BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Economic gloom and doom
China’s passenger car sales tumble 47% in first half of March due to virus outbreak / Reuters
“Retail sales of China’s passenger car crumbled 47% on an annual basis in the first 15 days of March, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), as the coronavirus outbreak slammed the brakes on businesses across the country.”
China’s electricity consumption drops by most in five years / Caixin
Fresh data from the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, showed Tuesday that the nation consumed 7.8% less electricity in January and February compared with the same period last year, led by a 12% fall in industrial consumption and a 3.1% drop in the services industry.
Australia stocks led losses among the region’s major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 dropping 6.43%… South Korea’s Kospi also saw significant losses as it dropped 4.86%…while the Kosdaq index plunged 5.75% to 485.14. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was also 3.49% lower, as of its final hour of trading.
Disrupted labor flows and fears of food shortages
Hubei’s migrant workers ‘living in fear’ as debts mount under lockdown / SCMP
- Sweeping coronavirus containment measures, including transport restrictions, have trapped nearly 60 million people in Hubei Province.
- Among them are scores of rural migrant workers who are struggling to pay debts because they have been unable to return to their jobs.
- China farmers fear food shortage after coronavirus controls / FT (paywall)
A Qufu Normal University survey last month of village officials in 1,636 counties found that 60% of respondents were pessimistic or very pessimistic about the planting season.
The dismal mood has raised fears of a food shortage in the world’s most populous nation after disease control measures, led by traffic restrictions, took a toll on farming activity.
Alibaba launches communication platform for medical professionals
Dingtalk is now available worldwide for ‘medical heroes’ / TechNode
“Alibaba has launched a free international collaboration platform based on its enterprise productivity app Dingtalk for medical professionals to share information and advice on prevention and treatment of the COVID-19 outbreak, Alibaba Cloud said on Wednesday.”
Tencent’s Q4 performance gets mixed reviews
Tencent Q4 profit rises 52% on growing international games, fintech businesses / Caixin
“Tencent said its revenue grew 25% in the final three months of 2019 to 105.8 billion yuan ($15.1 billion), while its profit rose by an even stronger 52% to 21.6 billion yuan, according to its latest quarterly report released after markets closed on Wednesday.”
Tencent’s profit misses estimates, before coronavirus arrived / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China’s largest gaming and social media company reported lower than anticipated net income of 21.6 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) in the December quarter. Overall costs swelled 20%, underscoring how Tencent is spending to acquire content and snag new users to fend off hard-charging rival ByteDance Inc.
Mobile payment boom
China’s mobile payments grew more than 70% in Q4 / Caixin
For the three months through December, the country’s banks processed 62.1 billion electronic payments… Of those payments, 30.7 billion were mobile transactions, representing a year-on-year increase of 73.6%. A total of 94.9 trillion yuan changed hands via mobile devices, up 21.3% from the same period last year.
Why Tesla got special treatment
How China bent over backward to help Tesla when the virus hit / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The support for Tesla — which also included providing accommodation for some employees as the outbreak snowballed — is emblematic of China’s wider embrace of Elon Musk’s car venture. The billionaire has waged a charm offensive since deciding to build his first plant outside the U.S. in China, home to the world’s biggest electric-vehicle market, and has been rewarded with the support of officials even as the trade war strained relations with the U.S.
Stimulus measures: Let cars pollute, and push exports
China may help struggling carmakers by relaxing emission curbs / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China is exploring relaxing some emissions standards to provide relief for automakers battling an unprecedented slump in the world’s largest car market, according to people familiar with the matter.
…Chinese authorities are debating whether to ease restrictions on the amount of harmful particles that vehicles emit from their tailpipes — a measure known as particle number, or PN — the people said.
China raises export tax rebate on almost 1,500 products to boost virus-hit trade / Reuters
“The Ministry of Finance said 1,084 products, including porcelain sanitary ware, would have the rebate raised to 13%, while another 380 products will see the rebate rise to 9%. It did not specify the previous rebate rates.”
How delivery technology delivered
Delivery technology is keeping Chinese cities afloat through coronavirus / Harvard Business Review
The combination of consumer digital maturity and digitally supported supply chains has enabled local residents to organize home delivery of essential supplies to people in self-quarantine. In the gated communities and neighborhoods that characterize Beijing, for example, residents have organized small groups of volunteers via group chat apps to receive supplies at the gate for the whole community, box them for each household, and deliver them to people’s doorsteps.
