BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Calls for urgent stimulus package…
China’s coronavirus crisis fans calls for fast-tracked stimulus / Reuters
The collapse in China’s economic activity caused by the coronavirus has loudened calls from top policy advisers for the government to hasten the rollout of fiscal stimulus, as ballooning unemployment threatens social stability.
Adding to the sense of urgency are growing concerns a prolonged delay in the annual meeting of parliament, originally scheduled for March 5 but postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, is holding up key policy measures.
…But don’t expect a quick fix, according to a new report
No swift recovery for the Chinese economy / MacroPolo
Houze Song summarizes:
- The Chinese economy rebounded in March but the recovery isn’t likely to endure in 2Q because of the confluence of headwinds that will exacerbate weak demand.
- At the heart of the challenge is the liquidity shortage in the private sector, which accounts for more than half of China’s GDP…
- Beijing will be able to deal with the anticipated export drop with fiscal stimulus, but it will have difficulty reigniting domestic demand.
Vouchers issued to stimulate demand
China doles out vouchers to encourage shoppers to spend again / Guardian
“China is giving away billions of yuan in shopping vouchers and offering other financial sweeteners to coax shellshocked consumers to start spending again.”
The mall in the making of Pudong
How Shanghai tried to master the mall / Sixth Tone
“Almost 30 years ago, a forgotten municipal office teamed up with the scion of a now-bankrupt Japanese retailing empire to change the way Chinese shopped.”
Emerging venture capital trends
Will China’s coronavirus-related trends shape the future for American VCs? / TechCrunch
According to PitchBook, “Chinese firms recorded 66 venture capital deals for the week ended March 28, the most of any week in 2020 and just below figures from the same time last year,” (although 2019 was a slow year). There is a natural lag between when deals are made and when they are announced, but still, there are some interesting trends.
No large-scale deglobalization yet
Globalized commerce might prove resilient to the pandemic / WSJ (paywall)
The first examples of coronavirus-induced supply-chain shifts are under way. This week, Japanese consumer-products manufacturer Iris Ohyama announced it would take government subsidies to expand the production of masks domestically, adding to its existing production in China, the first company to do so.
Bringing some manufacturing home for medical or security purposes might make sense. But those expecting large-scale deglobalization and the return of domestic production for many goods might be disappointed.
Banking sector reforms announced
China to step up reform of banks hit by coronavirus / FT (paywall)
“China’s financial regulator said that it will step up efforts to restructure the country’s banking system and root out unfit shareholders, as smaller lenders struggle in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.”
China’s banks hit by bad loans despite $212 billion relief / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Bad debt at Chinese banks climbed in the first quarter even as lenders deferred payments on and rolled over a combined 1.5 trillion yuan ($212 billion) in loans after the coronavirus outbreak brought the world’s second-largest economy to a standstill.
After allowing banks to take a more lenient approach on how they classify bad debt, regulators in Beijing on Wednesday revealed the industry’s non-performing loan ratio nudged up just 0.06 percentage point to 2.04% at the end of March.
African debt relief likely
Brookings scholar Yun Sun provides a road map for Chinese debt relief in Africa / China Africa Project
“Although there’s much about the Chinese strategy for African debt relief that we don’t know, Brookings Institute scholar Yun Sun [Sūn Yùn 孙韵] argues in her latest column that one thing is for certain: African countries should expect some form of Chinese debt relief but no outright cancellation.”
U.S. issues caution around Chinese investments
U.S. securities regulator warns investors over Chinese company disclosures / Reuters
“The head of the U.S. securities regulator on Wednesday warned investors against putting money into Chinese companies as they rebalance their portfolios following market turmoil due to ongoing problems with those companies’ disclosures.”
Sales up for Gucci and fancy firewater
Gucci’s Chinese revenue up in April after bruising first quarter / WSJ (paywall)
“[I]n April, Gucci’s revenue is up in mainland China and steadily improving since the country’s lockdown ended last month, said Jean-Marc Duplaix, chief financial officer of Kering SA, Gucci’s parent company.”
茅台2019年净利增17% 新冠疫情影响有限 / Caixin (paywall)
“Maotai’s net profits grew 17% in 2019, the influence of the COVID-19 epidemic has been limited.”
China’s telecom industry lost nearly 12 million users in Q1
Chinese carriers lose 11.8 million mobile subscribers in first quarter / Caixin
China’s telecom industry recorded a 2.3% decline in total revenue to 377.8 billion yuan ($53.4 billion) in the first quarter amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Total subscribers of mobile services declined by 11.8 million in the first quarter from a year ago, reflecting a decline in personal mobility during the outbreak. However, the number of subscribers started rebounding in March as businesses began to resume, the ministry said.
