Links for Friday, April 3, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for Friday, April 3, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

The Bank of England’s pressure on HSBC to cancel its dividend for the first time in 74 years has reignited a debate at the top of the bank over whether it should redomicile to Hong Kong.

Several people familiar with the matter said the BoE’s intervention had prompted anger among some board members and executives, with calls to reopen the question of whether the group’s legal base should move from London.

HSBC was one of five UK-based lenders that agreed on Tuesday night to withhold 2019 dividends, bowing to pressure from the BoE’s Prudential Regulation Authority, the UK’s top financial supervisor.

Hong Kong investors have reacted with anger to HSBC’s decision to withhold the dividend for the first time since records began back in 1946. Shares in the lender fell 9.5 percent in London and Hong Kong trading, wiping £8 billion [$9.81 billion] from its valuation.

The overseer of China’s largest state-owned enterprises (SOEs) has added a new asset manager to its stable of about 100 firms, which could become an important player in its ongoing campaign to streamline and rationalize the group.

Formation of the new company, China Rongtong Asset Management Group, was announced by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) in a Tuesday post on its website.

The new company’s public WeChat account describes it as a manager of centrally-owned assets in a wide range of areas. Those include real estate, agriculture, tourism and hotels, as well as services for industries from recycling, technology and health care to security and finance. The company is one of three new SOEs set up by SASAC since last year.

The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank plans to lend at least $5 billion to member countries to help them battle the pandemic. Jīn Lìqún 金立群, the AIIB’s president and chairman, told the Financial Times that he expected this amount to serve its members’ needs for 18 months when combined with existing lending programmes… 

The Asian Development Bank, which announced a $6.5 billion package in March, is also seeking to provide a further package.

  • As companies from Ford to Toyota to Volkswagen shut their global plants amid coronavirus outbreak, the impact resonates in China
  • In 2019, China exported U.S.$53 billion worth of auto parts, but now firms are having orders canceled in the U.S. and Europe

China plans to revive its economy and further boost smaller businesses amid external uncertainty as…COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, according to the country’s central bank Friday. “The shock to the global economy brought by the outbreak will be severe,” said Liú Guóqiáng 刘国强, vice governor of the People’s Bank of China…

However, so far, the shock of the epidemic seems to be milder than that of the global financial crisis in 2008, Liu noted.

China’s central bank said Friday that it would lower the amount of cash banks are required to set aside as reserves for the second time in less than a month , as Beijing moved to stimulate a cooling economy hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The People’s Bank of China said the reserve ratio will be reduced in two batches on April 15 and May 15, after which 4,000 banks and finance leasing companies in China will be required to park 6% of their deposits at the central bank.

The deficit shrank 12.2% from January to a seasonally adjusted $39.93 billion, the smallest since September 2016, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

The narrowing trade gap was driven in part by a sharp decline in the goods deficit with China, where the virus originated and caused factories to shut there in February.

China’s new coronavirus policies roiled the operations of FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., rattling flight crews, disrupting cargo shipments and prompting appeals from the carriers to the White House and other U.S. officials to stave off supply-chain disturbances amid the pandemic…

Some Chinese officials told cargo airlines that crews would need to undergo lengthy quarantine procedures upon entering the country even though other governments allow such employees to enter the border, isolate in a hotel, and get on their next flight out.

China’s foreign ministry denied a report [porous paywall] that the country has resumed imports of canola from Canada’s two largest exporters…

A Canadian government official said [porous paywall] this week that Canada and China were having positive discussions after the Asian nation blocked canola shipments from Viterra and Richardson International last year, and they were trying to find a path to normalize trade.

China Mobile Hong Kong is partnering with Taiwan-based cloud gaming technology provider Ubitus to launch a 5G-enabled cloud gaming platform for its subscribers in Hong Kong. The partnership is part of China Mobile Hong Kong’s larger plans to attract 5G customers with services powered by its next-generation wireless technology.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Renowned epidemiologist Zhōng Nánshān 钟南山 said Wednesday that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients will not cause another major outbreak in China, and that the country will not see a significant rebound if the transmission chain is cut off.

“Because we have a strong monitoring system, once (asymptomatic carriers) are discovered, they will be immediately isolated. At the same time, relevant contacts will be immediately quarantined for observation,” Zhong said in an interview with Shenzhen TV.