More details on TikTok’s ugly filtering policies emerge
TikTok ‘tried to filter out videos from ugly, poor or disabled users’ / Guardian
TikTok moderators were told to suppress videos from users who appeared too ugly, poor or disabled, as part of the company’s efforts to curate an aspirational air in the videos it promotes, according to new documents published by the Intercept…
TikTok’s moderators were instructed to exclude videos from the For You feed [an algorithmic timeline that is most users’ first port of call when they open the app] if they failed on any one of a number of categories, the documents show. Users with an “abnormal body shape (not limited to: dwarf, acromegaly),” who are “chubby…obese or too thin” or who have “ugly facial looks or facial deformities” should be removed, one document says, since “if the character’s appearance is not good, the video will be much less attractive, not worthing [sic] to be recommended to new users.”
Opinion: 2020 is the time to invest in China
China: The most promising market of 2020? / China Skinny
…Yet those who have the capacity to invest in growing their awareness and preference in China are likely to be rewarded with the strength of the Chinese consumer market. The market is bouncing back and there is likely to be less competition from other foreign brands who may not have adapted to new behavioral trends in China following the coronavirus. 抓住机遇 — zhuā zhù jīyù — Seize the opportunity.
Taiwanese chip manufacturer considers building U.S. facility
TSMC weighs new U.S. plant to respond to Trump pressure / Nikkei Asian Review via Caixin
“Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is stepping up its evaluation of whether to build an advanced chip facility in the U.S. in response to pressure from Washington.”
Chinese chipmaker to raise $713 million
State-backed chipmaker set to raise $713 million / Caixin (paywall)
“Unisoc, the chipmaking unit of state-owned Tsinghua Unigroup Co. Ltd, is about to finish raising 5 billion yuan ($713 million) of new funds amid China’s efforts to build up the country’s chipmaking capacity.”
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and other research updates
How long will coronavirus live on surfaces or in the air around you? / NYT (porous paywall)
The coronavirus can live for three days on some surfaces, like plastic and steel, new research suggests. Experts say the risk of consumers getting infected from touching those materials is still low, although they offered additional warnings about how long the virus survives in air…
When the virus becomes suspended in droplets smaller than 5 micrometers — known as aerosols — it can stay suspended for about a half-hour, researchers said, before drifting down and settling on surfaces where it can linger for hours.
- Chinese vaccine approved for human testing at virus epicenter / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
CanSino Biologics Inc. said it received Chinese regulatory approval to start human trials of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus…
The vaccine, co-developed by the Hong Kong-listed company and China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, will undergo clinical trials in Wuhan, CanSino Biologics said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
Children and coronavirus: Research finds some become seriously ill / NYT (porous paywall)
“Now, the largest study to date of children and the virus has found that while most develop mild or moderate symptoms, a small percentage — especially babies and preschoolers — can become seriously ill.”
Japanese flu drug ‘clearly effective’ in treating coronavirus, says China / Guardian
“Zhāng Xīnmín 张新民, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, said favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had produced encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients.”
China’s greenhouse emissions rose 2.6% in 2019
China’s greenhouse emissions rise 2.6% in 2019: research group / Reuters
“China’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 2.6% in 2019 despite a fall in the share of coal in the country’s energy mix, driven by a rise in energy consumption and greater use of oil and gas, a research group said on Wednesday.”
The problem with crowdfunded healthcare
Why medical crowdfunding can’t fix what ails Chinese charities / Sixth Tone
Because some charitable organizations rely on crowdfunding campaign fees as their main source of operating revenue, however, they feel forced to chase clicks and potential big-money campaigns. This also incentivizes them to set fundraising goals based on the likely appeal of the beneficiaries’ stories, and not necessarily their actual medical needs. An average patient might aim to raise 100,000 yuan, for example, but an equally sick one with a more compelling story could set a 300,000 yuan target.
How China aims to improve environmental management
Ma Jun: ‘We’re at a crossroads for environmental protection’ / China Dialogue
An interview with “green pioneer” Mǎ Jūn 马军 about the new environmental governance guidelines issued by China’s Central Committee and the State Council on March 3.
Panda twins born in Chengdu
First panda twins of the year born at Chengdu research base / Shanghaiist
“The first panda twins of the year were born on Tuesday at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Chengdu.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Airlines divert flights away from Beijing
Domestic airlines to divert international flights away from Beijing / Caixin
Starting on Wednesday, international flights operated by Chinese airlines that terminate in Beijing will be diverted to nearby airports including those in the cities of Shijiazhuang, Tianjin, Hohhot and Taiyuan, sources with direct knowledge of the latest plan told Caixin. The latest plan is designed to ease the pressure on Beijing’s main airport, which earlier this week rolled out a policy requiring all people arriving from abroad to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantines in several designated hotels.
