BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Stock markets tumble
Global stocks drop as U.S.-China tension flares / FT (paywall)
“Global stocks fell on Monday as tensions flared between the U.S. and China over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. On Wall Street the S&P 500 slid 1%, while the Dow Jones lost 1.4% and tech-weighted Nasdaq was 0.7% lower.”
Who funds China’s defense industry?
China’s Lockheed Martin, where art thou? / ChinaAI Newsletter
In a translation of a 2018 article on why companies in China’s military industry struggle to find formal capital, ChinaAI reports:
According to Zero2IPO’s 2016 Top 10 VC/PE Firms in Military Industry, rough statistical estimates based on the public data regarding these top ten firms show that the total amount of capital invested in the field of military equipment in 2016 did not exceed 5 billion yuan [$708 million]. Far lower than hotspot fields like health, electronics, etc.
Huawei: China’s only smartphone vendor that grew in Q1
Huawei only major smartphone vendor with shipment growth in China in first quarter / Caixin
“Huawei was the only major smartphone vendor that saw shipment growth in China in the first three months [shipping 30.1 million units, up from 29.9 million units a year earlier] of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted supply chains and dampened consumption in the country.”
BYD’s face mask output soars
As its new energy car sales slump, BYD finds profits in face masks / Caixin (paywall)
BYD Co. Ltd., best known as a new energy car maker backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, has temporarily shifted gears, finding profits by making and exporting face masks during the global COVID-19 pandemic…
BYD’s daily mask output surpassed 20 million as of April 17, according to a company statement (link in Chinese). A BYD official told Caixin that the company still has the potential to expand mask capacity by 1 million to 2 million per day if demand is strong.
Service trade drops 11%
China’s total services trade plunges 10.8% in first quarter / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
China’s first-quarter total services trade fell 10.8% from a year earlier to 1.15 trillion yuan ($162.82 billion), according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Services exports in the January-to-March period declined 4.1% to 444.28 billion yuan while imports dropped 14.5% to 708.02 billion yuan, the ministry said on May 2. The narrowing of the trade deficit that started last year continues, it said.
Real estate investment initiative gets go-ahead
China looks to real estate investment trusts to tap household savings, while letting the air out of property bubbles / SCMP
China’s government this week gave its go-ahead for the set up of real estate investment trusts (REIT), opening a channel that lets investors tap the country’s property growth, while limiting their speculation in bricks-and-mortar buildings.
The pilot programme, implemented after more than a year of public consultations, will allow China’s mutual funds to issue public REITs that can be bought and sold like stocks on the country’s exchanges…
Wuhan tops travel destination wish list…
The place Chinese travelers want to visit in 2020 is…Wuhan / CNN
“Wuhan has been named the no.1 destination Chinese citizens want to visit after the crisis is over. The study on travel needs and trends during the COVID-19 outbreak was jointly conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Tourism Research Center [in Chinese] and Tencent Culture and Tourism Industry Research Center.”
…As domestic tourism picks up
China tourism numbers bounce back during Labor Day holiday / FT (paywall)
There were more than 50 million tourism trips within the country on Friday and Saturday, according to figures cited by state media. That meant that two days into the five-day break, which ends on Tuesday, the number of journeys has overtaken the total over the three-day Qing Ming festival in early April.
Laid-off workers take food delivery jobs
Food delivery jobs put bread on the table for Chinese confronted with pandemic crisis and unemployment / SCMP
“The relatively undemanding and less-affected food delivery sector has become the temporary solution for many people coping with financial stress.”
Intellectual property protection
‘Behaviour is even worse’: China steps up protection of intellectual property in courts, but foreign firms still wary / SCMP
“Foreign businesses and experts say protection of intellectual property in China has been stepped up through the courts, but it is still a big concern — and economic pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic may bring more infringements.”
Hopes of “revenge shopping” sprees dashed
Global brands need China’s consumers to spend. They might have to wait. / WSJ (paywall)
“Companies from Lego AS to Domino’s Pizza Inc. say they are seeing a solid bounceback in China, at least compared with a month or two ago. But a full return to normal, much less growth, is proving harder because so many people have lost jobs and income, or want to save more.”
China’s young spenders say #ditchyourstuff as economy sputters / Reuters
For a growing number of Chinese…hit by job losses, furloughs and salary cuts, the consumer economy has begun to spin in reverse. They are no longer buying — they are selling.
Instead of emerging from the coronavirus epidemic and returning to the shopping habits that helped drive the world’s second-largest economy, many young people are offloading possessions and embracing a new-found ethic for hard times: less is more.
Hong Kong’s economy hits record drop
Hong Kong’s economy just suffered its worst three months on record / CNN
“Hong Kong’s economy shrank 8.9% in the January-to-March period compared to a year earlier, according to estimates released by the government on Monday. It’s the third straight quarter of contraction for the trade and finance hub, and its worst quarterly drop since records began in 1974.”
Chinese mainland buyers disappear from Hong Kong real estate / Bloomberg via Caixin
“No commercial property transactions in the first quarter involved a buyer from the Chinese mainland, the first time that’s happened since 2009, according to CBRE Group Inc., which tracks deals over HK$77 million ($10 million).”
Will COVID-19 push Meituan back in the red?
COVID-19 might be make-or-break for Meituan / Caixin (paywall)
A few years from now, many may look at the past few months as a defining period for internet services giant Meituan Dianping.
The nationwide lockdowns since January have struck at the heart of the online-to-offline businesses it relies on — movie theaters, hotels, and restaurants. CEO Wáng Xīng 王兴 has warned that Meituan could sink back into the red in the first quarter after reporting quarterly profits three times last year.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
Harbin faces second COVID-19 wave
Chinese city of Harbin bans dining in restaurants as it steps up coronavirus battle / SCMP
- Capital of Heilongjiang province issues order as it battles to contain second wave of coronavirus infections.
- State Council has sent team to lead province’s response to outbreak after officials were punished for their handling of the situation.
COVID-19 most contagious prior to onset of symptoms
Coronavirus most likely to be passed on in early stages of illness or before symptoms appear, Taiwan study says / SCMP
- Those who came into contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases just before or soon after symptoms appeared were most likely to become infected.
- Researchers say findings highlight the importance of early contact tracing and tracking as well as social distancing.
China’s pharmaceutical industry still playing catch-up
Can China win big in vaccine race with biotech bet / FT (paywall)
The news that Chinese regulators have given the go-ahead for clinical trials of three COVID-19 vaccines developed in the country is the culmination of months of efforts by a combination of start-ups, government-sponsored companies and research institutes…
Approval for trials, however, is still a long step from a safe and effective vaccine. And although China’s pharmaceutical industry has matured a great deal in recent years, it is still on the whole a lot better at incremental innovation than breakthroughs.
China’s coronavirus vaccine drive empowers a troubled industry / NYT (paywall)
“Finding a vaccine isn’t enough. China’s companies must also win over the trust of the public, who might be more inclined to choose a foreign-made vaccine over a Chinese one.”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
“Job placements” for Uyghurs
China sends Uyghurs from Xinjiang camps to work in other parts of country / SCMP
The Chinese government has resumed a job placement scheme for tens of thousands of Uyghur Muslims who have completed compulsory programmes at the “re-education” camps in the far-western region of Xinjiang, sources said.
The plan, which includes a quota for the numbers provinces must take, was finalised last year but disrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19.
Three years after its launch, a campaign of mass incarceration of Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has become a diplomatic headache for China, particularly in its relations with the West, but observers say a more coordinated global approach is needed to hold Beijing to account.
Europe pushes for global COVID-19 cooperation…
Europe leads push for global coronavirus response as China and U.S. trade accusations / SCMP
A virtual summit on Monday, hosted by the European Commission, hopes to raise an initial $8.2 billion to back an international effort to develop and ensure equal access to vaccines and treatments.
China is expected to join around 40 other countries in pledging funds at the event, but the U.S. is not expected to take part.
