BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Stimulus ahead of poor GDP figures
Coronavirus to push China’s first-quarter GDP into first decline on record: Reuters poll / Reuters
Analysts expect China’s gross domestic product to have shrunk 6.5% in January-March from a year earlier, according to a Reuters poll. That would reverse a 6% expansion in the fourth quarter of 2019 and mark the first decline since at least 1992 when official quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) records started.
- China adds liquidity, trims rates ahead of poor GDP data / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China’s central bank injected medium-term funding into the financial system Wednesday and cut the cost of the funds as expected, bolstering measures aimed at countering the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The People’s Bank of China offered 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) via the one-year medium-term lending facility, cutting the rate to 2.95% from 3.15%.
China’s excavator sales soar as Beijing opts for old-school economic stimulus / SCMP
“Sales of excavators, an engineering vehicle widely used in construction, soared in China in March in a strong sign that Beijing is relying on infrastructure spending to offset the economic shocks caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
China to intensify fiscal, financial support to tide businesses over difficulties / Xinhua
China first-quarter FDI plunges 10.8% year-on-year in yuan terms as virus bites / Reuters
“Foreign direct investment (FDI) into China fell 10.8% in January-March to 216.19 billion yuan ($30.62 billion) compared with a year earlier, dragged down by the coronavirus pandemic, the commerce ministry said on Wednesday.”
Small firms see revenue decline 70%
China’s small firms see revenues tumble 70% in March, survey shows / SCMP
- Study finds small and medium-sized businesses lost nearly 70% of their income in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- Hotels, restaurants and education firms were the hardest [hit by the] pandemic, Tsinghua University says.
Blockchain and digital currency plow ahead
China’s central bank to run simulations of digital currency use / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China’s central bank has given the green light for some commercial lenders to run trials of its digital currency, according to people familiar with the matter, bringing it a step closer to becoming the world’s first major monetary authority to issue its own digital tender.
State-owned Chinese banks are conducting internal, hypothetical-use tests of a People’s Bank of China digital currency as if it were being used in Suzhou, Xiong’an, Chengdu and Shenzhen, the people said, asking not to be named as they’re not authorized to speak on the topic.
China is set to launch its national blockchain platform next week / Block Crypto
“China’s government is set to launch its national blockchain platform on April 25. The platform, called the Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN), is aimed at helping companies deploy blockchain applications faster and cheaper.”
Car and aviation markets face lack of demand…
Parts supplier warns of rough road ahead for China’s car market / FT (paywall)
“Lack of demand from buyers is a bigger challenge than factory disruptions, says Japan’s Yorozu [Nissan’s parts supplier].”
China air-passenger traffic more than halved by coronavirus / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“Air-passenger traffic slumped 54% in China in the first three months of 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak and related travel restrictions decimated demand. China’s aviation industry lost 39.8 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) in the first quarter…“
…While ByteDance launches hiring spree
ByteDance launches global hiring spree with 10,000 new jobs / Bloomberg via Caixin
ByteDance Inc. just kicked off a wave of hiring it envisions hitting 40,000 new jobs in 2020, hoping to match Alibaba’s headcount at a time technology corporations across the globe are furloughing or reducing staff.
The world’s largest startup is recruiting people for 10,000 open positions, of which about a third are high-level research or software coding jobs, according to an internal website provided to staff for candidate referrals and shared with Bloomberg.
Sohu to take gaming firm private
Sohu to take Nasdaq-listed gaming firm Changyou private / Caixin
“U.S.-listed gaming company Changyou.com will become a privately-held, wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese internet stalwart Sohu.com through a merger.”
BYD readies subsidiary for listing
BYD spins off semiconductor business for planned share listing / Caixin
“Chinese electric carmaker BYD has reorganized its wholly-owned subsidiary BYD Microelectronics and renamed it BYD Semiconductor in preparation for separately listing it in due course.”
China to invest in electric vehicle charging stations as car sales plummet
State Grid juices up electric charging station footprint / Caixin
“State Grid Corp. of China has said it will increase the number of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations by 10 times in 2020 from last year’s level, pledging 2.7 billion yuan ($382 million) of investment as part of the government’s push to support high-tech infrastructure.”
China’s EV slowdown deepens debt woes at top lithium supplier / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The global health crisis has deepened financial troubles at one of China’s biggest producers of lithium used in electric vehicle batteries.
