Links for Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for Tuesday, March 17, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

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%.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

  • 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.

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:

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.

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.

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 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.

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:

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.

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.  

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.

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