Links for Wednesday, March 11, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Manufacturing firms across China told Bloomberg News that they are close to being able to resume full production as domestic infections slow to a trickle, but are now facing canceled orders and fewer opportunities to gain new customers as the virus grips elsewhere.

“We are actually more worried about the development of the epidemic in Europe and the U.S., which will affect their domestic consumption,” said Mark Ma, owner of Shenzhen-based Seabay International Freight Forwarding Ltd.

The annual China Business Climate Survey, conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China late last year, found that 21% of member companies reported declines in revenue in 2019, compared with 7% in 2017. The proportion of members reporting profitability fell from 73% in 2017 to 61% in 2019, the lowest in two decades.

ByteDance Inc. became the world’s most valuable startup on the strength of its viral consumer apps like TikTok and news aggregator Toutiao, but in April last year it quietly released a remote-work app called Lark (Feishu in China) that combined elements of Slack, Dropbox, Google Docs and Skype.

Now the company is preparing to release a suite of tools marking an overhaul of its approach to work software, focusing on cloud-based file management and document and spreadsheet editing à la Google’s G Suite…

With lockdowns across the world’s most-populous nation entering their third month, smaller home builders are being pushed to the brink because they can’t get enough money from pre-sales of apartments to cover their costs. In the first two months of this year, around 105 real estate firms issued bankruptcy filing statements, after almost 500 collapses in 2019, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

  • Former manager at major state-owned lender jailed
    Manager at top bank jailed for taking bribes, embezzling funds / Caixin (paywall)
    Yú Tāo 于涛, a “former manager at the head office of Bank of Communications Co. Ltd. — one of the country’s biggest state-owned commercial lenders — has been sentenced to nine years in prison for taking bribes and embezzlement in a case the country’s anti-graft watchdog described as petty corruption.”
  • Alibaba delivery service operating at pre-COVID-19 levels…
    Alibaba’s Chinese delivery arm is back at pre-outbreak levels / Bloomberg via Caixin
    “Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s parcel and meal delivery arms have returned to pre-coronavirus outbreak staffing levels as China’s largest corporations get back to work after Beijing’s entreaty to safeguard economic growth.”
  • …While Didi tests a delivery service of its own
    Ride-hailing app Didi is testing home delivery services / TechNode

Didi has quietly launched earlier this week a home delivery service, “Paotui,” a word which means running errands. The service is active for dwellers in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu as well as Hangzhou, capital city of eastern Hangzhou province, Chinese media LatePost reported.

Adidas said it expected first-quarter sales to drop by up to 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) in greater China and operating profit to decline by between 400 million and 500 million.

“The virus hit looks worse than feared,” Jefferies analyst James Grzinic wrote in a note.

Puma said it no longer expected its business would return to normal soon, despite encouraging signs coming out of China, adding it was abandoning the 2020 guidance it gave on February 19 that had assumed the crisis would be short lived.

HSBC has appointed a new head of its China operations, marking the latest top personnel change in the country following a row with Beijing and the departure of its greater China head. Mark Wang [王云峰 Wáng Yúnfēng], who currently leads HSBC’s investment bank in China, will become its president and chief executive in the country, the London-based bank said on Wednesday.

David Liao [廖宜建 Liào Yíjiàn], who has served as chief executive in China for several years, will leave the role to take up another senior position within the bank, according to an announcement.

Steel, cement, and oil–these commodities powered industrialization in the 20th century. Today computing power and alternative energy are driving another revolution, yielding a new set of commodity-like products that will transform the global economy and reorganize production.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

A new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows that the novel coronavirus has been spreading most readily along an east-west band of the globe where the average temperatures are between 41 and 52 degrees and average humidity levels are between about 50 and 80 percent.

While China has reported zero new indigenous cases of malaria since 2017, it sees nearly 3,000 imported cases each year. A large proportion of these cases happen during the Chinese New Year, when many migrant workers return home to China, including from malaria-endemic countries.

This year, Chinese New Year coincided with the outbreak of COVID-19. Failure to treat malaria promptly increases the risk to patients and of secondary malaria transmission. Given COVID-19’s presently high incidence, health professionals are prone to misdiagnose malaria patients who have similar symptoms as COVID-19, such as high fever.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

A British “Mr. Bean” impersonator is being used by China’s propaganda news outlets to praise the “brave” government for its “incredible” response to coronavirus.

“Lewis defrauded a public university into giving him leave, so that he could satisfy his competing obligations to a Chinese institution, which he hid from the school,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C… As a part of the program, Lewis was promised benefits, including a living subsidy of 1 million Yuan (approximately $143,000), a research subsidy of 4 million Yuan (approximately $573,000), and a salary of 600,000 Yuan (approximately $86,000). To receive the benefits, Lewis would have to work full time in China for three consecutive years, for no less than nine months per year, and would have to begin work no later than Aug. 8, 2018.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE: