BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
ExxonMobil breaks ground on $10 billion plant
As China unleashes big investments, small companies struggle / Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall)
ExxonMobil broke ground on a $10 billion petrochemical plant in the southern province of Guangdong on April 22 after government officials pushed for the project to go ahead as planned. Vice Premier Hán Zhèng 韩正 officiated a ceremony from Beijing, with representatives of the oil giant participating from Dallas and Huizhou via a live stream — a sign of the times and a reminder that some social-distancing measures remain in place across China.
SenseTime to help digital currency development
SenseTime announces AI tie-up with central bank amid digital currency rumors / Caixin
[U.S.-blacklisted] “artificial intelligence specialist SenseTime and the Chinese central bank’s digital currency unit will work together to broaden AI applications in the financial industry, SenseTime said Monday, as rumors swirl about a pilot program for an electronic yuan.”
Huawei number one chip vendor, but sales flat
Huawei’s HiSilicon becomes China’s top smartphone chip vendor despite flat sales / Caixin
A report by CINNO Research showed [in Chinese] that while the absolute number of smartphone chips HiSilicon shipped in the first quarter of 2020 stayed relatively flat compared to the same period the year earlier — 22.21 million smartphone chips compared to 22.17 million in 2019 — its market share grew from 24.3% to 43.9%. These figures meant it overtook previous market leader Qualcomm.
TikTok hits 2 billion downloads
ByteDance’s TikTok surpasses 2 billion downloads globally / Caixin
“The ByteDance-owned short video app has amassed more than 2 billion downloads on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store combined, a milestone that comes just five months after the app hit the 1.5 billion download mark, research firm SensorTower said on Wednesday.”
Investors counting on further stimulus…
China traders pray more stimulus will revive equities rally / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
Investors in China are counting on more stimulus from Beijing as the catalyst that will put a charge in the country’s languishing financial markets.
That’s down to expectations the government will announce additional measures to boost consumption and investment at the key annual meetings of the country’s top legislature next month, which will also map out economic targets.
…But weak global demand hinders recovery
China factory data show global slump weaken nascent recovery / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China’s first official data for April suggest the economy has split into two tracks, with a domestic rebound undercut by weak overseas demand.
The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index slipped to 50.8 from 52 a month earlier, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday. New export orders plunged to 33.5 and a separate indicator more focused on smaller export-orientated firms returned to contraction.
By contrast, services and construction both rose further into expansion, taking the non-manufacturing PMI to 53.2.
China’s manufacturing activity slumps again in April, Caixin PMI shows / Caixin (paywall)
Slowing global demand due to coronavirus hits China’s manufacturing sector in April, two sets of data show / CNBC
Online scammers promise ventilators
Ventilator fraud is booming online in China / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
As hospitals and governments around the world furiously search for medical ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients, some have been drawn to the large number of merchants in China offering to sell the lifesaving machines. One account on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter and the country’s most popular microblogging site, is offering 1,000 of Beijing Aeonmed Co.’s VG70 ventilators for sale. But the listing is far from a find.
Cash injection reassures potential NIO customers…
China startup NIO gains $1 billion state funding to chase Tesla / Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall)
When Chinese electric-car maker NIO sealed a 7 billion yuan ($1 billion) deal with a group of state investors Wednesday, the company wasted no time spreading the word to potential buyers.
Many consumers, while admiring NIO’s vehicle models, have been on the fence about making a purchase, as they feared the Nasdaq-listed auto startup might go out of business, which would make future maintenance and battery charging difficult, if not impossible.
…While Tesla confirms price cut
Tesla unveils new price cuts to be eligible for Chinese subsidies / Caixin
“U.S. electric carmaker Tesla will cut the price of its China-made standard range Model 3 sedan to less than 300,000 yuan ($42,000). The new price means it will come under a threshold point set by the Chinese government to be eligible for subsidies for new energy vehicles.”
Luckin scandal prompts U.S. calls for action
Chinese coffee chain’s scandal renews U.S. calls for oversight / NYT (porous paywall)
The one-time darling has now imploded spectacularly in an accounting fraud that has roiled China, a cautionary tale that has renewed a push [porous paywall] in the United States to cut Chinese companies off from Wall Street…
“If Chinese companies want access to the U.S. capital markets, they must comply with American laws and regulations for financial transparency and accountability,” said Mr. Rubio, who is pushing a bipartisan bill that would force Chinese companies to abide by federal auditing rules and disclosure requirements.
Beijing loosens restrictions, flights surge
Travellers rejoice, flight bookings surge as China’s capital relaxes curbs / Reuters
“Flight bookings surged by up to 15 times after Beijing relaxed quarantine rules, raising hope that a release of pent-up demand ahead of a major holiday will breathe life into China’s battered tourism industry.”
Beijing lowers COVID-19 restrictions / China Daily
“Beijing has lowered the intensity of its response to the COVID-19 outbreak from the top level to the second level based on the current situation, which will lead to adjustments of prevention and control measures, a senior official said on Wednesday.”
China eases border controls for business travel with South Korea / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
The so-called “fast-track” entry, which takes effect Friday, will simplify entry procedures for business travelers between the two countries, according to a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. South Korean business staff will be able to travel to 10 Chinese regions, including Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, after going through “minimized” health screening and quarantine measures, it said.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
U.S. reviewing data on COVID-19 drug
U.S. FDA moving with ‘lightning speed’ on Gilead’s COVID-19 drug: Bloomberg / Reuters
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working at “lightning speed” to review data on Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir in treating COVID-19 disease, the head of the agency told Bloomberg in an interview.”
