BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Reforms for Shenzhen’s startup board listings
China is expanding listing reforms to Chinext startup board / TechNode
“The new IPO system allows companies that have yet to turn a profit to list on the Chinext startup board on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, according to a draft rule (in Chinese) by the bourse on Monday.”
AI medical firm hacked
Hackers have stolen COVID-19 medical data from a Beijing-based AI firm / TechNode
“Huiying Medical, a Beijing-based company developing AI-based tools to diagnose COVID-19 infections, had its source code and experimental data stolen, researchers from U.S.-based cybersecurity company Cyble said over the weekend.”
Number of bad loans rises…
Bad loans on the rise at China’s listed banks, PwC report says / Caixin
The amount of nonperforming loans at 24 of China’s listed municipal and rural commercial banks cumulatively rose by 20.31% year-on-year to 99 billion yuan (about $14 billion) in 2019, largely driven by bad loans at banks in northeastern China and the region including Beijing and the port city of Tianjin, according to a report published Friday by global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
…But SMEs still struggle to get credit
Why China’s smaller businesses are struggling to access credit / FT (paywall)
But the city [Shenzhen], which has long attracted the best and brightest from all parts of China, is also home to millions of small and medium-sized enterprises and these are having a much harder time recovering — in large part because state-owned banks don’t like to have too much to do with them.
China Merchants Group considers taking port private
China Merchants Group explores taking $4 billion port unit private / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“China Merchants Group Ltd. is exploring taking China Merchants Port Holdings Co. private after shares of the state-owned conglomerate’s unit slid in Hong Kong this year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.”
HSBC braces for loan losses
HSBC sets aside $3 billion for loan losses as profit dives / WSJ (paywall)
HSBC Holdings PLC said its net profit for the first quarter sank [by 57% compared with a year earlier] as Europe’s largest bank by assets strengthened its provisions against losses from borrowers hit by the coronavirus.
The U.K.-based, Asia-focused bank set aside $3 billion to cover potential loan losses in the first quarter of the year, five times the amount it estimated would be needed in February when the disease was mainly affecting Asia. Provisions in the first quarter of last year were $585 million.
Cloudflare and JD Cloud announce partnership
Cloudflare partners with JD to expand its network in China / TechCrunch
Cloudflare today announced a new partnership with JD Cloud & AI [in Chinese] that will see the company expand its network in Chinato an additional 150 data centers. Currently, Cloudflare is available in 17 data centers in mainland China, thanks to a long-standing partnership with Baidu, but this new deal is obviously significantly larger.
Factory activity continues to rise
China’s April factory activity seen expanding as lockdowns ease: Reuters poll / Reuters
“China’s factory activity likely rose for a second straight month in April as more businesses re-opened from strict lockdowns implemented to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which has now paralysed the global economy.”
Stimulus should strike a balance between growth and risk — central bank governor
PBOC warns of debt pileup amid stimulus / China Daily
The nation’s macro leverage level, or the total debt-to-GDP ratio, is likely to rise continually, and the task of the macroeconomic policies is to keep the ratio stable, the People’s Bank of China said. Ideally, the policies should strike a balance between economic stability and risk prevention to leave room for long-term, sustainable growth, PBOC Governor Yì Gāng 易纲 said in an article written for the magazine run by the country’s forex regulator on Sunday.
The rise of health surveillance apps
Health code: Back to school with Tencent and friends / TechNode
China’s tech companies have been eager to position themselves as health surveillance providers, using QR codes, “smart gates,” and even smart payment devices to mass screen students while minimizing unnecessary human contact. Some health code systems (in Chinese) even claim to text parents when their children enter and leave school.
With a health QR code called Fuxuema (Back to School Code) and existing smart campus systems, Tencent is the leader of the pack. Other companies like the state-owned China Mobile, however, are also jumping in.
Pet owners turn to telemedicine
Chinese vets promote telemedicine for pets during pandemic / Sixth Tone
“Chinese veterinarians are advocating for the expansion of digital diagnostic and treatment services as more pet owners are turning to telemedicine amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Firms halt dividend payouts
China firms halt dividends, sell equity to ride out pandemic / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
In this era of pandemic uncertainty, Chinese and Hong Kong-listed firms have come to one consensus on how to best survive it: sit on their wallets and preserve cash.
They are retaining profits instead of distributing them to shareholders, with the most Hong Kong dividend payers in at least 35 years opting not to do so in the first quarter.