The pandemic is set to batter this year’s demand for the material that’s vital in powering new energy transport. Prices are at four-year lows.
HNA Group enrages creditors
Troubled HNA Group dodges debt bullet after 11th-hour meeting / Caixin (paywall)
“Debt-laden Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co. Ltd. caused uproar among holders of a bond maturing on Wednesday after calling a last-minute meeting to approve a plan that will delay repayment for one year and head off a default.”
Wanda hits back at bankruptcy “rumors”
China’s Wanda calls AMC bankruptcy speculation “pure rumors” / Deadline
China’s Dalian Wanda Group has issued a statement regarding its AMC Entertainment, calling speculation about the chain filing for bankruptcy “pure rumors.” This comes after an S&P Global report last week forecasted AMC’s depletion of cash by mid-summer and its potential inability to re-open by June, and as chatter has swirled about a possible Chapter 11 filing.
Scramble for PPE leads to desperate measures
In the dash for medical gear amid the coronavirus, the U.S. must realise it’s a seller’s market in China now / SCMP
“In China, factories are running almost non-stop to supply a flood of orders for medical gear. Yet, U.S. hospitals still insist on rigid procurement practices. They need to accept that it’s a seller’s market and recalibrate their expectations.”
Code words, chaos, sky-high prices in China’s mask market / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Desperate to find a new supply of protective face masks, executives at an American health-care services company last month began poring over videos shot inside Chinese factories — and listening closely for gibberish.
Nonsensical sayings that accompanied the videos were a kind of code – a requirement that Premier Inc., the prospective buyers, insisted on to ensure authenticity.
“It seems ridiculous,” said Soumi Saha, a senior director at Premier, which buys medical supplies for more than 4,000 U.S. hospitals and health systems. “But we’d have to ask folks at the manufacturing facilities to say ridiculous statements that you wouldn’t say in conversation to know that the videos are legitimate — not scams.”
Canada establishes its own PPE supply chain in China amid pandemic / CTV News (Canada)
“The ministry of procurement has signed a deal with two international firms to temporarily store and verify equipment in China — awaiting Canadian jetliners to safely retrieve the materials and return home.”
Amphibious aircraft test flight
Groundbreaking plane takes test flight / Xinhua via Shanghai Daily
China’s independently developed AG600 large amphibious aircraft has conducted test flights over the sea, its developer said yesterday.
It represents a major step forward before the plane conducts its first takeoff from sea, which is planned within the year, said the state-owned plane maker Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Rise in birth anomalies
End of one-child policy in China linked to rise in birth anomalies / New Scientist (paywall)
The rate of birth anomalies in China has increased slightly in the years since it replaced its one-child policy with a two-child policy, perhaps because couples are having second children when they are older.
China’s one-child policy, which began in 1979, was replaced in 2013 with a partial two-child policy that permitted couples to have two children if one or both of them were only children themselves. In 2015, this right was extended to all couples.
Famous astronomer recovers from COVID-19
感染新冠住院两个月后，98岁天文学泰斗韩天芑出院回家 / The Paper via Xinhua
“After spending two months in hospital due to COVID-19, 98-year old groundbreaking astronomer Hán Tiānqǐ 韩天芑 returns home.”
New environment ministry Party head appointed
China appoints Sun Jinlong as new environment ministry party head / Reuters
China has appointed Sūn Jīnlóng 孙金龙 as the new Communist Party Secretary of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, replacing Lǐ Gānjié 李干杰; [who left his post as Party head and environment minister last week to become the vice party secretary of Shandong province], the ministry’s website showed on Tuesday.
Sun, 58, has previously served as the vice-Party boss in the northwestern region of Xinjiang as well as the provinces of Anhui and Hunan.
Nuclear plant construction continues
China says virus outbreak will not impact nuclear power plant construction / Reuters
“The coronavirus outbreak will have no impact on the progress of nuclear power plant construction in China in the short term, and reactors already in operation have not been affected, a nuclear safety official said on Wednesday.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
China responds to Trump’s WHO announcement
China urges United States to fulfil its WHO obligation / Reuters
“China urged the United States on Wednesday to fulfill its obligations to the World Health Organization (WHO), after U.S. President Donald Trump halted funding to the body over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.”
World Health body a proxy in U.S.-China clash / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The latest detente between Donald Trump and Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 didn’t last long…[W]hile he may have stopped calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus,” his decision to target the WHO could have far-reaching consequences for global health — and relations with Xi.
