BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
China may contract 9% in Q1, global recession underway
Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs declare global recession underway / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Morgan Stanley’s team, led by Chetan Ahya, said a worldwide recession is now its “base case,” with growth expected to fall to 0.9% this year. At Goldman Sachs, Jan Hatzius and colleagues predict a weakening of growth to 1.25%. S&P Global added its voice to the chorus with a report expecting that growth would range 1% to 1.5%.
Such slumps would not be as painful as the 0.8% contraction of 2009, as measured by the International Monetary Fund, but they would be worse than the downturns of 2001 and the early 1990s. Both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs anticipate a rebound in the second half, but warn that the risk remains of even greater economic pain.
Goldman cut its estimate for China’s first-quarter gross domestic product growth to a 9% contraction, from a previous forecast of 2.5% growth, citing “strikingly weak” economic data in January and February. It also lowered its full-year GDP forecast to 3% growth from an earlier estimate of 5.5%.
Law goes easy on entrepreneurs amid outbreak
Coronavirus pushes China to show mercy rather than pursue companies in court / Reuters
Entrepreneurs suspected of crimes ranging from forging VAT invoices to allowing drug use on their property have been let off with warnings to prevent any further drag on production or employment, according to local media reports.
This leniency contrasts with the harsh treatment meted out to private firms by courts over the past few decades, as many have found themselves on the wrong side of disputes with local governments and state-owned firms, according to legal experts.
JD.com to buy back $2 billion shares
China’s JD.com to buy back $2 billion shares / Reuters
“China’s JD.com Inc said on Tuesday it would buy back up to $2 billion of its shares, after the ecommerce company estimated a growth in sales in the current quarter that has been ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak.”
JD.com may seek secondary listing in Hong Kong in May or June / Caixin
“Online retailer JD.com is mulling a secondary listing in Hong Kong in May or June, joining the ranks of overseas-listed Chinese companies with plans to dual list in the former British colony, a source with knowledge of the matter told Caixin.”
Alipay ramps up global expansion
TransferWise and Alipay team up for international money transfers / Caixin
British fintech company TransferWise has established a partnership with Chinese mobile payment service Alipay for cross-border money transfers.
The tie-up will enable TransferWise’s more than 7 million customers to send money held in 17 currencies to Alipay users as Chinese yuan, according to a statement TransferWise emailed to Caixin Tuesday. Alipay serves over 1.2 billion people globally.
Apple Pay to support Alipay in next iOS update: report / TechNode
“Apple is reportedly going to include a Chinese mobile wallet in Apple Pay in its upcoming iOS 14 update with addition of Alipay to its roster of accepted payment methods.”
More people are paying for music…
Tencent music announces moves into black in Q4 2019 as paying users grew / Caixin
“For the three months through December, net profit attributable to equity holders totaled 1.04 billion yuan ($150 million), marking a turnaround from a net loss of 876 million yuan in the same period of 2018, according to the company’s earnings report released Monday.”
…But better copyright protections still needed
China’s music industry should change its tune on copyright protections / Sixth Tone
According to IFPI’s 2018 Music Consumer Insight Report, 96% of listeners in China were listening to licensed music, significantly higher than the global average of 62%…. But we shouldn’t adopt too rosy a view of the situation: The Chinese music industry itself still has a very limited understanding of copyright, and a lack of professional knowledge continues to hinder the implementation of music property rights.
Steel is the new gold
As gold plunges, Chinese investors find new haven in steel rods / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The price of steel reinforcement bar, the somewhat unglamorous but ubiquitous commodity used to strengthen concrete, has risen almost 5% over the past month in Shanghai. Over the same period, gold — the traditional haven amid turmoil — has dropped more than 5% as investors sell to cover losses in other markets.
Rebar’s unexpected ascent as a financial sanctuary comes as Chinese investors bet that Beijing is going to embark on a massive bout of stimulus to help prop up the country’s economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus, boosting demand for raw materials used in construction.
Not even the super rich can escape
Super rich stranded as private jet operators say no to travel / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Private jet operators are turning away wealthy clients as coronavirus-related travel bans restrict their ability to operate, despite a surge in requests from people willing to shell out as much as $150,000 to secure a spot on their planes.
Inquiries for international flights on private jets have shot up ninefold, said Kanika Tekriwal, founder of New Delhi-based JetSetGo, as individuals with vast financial means try to escape virus hot spots.
ZTE “has not received notices” of U.S. bribery investigation
China’s ZTE denies knowledge of reports of U.S. bribery investigation / Caixin
Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has denied knowledge of a reported bribery investigation into the company by the U.S. government…
In a Monday statement published on the website of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, ZTE said that it “has not received notices from the relevant government departments of the United States in this regard.”