Startup accuses Tesla of bullying
Chinese auto startup labels Tesla a ‘bully’ in trade secrets spat / Caixin (paywall)
“Chinese electric car startup Xpeng Motors has accused Tesla Inc. of engaging in a ‘fishing expedition’ to ‘bully’ its smaller competitor, firing the latest legal salvo in an ongoing case of alleged intellectual property (IP) theft.”
Insurance firm sues in bid to close deal
Anbang unit sues Mirae to complete $5.8 billion hotel deal / Bloomberg via Caixin
“An Anbang Insurance Group Co. unit sued to force South Korea’s Mirae Asset Global Investments Co. to complete its $5.8 billion purchase of a portfolio of U.S. luxury hotels as the coronavirus pandemic roils financial markets and travel.”
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Video: BGI Group dispatches testing kits
China’s BGI Group distributing virus test kits to 80 countries / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
An interview with Beijing Genomics Institute’s CEO, Xú Xùn 徐讯, on the risks associated with quick turnaround tests, and the importance of reliable batch testing and identifying different COVID-19 strains.
China’s southern borders vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreak
China sees next coronavirus threat along its southern borders / Caixin
“Wáng Bīn 王斌, an inspector at the commission’s disease prevention and control office, said (link in Chinese) at a State Council press conference that sparsely populated southern border areas with less-prepared health systems are at heightened risk of ‘imported’ COVID-19 cases.”
France’s COVID-19 virus did not come directly from China — study
Coronavirus outbreak in France did not come directly from China, gene-tracing scientists say / SCMP
The coronavirus outbreak in France was not caused by cases imported from China, but from a locally circulating strain of unknown origin, according to a new study by French scientists at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.
Genetic analysis showed that the dominant types of the viral strains in France belonged to a clade — or group with a common ancestor — that did not come from China or Italy, the earliest hotspot in Europe.
COVID-19 virus will return yearly — researchers
Virus likely to keep coming back each year, China scientists say / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Chinese scientists say the novel coronavirus will not be eradicated, adding to a growing consensus around the world that the pathogen will likely return in waves like the flu.
It’s unlikely the new virus will disappear the way its close cousin SARS did 17 years ago, as it infects some people without causing obvious symptoms like fever. This group of so-called asymptomatic carriers makes it hard to fully contain transmission as they can spread the virus undetected, a group of Chinese viral and medical researchers told reporters in Beijing at a briefing Monday.
New tidal turbine completed
Work to install a tidal turbine in waters off China has been completed, despite the coronavirus pandemic / CNBC
“A tidal stream turbine has been installed off the Chinese coast, with work on the project taking place against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Wind power stations see big investment
Power plant investment outpaces grid spending for first time since 2013 / Caixin
As spending on wind power stations nearly tripled in the first quarter, China’s power generation facilities received more investment than its power distribution grids for the first time in any quarter since 2013.
A total of 59.6 billion yuan ($8.4 billion) was invested in power plant projects, up by 30.9% year-on-year, while investment in energy transmission declined by 27.4% to 36.5 billion yuan in the first three months of 2020, according to data released Wednesday by the National Energy Administration.
COVID-19 in China’s neighborhood
Taiwan reports no new COVID-19 cases for 3 consecutive days / Focus Taiwan
Singapore becomes Asia’s most infected nation after China, India / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
E.U. denies claims it softened disinformation report…
E.U. denies softening report on China coronavirus disinformation at the behest of Beijing / AFP via Hong Kong Free Press
The E.U. on Monday denied bowing to Chinese pressure to water down a report on coronavirus disinformation to soften criticism of Beijing.
The New York Times said that, under pressure from Beijing officials, the E.U. had delayed publication of a regular report on disinformation trends last week, and toned down the final version.
…As Beijing publishes fresh propaganda piece in France
Beijing doubles down in E.U. propaganda battle / Politico
Two weeks after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian summoned China’s ambassador to France, Lú Shāyě 卢沙野, over the embassy’s publication of a post that derided France’s care for its senior citizens during the pandemic, another critical post was published Sunday on the diplomatic mission’s website.
The article, titled “Why the COVID-19 epidemic is so politicized,” was attributed to an anonymous Chinese diplomat. Seeking to explain why questions have been asked about China’s responsibility in the spread of the virus, the article said “some Westerners are beginning to lose confidence in liberal democracy,” and “some [Western countries] have become psychologically weak.”
- The embassy’s full essay in French is available here.
China labels U.S. a “liar” after Trump calls for damages
China calls U.S. trade adviser Navarro ‘liar’ on hoarding claim / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Foreign Ministry spokesman Gěng Shuǎng 耿爽 on Tuesday repeated its past rejection of [White House trade adviser Peter] Navarro’s claims that the Chinese side had held back supplies of vital personal protective equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Navarro has been a consistent liar with no credibility,” Geng told a regular news briefing Tuesday in Beijing.
