Links for Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for Wednesday, April 29, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

  • Asia firm is defying global gloom with a $13 billion raising.
  • [Founder Zhāng Lěi’s 张磊]  fortune exceeds some of Wall Street’s biggest names.

For the fourth consecutive year, China’s two main banks tasked with financing overseas development [China Development Bank and the Import-Export Bank of China] have reduced loans to Latin America, according to new research from Boston University and thinktank the Inter-American Dialogue…

Instead of lending directly to Latin American governments, Chinese banks are investing in energy and infrastructure projects through funds or financing Chinese state-owned companies bidding for projects, the report said.

Asset prices have crumbled around the world, and European institutions have started warning their members that they need to bolster corporate defenses to prevent a Beijing-led buying spree. Earlier this month, NATO deputy secretary-general Mircea Geoana told defense ministers that some countries are vulnerable to losing their “crown jewels” because of the pandemic. And E.U. competition chief Margrethe Vestager told The Financial Times (paywall) that European governments should buy stakes in key companies to prevent Chinese takeovers.

A coronavirus-themed game has been blocked on Steam in China because of its politically motivated content.

In order to win Coronavirus Attack, players have to stop “selfish zombies” from escaping a country infected with the virus.

Players reported the game for using the same color scheme as the Chinese flag, with virus-shaped animations in place of its stars.

Economists expect local governments across the country to issue as much as 4 trillion yuan ($565 billion) in so-called special bonds this year, roughly twice last year’s total. The proceeds are to be spent on the same type of things that China splurged on following the global financial crisis more than a decade ago — roads, airports, and railways.

  • Huawei’s secretive chip unit shipped slightly more smartphone processor shipments in the latest quarter despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.
  • U.S. chip giant Qualcomm, the long-time market leader, saw its market share slide year-on-year from 37.8% to 32.8% in the latest quarter.

Jeans giant Levi Strauss indicated when it reported earnings earlier this month that consumers are starting to shop again and demand is steadily improving — even in the epicenter of the coronavirus…

Industrial tools maker Snap-on also alluded to a possible turnaround in China. CEO Nicholas Pinchuk told analysts on its investor earnings call this month that China is “showing some rays of light.”

For global airlines still holding out hope for a V-shaped recovery, China’s domestic air travel may offer a rare glimmer of positivity.

In the past two months, domestic air travel within China has doubled: As of April 22, according to data from travel and analytics company Cirium, domestic capacity was down only 33% year-on-year, compared to a peak drop of 71% on February 24.

  • Film authority chief says outbreak has delivered critical blow to the industry, and it will be forced to make changes.
  • Cinemas have been closed since late January and it’s not known when they will be allowed to reopen.

The long-awaited bail-out for cash-strapped Nio from an imminent liquidity crisis is finally arriving. The electric vehicle maker announced Wednesday it will receive a 7 billion yuan [$989 million] cash infusion with final commitments from several state-run capital firms, its biggest ever funding round since listing in the U.S. stock market in September 2018.

  • Zimbabwe coal plant gets go-ahead
    Zimbabwe coal-fired power plant to go ahead / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “Zimbabwe’s Rio Energy Ltd., a unit of RioZim Ltd., will build a 2,100 megawatt thermal power plant with China Gezhouba Group Corp in northern Zimbabwe at a projected cost of $3 billion, Rio Energy said Monday.”
  • U.S. and Chinese apps compete for emerging markets
    The Chinese and American apps winning the next billion users / MacroPolo
    Matt Sheehan examines how Chinese and U.S. apps fare in emerging markets. His key findings are:
  • U.S. apps are still dominant, though Chinese apps have gained substantial ground in these markets over the past four years.
  • Chinese apps have taken the lead in by far the largest emerging market: India.
  • While U.S. dominance is heavily reliant on a single company — Facebook — China’s market share is composed of a more diverse set of companies.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

Researchers have added new evidence to the scientific understanding of how the new coronavirus — believed to spread principally through direct contact with the droplets from coughs and sneezes — may linger in the air.