…As U.K. joins calls for COVID-19 transparency
U.K. says China questions over coronavirus outbreak / CNBC
“The U.K. has added to international pressure on China to answer questions over information it gave the world about the coronavirus outbreak.”
Videos of Italians thanking China may be fake…
Allegations of doctored films fuel concerns about Beijing propaganda / FT (paywall)
Days after Beijing had announced it was sending urgent medical supplies to Italy in its hour of need, Chinese state media showed Italians on their balconies and in the streets applauding the Chinese national anthem…
A close analysis of the videos conducted by the FT alongside work by two Italian fact-checking and manipulation experts raise concerns about their authenticity, adding to wider anxiety about Chinese disinformation in Europe.
…While domestic resentment of propaganda grows
Blood-soaked dumplings / China Media Project
As the coronavirus epidemic has been taken up by the Chinese party-state as a powerful propaganda tool this year, both domestically and in its foreign policy, the lines in this culture of “eating blood-soaked dumplings” have been constantly tested by skeptical Chinese who resent the dehumanization such propaganda demands.
Reliance on China for medical gear a “security issue” — New York governor
Cuomo calls PPE shortages a national security issue: ‘You can’t be dependent on China’ / CNBC
- Cuomo said efforts to procure masks from China amid state competition for medical supplies were “inefficient and ineffective.”
- “You can’t be dependent on China to have the basic equipment to save lives in the United States. That’s a national security issue to me,” the governor said.
Israel needs to ensure firms don’t turn to Chinese capital — U.S. official
U.S. official warns Israel about Chinese investors amid crisis / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“A key U.S. official said Israel is among the countries that need better screening of foreign investment to guard against having their companies turn toward China during the economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Chinese-American family funding Mitch McConnell
Mike Forsythe on Twitter: “A new generation of the extended Chao family starts maxing out to Mitch McConnell. A college freshman who, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, doled out more than $10k. Elaine Chao’s family has been one of McConnell’s biggest supporters over several decades, NYT reported.”
Context: A ‘bridge’ to China, and her family’s business, in the Trump cabinet (porous paywall).
WHO defends COVID-19 response
WHO defends its initial coronavirus response: ‘The world had enough time to intervene’ / CNBC
The World Health Organization defended Friday its initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying it gave world leaders enough time to intervene early in the outbreak.
The agency declared COVID-19 a global health emergency on January 30 when there were only 82 cases outside of China and zero deaths, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference on Friday. “Meaning, the world had enough time to intervene.”
Authorities crack down on Wuhan residents
Coronavirus survivors want answers, and China is silencing them / NYT (porous paywall)
The text messages to the Chinese activist streamed in from ordinary Wuhan residents, making the same extraordinary request: Help me sue the Chinese government. One said his mother had died from the coronavirus after being turned away from multiple hospitals. Another said her father-in-law had died in quarantine.
But after weeks of back-and-forth planning, the seven residents who had reached out to Yáng Zhānqīng 杨占青, the activist, suddenly changed their minds in late April, or stopped responding…
The Chinese authorities are clamping down as grieving relatives, along with activists, press the ruling Communist Party for an accounting of what went wrong in Wuhan…
Clampdown on Hong Kong protesters continues
Hongkongers’ support of pro-democracy shops ‘violates’ the free market, says Beijing / Hong Kong Free Press
Beijing’s office in Hong Kong has slammed shoppers’ support for pro-democracy businesses as “violating” free market principles.
In a statement issued [in Chinese] on Saturday, the office…accused opposition lawmakers of using the “yellow economy” promotion to secure seats in the Legislative Council election in September, claiming that Hong Kong’s economy had been “kidnapped” by politics.
COVID-19 was a chance for a reset in Hong Kong. Instead, the crackdown continues | Ilaria Maria Sala / Guardian
“To some extent, the pandemic could have given the Hong Kong government the opportunity to reset the clock, concentrate on protecting public health, and move towards social reconciliation. This is not what’s happened.”