- U.S. politicians are telling ‘barefaced lies,’ China says, after Donald Trump repeats call for coronavirus damages / SCMP
Beijing has lashed out at American politicians for “telling barefaced lies” over the devastating COVID-19 pandemic after US President Donald Trump and his senior aides renewed their threat to seek damages over China’s mishandling of the global crisis.
“They have only one objective: to shirk their responsibility for their own poor epidemic prevention and control measures and divert public attention,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Gěng Shuǎng 耿爽 said on Tuesday, without naming Trump.
“I don’t know what the motive is behind calling for an investigation, seeking damages and compensation. This is political manipulation.”
Huawei extradition ruling will comply with social distancing
Canadian ruling that could set Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou free is complicated by coronavirus pandemic / SCMP
- A key ruling on whether Meng’s [Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟] extradition case meets [the] test of ‘double criminality’ will be delivered to the media in a socially distanced courthouse lock-up.
- A hearing on Monday was conducted remotely, with Meng and lawyers attending by teleconference.
Trump’s briefings noted virus threat
President’s intelligence briefing book repeatedly cited virus threat / Washington Post (porous paywall)
For weeks [starting in early January], the PDB [President’s Daily Brief] — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.
But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB…
- Also see a new Washington Post profile of Trump’s deputy national security adviser: Matthew Pottinger faced Communist China’s intimidation as a reporter. He’s now at the White House shaping Trump’s hard line policy toward Beijing.
South China Sea updates
Chinese military lashes out at American warship’s ‘intrusion’ in South China Sea / SCMP
The People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theatre Command, which oversees the South China Sea, said the USS Barry destroyer intruded into “waters around the Paracel Islands without permission” on Tuesday, prompting the command to scramble air and sea patrols to “track, monitor, verify, identify and expel” it.
Is China and Vietnam’s ‘brotherly love’ adrift in the South China Sea? / SCMP
Researcher David Koh writes: “When it comes to the disputed waterway, both countries are finding that a history of comradeship is not a foundation for national policy.”
Foreigner arrested in Hong Kong case had links to Bo Xilai
Belize businessman accused of fuelling Hong Kong unrest had links to disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai / SCMP
“Media reports highlight Lee Henley Hu Xiang’s [李亨利 Lǐ Hēnglì] testimony in trial of former Chongqing party boss [薄熙来 Bó Xīlái], who was jailed for life in 2013…Lee’s link with Bo’s case was first reported by Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daily on Monday.”
U.S. supports Taiwan participating in WHO events
U.S. ‘supports Taiwan joining WHO events’ in ministerial phone call / SCMP
The United States has pledged its full support for Taiwan’s participation in World Health Organisation events during a rare telephone call between the two sides’ health ministers — a move observers said was certain to spark a protest from Beijing and further strain cross-strait and U.S.-China relations.
How the Party co-opts the Red Cross
Coronavirus diplomacy: How China’s Red Cross serves the Communist Party / NYT (porous paywall)
“China’s Red Cross has been built, funded and directed by the Chinese Communist Party — effectively making it an arm of the state, and at times pitting the group’s goal of helping people against the party’s interests in maintaining control over society.”
National People’s Congress an “infection risk”
Virus forces China to rethink Xi’s annual political pageant / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The pandemic has upended the usual pageantry of the National People’s Congress, in which 3,000 deputies — and thousands more officials, political advisers and journalists — crowd into Beijing meeting halls for two weeks. The virus has turned the platform for projecting power into a dangerous infection risk for Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and other top Communist Party leaders.
China hits back after India claims tests are “faulty”
India cancels order for ‘faulty’ China rapid test kits / BBC
“India has cancelled orders for about half a million coronavirus rapid testing kits from China after they were found to be ‘faulty.’ Delhi has also withdrawn the kits that were already in use in several states.”
China’s embassy in India accuses ‘certain individuals’ of prejudice in COVID-19 test kits row / SCMP
The Chinese embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday said it was “deeply concerned” about the ICMR’s [Indian Council of Medical Research] decision.
“It is unfair and irresponsible for certain individuals to label Chinese products as ‘faulty’ and look at issues with pre-emptive prejudice,” embassy spokeswoman Jī Róng 嵇蓉 said in a statement, without specifying which individuals.
China takes multi-faceted measures to moderate mask prices, ensure quality / People’s Daily
“The world is still scrambling to stock up on the much sought-after essentials, and Chinese authorities, regulators and manufacturers are doing what they can to moderate the prices and ensure quality.”