U.S. sends mixed messages on PPE
China’s ‘donation diplomacy’ raises tensions with U.S. / NYT (porous paywall)
“Shipments have run into unexpected delays as Chinese officials impose new regulations in response to complaints of low-quality products. And some American officials remain reluctant to accept gifts of gear because they fear giving the Chinese Communist Party a propaganda win.”
U.S. ambassador: China not blocking medical supply exports / AP
The U.S. ambassador to China said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Beijing is deliberately blocking exports of masks and other medical supplies to fight the coronavirus, and that the shipment of 1,200 tons of such products to the U.S. could not have been possible without Chinese support.
China denies criticizing French COVID-19 response
China denies criticising France’s coronavirus response / AFP via Straits Times
China on Tuesday (April 14) denied criticising France’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying there had been “misunderstandings” after French officials summoned the Chinese ambassador in Paris.
“China has never issued negative comments on the way France has handled the epidemic,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 said at a regular press briefing.
Czech court rules against extraditing Taiwanese to China
Czech court rules against extraditing Taiwanese to China / Safeguard Defender
Peter Dahlin summarizes on Twitter: “Czech top court rules against extraditing Taiwanese to China. Verdict says prison conditions may be tantamount to torture, that Chinese law is meaningless, and Chinese promises cannot be trusted.”
Thais continue to show solidarity with Hong Kong, Taiwan
Young Thais join ‘milk tea alliance’ supporting Hong Kong, Taiwan after Chinese netizens slam local celebrities / Reuters via Straits Times
Young Thais have banded together to pillory the Chinese embassy in Bangkok over a feud with Thai celebrities, part of a growing online movement to show solidarity with Taiwan and Hong Kong that has annoyed Beijing.
The movement, which calls itself the “Milk Tea Alliance” after a shared passion for sweet tea drinks, has triggered a wave of online criticism of China at a time when Beijing is trying to improve its image hurt by the coronavirus crisis.
- Related: Today, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 [Cài Yīngwén] wished Thais a happy Songkran Festival on Twitter.
Jiangsu implements counter-espionage measures
Jiangsu implements anti-spying regulation with people’s defense line / Global Times
East China’s Jiangsu Province implemented its first counter-espionage regulation on Wednesday, highlighting a people’s defense line for maritime security and encouraging fishermen in coastal areas to guard against foreign espionage activities.
Wednesday marked this year’s National Security Education Day, which is on April 15 every year since 2016.
Chinese aggression in South China Sea
Coronavirus doesn’t curb China aggression in South China Sea / LA Times (porous paywall)
“Across the resource-rich waterway, China Coast Guard and paramilitary vessels have continued to harass fishing boats, military ships and oil and gas rigs belonging to smaller Southeast Asian states that reject Beijing’s sweeping claims over nearly the entire sea.”
Chinese plane blocks Australian aid plane, but why?
Defence looks at Chinese plane blocking Australian aid plane in Vanuatu / Sydney Morning Herald
Australian defence officials are looking to how a plane from China held up a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft from landing in Vanuatu while carrying vital humanitarian supplies for the cyclone-struck nation.
There is growing concern within Defence about whether the hold-up was intentional to delay the Australian plane from landing.
The mishap comes as China and Australia have both looked to send humanitarian assistance to Vanuatu in the wake of the cyclone. Both countries are also sending medical supplies and other support to help Pacific Island countries prevent any outbreak of the coronavirus.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Online marketplace grows during COVID-19
On secondhand marketplace, firsthand accounts from a pandemic / Sixth Tone
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Xianyu was an online platform where people could go to buy others’ possessions or sell their own. Over the past few months, however, it has evolved to encompass a much larger role.
Meanwhile, farmers — an especially vulnerable group during the pandemic — have used the platform to offload their unsold fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
With virtually every industry suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, Xianyu has been one of the few companies in China that has remained profitable. In March, its number of newly registered users grew by nearly 40% compared with the same period last year, with daily transactions reaching an all-time high.
Soccer training club in Guangzhou
Meet the Brit introducing the ‘beautiful game’ to youth in Guangzhou / Thatsmags.com
If you were able to travel back in time and chat with Andrew Bowden when he first arrived in China in November 2013, chances are he wouldn’t have predicted where his China journey would take him.
In 2016, the now 31-year-old Brit decided to take his love of sports beyond the school setting, founding Guangzhou Sharks Football Club with Bartlett.