BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
2020 GDP growth: Median projection is 2.9%
China’s economy to grow the slowest since 1976 this year / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The economy will grow 2.9% this year, according to the median of 17 forecasts over the last week. That is the lowest since a contraction in 1976 — the final year of the Cultural Revolution which wrecked the economy and society, and the year Mao Zedong died.
The median of those new forecasts is for the economy to shrink 6% in the first quarter from the same period a year ago.
COVID-19 threatens shadow banking sector
Coronavirus-led slowdown tests the mettle of China’s shadow banks / WSJ (paywall)
Cracks are forming in China’s sprawling shadow-banking sector, as the coronavirus epidemic drains economic activity around the country and pressures lenders that many private firms have relied on for years.
Since early February, several finance companies and online lending platforms have told investors they can’t produce the returns they previously promised, due to rising distress among businesses they funded.
Timeline: How China is supporting its markets
Everything China is doing to support its virus-hit markets / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
A regularly updated timeline from February 1 to the present with a breakdown of the measures China has taken to support its markets following the outbreak of COVID-19, and the market response to these measures.
Mobile carriers lose subscribers for first time
China’s mobile carriers lose 21 million users as virus bites / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China’s wireless carriers are reporting drops in users as the coronavirus crisis cuts business activity, with China Mobile Ltd., the world’s largest carrier, reporting its first net decline since starting to report monthly data in 2000.
Part of the drop could be caused by migrant workers — who often have one subscription for where they work and another for their home region — canceling their work-region account after the virus prevented them from returning to work after the Lunar New Year holidays that began in late January.
Pork is cheap again
Falling pork prices set to take a slice out of inflation in China / Caixin (paywall)
“Falling pork prices are expected to lead to a slowdown in China’s consumer inflation later this year as hog production gains momentum after the devastating impact of African swine fever.”
On SupChina last September: ‘Comrades, pork prices really scare me!’
Movie theaters reopen
More than 500 cinemas reopen in China as new virus cases near zero / Caixin
As of March 21, a total of 507 cinemas across China had reopened to moviegoers, representing 4.5% of the total cinemas operating in the country, according to statistics released by ticketing agency Maoyan.
On March 21, some 29 reopened cinemas in Xinjiang sold 25,100 yuan ($3,523) worth of tickets, accounting for about 80% of the country’s total box office revenue that day.
Xpeng acquires smaller electric carmaker
Xpeng buys electric vehicle firm in drive to do own manufacturing / Caixin
“Xpeng has acquired a lesser-known electric carmaker [Guangdong Foday Automobile] through its investment affiliate [Zhaoqing New Energy Investment Co.], a move industry observers say could help it produce its own new energy vehicles independently, as the company seeks to reduce dependence on its manufacturing partner.”
Meituan exits the cloud
Meituan is shuttering its cloud business / TechNode
Chinese food delivery and services platform Meituan Dianping is shutting down its public cloud service in order to retain focus on its core businesses.
Halting its cloud computing services is a major pullback in Meituan’s expansion into enterprise tech, a trend which has formed the basis of many recent moves by competitors including Alibaba and Tencent.
Health monitoring app for students returning to school
Tencent rolls out new health tracking code aimed at China’s students / Reuters
Fuxuema, which translates as “school resumption code,” allows students to fill out their daily temperatures and obtain a color-based QR-code, a type of barcode, on their mobile phones that would show their health status, Tencent said in a statement on its social media account late on Friday.
Back-door listing of ecommerce aggregator
Ecommerce aggregator listed in Shanghai through back-door listing / Caixin
“Ecommerce aggregation site operator Shanghai Zhongyan Information Technology has listed in Shanghai through a backdoor-listing plan, following a year-long failure to seek an IPO.”
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Traditional Chinese medicine to get soft power push?
Beijing pushes traditional Chinese medicine as coronavirus treatment despite questions over benefits / SCMP
- President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 has praised it as a ‘treasure’ of Chinese civilization and more than 90% of COVID-19 patients in the country have been given it.
- Beijing is now keen to promote its use internationally, but some scientists have warned there is no evidence to prove it works.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Can China be sued for COVID-19?