China responds to call for Taiwan participation in UN…
China opposes Taiwan participation in U.N. after U.S. tweet / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
“The U.S. isn’t in any position to speak for Taiwan, is interfering in China’s internal affairs and ‘hurts the feelings of the 1.4 billion Chinese people,’ China’s mission to the U.N. said in a statement on its website on Friday.”
…As military strategist cautions against taking Taiwan by force
‘Too costly’: Chinese military strategist warns now is not the time to take back Taiwan by force / SCMP
“A Chinese military strategist [Qiáo Liáng 乔良, typically seen as hawkish] has warned that the coronavirus pandemic should not be seen as a chance for Beijing to take back Taiwan by force, saying that was not the top priority and the focus should be on the ‘national rejuvenation’ dream.”
Fact check: Trump peppers Fox News town hall with false claims on coronavirus and other topics / CNN
Touting the restrictions on China, Trump claimed that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden had issued an apology for past criticism on the subject.
“Biden has now written a letter of apology because I did the right thing,” Trump said.
Facts first: Biden’s campaign announced in early April that he supports Trump’s travel restrictions on China. But neither Biden nor his campaign apologized for any previous criticism of Trump.
Pete Buttigieg enters the “tough on China” race
Pete Buttigieg: China wants four more years of Trump / Washington Post (porous paywall)
Pete Buttigieg writes: “Trump is China’s dream candidate, and its government would be more than happy to deal with him for four more years. In his first term, the president hasn’t brought China to its knees: He’s made it stronger.”
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Backlash against Wuhan Diary writer continues
Coronavirus journal Wuhan Diary continues to upset Chinese nationalists / SCMP
The publication of Wuhan Diary — a first-person account of Chinese writer Fāng Fāng’s 方方 life in the city at the epicentre of the initial coronavirus outbreak — continues to fan the flames of nationalism in the country.
Besides the online backlash to the work from some quarters of the internet, authorities have put pressure on intellectuals who supported the writer, launching investigations into at least two people for making “inappropriate comments”.
Translation: Backlash to Wuhan Diary author Fang Fang continues / China Digital Times
English translations of several online posts and big character posters denouncing Fāng Fāng 方方.
Interview with indie documentary maker
Premiering in your inbox: China’s new indie doc sensation / Sixth Tone
It’s not your typical viral hit. Self-directed, self-funded, and shot mostly on a simple camcorder, the film follows the lives of coal workers in rural Hunan, a central Chinese province.
But [Jiǎng Néngjié’s 蒋能杰] “Miners, the Horsekeeper, and Pneumoconiosis” has become an unexpected sensation among Chinese documentary fans after its director took a creative approach to publicizing the feature.
Obituary: The man on Mao’s right dies
Ji Chaozhu, Chinese diplomat who acted as bridge with U.S. during historic thaw in relations, dies aged 91 / SCMP
Jì Cháozhù 冀朝铸, the Chinese diplomat and interpreter who played a crucial role in Henry Kissinger’s secret meeting with premier Zhōu Ēnlái 周恩来 in 1972, has died aged 91.
The meeting paved the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing, and Ji later described it as “the birth of modern relations between my native land, China, and the land where I spent so much of my childhood, America”.
Tourists swarm to Mount Tai despite restrictions
Thousands of tourists swarm up Mount Tai amid “limited” Labor Day holiday / Shanghaiist
“Chinese netizens have been shocked by photos and videos [in Chinese] from the famed Mount Tai in Shandong province over the long Labor Day holiday weekend, showing thousands of people climbing the mountain together to watch the sunrise.”
The ancient Tea Horse Road
How tea transformed China’s countryside / LARB China Channel
Deep in the mountains of southwestern China, where tea was likely first discovered, a trail begins. Over the course of a thousand years, it has been carved step-by-step through some of the world’s most diverse and rugged terrain, traversing the lush tropical forests of what is now Yunnan province — a botanist’s playground — and up into the Himalayas, through treacherous river gorges and snowy mountain passes.