Bank of China stops taking oil futures bets
Bank of China stops taking bets on oil futures product after collapse in crude prices / Caixin (paywall)
“Bank of China Ltd. (BoC) has temporarily stopped taking bets from clients on oil futures via one of its financial products in the wake of the collapse in global crude prices this week that has cost some investors dearly, the bank announced Wednesday.”
Air passenger numbers show slow improvement
China’s daily air passenger numbers up 7.9% in April vs March — aviation regulator / Reuters
“China’s aviation regulator said on Wednesday daily transported air passenger numbers rose 7.9% this month, as of April 21, from March, but was only at 29% of the level seen a year ago, in a sign of how the sector’s recovery remains fragile.”
Baidu offers free robotaxi service
Baidu starts offering free robotaxi service in Changsha / China Internet Watch
Baidu has started offering its Apollo “robotaxi” service in Changsha city of Hunan Province, becoming one of the first companies to carry passengers in autonomous vehicles in China.
People in Changsha can hail Baidu’s autonomous taxis for free through Baidu’s navigation app Baidu Maps, according to Baidu’s official press release earlier this week.
Volkswagen to buy majority stake in battery firm?
Volkswagen might buy majority stake in China’s 3rd largest battery maker / TechNode
Volkswagen and its march into the Chinese battery supply chain has once again become the subject of intense speculation. The German automaker is reportedly about to take a majority stake in the country’s third-biggest battery maker Guoxuan High-tech, attracting attention from securities authorities.
Companies turn to vegan meat amid pork shortage
China says worst to come for pork supplies on overseas squeeze / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China expects the country will suffer its worst pork supply squeeze yet as the coronavirus pandemic roils output overseas, threatening imports by the world’s biggest consumer of the meat.
The “toughest time” yet for supplies in China will be in the second quarter of this year, said Yáng Zhènhǎi 杨振海, the head of the agriculture ministry’s animal husbandry bureau. Pork prices may surge before peaking in September, he said.
- Imitation-meat makers serve up China offerings with Starbucks, KFC and Papa John’s / Caixin (paywall)
The biggest of those saw coffee giant Starbucks Corp. announce a major new tie-up on Tuesday with partners including artificial meat highflyer Beyond Meat Inc. Just a day earlier, fast-food giant KFC announced its own trial for veggie chicken nuggets with U.S. agricultural giant Cargill. And days before that, U.S. pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc. announced its own fake meat tie-up that will see it offer imitation meatballs on some of its pizzas in China.
AI firm reports Q1 loss
AI specialist iFlyTek reports first-quarter loss but predicts a bright 2020 / Caixin
[U.S. blacklisted] Chinese artificial intelligence specialist iFlyTek reported a loss in the first quarter of the year, blaming the weak performance on operating difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company’s net loss totaled 131 million yuan ($18.3 million) in the January-to-March period, compared with a profit of 102 million yuan [$14.4 million] a year ago, according to an announcement [in Chinese] published Wednesday on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange’s website. Its quarterly revenue also dropped 28% year-on-year to 1.4 billion yuan [$197.6 million].
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Wuhan’s long-term COVID-19 patients
Recovered, almost: China’s early patients unable to shed coronavirus / Reuters
“Chinese doctors in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, say a growing number of cases in which people recover from the virus, but continue to test positive without showing symptoms, is one of their biggest challenges as the country moves into a new phase of its containment battle.”
More imported COVID-19 cases from Russia
Over two dozen people on flight from Russia test positive for COVID-19 / Caixin
“A total of 28 people on Air China flight CA910 from Moscow to the northwestern Chinese city of Xi’an returned positive tests after landing Monday morning, according to a statement (in Chinese) published Tuesday on the website of the Health Commission of Shaanxi province, of which Xi’an is the capital.”
Additional precautions for Beijing returnees
Beijing overseas returnees now subject to two weeks quarantine plus one week home observation / Beijinger
“All international arrivals entering Beijing will now have to complete an additional week of home observation on top of the 14 days of centralized or home quarantine already required for returnees.”
Conservation video sparks backlash
WWF video linking consumption to deforestation outrages some in China / Chinadialogue
On 21 March, World Forest Day, a short video on conserving global forests sparked angry protests on the Chinese internet, and was taken down by its makers the next day.
The five-minute film was a joint effort by PaperClip, a group which produces educational films, and the WWF. It showed how farming for livestock and soybean is destroying forests in the Amazon region, in an attempt to encourage consumers to choose products certified sustainable. But linking the purchase of meat, eggs and milk by Chinese shoppers with deforestation sparked accusations that it was “insulting China”.
