BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Is China at risk of a stock bubble?
China avoids market meltdown but risks stoking bubble instead / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China’s desire to support its financial markets in the wake of the virus outbreak may have moved the needle too far the other way…
While a stable equity market and the lowest sovereign bond yields since 2002 are good news for companies trying to raise money, critics caution that the exuberance triggered by such measures could be dangerous. Taking market-support policies too far may encourage the whirlwind trading that fueled massive bubbles in 2015 and 2007.
High leverage in the stock market is one notable sign, as well as surging daily turnover. There’s also been a rush to buy mutual funds, pour money into shiny new ETFs or buy higher-yielding convertible bonds. Perhaps most telling: a gauge of small cap stocks, where speculative trading is rife, has surged more than 20% since its low last month.
Hard-to-get bonds hand quick 20% returns to China insiders / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“In China’s red-hot convertible bond market, big investors are using their privileged access to deals to flip newly issued securities for gains of 20% or more.”
Millions of Chinese, cooped up and anxious, are turning to online doctors / Economist (porous paywall)
Without the outbreak, the shift in consumer behaviour would have taken perhaps five years…Chen Qiaoshan of Analysys, a consultancy in Beijing, thinks that China’s online health-care market may near 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) this year, up from her pre-outbreak estimate of 158 billion yuan ($22.7 billion).
Piglet prices soar
$300 piglets in China hit market on prices surging to record / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China’s piglet prices surged to a record as farms snap up already-tight supplies to rebuild hog herds that were destroyed by African swine fever last year.
Average national piglet prices surged to 126 yuan ($18.11) per kilogram on Thursday, according to Shanghai JC Intelligence. That means a 17-kilogram piglet, the typical weight for the animal when they’re sold, would cost more than $300, up from about $97 in 2017, before swine fever broke out in China.
Real estate bondholders remain bullish
China’s property market has seized up. Bondholders aren’t fazed / WSJ (paywall)
Even as home sales in China have dried up because of the coronavirus epidemic, international bond investors are keeping faith with major real-estate groups.
The resilience of Chinese property debt contrasts with a steep decline in business, as developers have been forced to close sales centers across the country, and with a slide in property shares signaling that the sector’s earnings are likely to suffer.
Chat apps in the time of coronavirus
To work smart, China should delete DingTalk / TechNode
Not a lot of app makers respond to criticism by calling their users lazy. But it’s perfectly on-brand for [Alibaba’s] DingTalk: it was designed to appeal to managers, instead of the employees who actually use it. DingTalk promotes unhealthy — and inefficient — work-life balance by tempting bosses to monitor employees 24 hours a day and to invade their off-duty time.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Rural Sichuan’s water sanitation systems to get an upgrade
Innovating water and sanitation services in China’s rural areas / India Education Diary
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a loan to China for Euro 89.10 million (U.S.$100 million equivalent) to improve rural water supply and sanitation services in Sichuan Province through a public private partnership.
“This project will support improved water supply and sanitation services for more than 200,000 residents in rural areas in Sichuan,” said Martin Raiser, World Bank Country Director for China. “It will contribute to domestic and global public goods by protecting the environment through reduced discharge of untreated wastewater into the tributaries of the Yangtze River. The project also promotes a more transparent service and financing model through a public-private-partnership…”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Xi’s visit to Japan postponed
Japan says state visit by China’s Xi postponed over COVID-19
“The last state visit by a Chinese president to Japan was in 2008, and Xi’s trip was being cast as a sign of warming bilateral ties. The coronavirus outbreak, however, has delayed the visit.”
Further reporting on coerced Uyghur labor
China’s Uyghur crackdown expands to forced work in factories, some supplying Western brands / Washington Post
The Uyghur workers are afraid or unable to interact with anyone in this town, north of Qingdao, beyond the most superficial of transactions at the stalls or in local stores, vendors say. But the catalyst for their arrival here is well understood.
“Everyone knows they didn’t come here of their own free will. They were brought here,” said one fruit-seller as she set up her stall. “The Uighurs had to come because they didn’t have an option. The government sent them here,” another vendor told The Washington Post.
“For the Chinese state, the goal is to ‘sinicize’ the Uighurs; for local governments, private brokers and factories, they get a sum of money per head in these labor transfers,” Xu said.
Gadgets for tech giants made with coerced Uyghur labor / AP
More than 80,000 Uyghurs in coerced labor across China / SupChina
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Pop stars, homophobia, censorship, and manic fans
The dark side of China’s idol economies / Jing Daily
Chinese pop idol Xiào Zhàn 肖战 was embroiled in a controversy over the weekend that rocked Gen Zers all across China’s internet….
While China’s idol economy remains a lucrative territory for international brands, this incident has revealed its dark side, and an intensified culture of cyberviolence, irrational fandom, and digital censorship are all risk factors that brands now have to face in this increasingly volatile market.
Memento mori / Neocha
“The desire to preserve her grandfather’s memory led [Lǐ Kěhuá 李可华] to create Tomb, a performance meditating on time, memory, and the brevity of life.”
Time magazine celebrates female physicist
Chien-Shiung Wu: 100 Women of the Year / Time
“When the weapons were used in 1945 and the war was won, names like Fermi and Oppenheimer would be recalled best. But without the physicist [Chien-Shiung Wu 吳健雄
Wú Jiànxióng], the [Manhattan] project might have failed, perhaps prolonging World War II into 1946 and beyond.”