China ships medical supplies to Europe
China seeks to step up support for European countries worst hit by coronavirus / SCMP
“On Wednesday, China agreed to help the EU with ‘immediate shipments’ of 2 million surgical masks, 200,000 N95 masks and 500,000 testing kits — but the amount stopped short of the 5 million surgical masks it gave Italy, which has seen the world’s worst outbreak after China.”
China sends masks, gloves to help France fight virus — French minister / Reuters
Note: It is not clear if this aid is donated or eventually to be paid for.
U.S. man sentenced for spying for China
U.S. man Edward Peng Xuehua gets 4-year prison sentence, U.S.$30k fine for spying for China / AFP via Hong Kong Free Press
Edward Péng Xuéhuá 彭学华, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested in Hayward, California, in September for arranging transfers of money and SD cards loaded with stolen data in different locations across the United States on behalf of China’s premier intelligence body.
Peng pleaded guilty in federal district court in Oakland, California, to one charge of illegally acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.
The judge sentenced him to 48 months in prison and a $30,000 fine, short of the 10 years and $250,000 fine allowed.
Hong Kong police brutality case
Court rules MTR must release CCTV footage to student caught up in Prince Edward Station police raid / Hong Kong Free Press
“The High Court has ordered the MTR Corporation to hand over CCTV footage from Prince Edward and Lai Chi Kok Stations to a student who is seeking damages from the police for alleged assault. However, the plaintiff will not be allowed to disclose them to the public.”
Virtual G20 will discuss COVID-19 response
China handed chance to help shape international response as G20 calls emergency meeting / SCMP
The world’s top 20 economies are set to hold an emergency virtual summit meeting next week, giving China the chance to participate in international efforts to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic and its growing economic impact.
The Group of 20 (G20) will seek to put forward a coordinated set of policies in response to the global outbreak of COVID-19 in a bid to alleviate its human and economic implications, the government of Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the international forum, announced on Tuesday.
Taiwan: New COVID-19 entry restrictions
Migrant workers who leave Taiwan will not be allowed to reenter: MOL / Focus Taiwan
Migrant workers who travel outside Taiwan will be temporarily barred from returning until the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic subsides, Vice Labor Minister Lin San-quei (林三貴 Lín Sānguì) said Tuesday.
Migrant workers who are currently overseas and have re-entry permits will be allowed to return, but they will have to self-quarantine for 14 days if they are coming from a country that is under a CECC Level 3 travel warning, the ministry said.
People’s Armed Police active in Hong Kong?
China’s internal security force on frontlines of Hong Kong protests / Reuters
“Officers from China’s top internal security force — the People’s Armed Police — joined Hong Kong police on the frontlines to observe anti-government protests that peaked last year, according to a senior foreign diplomat and an opposition politician.”
Middle Eastern views of China and COVID-19
The Mediterranean Region looks at China / ChinaMed
In [some] Arab countries…some commentators argue that the coronavirus will significantly undermine China’s rise. We found such an argument in the Bahraini newspaper Akhbar Al Khaleej as well as in Alwatan, which is published in Oman.
Interestingly, the author of the article in Alwatan pulls no punches and argues that the appearance of the virus in China is a divine punishment for the treatment of the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province. On the other hand, other publications, especially the Saudi ones, praise the response of the Chinese government response, and claim that it emerged stronger than ever also on the international stage.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Chinese reactions on U.K. measures to achieve ‘herd immunity’
Chinese shocked, awed by UK’s ‘Darwinian’ coronavirus strategy / Sixth Tone
Netizens are both shocked and amused by what they see as a brave yet foolish strategy for tackling the coronavirus, particularly in contrast with China’s heavy-handed but largely effective approach. “After successfully leaving Europe, they now want to leave the world,” read one widely shared quip (in Chinese).
Wuhan cherry blossoms don’t seem to cheer people up
Wuhan cherry blossoms live stream launched amid coronavirus lockdown / SCMP
Chinese state media outlets are live streaming the famed cherry blossoms at Wuhan University for an internet audience, as the city where the coronavirus was first reported remains locked down and closed to visitors.
The point of the live stream was lost on some Weibo users. “The outbreak isn’t over yet,” one wrote. “People in Hubei are discriminated [against] and mourning the deaths of relatives and loved ones. Now you have started the propaganda of prosperity and happiness [to try to make] us forget our sorrows?”