Humans have been good for Sichuan’s biodiversity — research
Deep history in western China reveals how humans can enhance biodiversity / Chinadialogue
Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve is one of China’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing more than five million visitors per year to the sparsely populated mountains of north-western Sichuan. The reserve has been home to farmer-herders for thousands of years, but to conserve the biodiversity and scenic quality of the reserve, park policies prohibit residents from farming, herding and wood cutting.
Is this the right approach? Recent research by geologists, ecologists, archaeologists and social anthropologists suggests otherwise: long-term human habitation has preserved and enhanced biodiversity while stopping human subsistence activities has diminished it.
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
Uyghur rights group calls out Canada
Uyghur-rights group gearing up for legal battle with U.K. over Huawei and 5G. Canada could be next / Star
A newly-minted international consortium of lawyers created to fight for the rights of China’s minority Uyghur population says Canada risks its reputation as a human rights champion if it allows telecommunications giant Huawei into the country’s 5G system.
Michael Polak, a British human rights lawyer and chair of Lawyers for Uyghur Rights…said a report by an Australian think tank in March detailing human rights abuses of Uyghurs and Huawei’s involvement in monitoring them raises an ethical question for Ottawa.
- Huawei, 5G and human rights abuses: Yes, they are connected / Bitter Winter
Sweden likely to join calls for COVID-19 investigation
Sweden plans to ask E.U. for COVID-19 probe, likely straining China relations / SCMP
“Sweden is planning to ask the European Union to probe the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a move that would potentially add further strain onto the Nordic nation’s already tense relations with China.”
COVID-19 has strengthened Taiwan’s hand
Taiwan emerging from pandemic with a stronger hand against China / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“Few governments around the world are likely to emerge from the pandemic with a stronger standing than before. Taiwan is one of them — and that’s not good for China.”
How will China respond to debt relief calls?
China faces wave of calls for debt relief on ‘Belt and Road’ projects / FT (paywall)
China has received a wave of applications for debt relief from crisis-hit countries included in the “Belt and Road Initiative” as coronavirus strains the world’s biggest development programme. Chinese policy advisers and bankers told the Financial Times that Beijing was considering a number of responses, including the suspension of interest payments on loans from the country’s financial institutions. But they also warned against expectations that China would forgive debts outright.
- James Kynge summarizes on Twitter: “China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” — biggest development programme in the world by far — is hitting the buffers as waves of crisis-hit countries petition Beijing for debt relief. Question is: will Beijing seize collateral?”
South China Sea tensions mount
Philippines rejects Beijing’s ‘administrative centre’ label on disputed reef / SCMP
“The Philippines protested on Thursday China’s designation of a disputed South China Sea reef, which it has turned into a heavily fortified island base, as a Chinese ‘administrative centre.’”
China on ‘high alert’ as ‘troublemaker’ U.S. patrols South China Sea / SCMP
The Chinese military called the United States a “troublemaker” in the disputed South China Sea on Thursday, stressing that China was on “high alert” to safeguard its interests in the contested waters.
The two powers, already mired in a dispute over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, have engaged in tense stand-offs over the South China Sea, with two back-to-back operations by the US to challenge China’s expansive claims in the region in the last few days.
- U.S. spy plane spotted southwest of Taiwan / Focus Taiwan
An American EP-3E electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft flew southwest of Taiwan Thursday afternoon, the 13th time a U.S. military aircraft has appeared in that area in April, according to a military air movement tracker…
Su Tzu-yun [蘇紫雲 Sū Zǐyún], an analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, speculated that U.S. reconnaissance aircraft were in the area to check on the movements of Chinese People’s Liberation Army submarines.
U.S. spies under pressure to link COVID-19 to Wuhan lab
CIA reportedly pushes back at Trump efforts to link coronavirus to Chinese labs / Guardian
Senior figures in the Trump administration have put pressure on U.S. intelligence agencies to provide evidence to support claims that the coronavirus outbreak originated in state-run laboratories in China, a report in the New York Times claims [porous paywall]…
“China’s Davos” canceled
China cancels annual Boao forum due to coronavirus / Reuters
“China has cancelled the 2020 Boao Forum for Asia [which was postponed in early March], which Beijing is trying to promote as the region’s answer to Davos, due to the coronavirus epidemic.”
Christians’ online purchases scrutinized
Online buyers of religious books caught and interrogated / Bitter Winter
For many Protestants in China, the printed materials distributed by state-run Three-Self churches or the Two National Christian Councils do not fulfill their spiritual needs, so they often turned to other channels. But when the sales of Bibles and other religious materials were banned on the internet on March 30, 2018, believers not only lost access to uncensored books but their online purchases years ago were also investigated by the government.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Tennessee’s Chinese community
The Chinese of Chattanooga / World of Chinese
[D]espite historical and recent racial tensions across the country, the Chinese of Chattanooga have also put down roots and thrived, and continue to be proud to call this Southern city home.
The first Chinese came to Chattanooga in the 1840s and 1850s as railroad workers, mostly from southern Chinese provinces like Guangdong.