Beauty brand to increase dividends
Chlitina to raise dividend, warns of virus headwinds / Taipei Times
“Chlitina Holding Ltd (麗豐) [丽丰 lì fēng], which sells cosmetics and skincare products, plans to increase its dividend after reporting strong revenue and profit for last year, but said it sees headwinds in the first quarter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
A blow to China’s space ambitions
China’s new Long March-7A rocket fails first launch / SCMP
A new type of Chinese rocket failed in its first launch on Monday night, raising questions over the country’s ambitious space missions planned for the rest of the year.
The CZ-7A rocket, or Long March-7A, encountered an “abnormality” after taking off at 9.34pm from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Site in Hainan province, state news agency Xinhua reported.
The cause of the problem is unknown.
Chopsticks and shared plates
Change your chopstick habits to curb COVID-19, cities say / Sixth Tone
In recent days, local authorities across the country have been promoting the use of serving chopsticks and spoons, or gōng kuài gōng sháo [公筷, 公勺] in Chinese, to prevent residents from unwittingly passing on the virus when they share dishes.
Communal eating habits have been a part of Chinese culture for centuries, with groups typically sharing several dishes laid out in the center of a table. Officials are concerned, however, that diners may spread infections by dipping their own chopsticks and spoons into shared bowls of food.
Europe is repeating Wuhan’s mistakes — Chinese medics
Europe’s doctors repeat errors made in Wuhan, China medics say / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
As Europe’s daily new cases of the coronavirus now eclipse China’s at the peak of its epidemic, doctors in Wuhan…are seeing worrying signs of similar mistakes unfolding.
Key among them is inadequate protection for medical workers, leading to a high infection rate among doctors and nurses.
Unconfirmed cases may be behind rapid spread in China, researchers say / SCMP
- Study estimates that 86% of infections went undiagnosed in the two weeks before Wuhan was locked down.
- Those people, who probably didn’t have severe symptoms, thought to have infected 79% of documented cases.
- Research in Wuhan and Shenzhen indicates patients with the blood group had higher rate of infection and tended to get more severe symptoms.
- Those with type O ‘had a significantly lower risk for the infectious disease’ compared to others.
China to start COVID-19 vaccine trials soon
China’s COVID-19 vaccines expected to enter clinical trials soon: officials / Xinhua
“Some vaccines for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are expected to enter clinical trials as soon as possible in China, officials said at a press conference on Tuesday.”
Are COVID-19’s environmental benefits about to end?
China’s air quality is about to get a whole lot worse because of coronavirus / Vice
The country is already planning to relax environmental rules to allow Chinese factories idled during the epidemic to get back up to speed. The Chinese government is signaling that addressing pollution won’t be a top priority. The government insists that environment standards remain in place — they just won’t be enforced as aggressively.
Factories were shuttered and streets were cleared across China’s Hubei province as authorities ordered residents to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
It seems the lockdown had an unintended benefit — blue skies.
The average number of “good quality air days” increased 21.5% in February, compared to the same period last year, according to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
Medical workers’ fates highlight COVID-19’s unpredictability
Two women fell sick from the coronavirus. One survived. / NYT (porous paywall)
“The young mothers didn’t tell their children they had the coronavirus. Mama was working hard, they said, to save sick people.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Scholars continue to call out COVID-19 response
Translation: “An urgent call regarding the epidemic” / China Digital Times
Translations of two letters authored by Zhào Shìlín 赵士林, a retired Minzu University professor and former member of the Central Committee and deputy director of the Culture and Arts Commission, on the government’s slow response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the death of Dr. Lǐ Wénliàng 李文亮.
Beijing slams Nobel laureate over criticism of outbreak transparency / AFP via Hong Kong Free Press
China hit out on Monday at Peru’s Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa for allegedly expressing “irresponsible and prejudiced opinions” over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
The writer penned an article for Spain’s El Pais newspaper and La Republica in Peru in which he said the coronavirus outbreak would have played out differently if China was a democracy.
“No-one seems to be remarking that none of this could have happened in the world if popular China was a free country and democratic rather than a dictatorship,” said the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature winner.
At least 25 workers protests as lockdowns wind down
Collective protests begin to flare up again as China returns to work / China Labour Bulletin
After a month in which there were virtually no worker protests in China because much of the country was on lockdown, workers are beginning to take collective action again. Many protests have been related to the economic distress caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.
China Labour Bulletin’s Strike Map has recorded 25 incidents since businesses outside the central province of Hubei tentatively resumed production after the extended Lunar New Year break in mid- and late-February.
PLA conducts night drill across Taiwan Strait
Taipei says Chinese military aircraft flew night exercise across Taiwan Strait / SCMP
“Taiwan sent fighter planes to intercept a flight of PLA Air Force aircraft that briefly approached the island on Monday evening in what analysts said was a rare exercise by Beijing aimed at showing off its night navigation capabilities.”