Hong Kong public servants to return to work on Monday
Majority of Hong Kong government staff to return to work next Monday / Hong Kong Free Press
“Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam [林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é] has announced that the majority of government employees will return to work at their offices next Monday, while public facilities will partially reopen under the premise that coronavirus regulations governing social gatherings are respected.”
People in quarantine are finding security cameras in their homes
China is installing surveillance camera outside people’s front doors…and sometimes inside their homes / CNN
“The morning after Ian Lahiffe returned to Beijing, he found a surveillance camera being mounted on the wall outside his apartment door. Its lens was pointing right at him.”
Pandemic response hampered by trade war
Pandemic response reflects unlearned lessons of U.S.-China trade war / Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Yukon Huang and Jeremy Smith write: “Nationalist and protectionist impulses have hampered the exchanges of knowledge and goods that foster economic growth. Similar failures of global coordination are now exacerbating the coronavirus pandemic.”
U.S. hopes to secure rare metals supply chains
Pentagon invests in strategic metals mine, seeking to blunt Chinese dominance / WSJ (paywall)
A remote mountain mine in the California desert is poised to get a boost from the Pentagon, which sees the metals it extracts there as vital for national defense — but vulnerable to Chinese dominance over the supply chain.
The Mountain Pass mine is the only domestic source for rare-earth minerals, which are needed for electronics, lasers, magnets and other applications used in weapons systems. The minerals require special processing after extraction, which is now done in China because the U.S. doesn’t have any facilities.
Calls to halt Chinese retirement fund investment
The federal retirement fund is about to invest in China. Some former U.S. military leaders object. / Washington Post (porous paywall)
Eight former senior military leaders have issued an open letter seeking to prevent the change [that would see the federal and military retirement savings program invest in China], which is set to take effect in the second half of this year…
The result, the letter said, will be that a portion of money in the fund will be invested in Chinese companies including “weapons manufacturers, U.S.-sanctioned entities and other malevolent enterprises of the Chinese Communist Party.”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Local officials turn to livestreaming
Pandemic turns China’s local leaders into livestreamers / Sixth Tone
“My dear darlings, welcome to my livestream!”
This warm salutation comes not from a seasoned online broadcaster, but from a 49-year-old rural official hoping to sell some sweet potatoes to his audience.
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting markets and supply chains, China’s low-level officials — city mayors and heads of villages, townships, and counties — are increasingly turning to livestreams and short videos to help boost online sales of local products farmed or produced by their constituents: anything from pineapples, honey, and mushroom sauce to tea and salted duck eggs.
Victoria’s Secret “body-positive” campaign prompts skepticism
No, Victoria’s Secret isn’t bringing body positivity to China / Sixth Tone
“The lingerie brand’s latest ad campaign isn’t challenging beauty norms so much as trading one unattainable standard for another.”
Context: Victoria’s Secret China ambassador sparks discussion on changing beauty norms.
Beijing struggles to return to normal
China’s capital city struggles to get back to normal amid continued outbreak worries / SCMP
“Beijing’s Chaoyang district remains the last high-risk area in China, with virus preventive measures continuing to impact on travel and shopping plans.”
Chinese capital bans ‘uncivilized’ coughing behavior and ‘Beijing bikini’ / AFP via Hong Kong Free Press
“Beijing has banned ‘uncivilized’ behavior such as not covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, the city government said Sunday, in a new set of regulations to improve public hygiene amid the coronavirus outbreak.”
These are the Beijing venues so far laid to waste by the coronavirus / Beijinger
A list of the city’s biggest shuttered venues, which already includes: Anchor Bar 2.0, Cannon’s, Caravan, Fella’s, Moka Bros Shuangjing, Q Bar, Rollbox.
China’s long history of racism
The coronavirus crisis has exposed China’s long history of racism / Guardian
“Today Africans in Guangzhou are being demonized over COVID-19, but the roots of this prejudice go back centuries.”
Reflections on reporting from Wuhan
Reporting in Wuhan: ‘I thought SARS wouldn’t be repeated, this was worse’ / Guardian
Lily Kuo writes:
On 6 January, I wrote a short memo to our newsdesk: “Something we probably want to keep an eye on are these severe viral pneumonia cases that have been racking up (now 44) in Wuhan — China has said that it is not SARS.”
Since then, I have been reporting on coronavirus from Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and most recently Wuhan. I could not have known then how my life would soon be consumed by this story. I have spent the four months since constantly weighing the risks to my family, my colleagues and the people we interviewed against my responsibility as a journalist.