Links for Friday, April 10, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for Friday, April 10, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

China’s consumer inflation slowed to the weakest pace since October last month as food and oil prices moderated and shutdowns to beat the coronavirus kept demand depressed.

The consumer price index rose 4.3% in March from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said Friday. That compares to the median estimate of a 4.9% increase. Factory-gate prices declined 1.5%, versus a forecast 1.1% drop.

  • Fueled by a shift toward leveraged spending, China’s consumer finance expanded 10-fold in the past decade.
  • Lenders now face a wave of delinquencies as businesses fold and job losses hit repayment ability.

Domestic-and foreign-owned international cargo flights in China are expected to hit 4,445 this week, over three times higher than the 1,014 flights made before the outbreak, said Sūn Sháohuá 孙韶华, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s operations and monitoring center.

However, with air passenger services dwindling worldwide due to the outbreak, the volume of cargo carried by passenger planes, which accounted for about half the air cargo, has continued to plummet, resulting in a global decline in air cargo capacity.

  • Smartphone makers in China including Huawei and Apple are turning to super-fast deliveries and trade-ins at the door of customers…
  • Even though infection numbers have declined sharply from the peak in China, analysts warned that consumers are still cautious about going outside and so quick deliveries could be a way to reach them.

As the coronavirus began to take its economic toll on the U.S. and Europe last month, hedge funds in China were busy boosting their war chests.

The nation’s hedge funds registered 2,733 new products in March, more than double February, according to data compiled by Shenzhen PaiPaiWang Investment & Management Co.

Online gaming professionals are only behind bankers and money managers when it comes to the most highly-paid jobs in China, according to a recent report.

Workers at online gaming companies pocket an average of 10,940 yuan (U.S.$1,548) per month, according to a report released by China’s top recruitment platform Zhaopin.com, which covered job postings in 38 Chinese cities in the past quarter.

A Nintendo Switch video game [“Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, a social simulator in which players can decorate their own island and invite others to visit] has been pulled off China’s grey market ecommerce platforms, Reuters’ checks show, after Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong [黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēng] used the game to protest against Beijing’s rule of the Chinese territory…

Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong democracy activist, took his protests to the game last week and on Twitter posted a screenshot of his island decorated with a banner saying: “Free Hong Kong, revolution now.”

The ban likely came after gamers were found using a pattern creation feature of Animal Crossing to draw up and share materials that are generally sensitive on the Chinese internet, including political slogans and portraits of senior leaders. Overseas players were also found to have been engaging in politically motivated activities in the game, which came with a high degree of freedom.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

As of 8 April 2020, the global COVID-19 vaccine R&D [research and development] landscape includes 115 vaccine candidates, of which 78 are confirmed as active and 37 are unconfirmed (development status cannot be determined from publicly available or proprietary information sources). Of the 78 confirmed active projects, 73 are currently at exploratory or preclinical stages. The most advanced candidates have recently moved into clinical development… Numerous other vaccine developers have indicated plans to initiate human testing in 2020.

Taiwan’s Academia Sinica said Friday that it has screened out protease inhibitors of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which could eventually lead to the development of targeted drugs to stop the virus from replicating itself in patients’ bodies.

It said that animal and human tests are required before the inhibitors can be turned into anti-COVID-19 drugs, but said finding potential inhibitors in such a short time demonstrates Taiwan’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

The U.S. and China are at each other’s throats, bickering over the origins of the coronavirus and bashing each other’s handling of the crisis.

Behind the scenes, hundreds of doctors and scientists in the U.S. and China have been using online platforms to hold virtual meetings, trading notes on how best to treat patients and procure needed supplies.

On Wednesday night, the Defense Department disputed an ABC News report that an “intelligence report” had warned about the coronavirus in November…

But the current and former officials told NBC News that while no formal assessment was produced in November — and hence no “intelligence product,” in the jargon of the spy agencies — there was intelligence that caught the attention of public health analysts and fueled formal assessments that were written in December. That material and other information, including some from news and social media reports, ultimately found its way into President Donald Trump’s intelligence briefing book in January. It is unknown whether he read the information.

In an interview with the German news magazine Der Spiegel, [German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas] said that Germany and the EU could not look to Washington or Beijing as models in their handling of the crisis.

 “China took very authoritarian measures, while in the US, the virus was played down for a long time,” said Maas. “These are two extremes, neither of which can be a model for Europe.”

While the New Zealand Ministry of Health have a stockpile of masks and other PPE which they say is sufficient for our hospitals, ordinary New Zealanders and non-health workers have missed out on access to masks which are normally available in our pharmacies and hardware stores, because our public supplies were bought up in bulk and sent out to China in an organised effort by Chinese Communist Party Government proxy groups, as well as by profiteers who are now selling New Zealand-origin masks on Taobao, and also by a few well-meaning individuals who wanted to support family and friends in China.

  • “Taiwanese” apologize to WHO
    Samson Ellis on Twitter: “Taiwan’s investigation bureau is highlighting how Chinese Internet users are trying to distort the debate by claiming to be Taiwanese and apologizing for the racist attacks against WHO’s Tedros…all using the same the exact same wording.”
  • First signs of unrest in Wuhan
    Sense Hofstede on Twitter: “Dozens of small shop owners protested outside one of Wuhan’s biggest shopping malls to demand a cut in rent, in one of the first signs of unrest since authorities lifted a lockdown at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.”
  • Tighter supervision on workplaces
    Xi stresses tighter supervision of workplace safety as businesses resume / Xinhua

As the country is resuming work and production, it is necessary to strengthen monitoring and law enforcement of production safety in a differentiated manner and better implement the responsibilities of enterprise entities, said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, in an instruction.

Social media footage and photos posted recently showed Africans stranded at public places with their belongings with claims that these had been evicted from apartments and hotels, hence rendering them homeless.

The evictions were allegedly committed by Chinese local authorities over claims that Africans were importing the coronavirus into the country.

In its statement yesterday, China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 said: “Since the COVID-19 outbreak, China and African countries have been supporting each other in fighting the pandemic.

African countries’ Ambassadors to China today April 9, 2020, are expected to hold an emergency meeting with China’s Foreign Affairs Minister to discuss ways to end the ongoing human rights violations and forced evictions facing Africans living in China, The Citizen understands.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

As most schools across China are opening their doors again, social media users are sharing photos of what school life looks like in the post-COVID-19 outbreak era this week.

Some videos and images that are circulating on Weibo and Wechat show somewhat dystopian images of the post-COVID-19 school life at primary and (senior) high schools — students eating while standing outside in straight lines, or pupils wearing face masks taking turns to eat their lunch (supposedly to reduce the chances of contagion via respiratory droplets…

One other school in Jiangsu’s Huai’an has put dividers on all lunch tables to separate students while having their lunch break.

“It feels like taking exams,” some commenters write about the new lunch break policies.

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