Conservation groups lauded the ban as a major step forward, but not enough to stop another outbreak: The ban covers only land animals. It punishes consumers but does not tackle corrupt ties among government officials, corporate interests and “breeders” who use permits as a cover for illegal trade.

And it leaves a glaring loophole by allowing continued use of wildlife for traditional Chinese medicine, including animal-based remedies that national health authorities are now prescribing as treatment for the coronavirus.

  • Advocate of the facilities in Wuhan suggests that home isolation of mild cases puts families at risk.
  • Big buildings such as convention centers should be designed to be easily converted into temporary medical centers, Wáng Chén 王辰 [a respiratory diseases expert and vice-president of Chinese Academy of Engineering] says.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Two months before the novel coronavirus is thought to have begun its deadly advance in Wuhan, China, the Trump administration ended a $200-million pandemic early-warning program aimed at training scientists in China and other countries to detect and respond to such a threat.

The initiative, called PREDICT, also trained and supported staff in 60 foreign laboratories — including the Wuhan lab that identified SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Field work ceased when the funding ran out in September, and organizations that worked on the PREDICT program laid off dozens of scientists and analysts, said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a key player in the program.

The C.I.A. has been warning the White House since at least early February that China has vastly understated its coronavirus infections…

Midlevel bureaucrats in the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, and elsewhere in China have been lying about infection rates, testing and death counts, fearful that if they report numbers that are too high they will be punished, lose their position or worse, current and former intelligence officials said.

Though the wave of anti-Asian racism that looms in response to the global coronavirus pandemic is ugly and frightening, it is not new. I should know: I witnessed the harassment and violence Asian Americans faced in the wake of the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing sector in the 1980s. Scapegoating Asian immigrants and Asian Americans did nothing to save the U.S. auto industry then. And it won’t provide the scientific advances and government leadership necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 now.

With the epidemic situation largely contained in China, many overseas Chinese students and citizens are looking to make the journey back home.

After deciding to return to China, they should know in advance that the domestic quarantine process for people entering China has been significantly tightened and be prepared to undergo measures such as concentrated quarantine for 14 days at their own expense and diversion of flights.

As aircraft cabins are confined spaces, the risk of infection is relatively high. If conditions allow, they should take Chinese medicines on a daily basis or before boarding to strengthen their immunity.

Beijing has advised foreign diplomats to China currently outside the country not to return until the middle of next month, while the South China Morning Post was told on Friday that at least one European envoy is being treated for COVID-19 in hospital in the city.

“Diplomats enjoy immunity, but the virus will not grant them immunity,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Huá Chūnyíng 华春莹 said on Friday.

  • The man from Henan Province had visited Italy and France at the start of March and then went back to work
  • The 29-year-old is the first case of someone being jailed for breaking China’s quarantine rules [prison time is 18 months]

A Vietnamese fishing boat with eight crew members on board was sunk after being hit by a Chinese ship near the disputed Paracel Islands, local authorities said on Friday [for the first time this year].

The Paracel Islands are claimed by Vietnam but were occupied by China in the aftermath of a 1974 invasion that killed dozens of Vietnamese.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

My mother watches the rapid construction of makeshift hospitals in Wuhan, and applauds Chinese efficiency; I worry about safety being compromised to meet an overhyped deadline. My mother sees roadside checkpoints and neighborhood patrols sprouting up overnight, and praises the government’s thoroughness; I wonder how much the state has appropriated a public health crisis to expand its surveillance powers.

The mobilization of armed forces to the aid of Wuhan reaffirms my mother’s worship of the military: There was a time in her youth when she dreamed of putting on a uniform herself. I view any state tool of violence with deep skepticism and believe the people would be better served if the resources were spent on education and health care.

  • Interview with novelist Yán Liánkē 阎连科
    Yan Lianke: ‘Propaganda is a nuclear bomb’ / FT (paywall)
    FT journalist Yuan Yang writes on Twitter: “I interviewed China’s satirist-in-chief for the first-ever video lunch with the FT. He doesn’t like being called a ‘censored’ author, saying he’s ‘not concerned with politics,’ but with people’s lives — it’s just that, in China, politics ends up getting in the way.”
  • Robot mascots for 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games
    Yicai Global on Twitter: “The mascots for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games were revealed today. The three robots — Chénchén 宸宸, Cóngcóng 琮琮, and Liánlián 莲莲 — represent tradition, innovation, and wisdom. The games will be held in the capital of China’s Zhejiang Province from Sept. 10 to 25 of 2022.”
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