China’s third vaccine clinical trial underway
Clinical trial begins on third vaccine candidate in China / SCMP
“A clinical trial has begun on a third potential coronavirus vaccine in China…According to researchers involved in the latest trial, ‘tens of volunteers’ in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province were given the vaccine candidate on Thursday and it had already shown ‘positive results.’”
U.S. wants to investigate Wuhan lab conspiracy
The Wuhan lab conspiracy theory that will not go away / SCMP
Experts say it is highly unlikely the virus accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology but the U.S. is seeking access to conduct its own investigation into the claims, fuelled by the laboratory’s proximity to the seafood and wildlife market associated with many of the earliest cases.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 — who last month shared an unsubstantiated claim that the U.S. military had introduced the virus to Wuhan – countered the demand, from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, by saying the origin of the virus should be determined by scientists.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
China’s selective COVID-19 coverage
With selective coronavirus coverage, China builds a culture of hate / NYT (porous paywall)
“For many people in China, the push is working. Wielding a mix of lies and partial truths, some young people are waging online attacks against individuals and countries that contradict their belief in China’s superior response.”
Ambassador calls for “serious rethinking” of U.S.-China relationship
Chinese ambassador to U.S. urges ‘serious rethinking’ of ties / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The Chinese ambassador to the U.S. called for a “serious rethinking” of relations between the world’s biggest economies in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic.
“I think I should be hoping for more than just a pause in tensions, but really a serious rethinking of the very foundations of this important relationship,” Cuī Tiānkǎi 崔天凯, said…
Cui also rejected the idea that U.S.-China ties should be defined as a strategic rivalry, particularly as the countries are now faced with “shared vulnerability” amid the virus. “Hopefully this pandemic will teach all of us a good lesson,” he said, adding that the relationship should “be based on a more realistic, forward-looking foundation.”
Did Trump actually ship U.S. medical supplies to China?
Did Trump ship 17 tons of ‘American’ masks and medical supplies to China? / Washington Post (porous paywall)
The [American Bridge 21st Century] ad [for Joe Biden’s campaign] says that “Trump…shipped 17 tons of American masks and medical supplies. Our masks and supplies.” The impression left by the ad is that these were U.S. government goods, shipped on Trump’s order.
But these were actually donations by private charities and public companies for Project HOPE, an international health-care organization that has been operating in Wuhan for a quarter-century and helped establish a nursing school there. Usually, donors to Project HOPE arrange for charter aircraft to take their donations overseas.
Tensions rise in China’s South China Sea
Philippines protests China’s aggressive moves in South China Sea during pandemic / Rappler
“Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Wednesday, April 22, said the Philippines lodged two formal protests against China’s recent moves to assert its claims in the South China Sea.”
Australia joins U.S. ships in South China Sea amid rising tension / Reuters via Straits Times
“An Australian frigate has joined three United States warships in the South China Sea near an area where a Chinese vessel is suspected to be exploring for oil, near waters also claimed by Vietnam and Malaysia, officials said on Wednesday (April 22).”
Tsai apologizes following naval ship COVID-19 cluster
Tsai apologizes for COVID-19 cluster infection on naval ship / Focus Taiwan
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen [蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén] on Wednesday apologized for the handling of a COVID-19 cluster on board a naval ship which has so far left 28 people infected with the virus, saying that as commander-in-chief, she holds ultimate responsibility for the military…
After Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced on Saturday and Sunday that 24 people on board the Panshi had been infected with COVID-19 (the number has since risen to 28), suspicions were raised that the military failed to report possible cases of the disease on board the ship.
Hong Kong cabinet reshuffle
5 Hong Kong ministers replaced in cabinet reshuffle / Hong Kong Free Press
Five new principal officials have been appointed in a cabinet reshuffle, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam [林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é] said on Wednesday.
The announcement confirmed local media reports the day before that the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip [聂德权 Niè Déquán] would be replaced by the Director of Immigration Erick Tsang [曾国卫 Zēng Guówèi]. Nip is to replace Joshua Law [罗智光 Luó Zhìguāng] as secretary for the civil service.
- Hong Kong democrat Dennis Kwok fears disqualification from legislature after fresh attack from Beijing / Hong Kong Free Press
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok [郭榮鏗 Guō Róngkēng] has said that expects to be ousted from the Legislative Council, after he was repeatedly attacked by Beijing who claimed he was violating his oath and guilty of misconduct in public office.
