’s gross receipts…With much of the nation effectively under quarantine and stuck in their homes, the move was a hit: ByteDance claims “Lost in Russia” was streamed 180 million times in its first three days of release.

The yuan is approaching its strongest level since August versus a basket of 24 exchange rates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Most Asian peers have slumped against the currency in the past five trading days, with the Korean won and Thai baht tumbling nearly 2%…

Government stimulus, a buoyant domestic stock market and figures showing a slowdown in new infections in the country have supported the yuan at a time when concern over the global spread of the disease is unnerving investors around the world.

  • Around two thirds of the total number of flights scheduled every day in February were canceled, placing huge financial pressure on airlines and airports.
  • China’s aviation industry has also been affected by a series of restrictions by other countries and airlines, with British Airways extending its suspension until mid-April.

German carmaker Daimler AG is cutting the workforce at its China venture Beijing Benz as part of its worldwide cost-saving plan…

Beijing Benz has terminated a number of management positions, mainly middle- and senior-level managers involving expatriate employees from Germany, a company source said on condition of anonymity.

NIO Inc. reached a preliminary agreement to relocate its headquarters to [Hefei] in a deal that would allow it to raise much-needed cash. The…company said it plans to raise more than 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion).

NIO shares surged as much as 34% to $5.20 before the start of regular trading Tuesday in New York.

  • Didi to launch in Japan
    Didi to launch food delivery service in Japan / Caixin
    “The Chinese ride-hailing giant is poised to officially launch a food delivery service in the East Asian country from early April, it told Caixin, as it accelerates efforts to expand its global footprint.”

China is back in the market for U.S. sorghum this week, signaling the world’s top food importer is willing to buy U.S. agricultural products only when they are cheaper…

The move also highlights that China will buy U.S. agricultural goods when it makes economic sense after agreeing to billions more in purchases as part of the phase-one trade deal.

China’s judiciary has assured the country’s business sector that courts will be more reluctant to interrupt their operations while the economy weathers the impact from the coronavirus outbreak.

“If the law allows more lenient measures, [we] should try not to use forceful measures that would limit their personal freedom and property rights,” Zhāng Shùyuán 张述元, vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court, said during a Wednesday press conference in Beijing.

  • Dingtalk launches new social networking feature
    Alibaba’s Dingtalk adds WeChat Moments-like feature / TechNode
    “Alibaba’s enterprise communication app Dingtalk has added a suite of new features in its latest update including ‘Circle,’ a WeChat Moments-like social feed.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

China will release results at the end of April from clinical trials of a Gilead Sciences Inc. drug that is emerging as a frontrunner in the race to find an effective treatment for the novel coronavirus.

The outcome of trials of the experimental medication remdesivir on 761 patients in Wuhan, the city where the virus originated, will be made public on April 27, China’s National Intellectual Property Administration said Tuesday.

The update on the trials’ progress came a day after the World Health Organization said that remdesivir may be the only effective treatment so far for the disease…

  • Research by team from Nankai University shows new virus has mutated gene similar to those found in HIV and Ebola.
  • Finding may help scientists understand how the infection spreads and where it came from.

China Three Gorges New Energy Co., a state-owned clean energy developer, has started construction of 25 renewable power plants in an investment worth 58 billion yuan ($8.3 billion).

The projects will have a combined capacity of 3.92 gigawatts, the company said in a WeChat statement [in Chinese] on Monday. The plants will be built in 14 provinces including Guangdong, Jiangsu, Fujian, Ningxia and Hebei, it said.

“Humans settled near certain plants, and then those plants spread as humans migrated. Over the millennia the soybean has fed countless people; and without the mulberry tree, there would have been no Silk Road.”

This is no essay or poem, but the voiceover to China’s first documentary on plants, The Journey of Chinese Plants. The series, which had official backing, took three years to make and examines 28 different species over ten 50-minute episodes, including the tea tree, the mulberry tree, rice, soybean and bamboo. It covers their lifecycle from sprouting to harvest, their significance to China, and the impact they have had globally.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

CCTV4, which broadcasts in Los Angeles and has won a contract to run ads about the upcoming census, is one of several channels of the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) that broadcasts outside of China… But if the U.S. government excludes news outlets with ties to Beijing, it won’t be able to fully engage some Chinese American communities.

  • The long-term impacts of COVID-19
    How will coronavirus impact China in the long term? / ChinaFile
    A ChinaFile expert “conversation” about the larger significance of the epidemic. Arthur R. Kreber writes, “Multinational firms now have more reasons to diversify their supply chains away from China, both to hedge against the risk of disruption from future nationwide shutdowns, and because finding expatriate staff willing to serve in such a chancy environment will be harder.” Lindsey Ford, another early contributor to the conversation, says, “The coronavirus outbreak is not merely a test for Xi’s domestic leadership. It is also a significant test of China’s regional leadership ambitions.”

