Links for Tuesday, March 3, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

  • Hotel chain to lay off 60% of workforce
    Softbank-backed hotel chain Oyo cutting 60% of China staff / TechNode
    “Indian hotel chain Oyo is planning to lay off 60% of its workforce in China as it struggles to contend with a number of setbacks, the most recent being the deadly COVID-19 virus which has immobilized the country for weeks.”

Sales for Chinese property developers plunged 38% in February compared with the same month a year earlier, based on the average from a list of the nation’s 100 largest companies compiled by real estate data cruncher CRIC. On a month-to-month basis, February sales plunged by an even higher 44% when compared with January, CRIC said.

Nitrogen dioxide levels rose across China’s industrial heartland, according to the most recent Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service data compiled by Windy.Com. The reddish-brown gas mainly enters the air from burning fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas. Levels plummeted in February after Chinese authorities locked down communities to contain the virus.

The data confirms anecdotal reports that Chinese workers are slowly heading back to their jobs. The economy was probably running at 60% to 70% capacity last week, according to a Bloomberg Economics report, up from about 50% earlier in February.

The world’s largest contract electronics supplier Foxconn said Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak would clip first quarter revenues by up to 15%, but expects a recovery next quarter as production returns to normal…. “The company’s priority now is to carefully resume work rather than aggressively pick up the production pace,” a person familiar with Foxconn’s situation told the Nikkei Asian Review.

China’s local governments issued a record amount of debt in the first two months of 2020 as they prepare to step up spending on infrastructure and public health, responding to calls by the country’s leaders to shore up a slowing economy that’s been battered by the coronavirus epidemic.

In the first two months of 2020, provincial-level governments sold 1.2 trillion-yuan ($172 billion) of bonds, 56.4% more than the same period last year, data released (in Chinese) Tuesday by the Ministry of Finance show.

In a sign that the self-reliance is working, Huawei in the fourth quarter sold more than 50,000 of these next-generation base stations that were free of U.S. technology, according to Tim Danks, the U.S.-based Huawei executive responsible for partner relations. That’s only about 8% of the total base stations that Huawei’s sold as of February, but the company is quickly ramping up at its secretive HiSilicon division to make more of these American component-free devices, Danks said.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Before the outbreak began, Wuhan had one dedicated medical waste treatment facility with a processing capacity of 50 tons per day. By January 24, however, the city was producing four times [in Chinese] that amount.

Bags of used equipment piled up in parking lots outside some hospitals in Wuhan due to the backlog at treatment plants and lack of waste transportation vehicles. Nearly 200 tons of additional waste remained inside storage facilities, according to government estimates.

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan have been forcing hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren to take Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal preparations in a bid to ward off the coronavirus, RFA has learned.

The Lincang No. 2 High School apologized on Monday after issuing a Feb. 29 letter to parents requiring all students, parents and teachers at the school to take a herbal brew based on a prescription issued by the Lincang TCM Hospital.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Gloves made in China for the popular French brand Lacoste appear to have been sewn inside a factory where ethnic minorities face forced ideological and behavioral re-education, according to a U.S.-based labor rights group.

Lacoste, known for its iconic little green crocodile logo, says it halted shipments after learning of labor abuse in its supply chain from Washington, D.C.-based labor rights group Worker Rights Consortium. The group alleges that Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities are being forced to sew the Lacoste-branded gloves.

China’s Huawei Technologies, which for years has denied violating American trade sanctions on Iran, produced internal company records in 2010 that show it was directly involved in sending prohibited U.S. computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator.

Two Huawei packing lists, dated December 2010, included computer equipment made by Hewlett-Packard and destined for the Iranian carrier, internal Huawei documents reviewed by Reuters show.

Another Huawei document, dated two months later, stated: “Currently the equipment is delivered to Tehran, and waiting for the custom clearance.”

  • Survey finds only a third of U.S. citizens regard China favorably, hitting late-1990s lows and a point below Gallup’s figures after 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
  • As U.S. presidential campaigns gear up, Republicans say China is U.S.’ greatest adversary, while Democrats see Russia as biggest threat.

The U.S. indicted and sanctioned two Chinese nationals accused of helping North Korean hackers launder around $100 million in stolen virtual currency, alleging Pyongyang’s hackers are receiving outside help and providing a window into what officials described as an increasingly important revenue stream for the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

Countries including Italy, France, Britain and Switzerland have taken an aggressive approach, banning large events and ordering large-scale blanket screenings. Germany, Austria, Spain and most Scandinavian countries, on the other hand, have stressed the need for moderation to limit the impact of the disease—and of the response—on society and the economy.

Beijing and Washington have sparred over the potential election of a Chinese national to head the World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo) next week [on March 5 and 6], the latest in their tug-of-war battle for influence at the United Nations… Wáng Bīnyǐng 王彬颖, Beijing’s nominee and current deputy director general of Wipo, is widely seen as the front runner in the election for director general of the organization that promotes intellectual property protections which set global standards for patents, trademarks and copyrights. The five other candidates are from Kazakhstan, Ghana, Colombia, Peru and Singapore.

Ahead of the election, Chinese officials have accused the United States of warning and pressuring other member states not to vote for Wang, while Washington has reportedly sought to promote Singaporean nominee Daren Tang.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

China’s propaganda narrative has sought to highlight the importance of women in the fight against the virus, playing up to their traditional roles as carers. Chinese state television ran a recent segment hailing a Wuhan nurse who was still at her post despite being nine months’ pregnant. A local newspaper heaped praise on another medical worker who returned to work just 10 days after a miscarriage.

Chinese cured meats [are] hard to find even in specialty supermarkets due to import restrictions. Some varieties, like Jinhua ham, are entirely banned from export to the States.

But the world of Chinese cured meats is exhilarating. There are so many flavors and regional variants — from sausages flavored with sweet rice wine in Guangdong, to rabbit cured in its own blood in Sichuan.

“Performers have not been to China in years, have not had recent direct contact with people from China, and in fact Shen Yun is not even allowed to perform in China,” the press release says. Shen Yun adds its performers are blacklisted and banned from traveling to China as individuals as well.