The findings, based on measurements of particles in the air at two hospitals in Wuhan during the central Chinese city’s outbreak, suggest particles of the coronavirus, called Sars-CoV-2, could linger after being shaken from medical workers’ protective gear, or be present in the air in toilets used by patients.

The race for a vaccine to combat the new coronavirus is moving faster than researchers and drugmakers expected, with Pfizer Inc. joining several other groups saying that they had accelerated the timetable for testing and that a vaccine could be ready for emergency use in the fall.

Pfizer said Tuesday it will begin testing of its experimental vaccine in the U.S. as early as next week. On Monday, Oxford University researchers said their vaccine candidate could be available for emergency use as early as September if it passes muster in studies, while biotech Moderna Inc. said it was preparing to enter its vaccine into the second phase of human testing.

A government-run study of Gilead’s remdesivir, perhaps the most closely watched experimental drug to treat the novel coronavirus, showed that the medicine is effective against COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

In a statement on Wednesday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is conducting the study, said preliminary data show patients who received remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received placebo.

The finding…would represent the first treatment shown to improve outcomes in patients infected with the virus…

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Australia will continue campaigning for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak despite a furious reaction from Beijing, which has accused Canberra of teaming up with Washington to mount “a political campaign” against China.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said on Wednesday that his government wanted an independent inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak, which he said was in the interests of the wider international community.

Australian government ministers have repeatedly said China, the country’s largest trade partner, was threatening “economic coercion” after its ambassador, Chéng Jìngyè 成竞业, said this week that Chinese consumers could boycott Australian products and universities because of the calls for the inquiry. The head of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) called Cheng to express concern. The Chinese embassy then released a statement detailing what it said was discussed on the call, prompting another rebuke from DFAT.

On Wednesday, the Chinese embassy returned fire, saying on its website that details of the call had first been “obviously leaked by some Australian officials” and it needed to set the record straight.

“The Embassy of China doesn’t play petty tricks, this is not our tradition. But if others do, we have to reciprocate,” an embassy spokesman said in the statement.

Billionaire miner Andrew Forrest has been accused of ambushing the Australian government after he parachuted one of China’s top diplomats into an official event, blindsiding Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Mr Forrest, the Fortescue chairman, surprised Mr Hunt by inviting China’s consul-general for Victoria Zhou Long [龙舟 Lóng Zhōu] to speak alongside him on Wednesday after he secured 10 million coronavirus tests from China, a 20-fold increase in Australia’s testing capacity.

The audacious bid to mend a deteriorating political relationship between Beijing and Canberra follows increasing pressure from corporate leaders for Australia to back down on its public threats to pursue China’s role in the coronavirus outbreak.

China has promised not to punish New Zealand if it joins Australia’s international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, the Foreign Minister [Winston Peters] says… 

“I’m not worried about [potential ramifications] because China has promised me they don’t behave that way,” he continued.

China is pushing back against the growing chorus of voices around the world calling for the country to pay compensation for the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Politicians in the United States are “lying through their teeth,” a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Gěng Shuǎng 耿爽, said at a news briefing on Tuesday.

China’s Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 has called for a “ceasefire” in the international blame game over the coronavirus pandemic and urged for the World Health Organisation to be given more support, which he said could save lives.

Speaking at a special meeting on Monday of BRICS — the grouping of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — Wang also said China would “do whatever it can” to alleviate the debt burden on African nations and help local governments improve their capability to fight the virus.

President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, speaking in a television interview Wednesday, ratcheted up the accusations between the U.S. and China over the virus. White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, also said Wednesday that the president has ordered an investigation into the origins of the virus and will hold those responsible accountable for its spread.

A North Korean economic delegation is due to arrive in Beijing this week to discuss food supplies and trade issues as the coronavirus pandemic has severely disrupted the country’s food supply, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters.

The delegation is headed to the Chinese capital amid conflicting reports about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The people, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter, said the visit to Beijing is unrelated to Kim’s health status.

