Links for Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for Wednesday, March 18, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

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.

  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

…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:

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.

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.

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.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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?”

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