Links for Thursday, May 7, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

  • A boom in overseas sales of medical supplies, including masks and coronavirus testing kits, are likely to have helped spur a surprise 3.5% rise in exports.
  • But analysts warned the return to growth will be short-lived, with global demand set to collapse, amid an expected recession this year.

During the holiday, 115 million people made domestic tourism trips, contributing 47.6 billion yuan ($6.7 billion) to tourism revenue, according to government figures. That marks a big increase from the 43 million trips made during the three-day Qingming holiday a month earlier, suggesting residents’ confidence in the government’s epidemic controls has risen.

China’s services firms wallowed in contraction in April as layoffs hit a record and export orders plunged after signs of improvement in March, a private survey showed, dashing hopes of a quick recovery from the coronavirus blow.

The Caixin/Markit services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) did manage to pull up to 44.4 in April from 43 in March, but remained in a deep slump and far below historic averages. The 50-mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

  • Car sales are set to rise 0.9% year-on-year to 2.0 million in April, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
  • Sales between January and April in China are expected to fall 32.1% year-on-year to 5.67 million.

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing’s core business has been profitable, president Jean Liu Qing [Liǔ Qīng 柳青] said for the first time, as ride orders in its domestic market recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic…  

The company’s ride volume in China has reached 60 to 70% of pre-coronavirus levels and is five times its February low, she added.

Zoom Video Communications Inc. is further bolstering its ranks as the startup deals with security questions around its system, naming President Trump’s former national-security adviser, H.R. McMaster, as an independent director…

Zoom said on Wednesday that Mr. McMaster, a retired U.S. Army general, was joining the board with immediate effect. In a statement, Mr. McMaster said that his goal “is to help the company navigate rapid growth and assist in meeting Zoom’s commitment to becoming the world’s most secure video communications platform.”

New Chinese investment in Australia fell by almost 50% in the year to the end of June 2019 as Beijing tightened controls on money flowing overseas, an Australian report showed on Thursday (May 7).

The fall to A$13.1 billion [$8.51 billion] was due to”China’s internal domestic policy settings including increased scrutiny of outbound investment and stricter capital controls,”Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) chairman David Irvine said.

  • Natural gas discovered in Sichuan
    Large gas belt discovered in China / Xinhua
    “An oilfield branch of PetroChina, China’s largest oil and gas producer, announced their discovery of a huge natural gas belt with an estimated reserve of over 1 trillion cubic meters in southwest China’s Sichuan Province [in Tianbao Townshownship, about 130km from Sichuan’s capital Chengdu].”
  • Revlon prepares for Chinese comeback
    Inside Revlon’s China re-entry playbook / Glossy
    “The U.S. cosmetics brand revealed K-pop star Jessica Jung as its new global brand ambassador on April 30, as part of its China re-entry plan that is focused on selling through Alibaba’s Tmall platform.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

In macaque monkeys, an experimental vaccine for the novel coronavirus safely induced antibodies that blocked several different SARS-CoV-2 strains, Chinese researchers reported on Wednesday in the journal Science. The researchers say tests of their vaccine candidate, “PiCoVacc,” in humans will likely begin later this year.

A new study details the links between China’s exports and its [carbon dioxide] emissions by mapping the in-country sources of carbon dioxide emissions tied to products consumed overseas.

University of Michigan researchers and their Chinese collaborators tracked these emissions to a small number of coastal manufacturing hubs and showed that about 1% of the country’s land area is responsible for 75% of the export-linked CO2 emissions.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

The E.U.’s envoy to China has expressed regret that state-backed media censored an article [marking 45 years of China-E.U. relations] co-authored by him, as critics branded the bloc’s consent to the change as the latest example of bowing to pressure from Beijing.

The opinion piece, cosigned by Nicolas Chapuis and featured in the China Daily, removed a reference to the coronavirus outbreak starting in China.

China says it supports World Health Organisation efforts to investigate the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, but rejects any “presumption of guilt”, after the global body said it was talking to Beijing about sending another delegation to the country.

The remarks came as Beijing is under mounting international pressure — particularly from the United States — to allow an inquiry into how the pandemic started, and if it was linked to a laboratory in Wuhan, the city where the new virus strain was first reported.

Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist with the WHO, on Wednesday said the agency was in discussion with China about examining potential animal origins of the coronavirus.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the coronavirus pandemic the worst “attack” the country had ever experienced and blamed China for not stopping it, amid a deepening war of words between the United States and China over the virus…

“It should have never happened,” Trump continued. “It could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped in China. It should have been stopped right at the source, and it wasn’t.”

China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. China could have spared the world a descent into global economic malaise. They had a choice.

But instead, instead China covered up the outbreak in Wuhan. Its National Health Commission ordered virus samples destroyed on January 3rd. China “disappeared” brave Chinese citizens who raised alarms. It deployed its propaganda organs to denounce those who politely called for simple transparency.

Negotiations between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours for a South China Sea code of conduct have been postponed as the nations involved put their efforts into containing the COVID-19 pandemic, creating uncertainty about whether the two sides can work together amid rising tensions in the contested territory.

On the morning of January 3, an email was sent from the Indonesian Embassy in Australia to a member of the premier of Western Australia’s staff who worked on health and ecological issues. Attached was a Word document that aroused no immediate suspicions, since the intended recipient knew the supposed sender.

The attachment contained an invisible cyberattack tool called Aria-body, which had never been detected before and had alarming new capabilities…

Now a cybersecurity company in Israel has identified Aria-body as a weapon wielded by a group of hackers, called Naikon, that has previously been traced to the Chinese military. And it was used against far more targets than the office of Mark McGowan, the premier of Western Australia, according to the company, Check Point Software Technologies, which released a report on Thursday about the tool.

Top Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators [Liú Hè 刘鹤 and Robert Lighthizer] will speak as soon as next week on progress in implementing a phase-one deal after President Donald Trump threatened to “terminate” the agreement if Beijing wasn’t adhering to the terms.

The planned phone call will be the first time Liu and Lighthizer speak officially about the agreement since it was signed in January…The deal called for Liu and Lighthizer to meet every six months, making next week’s call slightly ahead of schedule.

Late last year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 gathered together his country’s envoys for a pep talk, telling them they needed to be more assertive in representing Beijing’s interests overseas and vocal in defending the Chinese Communist government from criticism.  

 He complained that China was being bullied by Western powers over its human rights record, and he instructed them, according to Chinese press reports, to display a much stronger “fighting spirit.”

 And since December, China’s diplomatic corps has done exactly that…

The rise in hate crimes against Chinese people in the U.K. is “totally unacceptable” and offenders should face “the strongest possible consequences”, the shadow home secretary has said.

Nick Thomas-Symonds said he had written to Home Secretary Priti Patel after a Sky News investigation found offences against the UK’s Chinese community have soared during the coronavirus outbreak [with at least 267 offences recorded in the first three months of 2020].

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

At Shanghai High School, masks and social distancing have muted the adolescent buzz, classmates talk through glass in the canteen, and graduation ceremonies remain in doubt.

As schools in COVID-19-hit countries worldwide ponder how the pandemic will alter campus life, China’s phased reopening of in-person classes points to a radically different atmosphere.

The arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S. offers a unique opportunity for Chinese Americans to rethink their identities and for American society to reflect on its history of racism toward this and other “outsider” groups. Particularly relevant is the country’s longtime practice of blaming “others” — whether national, racial, or ethnic — for contagious disease.

Building more museums would help.