Links for Tuesday, March 24, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Huawei Technologies is prioritizing its base station business while cutting procurement for its smartphone segment, the Nikkei Asian Review has learned, as Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 vows increased spending on crucial infrastructure to help the world’s second largest economy recover from the impact of the coronavirus.

“Huawei has revised down its orders for parts to go into smartphones but has switched some of the chip orders for smartphones to [chips] for its base station business,” a person familiar with the matter said.

  • Tencent launches global video conferencing tool
    Tencent launches global version of its Zoom rival / TechNode
    “As working from home catches on globally, gaming giant Tencent on Tuesday launched its video conferencing tool [Voov, an international version of Tencent Meeting] internationally, taking China’s battle for enterprise collaboration and productivity tools to markets overseas.”
  • Beverage chain HeyTea valued at $2.3 billion
    Luckin rival HeyTea gets $2.3 billion valuation with new funding / TechNode
    “Heytea, one of China’s largest tea beverage chains, is reportedly closing a new round of financing which will valuate the business north of 16 billion yuan ($2.3 billion), up from its last valuation of 9 billion yuan [$1.27 billion] in July.”
  • Cross-border financial markets
    Chinese outbound funds face problem of plenty in virus-hit markets / Reuters
    “Unlike most other global fund managers facing massive redemptions in coronavirus-hit markets, Chinese funds that facilitate domestic investment in overseas stock and bond markets have been inundated by investors eager to buy on the cheap.”
    Wall Street circles as China brokerages struggle for returns / Bloomberg (porous paywall)

China’s more than 130 brokerages, who have a $21 trillion market to trade and make deals in, aren’t very good at making money.

Their return on equity last year was just about half of Wall Street’s powerhouses, who are now preparing to rush in as the world’s second-largest economy opens its financial market fully to foreign banks.

The slump in Chinese equities is no buying opportunity for one of the nation’s top performing fund managers.

“If you buy risk assets now amid this huge market volatility, you’ll easily end up getting buried,” said Lǚ Jùn 吕俊, founder of private fund Shanghai Congrong Investment Management Co., which manages $1.1 billion in assets.

China’s central bank is one step closer to issuing its official digital currency. It seems the People’s Bank of China (PBC), in collaboration with private companies, has completed development of the sovereign digital currency’s basic function and is now drafting relevant laws to pave the way for its circulation, industry insiders said.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

  • Scientist says it will be used to monitor solar activity and provide more accurate data to support research and space weather forecasting.
  • The world’s largest and most powerful — with a 4-meter aperture — is in Hawaii, and is expected to be ready for use in July.

A team of Chinese scientists has developed a gelatinous “jacket” that camouflages red blood cells and may protect them from a patient’s immune system, according to a study published Saturday in the journal Science Advances. If further research is successful, it could present a solution for people with rare blood types who require transfusions.

The coronavirus pandemic is shutting down industrial activity and temporarily slashing air pollution levels around the world, satellite imagery from the European Space Agency [ESA] shows…

Readings from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite show that over the past six weeks, levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over cities and industrial clusters in Asia and Europe were markedly lower than in the same period last year.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

The U.S. Navy was targeting China with live-fire missile tests in the Philippine Sea last week, sending a message that it was up to the challenge of the PLA’s new advanced systems, military analysts said.

In the drill in waters east of the Philippines on Thursday, the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launched a medium-range Standard Missile-2, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said on its Facebook page…

Beijing-based military specialist Zhōu Chénmíng 周晨鸣 said these kinds of drill were not common and “could be seen as a warning to the People’s Liberation Army.”

For several years, Italians have received a steady diet of scare stories about everything made in China. Signs in the market halls, editorials in the papers, and word of mouth have delivered a clear message: do not buy “Made in China” items. For a country that prides itself on the quality of its local products, cheap imports from China are often demonized as inferior knock-offs—some 90% of fake ”Made in Italy” merchandise allegedly comes from China, and even staples like tomato sauce and olive oil are not immune.

Some 200 Italian business are now controlled by Chinese owners (not including the ones owned by Chinese living in Italy), according to La Repubblica, while China’s central bank holds stakes in several Italian blue chips like Fiat, Telecom Italia, Generali, and Eni, among others.

But while Italy’s political and business elite welcomes Chinese investments, the same isn’t necessarily true for pockets of the general public. Chinese people in Italy can face rather frequent racism based on worryingly widespread stereotypes. These prejudices aren’t something that money alone will solve.

A group of independent UN rights experts said on Monday they were “gravely concerned” about the welfare of three human rights lawyers “forcibly disappeared” by Chinese authorities shortly after their arrests last December.

Dīng Jiāxǐ 丁家喜, a prominent Beijing-based disbarred lawyer, previously jailed for protesting against official corruption, and lawyers Zhāng Zhōngshùn 张忠顺 and Dài Zhènyà 戴振亚 have been held since late last year in so-called “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL).

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Hú Xīngdǒu 胡星斗, an independent political economist, said that while the health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic applied to everyone, it was the poor who were most affected by the economic fallout.

“The impact on temporary workers, low-income families and grass-roots employees is much more severe, compared to richer people,” he said…

According to a recent report by research company Gavekal Dragonomics, the travel restrictions introduced after the Lunar New Holiday that prevented Chinese migrant workers returning to their places of employment probably cost them in the region of 800 billion yuan [$113.26 billion] in lost wages in February and March alone.