China said Wednesday that two Canadians held for more than 500 days in a case that has roiled diplomatic relations were in “good health”, after authorities suspended consular visits over the coronavirus pandemic.

Businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig have been in detention since December 2018, an apparent retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 in Vancouver on a U.S. warrant.

The Epoch Times, a free newspaper typically found in street boxes, is coming under fire for advancing a conspiracy theory about the origin of the coronavirus — and putting it straight into people’s mailboxes unsolicited.

Some Canadians who received it by mail and a postal carrier who says he is forced to deliver it are angry over a special eight-page edition of the paper exploring the idea that the virus that causes COVID-19 was created as a biological weapon and arguing it should be called “the CCP virus,” a reference to the Chinese Communist Party.

Over 100 riot police officers cleared protesters from a luxury shopping mall in Central on Tuesday night, as dozens gathered to chant pro-democracy slogans and sing songs related to the anti-extradition movement. According to local media, at least six people were ticketed for violating coronavirus social distancing rules.

The [Kenya] standard gauge railway (SGR) line raked in sales of Sh13.5 billion [$126 million] in its second full year of operations, signalling that the mega project will take longer to break even…

Cargo charges on the SGR line from Mombasa to Nairobi were increased by up to 79% from January last year in a bid to raise more revenue to pay the Chinese operator.

The pandemic is putting a spotlight on the lingering mistrust at both the general public and senior official levels between Moscow and Beijing that has long coexisted with the made-for-TV camaraderie between Putin and Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平…But the hopes of some U.S. and European officials to hasten a new Sino-Russian split are bound to be disappointed. If anything, relations will deepen in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Video: Uyghur graveyard appears to be replaced with parking lot
    Rian Thum on Twitter: “Last year, the Chinese government destroyed the central Uyghur graveyard and sacred shrine in Khotan. We can now see part of what they have put in its place: a parking lot.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

On a Sunday afternoon in mid-April, MadeIn Gallery, on Shanghai’s West Bund, held its first art opening since it closed in January as part of China’s nationwide lockdown. The crowd was smaller than usual, and everybody wore masks. The gallery space, however, felt larger: only a few finished pieces, along with empty canvases, hung on the walls.

  • Writer profile
    Typhoon day / Neocha
    A profile of writer Lù Yīnyīn 陆茵茵 and her new book, Typhoon Days, a collection of stories centering on “nine women in their twenties and thirties living ordinary, if turbulent, lives.”
  • Illegal adoption groups
    Inside China’s black market for foster children / Sixth Tone

On the Chinese social app WeChat, a father is trying to sell Sixth Tone his daughter.

“Female baby, 90K,” the man says in a private message, referring to his asking price of 90,000 yuan ($12,700). A few moments later, he posts a video of an infant gurgling in a stroller…

Illegal adoption groups have been quietly active on Chinese social networks for years, despite periodic clampdowns by law enforcement agencies.

  • Inside the lives of Wuhan’s medical workers
    Wuhan case files / Sixth Tone
    “Four medical workers share stories from the heart of China’s COVID-19 epidemic.”
    In Wuhan, a COVID-19 tester’s search for answers / Sixth Tone
    “The seven weeks I spent in the central city of Wuhan helping doctors search for this strange and previously unknown virus were filled with unending bouts of trial and error. Even now, nearly half a year into what has become a global pandemic, there’s much I still don’t know.”
  • Eight places in China to visit
    Eight places to visit as China emerges from coronavirus / Caixin
    The founder of travel company WildChina provides her top travel destinations as China reopens after lockdown. The list includes Zhihua Temple and Datong Yungang Grottoes in the Beijing area, and Xi’an’s Hanyang Tombs.
  • Classic films free on YouTube
    12 classic Chinese films are now free on YouTube with English subtitles / Radii
    “A dozen classic black and white Chinese films from the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s are now available for free on YouTube — with English subtitles. The movies represent some of the key highlights from China’s first ‘Golden Period’ of cinema and are a Sino cinephile’s dream come true.
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