Canada releases report on Chinese interference
Canadian parliamentary report describes Chinese interference / China Digital Times
On Thursday, Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians published a heavily redacted version of its annual report, [which] identifies China and Russia as the two most active perpetrators of foreign interference in Canada, including “using deceptive means to ‘cultivate relationships with elected officials and others perceived to possess influence in the political process; seek to influence the reporting of Canadian media outlets; seek, in some cases, to affect the outcome of elections; and coerce or induce diaspora communities to advance foreign interests in Canada.’”
Hong Kong’s free market ranking slips
Hong Kong loses Heritage ‘economic freedom’ crown to Singapore / Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall)
Hong Kong’s long reign as the pinnacle of free-market values has come to an end thanks to last year’s anti-government unrest, with the Heritage Foundation crowning Singapore on Tuesday as its new global champion.
The conservative U.S. think tank has been ranking the world’s economies on “economic freedom” annually since 1995…
In the new rankings, Heritage trimmed Hong Kong’s overall score by 1.1 points to 89.1, where 100 represents perfect freedom, while Singapore’s remained unchanged at 89.4.
Hong Kong extends school closures, as schools reopen in several provinces
Hong Kong school closures extended as Cathay adds flights for students returning from U.K., U.S. / Hong Kong Free Press
“In a media briefing before the Executive Council meeting, [Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam 林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é] said it was ‘not possible’ to resume all classes on April 20 in view of the current public health situation. She said even if classes could resume after containment of the outbreak, schools could only reopen in phases.”
Back to school for some in China / BBC
A video of students returning to school in China’s Guizhou Province.
贵州、新疆、青海三地复课！全国中小学何时恢复正常教学？ / Xinhua
“Classes resume across Guizhou, Xinjiang, Qinghai! When will the rest of China’s elementary schools resume regular teaching?”
- How has Taiwan avoided a COVID-19 crisis?
- Response to COVID-19 in Taiwan: Big data analytics, new technology, and proactive testing / Jama Network
Taiwan quickly mobilized and instituted specific approaches for case identification, containment, and resource allocation to protect the public health. Taiwan leveraged its national health insurance database and integrated it with its immigration and customs database to begin the creation of big data for analytics; it generated real-time alerts during a clinical visit based on travel history and clinical symptoms to aid case identification. It also used new technology, including QR code scanning and online reporting of travel history and health symptoms to classify travelers’ infectious risks based on flight origin and travel history in the past 14 days.
Jack Ma donates medical supplies to U.S.
Jack Ma is donating medical supplies to U.S., Europe, Africa / TechNode
“Alibaba founder Jack Ma posted on his freshly minted Twitter account on Monday that he is donating through his charity foundation testing kits and masks to countries afflicted by Covid-19 including the U.S., all of Africa, Italy, and Spain.”
Can the KMT be saved?
Can Johnny Chiang save Taiwan’s troubled Kuomintang party? / SCMP
“[Johnny] Chiang [江啟臣 Jiāng Qǐchén] has just 14 months of a four-year term to prove he is the man to lead the KMT out of its slump. His goals were to bring young blood into the party and introduce reforms to win back public support, while at the same time securing Beijing’s trust, analysts said.”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Chinese students rush to exit U.K.
Chinese students flee U.K. after ‘maskaphobia’ triggered racist attacks / Guardian
“Chinese students at U.K. universities are “fleeing back to China” amid concerns about the British government’s handling of the spread of the virus and an increase in racist attacks triggered by so-called maskaphobia.”
China’s digital divide
Coronavirus fight lays bare education’s digital divide / NYT (porous paywall)
For all of China’s economic advancements in recent decades, the rudiments of connected life — capable smartphones, reliable internet — remain out of reach for large segments of the population. As the virus has turned online conveniences into daily necessities, these people, most of whom live in China’s rural hinterland, have been cut off from their regular lives, especially when it comes to education.
Suffering in rural China
China’s suffering class / China Channel
An interview with Guō Yúhuá 郭于华, a professor of anthropology at Tsinghua University and an expert on the changing lives of rural Chinese and the labor conditions of peasant workers.
Swipe right for rape
When China’s matchmaking services are a tinderbox for violence / Sixth Tone
Matchmaking companies have come under fire in recent years for fraud and catfishing, with at least a few cases ending in death [in Chinese]. In 2017, China’s central government called for dating websites to use real-name registration and vet information users were entering in their profiles.
However, such regulations offer little comfort to women who are raped or experience other sexual misconduct after turning to matchmaking platforms.
Chinese Italians seek China’s help
How Italy’s Chinese community went from helping their homeland to seeking its help / Caixin (paywall)
Ah Fan (pseudonym) didn’t expect he’d go from worrying about his family on the other side of the world to fretting about his own safety so quickly.
The Milan resident spent most of February concerned for his family in Wenzhou, a city in East China’s Zhejiang province famed for its entrepreneurial diaspora worldwide and the hometown of most of Italy’s Chinese community. But by the end of February, he found himself trapped in the European region hardest hit by the novel coronavirus.