The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) issued [in Chinese] a fresh statement on Tuesday to reiterate previous accusations against Kwok, saying he was abusing his power to deliberately stall the election of the House Committee chairperson.
Hong Kong democracy veteran speaks out
Martin Lee: “International community has the moral obligation to speak up for Hong Kong People” / Medium
Hong Kong police launched a mass-arrest against 15 prominent pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong on April 18, and 81-year-old barrister Martin Lee [李柱铭 Lǐ Zhùmíng] was one of them. In an interview on Sunday, he said Beijing has completely changed its position on Dèng Xiǎopíng’s 邓小平 One Country, Two Systems’ promise and the international community has the moral responsibility to support Hong Kong people.
A fresh crackdown in Hong Kong ‘will result in deaths’, says democracy leader / Guardian
In Pictures: Police ticket protesters for violating gathering ban as Hong Kong marks 9 months since Yuen Long mob attack / Hong Kong Free Press
China hits back at Australia’s call for COVID-19 investigation
Australia wants international probe into coronavirus origins, prompting backlash from China / SCMP
Australia’s push for an independent review of the origins and spread of the pandemic, including the response of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has drawn sharp criticism from China, which has accused Australian lawmakers of taking instructions from the United States.
“These days, certain Australian politicians are keen to parrot what those Americans have asserted and simply follow them in staging political attacks on China,” a statement for the embassy said.
Australia is urging top allies to back an overhaul of the World Health Organization including recruitment of investigators akin to “weapons inspectors” to determine the source of major disease outbreaks.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has been raising the three-point plan in a series of telephone calls with the leaders of the US, France, Germany and New Zealand.
Sweden’s last Confucius Institute closes
Swedes axe China-backed Confucius school scheme as relations sour / Times (paywall)
“Sweden has shut down the last of its Chinese state-sponsored teaching programmes as relations between the two countries deteriorate into hostility and mutual suspicion.”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Debate around women passing on surnames
Chinese women awaken to passing surnames to children / Quartz (porous paywall)
A Chinese woman divorced her husband last month, partly she said, because they disagreed about whether their son would carry his or her name. Eventually she agreed their son would use a hyphenated surname consisting of both her and her husband’s last names. “This is the best I could do. At least I’ve let my ex-husband realize that he should not take passing on his surname to his children for granted,” she wrote on social network Weibo late last month.
But the post, which generated over 240,000 likes, quickly stoked a backlash.
Wuhan ferry services reopen
Wuhan embraces Yangtze River as virus-hit city reopens / Washington Post (porous paywall)
“The reopening of ferry services on the Yangtze, the heart of life in Wuhan for two millennia, was an important symbolic step to get business and daily life in this city of 11 million people back to normal.”
Boys’ deaths spark criminal investigation
Sackings, criminal investigation after boys die on Chinese building site / SCMP
The deaths of four boys aged between five and nine at an illegal building site in central China on Saturday are being treated as a criminal offence.
Eight company executives and workers have been detained, two officials have been sacked and a third is under investigation after the children were found buried under mounds of earth in a pit at a housing construction site near their homes in Yuanyang county in Henan province.
Wuhan Diary continues to prompt debate
Chinese MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong slams tai chi master for threatening Wuhan Diary author Fang Fang / SCMP
Chinese MMA fighter Xú Xiǎodōng’s 徐晓冬 rise to notoriety of course began with a 10-second pulverisation of tai chi “master” Léi Léi 雷雷 in 2017.
Now “Mad Dog” is threatening to dish out another beating to him, after Lei Lei seemingly incited violence against the author of the Wuhan Diary.
Award-winning Chinese novelist and poet Fāng Fāng 方方 has been hit by a nationalist backlash, accused of fuelling Western criticisms of China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak. Her diary, first published online detailing her life in Wuhan during the lockdown, is now set to be released in English.
- The stories we are afraid to tell / Elephant Room
Amid all the tragic stories happening at the epicenter, Fang’s personal recording seemed plain-spoken and ordinary, sometimes caught up too deeply in the trivial aspects of life. But her writing’s honest and spontaneous nature is certainly beyond valuable; her words provide a window into the suffering in Wuhan for the outsiders, and keep an important, raw record of the humanity and complexity of the 2-month lockdown from a local witness’s perspective.
“Qie Guevara” released from prison
Fresh out of prison, bike burglar Qie Guevara shuns spotlight / Sixth Tone
“After vowing never to work for anyone, Zhou Liqi 周某齐 ran into trouble with the law. Now released from prison, the charismatic convict is rejecting lucrative contracts with social media agencies in favor of becoming a farmer.”