And of course kitsch propaganda must anneal the softness of personal tragedy into the hard steel of sacrifice. So we are told that “more than 40,000 medical staff from 29 provinces, autonomous regions and cities…were deployed to assist Hubei and Wuhan,” that they “entered the battle as soon as possible, racing against time, testing their strength against the demon of disease, all to continue the relay of life!”

The only major street protests since the virus was detected in Hong Kong have been local neighborhood rallies against temporary quarantine facilities and calling for the border with China to be closed… The new coronavirus has handed Beijing an unexpected gift — an end to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy rallies.

“A lot of us, especially frontliners, need a little bit of a break,” said the high-school student, who is hunkering down in his tiny apartment doing school work and playing video games after months manning umbrella shield walls and dodging tear gas in battles with riot police.

Hong Kong’s democrats have said that the 2020 budget’s showpiece HK$10,000 [$1,283] handout has diverted Hongkongers’ attention from long-term issues facing marginalized groups. Finance chief Paul Chan’s [陳茂波 Chén Màobō] raft of sweeteners announced on Wednesday also overshadowed a 25 percent increase in the police force budget, opposition lawmakers said.

The Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung [張超雄 Zhāng Chāoxióng] told HKFP that the instant happiness of a cash handout does nothing to tackle systemic injustice: “One-off measures totalling to HK$120 billion largely benefit tycoons and big corporations,” adding that self-employed workers remain neglected”

The relief measure involving an estimated expenditure of around HK$71 billion came amid negative economic growth since the second half of last year and the city’s first deficit in 15 years as the economy took a hit from the US-China trade war, large-scale protests and the coronavirus outbreak…Chan also announced a salary tax cut of 100 per cent for the 2019-20 year up to a ceiling of HK$20,000 – set to benefit 1.95 million taxpayers and cost HK$18.8 billion.

In 2018, when Ben Meng [孟宇 Mèng Yǔ] was named chief investment officer of Calpers, his experience in China was touted as an asset. Now, Indiana Congressman Jim Banks is using that same background as reason to investigate Meng’s allegiance and win backing for a crackdown on government workers’ dollars flowing into Chinese companies.

The United States announced on Tuesday it was imposing sanctions on 13 foreign entities and individuals in China, Iraq, Russia, and Turkey for supporting Iran’s missile programme.The State Department said the action included new sanctions against three Chinese firms, a Chinese individual and a Turkish company. It named the Chinese as Luo Dingwen and the three Chinese entities as Baoding Shimaotong, Gaobeidian Kaituo Precise Instrument, and Wuhan Sanjiang Import and Export.

The 19-article act stipulates penalties and fines for breaking quarantine, hoarding essential materials, compensation for furloughed workers and tax breaks for companies and organizations affected by the viral outbreak and those that pay employees under quarantine or on leave to care for quarantined family members. 

Several Chinese intellectuals have had their social media accounts suspended following their demands for freedom of expression and criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.The intellectuals had said the impact of the coronavirus…might have been alleviated if people had been free to raise warnings when there were early signs of an outbreak.

China, the country’s largest trade partner, has driven this meat and grain boom, buying $31 billion worth of its food commodities last year…Before his election, Bolsonaro had run on an anti-China platform. “The Chinese are not buying in Brazil,” he warned during the campaign. “They are buying [up] Brazil.”Since then, his posture has radically changed. Last October, he visited Beijing and declared that Brazil and China “were born to walk together.”… One year into his tenure, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is delivering on his campaign promise to reinforce, at whatever the cost, Brazil’s status as an agricultural colossus.

The embassy on February 25 hit back at what Bilahari wrote, saying it was no different from the “cliche of Western anti-China voices,” which misinterpreted and smeared China’s political and leadership systems… Among Bilahari’s take on the current state of Chinese society is his view that the COVID-19 outbreak is a consequence of this Leninist value system, which has dented the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) credibility with the Chinese people… He added: “But what they have to say does not address a single substantive point I made. Instead they raise arguments against points I did not make, which is quite typical. It is not something I can take seriously.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • Virus panic in Chinatowns
    Virus panic devastates Chinatowns from New York to Sydney / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “Some 5,000 miles from Hubei Province, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak, the streets of a northern Sydney suburb that’s home to a large number of Chinese are almost deserted.”

Lucky enough to have boarded the last direct flight from Wuhan to New York on January 22 — just before travel bans were imposed to stop the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19 — Liu settled back into his home in Queens, New York, and began a 14-day period of self-quarantine.

In solitude, while reports of thousands of coronavirus cases began to overtake the news cycle, he started organising the overseas Wuhan-born community to donate to the city of 11 million, the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak.

This is where much of the reporting surrounding the Wuhan seafood market Covid-19 allegedly originated from goes wrong: the sale of wild animals is not common in Chinese wet markets, nor is the consumption of “bushmeat.”

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