China is legally responsible for COVID-19 damage and claims could be in the trillions / War on the Rocks
James Kraska, an international maritime law expert at the U.S. Naval War College, writes:
China’s failure to expeditiously and transparently share information with WHO in accordance with the International Health Regulations constitutes an early and subsequently extended breach of its legal obligations (Article 14).
Under Article 31 of the Articles of State Responsibility, states are required to make full reparations for the injury caused by their internationally wrongful acts.
Few U.S. diplomats left in China after evacuations
U.S. drawdown of China diplomats cripples ties at critical moment / WSJ (paywall)
“Missions and consulates in Shenyang, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou are at 20% to 30% of their staffing levels, according to people familiar with the matter. Most of those employees are local Chinese. Only those employees necessary to carry out vital functions and provide emergency services remain, these people said.”
U.S. cut Beijing public health role prior to outbreak
U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before virus outbreak / Reuters
The American disease expert, a medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency, left her post in July, according to four sources with knowledge of the issue…
Dr. Linda Quick, was a trainer of Chinese field epidemiologists who were deployed to the epicenter of outbreaks to help track, investigate and contain diseases…
No other foreign disease experts were embedded to lead the program after Quick left in July, according to the sources.
A skirmish in the Taiwan Strait?
10 Chinese speedboats attack Taiwan coast guard cutters / Taiwan News
“The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) 9th (Kinmen) Offshore Flotilla on Thursday (March 19) reported that its vessels were attacked by more than 10 Chinese speedboats, which hurled rocks, bottles and rammed the cutters.”
New Chinese research center in disputed South China Sea established
China puts up new research stations on PH-claimed reefs in West Philippine Sea / CNN Philippines
China has established two new research stations in the West Philippine Sea, Beijing’s state news agency reported.
Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban reefs are all within the West Philippine Sea, a portion of the disputed South China Sea claimed by the Philippines.
Last year, China also placed facilities in these areas supposedly to restore coral reefs destroyed by its island-building activities. It also opened a “maritime rescue center” in Kagitingan Reef that same year.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Sinophobia and COVID-19
Spit on, yelled at, attacked: Chinese-Americans fear for their safety / NYT (porous paywall)
“As bigots blame them for the coronavirus and President Trump labels it the ‘Chinese virus,’ many Chinese-Americans say they are terrified of what could come next.”
See also: Trump’s toxic use of ‘Chinese virus’ puts people in danger on SupChina.
A dispatch from Chengdu under lockdown
Life on coronavirus lockdown in China / New Yorker (porous paywall)
Peter Hessler writes from Chengdu, Sichuan Province:
On the thirty-ninth day of the lockdown, the packages in my lobby included a box of houseplants for 3703 and some flowers for 2903. It was now March, and sometimes I saw people on their balconies, tending plants. But it still seemed rare for residents to leave the compound. When women went downstairs to pick up packages, it wasn’t unusual for them to be dressed in pajamas, even in the afternoon. In the lobby, management provided a spray bottle of seventy-five-percent-alcohol solution, and sometimes I saw a masked, pajama-clad resident standing in a puddle of the stuff, spraying her hands, packages, shopping bags, whatever.
Beijing’s last coal mine to close
Miners stuck in limbo as Beijing’s last coal mine closes / AFP via Channel NewsAsia
One of China’s oldest mining towns [Mentougou, a district in western Beijing] has powered the capital for nearly 300 years.
But more than 270 coal mines in the area have been shut down over the past two decades, as China scrambles to cut carbon emissions and switch to renewables.
The last remaining mine — which employed about 7,000 workers at its peak — will fully close later this year.
China’s new intellectual crush
Law professor’s quirky lectures attract millions of online fans / Sixth Tone
One criminal law professor and fakao [法考 fǎkǎo, China’s National Judicial Examination] tutor has become a celebrity of sorts thanks to his engrossing teaching style and enthusiastic fan following. After creating an account [in Chinese] on video-sharing site Bilibili earlier this month, Luó Xiáng 罗翔 racked up 1.7 million followers in just five days.